Interview with Actress/Filmmaker Deborah Voorhees By Jesse Striewski

I remember it clearly; it was around Halloween time, and I was no older than ten at best. I sneaked out of the living room into my older brother’s room, where he and a friend were watching a “Jason” flick (something I had only heard of, but had not yet seen). The exact entry they were watching, and my introduction to the series and Jason Voorhees (although technically he does not really appear in it) was Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning.

I couldn’t believe what my young eyes were witnessing…the amount of graphic gore and female flesh (I’m almost positive I had seen nudity before, but not that much at once!) was almost overwhelming my senses. One such scene (and young lady) that really stood out and made a huge impression on me was the very naked/grisly demise of Tina, played by the lovely Deborah Voorhees.

After a few more roles in films such as 1985’s Appointment with Fear, and a recurring stint on the widely popular prime time TV drama Dallas, Voorhees stepped away from the spotlight to pursue work in the journalism field, and even took on some teaching jobs before her previous acting career came to light and cancel culture reared it’s ugly head over her involvement in the Friday the 13th series. But Voorhees has since re-emerged victoriously, first appearing in her own 2014 directorial debut, Billy Shakespeare, and now nearing completion of the ultimate meta Jason flick, 13 Fanboy, which she also directed and co-wrote along with Joel Paul Reisig.

One of the first things I wanted to know when I recently caught up with Voorhees from her New Mexico home, was just what it was like working with so much Friday… alumni on 13 Fanboy. She tells me; “It’s an intense thriller/slasher/classic ‘whodunit’ type film, and we have an amazing, talented cast from the series and the horror genre as a whole, including Corey Feldman, C.J. Graham, Kane Hodder, Tracie Savage, and (previous Rewind It Magazine interviewee), Dee Wallace.” She continues; “I directed, co-wrote, produced, and really was involved with every aspect of it, from appearing in it, down to the editing process.”

But even exceptional talent is not immune to the effects of 2020. When asked about a potential release date, Voorhees informs me; “Production has definitely slowed down due to Covid, and with a lot of theaters and things not being open right now, it’s been very problematic. But we’re hoping to have it out by August, which is when the next doable Friday the 13th lands. I think we’ve got a really good shot at that, so that’s what we’re aiming for right now. I feel pretty good about it though, and think everything should be wrapped up by then.”

I was also curious if Voorhees was a fan of the series prior to filming A New Beginning, and how she felt looking back on her appearance in the series today. She explains; “Beforehand I had only seen the first one, so it wasn’t until later on that I saw the other parts in the series. I think I’m most impressed with the fan base. Horror fans in general are just really terrific people, and the fans that love slasher films and Friday the 13th have been really good to me over the years, and I’m very grateful for that.” And although Part V contains a brief cameo by ’80s superstar Corey Feldman, it wasn’t until much later the two would actually meet. She tells me; “I met him before at a horror convention, but this was the first time I actually got to spend time with him during the production of 13 Fanboy.”

And I also wanted to know if there were any actors approached for 13 Fanboy who declined. She says; “Adrienne King was initially excited and wanted to do it, but after reading the script, decided it was too close to her given situation having had a stalker in the past, and just wasn’t comfortable doing it. Lar Park Lincoln (who also appears in 13 Fanboy) had one too, but everybody handles that sort of thing differently.”

Lastly, I asked Voorhees just how her path lead her back to filmmaking, and she says; “After I had finished with journalism (at the time), I had decided I wanted to ‘give back’ a little by teaching. While I enjoyed it very much, I ended up being thrown out of two high schools because a lot of people just had a problem with my past (and especially the nudity I had done), so I just decided I was going to go on my own, and that took me back to flimmaking in general. I did love teaching, but I’m happier doing what I’m doing now. It was a good experience for me, but it feels good to get back to where I belong, which was writing/telling stories, and making movies.”

Interview with Actor/Musician Ari Lehman By Jesse Striewski

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It’s been forty years now since the world was first introduced to the infamous Jason Voorhees via the original Friday The 13th, when it was originally released in May of 1980. Since then, the series has influenced a plethora of related pop culture across various media platforms, one of the latest being the Chicago-based First Jason, lead by none other than the original Jason himself, Ari Lehman, who was the first in a long line of actors to play the notorious killer Jason himself (hence the band name). Lehman was gracious enough to recently answer a few questions about First Jason, as well as his time portraying him on the big screen before anyone else.

In addition to Lehman fronting the band on vocals and heavy metal keytar, First Jason also consists of guitarist Eddie Machete, drummer Prince Fabian Arroyo, and bassist Johnny Danger. The band released their first album, Jason is Watching!, on February 13, 2009 – the same day the F13 remake was actually released. Ari described their sound to me as “A heavy metal band with an eclectic range of styles from upbeat hardcore to thrash-y metal; there are influences of punk, metal, funk, and reggae on every album.”

Lehman explained the band’s sound even further; “Since my main instrument is keytar, it has a profound effect on the writing, giving me the capability to draw upon a wide range of rock motifs. The focus is on a high-energy performance with Jason-themed lyrics that also speak to a wide range of emotions and viewpoints. To paraphrase my musical hero Duke Ellington, ‘limitations enhance creativity.’ Drawing on the dark sources of horror and metal, the possibilities are endless…”

Of course I had to ask Lehman what it’s like looking back now on playing the one and only Jason Voorhees four decades later. He tells me; “I will never take it for granted that I was lucky enough to get cast in a role that fans love so much that they continue to demand more and more Jason and Friday The 13th each and every day worldwide. It is the imagination of the fans that has kept Jason alive these 40 years, and there will be many more decades to come.” He continues; “Not the same as horror films today, but I think it holds up well because of (F13 Director) Sean S. Cunnigham’s attention to not allowing the actors to overdo their roles in an effort to make it as real as possible. Also, Tom Savini’s use of practical effects and the often overlooked camera work of Director of Photography Barry Abrams created an environment that lured the viewer into a sense of safety – and then SHATTERED that completely. Together they transformed a usually bucolic setting – a summer camp – into a place of sheer terror, much like Jaws did the same way for sunny beaches in the summertime. And the fans never forgot!”

I also wanted to know just how much interaction Lehman had with the other actors on the set. He explains; “I did get to meet Adrienne King of course as well as most of the actors on the set including Kevin Bacon and Harry Crosby. It was ironically the actress who played my mom, Betsy Palmer, that I did not get to meet until years later, when we bonded as friends and she took me under her wing as a confidant and advisor. Betsy and my real mom shared the same birth date, November 1st, the day after Halloween! If I could have gotten her into a music video WOW!!! What I did do and you can see it in the “Voorhees is the Name” video is to commemorate what she would say to me when she knew that I had a rock show with First Jason – ‘mama said Knock ’em DEAD, and leave ’em writhing in the aisles!!!’ I love her forever…” Having actually met Palmer myself (at the same convention along with Tom Savini and Kane Hodder as well, albeit briefly) back in 2007, I can attest to Lehman’s sentiments of her kindness firsthand (though regrettably I did not get a photo to mark the occasion).

Lehman also shared with me what he took from working on the film so long ago; “Working with Tom Savini and Taso Stavrakis for four months and creating the FX for the film gave me a sense of camaraderie, and taught me that hard work can be fun and rewarding. Also I learned from being on the set how to make the most out of the resources that are at hand – this has served me well as a leader of a touring band, and when doing independent films like The Barn & Clown Motel.”

I was also curious what Lehman’s thoughts were on the later films of the F13 series. He states; “Honestly, I feel that each Jason actor and every production team brought a new perspective to the mythology. One of my favorites is Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988), which was directed by John Buechler and starred Kane Hodder as Jason (for the first time). I feel that this episode does the most to recollect all of the sagas and bring it all together. Plus I enjoy that Jason is opposed by Tina (played by Lar Park Lincoln), a young psychic girl; that provides for great moments, like when she tears his mask off and sets the roof on fire!!!”

“The First Jason INTERSLASHIONAL album is the top priority now. Clown Motel 2 is shooting soon and I will return to play Psycan the deranged clown. The Barn 2 is completing now and my role as Dr. Dock was greatly expanded from the original. I am particularly proud of the work I did in this film and the team that created it for director Justin Seaman. And my weapon of choice to kill zombies in that film is even a KEYTAR!!!”

You can keep track of what’s going on with Lehman and First Jason on YouTube and Spotify, as well as Facebook (at the time of this writing, the band still has some tour dates set, with the first starting next month in Kenosha, WI on Sat., Aug 1).