kelli maroney

Kelli Maroney has a unique skill set: she knows how to survive ’80s horror movies.

Between Slayground (1983), Night of the Comet (1984) and this week’s How Did This Get Made? film Chopping Mall (1986), Maroney has a real talent for making it through a slasher flick alive. So naturally, when she and I sat down to speak, I couldn’t help but ask: what does it take to pull of this feat?

 

 

“You’ve gotta pace yourself,” Maroney explained. “[You] can’t lose it in the beginning, then you have nowhere to go with the movie…I don’t really know how they [producers] pick ‘final girls,’ but I think there’s just something in there like: you know what? She’s gonna fight back. It’s just something you know about a person, but you don’t know how you know it.”

To be perfectly honest, when I asked Maroney that question, I was just wondering what qualities a fictional character must possess to make it out the other side alive. But as was the case throughout much of our conversation, Maroney found little ways to go above and beyond; whether talking about acting with a spider, going undercover at Ridgemont High or the insomniatic process of filming Chopping Mall, she continually found ways to delight and surprise.

Below is a copy of our conversation…

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Chopping Mall

Synopsis: When a group of teenagers gets trapped in a shopping mall after hours, their night of fun quickly turns deadly when a trio of security robots go out of control. 

Tagline: Where Shopping Costs You an Arm and a Leg!

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Part 1: From Shakespeare to Soap Operas

Blake J. Harris: Hey, Kelli. Good afternoon! What are you up to?

Kelli Maroney: Oh, [laughs] I was just sitting here thinking about Chopping Mall!

Blake J. Harris: Excellent. When was the last time you saw it? Do you remember?

Kelli Maroney: The last time I saw it was at a screening here [in Los Angeles] at The Egyptian: a double feature of Night of the Comet and Chopping Mall.

Blake J. Harris: And what did you think, watching it that last time?

Kelli Maroney: Once in a while, if I’m doing a festival or something, I will sit in just because I like to see the audience reaction and stuff like that I’m always amazed, you know, I get a little choked up at the end [laughs]. I think the music really makes it. Chuck Cirino, that score… it’s 80s and it’s relentless! I love the Allison theme he wrote. It’s so touching. And then later when he juxtaposes it with the robot theme for the chase scenes—I think it’s very effective. Big fan of the score.

Blake J. Harris: So I have plenty more questions about Chopping Mall, but I’d love to start off by talking about how you got into acting. How did that start for you?

Kelli Maroney: It was something I always wanted to do because I used to watch old movies with my mom. So I’d be up with her, in the middle of the night, watching these great stars—like Susan Hayward, or Betty Davis (in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte or What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?)—and I just thought: I really want to do that. Not just watch them. But there was a problem: I lived in Minnesota and there was not a lot of theater stuff going on where I was. You know, in the Midwest, you don’t go: I want to be an actress when I grow up! You just don’t say stuff like that.

Blake J. Harris: So, stuck in Minnesota, what did you end up doing?

Kelli Maroney: I became an apprentice at the Guthrie Theater. And they couldn’t pay us when I was a kid, so they gave us classes [instead]. I got to study with F. Murray Abraham and William H. Macy and Stephen Lange because they were all there for the season; a good dose of people who really loved the theater.

Blake J. Harris: And did you love the theater? I mean, well, I assume you did; but in terms of theater versus film, did you have a preference at that point?

Kelli Maroney: I wanted to go somewhere where I could study Shakespeare and be a “real” actor. [laughs] So then I went to a conservatory school in New York. So I was there in New York and had only $500 to my name.

Blake J. Harris: $500?

Kelli Maroney: Yeah, that’s all I had. Not a penny more. And I was too young to get a job and too young to get an apartment. It was really pretty scary.

Blake J. Harris: I’m sure…

Kelli Maroney: So this woman took pity on me and said, “I could probably find you a roommate through a Roommate Referral Agency. But in the meantime, I have this friend [a casting agent] who works on a soap opera and they’ve been looking for a ‘Midwestern Lolita’ but haven’t been able to find anybody.” So I went over and met this agent she was talking about. I swear to God it was the scariest little office you ever saw.

Blake J. Harris: Ha!

Kelli Maroney: I had one photograph to my name. So I went over there and slid it under the door. Then when I was actually called in to audition, and given a screen test?! I was scared to death!

[The audition was for Ryan’s Hope, a soap opera that centered around the ambitions of a middle class family trying to make it on Manhattan’s upper west side. Maroney wound up booking the role of “Kimberly Harris” and would go on to appear in over 300 episodes of Ryan’s Hope between 1979 and 1982.]

Kelli Maroney: So I got the role, playing the “evil Lolita” character. She was an evil illegitimate child from the Midwest shows up and, you know, causes chaos.

Blake J. Harris: [laughs]

Kelli Maroney: I mean, how does an opportunity like that fall in your lap? I have no idea what would have happened to me otherwise. Then my whole ambition was to not get fired and to learn how to be on a soap opera. And again, someone else took pity on me—the woman who played my Mom—she could have had me for breakfast but instead taught me everything that she knew about acting.

Blake J. Harris: What kinds of things did she teach you?

Kelli Maroney: Oh, like crying on cue. Which eye do you want the tear to fall from? She just really taught me everything. And because I was on a soap I was considered a “working actor” and I didn’t have to go through all the usual breaking-into-the-business things. I didn’t have that casting couch stuff that girls have to endure because, you know, when people really want to work with you, they don’t pull that stuff.

Blake J. Harris: Right.

Kelli Maroney: So it was really a godsend. Things like that don’t just happen…

Blake J. Harris: Do you remember that moment when you found out?

Kelli Maroney: It was a phone call. The guy who drove the bus for the conservatory school had a studio apartment in Hells Kitchen and they let me stay there until he got back and then I was going to have to go. And it was on his telephone. [laughing] I couldn’t believe it. I called my mom and said, “Mom, I’m gonna be on TV!” And then they took me to Saks Fifth Avenue and wardrobed me and, I still can’t believe it, but I was on TV! We did the Lolita story and then we did the Lana Turner story, where my mom and I had the same boyfriend and I shot him. That’s what they do. They sort of take classic movies and put a spin on them and put them in their own stories. It was a quite a ride. This is all by way of explaining how I was able to audition for things like Fast Times at Ridgemont High

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