“Human Centipede” star Ashley C. Williams


This interview was first published in the Tucson Citizen when I was doing a film blog called “Off the Marquee”: September 30, 2010

Just when you think that the horror genre has gotten as gross as it is going to get, someone comes up with an even more unsettling premise. The Human Centipede is the story of a demented scientist who attempts to sew three people together mouth to anus to determine if people can survive as a makeshift centipede. Actress Ashley C. Williams got her first major film role as a member of this trio, taking part in one of the most notorious horror/exploitation films of late. On Tuesday October 5th, Centipede will be released in DVD. We spoke to Ms. Williams by telephone in hopes of finding out how she feels about her brush with horror infamy. With an impressive theater resume and more film roles on the horizon, there is more to Ms. Williams than just being the middle segment.

Billups: I noticed on IMDB that you were in Willow (1988) as a child.
Ashley C. Williams: Yes. I was four years old and I was living in California with my family at the time and I auditioned for Ron Howard. He wanted me to say the line: “Willow’s home.” I was so scared that I actually started crying, so I didn’t’ end up getting that part. I ended up just being in the crowd during the village scenes. It was really fun.

Billups: Did that experience have any effect on your desire to act or did you already have the bug?
ACW: I don’t know if I knew it was the acting “bug” because I was so young, but my mom noticed I had energy and I loved showing off for people. Putting on little skits in the house. She had to find a place for me to channel that energy, so she started when I was about ten years old taking me for professional auditions for theater. My first show was Peter Pan. I played Tiger Lily. Since then,  I have been in love with it. I love creating characters. Memorizing lines. Being in completely different world. Since then I’ve had the bug.

Billups: Speaking of memorizing lines, I noticed you have done Shakespeare. That must be one of the ultimate challenges for an actor.
ACW: It is completely different. It’s poetry: actually easier to memorize because there is such a flow to it. You just kind of melt into it. I really love doing Shakespeare.

Billups: I noticed you are also singing in the musical Spellbound.
ACW: I play the lead role: a young village girl. It’s a fantasy, epic adventure. She wants to become a wizard so she can learn spells.

Billups: With all of your stage experience, how do you feel about your transition into film?
ACW: Yea, it’s always been a goal to be in film. When I went to acting school, it was for theater training. I have never had any training for film. Doing The Human Centipede was the first time I had a lead role. It was so much fun, so I’m excited to go on a new path and do more film. Definitely a goal of mine.

Billups: I read that you did not know much about The Human Centipede when you went for the audition, but that you were shown a drawing of some kind.
ACW: When I went to the audition, Tom Six, the director, was there.  He sat me down and asked: “Are you easily shocked?” and I said: “No, go ahead.” He showed me this blue piece of paper with that drawing on it. That drawing is all over the Internet: the one of the people connected together with the line drawn through them showing a single digestive track. He showed that drawing to me and I thought: What is this?. And he explained it to me and I asked how is it my face isn’t on that person’s butt.

Billups: I often read interviews with actors and actresses who talk about being nervous before a nude scene or a sex scene. You’re situation must be pretty high up on the list of scenes to be nervous about.
ACW: I was defiantly nervous about it. (co-star Ashlynn Yennie) and I were not sure what we were getting ourselves into when we were flying to Amsterdam. Of course, we knew it was going to be safe. The one thing I was really dreading was the scene where I have to swallow (co-star Akihiro Kitamura’s) feces. That was the one thing that I was really nervous about. I kept looking at the script and thinking: God, when are we gonna do this scene? When’s it gong to be over with? So we finally did it in and got it in one take and it wasn’t that bad.

Billups: The three of you must have had to get very close very fast. Was it intimidating to work so closely with your co-stars?
ACW: Yea. I knew Ashlynn for about a month before shooting. We auditioned at the same time. We flew over to Amsterdam on the same plane. Then Akihiro came from L.A. a day before shooting began so we had to get to know him really fast because we were all about to be connected. We actually got really close. We trusted each other. We bonded: no pun intended.

Billups: German actor Dieter Laser played your nemesis in the film. He seems as if he could be a very severe person to deal with. What was he like to work with?
ACW: He’s intense, but he’s the sweetest guy. While filming with him, he wouldn’t talk to us on set.  You know, he was the bad guy, so he didn’t want to interact with us during shooting. He would keep to himself. He’s very much the type of actor who will stay in character all day. Very method. But he’s amazing to work with because he feeds you so much. There were occasions where he wasn’t needed for scenes but he would come and feed us lines behind the camera and make faces to keep ups scared. He was really helpful. He is also mainly a theater actor. When you look at his credits, you can see he has done more theater than anything. He’s done Shakespeare and classical, dramatic stuff. He’s always involved in a play in Germany.

Billups: I have noticed that when look up an actor who does really sever personas, you find out that he or she has done Shakespeare.
ACW: Yea.

Billups: I know that occasionally you can get typecast when you do horror. Do you have any feelings about doing more projects in the genre?
ACW: I like horror. Before I did The Human Centipede I wasn’t a huge horror fan because the films can have the same types of stories, the same conflicts, and seem kind of cliché. When I read The Human Centipede, I felt that there were people out there trying to do something unique and I really liked that. That’s one of the reasons’ why I was glad to be involved. If I was given a script for another horror film, I would defiantly consider it.

Billups: I notice you are involved in a play called Under the Veil where you are credited as a writer.
ACW: I’m an actor in it and I’m also a writer. The five actors in that show were hired to create a piece by conducting interviews with Muslims and non-Muslims in New York City. It took several months to create this piece that was a series of vignettes. Political theater.

Billups: Besides reading scripts, what else is next for you?
ACW: I’m in talks for a couple of different films and Spellbound is going right now. Under the Veil is sort of an ongoing project. And I’m doing a couple of horror conventions.

Billups: I’m sure that circuit will be a new thing for you.
ACW: Yea. I’ve never done one before.

Billups: I hope that’s going to be fun.
ACW: The horror genre is funny. There are some die-hard fans out there. It’s fun to see how excited they get over the genre. They can be over-ecstatic, but I like it.