Just who is Cassie Townsend? ^ I am a nurturing and friendly person who values family. Although sometimes a work-aholic, I have a very playful side. I love video games, playing Poker, and goofing off. The most popular description for me is weird.
Being the girl next door from North Carolina making the big move to Tinseltown, how would describe your assimilation into “leave your soul at the door” Hollywood? ^ For an analogy, my eyes were bigger than my stomach. It was hard work with many lessons learned. I moved to LA in 97 fresh from college with a sparkle in my eye. When I got around to getting into my dream, I didn’t know what to do first. It was a lot of trial and error.
Do you think one must sacrifice their integrity to make it in show business? ^ No, but lots of fresh faces end up having to sacrifice their integrity because the only productions available are the projects that have low morals.
Which do you prefer ‘Cassie’ or ‘Casandra’ or does it depend on the formality of the situation? Such as ‘Cassie’ would be suitable for a social situations and ‘Casandra’ for dinner with the royal family (laughs). ^ Casandra is used for when I’m in trouble, so I don’t like that a bit! (laughs) Gosh, I am trying to imagine me at a dinner with the royal family. It’s running a bit like that All Fruit commercial “Could ja please pass the jelly?” I’ve had lots of names ever since child hood. My family nickname was Sandy, but that was just too kiddie for my adolescent years. It evolved to Cassie, and I prefer that soooooo much more!
Can I whittle your name down to ‘Cas’? ^ Really really close friends call me Cas, so of course you can!
What was your first acting break and how long and how hard did you have to work to get it? ^ My first break was “Auto Focus”, and it felt like I worked forever for it. Things happen in Hollywood like rocks in a stream. Sometimes there are lots of footing, and other times there is no place to step. Luckily for me, Paul Schrader gave me the next big stone to step on.
I have recently reviewed the Sex, Pain and Murder series for Film Threat, in which you play one of the three female protagonists Jenny, who represents the ‘sex’ in the title. What were some of your experiences making the film? ^ It was fun. That was one of my very first film projects in LA. I was encouraged to give my opinion, make my own choices, and really have fun with the character.
You give a truly “blondes have more fun” performance in the films. Do you take a piece of yourself into each character or do you completely morph into someone totally unfamiliar? ^ Blondes do have more fun! I’ve dyed my hair, and for some reason my attitude drops. I just can’t pull off brunette or red! With every role you have to put a little of yourself into it because you are the person acting. I certainly am not as “fun” as the characters I have played, but it is from observance and life experience that I draw from to bring these characters to life. Jenny was a ditzy wizz kid. She is so book smart, but is a kid in a candy store when it comes to relationships.
Was it a big deal to be working for Alex Rebar who came out retirement to write and direct the series? Did you have any prior knowledge about his earlier film and TV work? ^ No, I had not met Alex before the audition, nor was I aware of his other works. Coming out of retirement for something that you love to do is amazing. I think that if you are that passionate about something maybe you should never retire.
What was Alex Rebar like? ^ I remember that he was extremely kind. He worked so hard on our production and made sure that everyone was fed, taken care of, paid, relaxed, and comfortable. He had a lot on his plate during that time, and he really had a vision. He was a great director for allowing me to make my own choices. We would talk about a scene and he asked me my opinion all of the time, what I wanted to do, what would I say here, how would I react. He really was great.
How was the series received by the film public? ^ Some loved it and some hated it. I think my favorite response so far is “I loved it!!! Absolutely hilarious! That Jenny girl’s a hottie. Damn, she’s f’n FINE!”
You have a real on-screen rapport with your co-stars Stacy Fields and T.J. Myers, any plans on extending the series beyond the forth installment? ^ TJ taught me a lot of interesting things that shoot. Stacy was really kind and funny. They both had done other film things before, which helped out a lot. As far as more episodes, well, Alex is holding onto my first costume just incase we do something again. You know, I would love to get a call from Alex!
What doors (if any) did your role in Sex, Pain and Murder open up for you? ^ Well, I was able to put a reel together to promote me to agents and managers, which was really super awesome! There are a couple of really good moments that give anyone watching a good sense of my abilities, characterizations, and goofiness.
Let’s talk about your role in “Auto Focus” (2002) and I believe working for such an acclaimed and highly reputable writer turned director as Paul Schrader means that your career is heading in the right direction. What was it like to get your first feature film credit in such a high calibre film? ^ Geez, it was a dream come true! When I got the call I was driving on the 101 S. just after the 134 split. When I hung up the phone, I screamed all the way home and was hoarse before I had a chance to call my parents! Schrader wanted to meet me before shooting, so we arranged to have a drink at the Chateaux Marmont. It was surreal, and I felt like a princess having a drink with a king from another country.
What was it like to act opposite Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe? ^ Kinnear was really nice, and had a lot of pressure to act a certain way. He was portraying a real person which is a lot harder than forming your own character. Willem was such a sweet heart. If I could ever work with him again I would take it instantly. He made conversation during down times, he was kind, and he even made sure that the other actors had food to eat. We talked a lot the days I shot.
How did you feel having to do a love scene with Willem Dafoe in your feature film debut? ^ Love scenes are always hard to do. Luckily for me Schrader, the crew and Willem were all really professional. I had a closed set, a clothed rehearsal, and a really relaxed atmosphere. Also, Willem is 20 years my senior, but it was shot right after Spiderman, so he was exceptionally fit.
Paul Schrader talks on the commentary track about how it was hard to cast actresses to play the one night stand roles due to having to do nudity with not much dialog. Schrader singles out your acting background and says that you come from a “Playboy at night world”. How do you respond to that? ^ Although it was super great to be mentioned specifically, I was a little hurt by that. As I’ve mentioned before, it is tough for actresses to break into the business, and mistakes are inevitable. The stone I stepped on to lead me to “Auto Focus” just happened to be a wobbly one.
Personally, your scene in the film when ‘Elaine’ goes back to John Carpenter’s pad is particularly unique in that it was Bob Crane’s initial descent into deviation. It was the best scene in the film for me. How did it feel watching yourself in the completed film? ^ Elaine was the only role offered that I would have accepted. I wanted it because she is a pivotal character – Carpenter likes blondes, but later in the film Crane takes the blondes from him. Elaine helps establish a lot, she is there as the dimmer switch on Crane’s life begins moving down. When I saw it completed, my gut feeling was right. The love scene is discreet and the hints towards his eventual downward spiral are amazing. I was proud to have played such an amazing, deep and complex character for my big break; and I owe it all to Schrader.
Where does the future lie for you Casandra ‘Cassie’ ‘Cas’ Townsend? ^ Right now I am taking it easy, although I am not refusing offers. Hopefully something will breeze my way.
Will your Christian name continue to shed its letters? You know you have gone too far when you are simply called ‘CA’. ^ No, I don’t think I’m going to shorten it anymore! Just like my dad always said “Feel free to call me anything but late for dinner.”
Posted on June 29, 2005 in Interviews by Daniel Bernardi
If you liked this article then you may also like the following Film Threat articles:
- CASSIE TOWNSEND: BLONDES HAVE MORE FUN
- PAUL SCHRADER: SET ON “AUTO FOCUS”
- WILLEM DAFOE: MONSTROUS KINKY
- SCHRADER TALKS SCREENWRITING
- FEVER NIGHT
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