Tara Cardinal

A close-up look at the Red Reaper and her alter ego

Actress Tara Cardinal grew up on a small farm in Indiana but struck out on her own at 16. A self-admitted class clown, she says she frequently acted up during school but fortunately, was so funny that she rarely got in trouble for it. Only returning to her hometown once since she left, she’s now giving thought to buying her childhood home after the sale of her creation and best-known character, “Aella the Red Reaper.” Speaking of which, the soon-to-be released movie The Legend of the Red Reaper has already spawned a comic book that’s almost completed (with the stylings of Michael Champion and colorist William Anderson).

Looking like a young Annette O’Toole (to this writer’s eyes, anyway), Tara has built up some impressive acting credits over the last few years, alongside some notable names. Three of which are Song of the Shattered (which also stars Devanny Pinn), Ripped Memories (with Debbie Rochon), and Spreading Darkness with Rena Riffel (Showgirls). Her character’s name in the upcoming movie Zombie Massacre is “Eden Shizuka,” a part that was originally written for a stoic Japanese man. Despite being far from passing as Japanese and further from passing as a man, she not only got the role, but was actually the very first person to be cast for the film. The character was re-written as a White female who was adopted and trained by monks.

Tara was in talks with the the producers of Girl Scout Cookies for about a year, during which time she was offered several other projects, one of which was Liberator with “Incredible Hulk,” Lou Ferrigno. Because her contract with Liberator came in first, that was the project she was obligated to take …which turned out to be very fortunate for Tara, because had she chosen to do Girl Scout Cookies instead ….well, see my interviews with actresses Jessica Cameron and Melanie Robel for info on what happened with that project.

To date, Tara’s just finished Spreading Darkness, where she relied a lot on her theater training while performing her scenes. The film was directed by Josh Eisenstadt and also stars Rena Riffel. The director of photography, Will Barrett, who also shot Hatchet II is said to be a perfectionist, which was fine with Tara. She spend the last half of the film in a red wig, which is odd because she’s already a redhead, and a natural one to boot. However, there’s a good reason for it, but you’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

Legend of the Red Reaper
Besides The Legend of the Red Reaper comic book, there might be a novel in the works and there’s even talk of a TV show in the future.
CHRIS CHARLES: You grew up on a small farm in Indiana but struck out on your own at 16. Do you ever miss Indiana or have you never looked back since?
TARA CARDINAL: That’s the abridged version, but yes, all true. Actually, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to purchasing my childhood home after the sale of Red Reaper. I’ve only been back to Indiana once since I left.
CHRIS: Was performing in your blood from a young age
TARA: If 11 is young, then yes! I was also the class clown, and frequently acted up during school. Fortunately, I was usually so funny that I rarely ever got in trouble for it.
CHRIS: Of course, one of you’re most striking physical features, and sort of your trademark, is your long red hair. Have you ever been asked to cut it or dye it for a role or shoot?
TARA: Oh sure, it’s brown in Delivery. Why the director INSISTED that the character had to be a brunette, I will never know. Joe Hollow also was adamant that I be a brunette in his film. I had my hair colored about a week before I went out to New York to shoot, and what happened? Jesse Kozel called me about a role shooting the next day. That was Marc Fortin’s Ripped Memories. So, sure enough, I’m a brunette in three films already. As for cutting it; I have always suspected that somewhere, some day, because of my penchant towards action films and my ability to put on copious amounts of muscle, someone will ask me to do a GI Jane-type role. And I will say yes. It will be a big budget feature and Viggo Mortensen must somehow be involved.
CHRIS: Speaking of red, Aella the Red Reaper was your creation and I read a year ago where you were working on a sequel to Legend of the Red Reaper. Do you see an entire Red Reaper franchise in the future?
Tara Cardinal as Heroine
As “Heroine,” one of Tara’s earlier character creations. Photo by Brian Renner.
TARA: And that’s when I thought the editor I’d hired was actually cutting the film. Turns out that wasn’t the case. So, I will not write, produce, direct, or otherwise cause to happen any film until the one I undertook is complete. I feel very strongly about that. HOWEVER, the first comic book is almost complete, with the fine stylings of the amazing Michael Champion and colorist William Anderson, and there might be a novel and a role-playing game. There’s also some development of a TV show, but that’s a long LONG ways off.
CHRIS: Whenever I see a resemblance to a major star, I can’t resist pointing it out and asking if I’m the only one who’s noticed. So; has.anyone ever told you that you look a bit like a young Annette O’Toole? (I’m thinking the movie Cat People)
TARA: Ha! Now that you mention it; yes. I see it. Lately I’ve been getting Bryce Dallas Howard and Rachel Lefevere.
CHRIS: I understand your biggest desire is to do TV. What type of show and character would you most like to do?
TARA: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer-type show/role. Something fun, with a lot of action, and a moral to every episode.
CHRIS: You’ve done some professional-style wrestling and have had some training from some top male and female pro wrestlers. Ever consider trying your hand as a full time pro wrestler à la the WWE Divas and if so, what would your ring name be?
TARA: Well, during my stint at the Hawaii State Fair, I was ‘Toxic Tara” (Tah-rah – not Terra for those of you who haven’t heard the Tara vs. Terra rant). But if I wasn’t being a full time actress for some reason,  I would have fun being a WWE Diva, but I’d have to be a goofy one. Those Divas are super sexy and that’s just not me.
Tara Cardinal
Although one of Tara’s most striking features is her long red hair, she has been a brunette in a few of her films. One of which was Marc Fortin’s Ripped Memories, which this cast photo is from.
CHRIS: Action/adventure is your favorite genre but you’ve also done a lot of horror films and have even been billed as a Scream Queen. Do you try to take on diverse film projects to avoid being typecast?
TARA: I take on projects that interest me regardless of genre. I did state loud and clear to my agent and manager that I was never going to do another horror movie again, and then I got the offer to do Ivan Zuccon’s Wrath of the Crows with Tiffany Shepis and Debbie Rochon (Domi Archangeli and Suzi Lorraine weren’t attached at the time). As far as I know, this is the first feature Tiffany and Debbie had ever done together or had done in a LONG LONG time. The script was great, my character was incredibly complex and exciting as an actress ….and very different from what I normally play. Ivan, of course, is practically a legend over in Italy (and soon the world). How could I turn THAT down?? So, I said yes. And I told my agent and manager; “THIS IS THE LAST ONE! NO MORE!” And then, Uwe Boll thought I would be good for Zombie Massacre, which is actually being directed by Marco Ristori and Luca Boni, back over in Italy. Why Uwe thought I would be good for an old Japanese man who takes out the zombies with a samurai sword, I will never know. But BLESS him for thinking so far outside the box. I met with Marco and Luca over in Italy and it was instant creative synergy and they re-wrote the role for me. Every line of dialogue I have is a zinger and most of my scenes are epic. And then I told my manager and agent, seriously this time; “last one”. But Uwe called me to do a project; an homage to the Elisabeth Fritzl story, about a woman who’d been kidnapped by her father and forced to live in the basement for many many years, and I would play the kidnapped character.
Tara Cardinal
Still from Ivan Zuccon’s Wrath of the Crows, a film in which Tara shows she’s definitely not afraid to get down and dirty, without the need for a stunt double. This one also starred Tiffany Shepis and Scream Queen icon Debbie Rochon.
Clint Howard signed on to play my dad and Caroline Williams as my Mom. Uwe, as you probably know, does bigger budget action movies interspersed with these incredibly powerful, socially important films like Darfur and Auschwitz. When I saw Darfur, I was so moved by it that among other things, I wished I’d been able to be a part of such relevant and important work. Now, I am. We shoot in just a few weeks. But AFTER this, I’m focusing more on TV. Honestly ….unless James Wan calls me ….or Oren Peli, or Peter Jackson does the sequel to The Lovely Bones.
CHRIS: I’ve read at a few horror movie review websites that you were one of the actresses slated to appear in Girl Scout Cookies, a film project that has since been put on the shelf. I’ve interviewed Jessica Cameron and Melanie Robel, two other actresses who were also going to be in that one, and they had some less-than-favorable things to say about their experiences with the attempted production of that film. What can you tell me about your involvement with the project?
TARA: I was in talks with the project for about a year, during which time I was offered several other projects. One in particular, Liberator was offered to me, and happened to have a conflicting schedule. Because my contract with Liberator came in first, that was the project I was obligated to take. I have heard that Girl Scout Cookies ran into some troubles, and I’m sorry to hear that. I wasn’t there because I stayed in LA to shoot Liberator.
CHRIS: Acting in independent films, one also has to take on certain behind-the-scenes roles, as well. I know you write and do you own stunts. Have you ever ended up doing any unexpected duties while shooting a film?
Toxic Tara
Tara in the wrestling ring and not just to pose. She has done pro-style wrestling and has trained with some top male and female wrestlers. She wrestled as “Toxic Tara” during her Hawaii State Fair stint.
TARA: It depends on with whom I’m working with. Some indie sets are run so well, with the directors and producers SO on top of their game that there’s nothing for me to do but show up and act. Ivan Zuccon, Aaron Pope, Josh Eisenstadt, Jose Cassella, Jim Cirile, Dana Schroeder and Marichelle Daywalt are just a few who spring to mind. Other ones want you to do your own makeup, bring an extra camera, help fund the movie, post their IndiGoGo campaign all over the Internet, which I did for Liberator – but they were already funded, they just wanted to fund an extra pick up day, not the whole movie. When I first started, I used to bend over backwards to help out a production, but I’ve found for the most part, if the filmmakers need that much help, the film will probably never see the light of day.
CHRIS: I also recently did an interview with Rena Riffel whom you worked with  in Spreading Darkness. What was it like working on that film?
TARA: Rena and I share a character!! She’s fun and a great actress. I think ALL of my scenes are with Eric Roberts, I play his young, trophy wife who eventually develops a conscience, and working with talent like that has really forced me to up my game. Overall, it’s been a fantastic experience.
CHRIS: I see Spreading Darkness is currently in post-production, so I assume you’re all finished with that one?
TARA: We’re shooting it on film. We really are “filming.” It’s always been a pet peeve of mine when people call it “filming” and their shooting on a low-end camera. It’s not “filming” unless it’s on FILM! Josh is old-school like that. So, I rely a lot on my theater training here. I sure don’t want to be the one to mess up a take! Not when we’re actually filming! Our DP is Will Barrett, the same guy that shot Hatchet II – and he’s a perfectionist which makes me happy. Somehow I spend the last half of the film in a red wig – which is funny, because I’m already a redhead. And there’s a good reason for it, but you’ll have to watch the film to find out.
Red Reaper Figure
The extremely rare Red Reaper action figure. So rare, as of this writing, it’s the only one in existence. However, more may be made sometime in the future. Until then, you wealthy collectors can forget about getting your hands on this one because it’s in Tara’s possession and it’s a good bet that she won’t part with it.
CHRIS: Rewinding a bit here; as we know, the character your playing in the upcoming film Zombie Massacre is “Eden Shizuka” and you’re far from passing as Japanese. So, I’m curious as to why you were chosen for the role and and can you tell me about Eden?
TARA: Ha! I guess I already started down that road, didn’t I? The character was originally written for a stoic Japanese man. Somehow, I not only got the role, but I was actually the very first person to be cast. There’s only one other female role in the film, and I was never considered for it. I think the backstory on my character is that I was adopted and trained by monks.
CHRIS: I see. So shifting gears here; I know you actively support several charitable organizations. Tell me about them.
TARA: I do what I can, really. I’m the spokesmodel for the “Tenderness Tour,” an organization out of Indiana dedicated to ending child abuse. Last year after the Tsunami in Japan, I organized a fundraiser for the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, raising $3,000. I also organized a clothing drive for Covenant House. They help homeless children. And Feb 18th from 6:30-9:30PM, I’ll be hosting a fundraiser for Victoria Burrows’ independent “Star Paws Rescue.” She’s been rescuing abandoned and abused dogs from the streets of Los Angeles for over 11 years now. As usual, there will be celebs signing autographs for the event. Thus far, we have TV show creator Steven Sears, producer Palak Patel, Caroline Williams, Gary Graham, Rileah Vanderbilt, Uwe Boll, Ho-Sung Pak, and Cleve Hall just signed on about six minutes ago.
CHRIS: What projects are you involved in as we speak?
TARA: Finishing up Red Reaper, I have the two Uwe Boll projects, a few more day on Spreading Darkness, and I’m writing and voicing the PSA for Victoria’s charity. I’m in talks for a few projects, but until I get the paperwork, my lips are sealed! My manager and agent are in charge of the rest.
CHRIS: Well thanks so much for taking time out to answer my questions, Tara. I’ve really enjoyed this. Oh, one last question: I know you like to know a guy as a friend first before going out on a date with him, so if I were to ask you out now, would you be more inclined to say “yes” or kick me in the face?

TARA: Right now? It’s 1:00AM! What kind of girl goes on a date at 1:00AM? Kick to the face.

As warrior princess Amazonia from the web series Life Behind the Mask

Tara Cardinal
Tara with one of the many dogs that Star Paws rescues, cares for, and places in good homes

Tara is also actively involved with several charitable organizations. She’s been a spokesperson for the “Tenderness Tour,” an organization out of Indiana dedicated to ending child abuse. Last year after the Tsunami in Japan, she organized a fundraiser for the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders that raised $3,000. She also organized a clothing drive for the Los Angeles Covenant House, who help homeless children. On top of all that, Tara’s kindness isn’t limited to humans, since she’s also quite an animal lover. In February, she organized and hosted a fundraising event for Victoria Burrows’ independent “Star Paws Rescue.” Victoria, a top television casting director, has been rescuing abandoned and abused dogs from the streets of Los Angeles for over 11 years now.

Demo reel of Tara with clips from Legend of the Red Reaper,

Ripped Memories, and Wrath of the Crows

See more of Tara at:
Her Official Website
Her IMDb Page
Her Facebook Fan Page
Her Blog
Tara on Twitter


About the author

Editor-in-Chief at // Website // See more articles

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris flirted with the music business there and in Nashville before joining the U.S. Army and serving in South Korea. He remained in Asia for several years afterwards, teaching English, traveling, and covering the regional entertainment scenes. Currently in a mindset between Seoul and San Francisco, besides Idol Features, you can also catch his writings in the print edition of the monthly magazine, Effective.


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