2018 marks the 30th anniversary of A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. Another memorable entry in the franchise, the movie starred Lisa Wilcox as Alice Johnson, who inherits the power to pull people into her dreams from Kristen Parker (played by Tuesday Knight, taking over for Patricia Arquette who played her in Dream Warriors). Since that movie, like many others in the franchise, had an impact on current filmgoers, I knew that Lisa Wilcox would make for an interesting interview subject, especially as they’re more to her than her work in the NOES franchise. If you were watching TV in the 80s and 90s, the chances were very good that Lisa would be making a guest appearance on the show. On Tuesday, February 6th, I spoke to her about her wide and varied career, and I hope you all enjoy getting to know her.
Say hello to Lisa Wilcox!
Johnny: I thank you for taking the time to do this.
Johnny: Alright. I start off most of my interviews with these two questions. First, what were your pop-cultural likes growing up, like favorite movies and music?
Lisa: Favorite movies? Star Wars, Superman, definitely that genre. Music has always been more 70s. Simon and Garfunkel, Carly Simon, and then as far as rock or soft rock, The Eagles was one of my favorites. Foreigner, Styx, Queen…I got to see Queen last year, actually.
Johnny: Cool. The next question I usually ask is: What were your high school days like?
Lisa: Gosh, high school was tough at first. I was a big reader. My family moved around a lot when we were in Missouri, just trying to make friends again and again. It was hard, so I was more reclusive, actually, and read a lot of books. When I was about 14, my family moved out to California. I finished high school in Irvine, and so we’re moving again and trying to make friends, but this time, I made some really amazing friends, like 5 of them. We’re still really good friends as well. I was kind of a tomboy and isolated, but then, when we moved to California, I went to Barbizon Modeling School, and learned how to use make-up and wear clothes and all that kind of thing. That was kind of a turning point for me. High school, too, was when I discovered acting. I did a couple of high school plays, but most of the plays I did were Equity waiver in the community. I pretty much look back at the energy I had back then, and that perhaps we all have when we’re teenagers. How could I go to school, do homework, and then go to rehearsals every night until 10:00? (Laughing)
Johnny: I can definitely understand that. Your first credited role on IMDB came with 1984’s Gimme An F, where you played a member of the Demons Dance Squad. As the role required both acting and dancing, were you nervous about taking on the part?
Lisa: Oh, gosh no. It was exciting. I mean, I had done commercials, so I was familiar with being on set, but we girls just got along great. There were four different cheerleading squads, and as you mentioned, we’re the Demons. We were all sort of sexpots. We smoked. Our dances were not complicated. It was a great experience filming on location.
Johnny: Alright. Some of your fellow dancers in the movie, like Darcy DeMoss and Robin Antin, continue dancing in their entertainment projects to this day. Have you ever tried to find a way to get some dancing into your more recent work?
Lisa: Absolutely not (laughing). Absolutely not. I am not a dancer. I mean, I took some jazz dance classes just as a performer to be able to do some. I did do Bring Me The Head Of Dobie Gillis, and there was more singing in that, and a little dancing, but I wouldn’t say it’s my preferred activity, other than just clog-dancing (laughing).
Johnny: Okay. We now come to how many of our readers know you, the character of Alice Johnson in 1988’s A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and 1989’s A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. The trivia on IMDB says you beat out over 600 other actresses who auditioned for the role. What do you think it was that made you stand out against such heavy competition for the role?
Lisa: You know, it’s interesting. Annette Benson tells me this story. She was the casting director for, I believe, most of the Nightmare On Elm Streets, if not all of them. I don’t know. I guess they just couldn’t find that fragility, perhaps, that they were looking for, and yet, could also turn around and be kind of kick-ass, too. I didn’t even get to audition because, back then, I had the make-up and the hair and I looked more like a cheerleader. I didn’t look anything like what they pictured Alice to look like. Finally, they had exhausted the actresses in Hollywood, and so I got a chance to audition. I was in the reject pile, and they dusted me off and got me an audition. I believe it was my training. I went to UCLA Theater Arts. Before college, I was theater-trained. I studied Grutowski. I went to Poland. I did all kinds of stuff, and I was a pretty well-trained actress, so perhaps those acting chops and all that training proved to serve me well and land me the role of Alice.
Johnny: Alright. What was your favorite part of playing Alice?
Lisa: What I love about the role is the way the script is written, and the character arc that Alice goes through. She starts out shy and timid, and as she draws into and adapts the strength of her friends, the evolution of her character is my favorite part. Of course, when you film, you don’t film in order of the script, page 1 and page. It’s page 53 to 59 one day, and then another day, it’s page 4 to 6. I would write in my script what characteristics I should have at that point, depending on what friend had died, so that I could try and not be too timid or too strong, depending on where we were in the character arc of Alice’s growth.
Johnny: Alright. If you had the power to pull people into your dreams, what would you do with it?
Lisa: There you go, a ballet dancer, and then I would become a dancer.
Johnny: Okay, I asked this of Lezlie Deane, who played Tracy in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and now I ask it of you as well: What do you think has given the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise such staying power?
Lisa: I think it’s a very intelligent film. The deaths are so manipulative, you know? He preys on your darkest, deepest fears, and that’s so intriguing. I think people are really drawn to that intelligence, and the thoughts of the deaths, and I think there’s a believability with the relationships of the actors in the films. In Nightmare 3, I believed in their friendship and their support for each other. In Nightmare 4, I believed it really came off as authentic friendships. That’s my take on it.
Johnny: Alright. In 1989, you played Ellen on several episodes of Knots Landing. What was your favorite part of working on that show?
Lisa: Oh, it was so fun. Donna Mills was really cool. It was fun to work with Peter Reckell. It’s always great to work on a successful, established show, so as a young performer, it was pretty awesome. I was with the big guys (laughing).
Johnny: Alright. Many of our sci-fi fans know you from your role as Yuta in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Vengeance Factor. Since Trekkers are as passionate about their franchise as Nightmare On Elm Street fans are about their’s, how often do you get recognized for The Next Generation when you’re out on the street?
Lisa: I get recognized probably more often than I get recognized as Alice because when I played Alice, they dyed my hair red. At least in Star Trek I’m blonde, and so it’s kind of an interesting phenomenon that one guest role on Star Trek gets me recognized more than I do as Alice (laughing).
Johnny: Alright. In 1992, you took over for Amy Stock-Poynton, who played her in the films, as Missy on the short-lived series Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventures. As it was common in the 80s and 90s for adults to be playing teenagers, had you auditioned for the Bill And Ted movies before you were on the series?
Lisa: No, actually, I had not, and I’m trying to think why. Maybe I was in college, perhaps, because I did some commercials in college, but no TV or film acting. There just wasn’t time to do it, so I didn’t, but I was very familiar with the movies, of course, so what a blast to do the series.
Johnny: Alright. You appeared on several episodes of the 90s sitcom Boy Meets World, once on-screen and twice in voice-over format. How did those appearances come about, and did you audition to appear on the short-lived Disney Channel spin-off Girl Meets World?
Lisa: Well, I got the opportunity because of the one time I had nepotism. My husband, at the time, was one of the writer-producers on Boy Meets World, so of course I got to know the cast and the whole writing team and all of that. They actually said, “Hey, Lisa, you want to play a girlfriend?”. I’m trying to remember if I had to audition for it. I don’t think I did. I think they just gave it to me, and the voice-overs, they just asked, “Lis, can you do the voice-overs for this thing?”. “Sure”. We were all one big happy family.
Johnny: Alright. You starred opposite Will Ferrell, one of your former classmates, in the 1997 comedy Men Seeking Women. When working alongside him, did he ever encourage you to improvise the way he often would in his projects, and if so, how much of your improv made it into the movie?
Lisa: No. It was very much scripted, so there was no improv happening there, but it was so fun to work with him. I was, of course, familiar with his work from Saturday Night Live, and I think that movie was one of the first movies he did, actually, as he was breaking out. We did talk about University High. He said, “You went to U High? I did, too”. “Oh, no way”. It was very fun to seduce him in that movie (laughing).
Johnny: Okay. You played Nurse Owens in the horror web series Fear Clinic, which reunited you with Robert Englund. Do you think it could’ve gone on for longer than it shows on IMDB, or was it only meant to be a limited-run series?
Lisa: No. We had really hoped for it to continue on as a series, but I think the company that produced it got bought by another company, so we kind of got lost between the cracks, I think. The response was that the fan really, really loved it and enjoyed it, and I think it was a great concept. Robert Englund did a great job as Dr. Andover, and the cast had Kane Hodder, Danielle Harris…I mean, how often does that happen, right? It was just a matter of one company getting bought by another, and we just got lost. It’s a shame.
Johnny: Sorry to hear that. On a lighter note, a lot of your credits in this decade, The New 10s, have been in the horror genre. Has that been intentional, or just a coincidence?
Lisa: Well, let me put it this way. A lot of the kids that watched the Nightmare On Elm Street films have grown up to be writers and directors and producers in their own right, and those films still stand out to them. Therefore, a lot of these kids grew up to love horror, and so they’ll reach out to me, saying, “I loved your role as Alice. Would you consider reading my script?”. “Can you do it?”. “I’ve got financing”. It kind of has worked out that way, but I do have a number of projects this year that are not horror-driven. One is mystery. One is, I’ll say, mystical. I’m doing another one, The Mansfield Killings, which is based on true events in Ohio in the late 40s. You guys’ll be seeing a lot of films starting this year, and going into 2019, that are more than just Lisa Wilcox in horror.
Johnny: Alright. Speaking of horror, Barbara Crampton wrote an editorial last year where she talked about her problems with the term “Scream Queen”. When you get referred to as a scream queen, do you take it as a compliment or an insult?
Lisa: Oh, gosh. To me, it’s tongue-in-cheek. Honestly, I don’t feel insulted, but of course, when you look at my work, I did two horror films in the 80s, but the bulk of my work is soap operas and television and all kinds of comedy. It’s all over the place, so if they want to put me in the category of scream queen, okay, but to anybody who knows my credits on IMDB, it’s the least of whom I am (laughing). Also, I don’t do much screaming. Alice is more fighty, you know?
Johnny: Right. You’ve been to several conventions, so what’s the most rewarding part of attending them?
Lisa: What’s most rewarding is just talking to all the supporters, and hearing their stories about where and when they were when they saw A Nightmare On Elm Street, and how it influenced them. I’ve had teachers and all kinds of people who say the character of Alice has such an impact on them growing up because Alice was very relatable, as they had a hard time going through school and dealt with that shyness, eventually growing up and finding their strength. I love hearing your stories.
Johnny: Cool. What’s been the most unusual or interesting item you’ve ever signed at a convention?
Lisa: Someone’s skin to do a tattoo, (laughing) definitely. I also signed the Nightmare On Elm Street Freddy baby prop. That was pretty awesome to see and to sign, so there you go.
Johnny: Alright. What talent of yours’ that you haven’t shown off yet would you most like to work into a future project?
Lisa: I’ve never been to New Orleans, so I’d like to work there.
Johnny: Alright. You’ve worked with a wide array of talents, but which talents that you haven’t worked with yet would you most like to do so?
Lisa: Well, I’m just going to go for the gold here and say Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. I did get to visit the set of Turner & Hooch, so I got to see Tom. He’s a great improv artist, and still funny, so it was great to see him. I’d love to work with Tom Hanks as well.
Johnny: Alright. What would you say has been the biggest change in the entertainment industry between the 1980s and 2018?
Lisa: Oh, absolutely social media. Absolutely. Back then, we’d hard-copy a resume and a head shot, and no one knew how popular you were unless you were in a hit movie. Now you have the Starmeter, and you’ve got your Twitter following and your Instagram following, and casting directors will actually pay attention to those numbers when they consider casting you. It’s the same with directors and producers, so that phenomenon, this popularity contest, is completely different. In the old days, it was literally all about the work you did in that audition room, so it’s a huge change.
Johnny: Alright. I now come to the question I end most of my interviews with, and it’s this: If you could go back to your youth with the knowledge that you have now, would you do anything differently?
Lisa: No (laughing). I feel like I really worked hard. I studied hard, and it paid off, you know? I got married and had two beautiful children. I took a break from the industry for a while, and have absolutely no regrets about that, either.
Johnny: Alright. That about does it for my questions. I again thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I’ll talk to you soon.
Lisa: Okay. Thanks!
Coming soon to the Flashback Interview will be actresses Dee Wallace and Sheila Marie. I’m also hoping to get something set up with George Chakiris as well. Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll see you all again soon.