Actress, model, and comedienne Rachael Robbins has ventured down several avenues of show biz throughout her career, so far. She started modeling for Playboy in 1997 and delved into acting a couple of years later with the 1999 comedy-horror film Terror Firmer. Also among the 40-plus acting credits she currently has, is her role in Ernest G. Sauer’s 2001 gem Little Shop of Erotica, alongside two big names of the adult film industry. (It’s one that she seems to want to forget, but I made sure to ask her about.)
No stranger to the stage, a few years back, Rachael starred in the all-female cast of Pieces (of Ass) throughout its off-Broadway run, as well as its stint in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Her most notable screenwriting credits to date, are for the 2013 Kenneth Del Vecchio horror films Captured Hearts and the soon-to-be-released (July 1st) Scavenger Killers, both of which she also has starring roles. The former, as one of the five lovely and lethal Van Houten sisters. Most recently, she’s in the pre-production stage with Matt Zattell’s The Advocate.
As a stand-up comedienne, Rachael has had to overcome the handicap of being outwardly sexy in a business where the objective is to get laughs, not leers. However, despite her looks, she’s succeeded in the field and has regularly performed at such venues as New York’s Gotham Comedy Club and Times Square Comedy Club.
Rachael is also directing the upcoming Marilyn and Friends, which will be showing at New York’s Metropolitan Room, April 16th (next week, as this goes to press) and stars renowned Marilyn Monroe tribute performer, Erika Smith. (Info and tickets here) Above photo of Rachael and the Notorious P.I.G. courtesy of the lovely Miss Robbins, herself.
CHRIS CHARLES: As you know, I’ve already interviewed two of your Captured Hearts “sisters,” Melantha (Blackthorne) and Seregon (O’Dassey). You told me that giving the sisters in the film the surname of one of the Manson Family girls and naming town they reside in, Mansionville” was your idea. Do many people catch the references?
RACHAEL ROBBINS: Yes, thanks again for catching that reference! I gave all the sisters names of Manson’s wives or the members of the Manson Family. I originally named the town Mansonvoille, but my writing partner, who was also the “last word” producer felt it was too intense, so he edited it to “Mansionville”. A bunch of people have been astute enough to catch the reference. When I write, I always like to give the characters names that pay homage to something related to the subject matter. It helpful, and inspiring for me to do the research . And it’s a fun Easter egg for fans of the genre.
CHRIS: Melantha and Seregon both said the five of you pretty much interacted like real sisters off camera during the filming of that one. Did you also have that feeling?
RACHAEL: I’d say we definitely acted like sisters because in a family there’s lots of fighting and loving and conflict. But in the end, it’s a unit and you make it work.
CHRIS: I read where you said when you first started acting, your goal was to become a Scream Queen. Do you plan on sticking primarily to horror films or would you like to branch out to other genres?
RACHAEL: I love horror films. Horror is one of my top three favorite genres to watch. I started my career as a scream queen because it seemed like an accessible circle to break into. Horror was very kind to me and gave me a little notoriety. I will always be grateful for work as a scream queen. But given a choice, I’d always do comedy. That’s my sweet spot. If you check out my IMDB page, you’ll see that I’ve worked the spectrum of genres!
CHRIS: You first film, Little Shop of Erotica, starred former porn stars Marilyn Chambers and Veronica Hart. How were they to work with?
RACHAEL: Ahhhh, Little Shop of Erotica, the film that simultaneous saved me from a life as a stripper and yet continues to haunt me. Talk about a love-hate relationship! Marilyn Chambers, bless her soul, was a mean fat old cow to work with. She was not patient with me, a green actress, at all. The was lots of eye rolling and huffing and puffing. And I felt horrible for any of the male actors that had to do believable love scenes with her! Veronica Hart was an absolute pro. She was uber talented, funny, smart and friendly. Incidentally, I first met Rich Lounello, who played in both my films, Captured Hearts and Scavenger Killers, on that set.
CHRIS: I’ve read where you’ve said some very good things about working some of the directors you’ve worked with, such as Kenneth Del Vecchio and Frank Hennenlotter. Are there any directors you haven’t worked with but really want to?
RACHAEL: I’d LOVE to work with Rob Zombie. That’s my DREAM director!!! I also love Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Cronenbergh, (David) Lynch, Gaspar Noe, and the list goes on!
CHRIS: I won’t ask for any names, unless of course, you’d like to give them, but are there any people, on either side of the camera, whom you’d never work with again?
RACHAEL: There are plenty of people on both sides of the camera that I don’t like. But a job’s a job and I am a consummate professional. So when I walk onto set, I put my feelings aside and I act my ass off. There was an actor on the set of Captured Hearts that I absolutely couldn’t stand as a person. But they were a great actor and some of my favorite scenes are with them. I don’t have to LIKE the people I work with. I have my group of friends and family that I love and they are my support system and my source of strength.
My co workers can be part of that group and a lot of times they are, because we are part of the same tribe. Or they can be just simply co-workers. In the end, acting is a job. A really fun, cool, amazing job, but a job nonetheless. That being said, yes, there are a very small number of people I wouldn’t take a job with ever again! Live and learn, right?
CHRIS: You have quite a long resume. The first aspect I checked out on it was comedy. What got you into doing stand-up?
RACHAEL: I’m not exactly sure how I got into comedy. There’s the story I tell myself and it goes like this : I was pursuing the cabaret world. I had done one cabaret show at Don’t Tell Mama in the theater district in NYC. It was all classic show tunes and jazz standards. It was a huge success. I wanted to do another show but was interested in writing better banter for between the songs. Because cabaret isn’t about being an amazing singer, it’s about connecting with the audience in a small venue and being entertaining. I asked a friend who was a comedian if he knew of any good comedy writing classes. He recommended Jim Mendrinos’ class. Comedy and I hit it off and before I knew it I was getting booked as a comedienne! The true story about why I got into it might be different. But it’s been blocked out of my brain. Because no SANE person would ever want to do stand up. It’s an insane career choice. Hardest medium I ever tried within the entertainment industry and I tried A LOT. ESPECIALLY for a comedienne who looks like me.
CHRIS: When you come out on stage, I assume you definitely have the audience’s attention, but I assume you want to make them laugh, not just leer. Do you feel it’s harder for an outwardly sexy comedienne to get laughs than it is for a, let’s say, more sexually subdued comedienne?
RACHAEL: I don’t want to sound whiny, but being hot in the comedy world is actually a handicap and I had to figure out how to traverse that. Once I did, my act became a lot more successful and easy.
CHRIS: Do you recall the toughest crowd you ever faced?
RACHAEL: One thing I’m very appreciative of is that the audience is always very kind to me. They might be staring at me like I’m a circus freak, which I am, I call myself the Marilyn Munster of comedy, but they are always quiet and listen, They never talk over me or heckle me to the point of no return.
CHRIS: Who are your favorite comedians?
RACHAEL: There are so many comedians I love. Jessica Kirson, Jim Mendrinios (my mentor), Pryor, Murphy, Louis CK. Too many to mention!
CHRIS: You also have quite a background in theater. Would you like to act on stage again or is that behind you?
RACHAEL: I would always be open to doing theater. But with something that I’d be doing seven times a week, I would have to totally be in love with the project. So whereas in film, I’ll take a role I’m not crazy about, I’m much more particular for stage productions.
CHRIS: Did your stage experience help when you first started doing stand-up?
RACHAEL: Being on stage helps in comedy and film acting. There’s no better teacher then live performances. It is, after all, how acting originated.
CHRIS: I’ve read where you stated that appearing in Playboy was your proudest modeling accomplishment and you speak very highly of the organization. Who were the photographers you worked with and where were some of the shoot locations?
RACHAEL: I can’t remember the photographers or directors I worked with for Playboy. That was a lifetime ago! But I shot in New York dive bars, Malibu mansions, studio back lots, rooftops, and penthouses. Even my own apartment! I’d shoot with them on the moon if they asked me, They are a top notch organization. And I’m proud to be affiliated with them.
CHRIS: I’ve seen some amazing photos and artwork of you by Mike James. I assume he must be another of your favorite photographers?
RACHAEL: Mike James is my favorite ARTIST to work with. I have been published in some major books because of him. Taschen, Goliath, and Mike’s own coffee table book Super Girls. He’s not a straight photographer. My favorite straight photographer is DJ City Rich, who is a high fashion model and the DJ for The Gza. I also love the work of Tony Yang, Rich Cutrone, and Craig Nevelus. Tom Mancuso did a wonderful coffee table book of just me in the classic retro pin up style. It really great!! My dream photographer to shoot with is Viva Van Story. But she’s not interested in me ….yet
CHRIS: Since you were a Playboy model, did most of the parts you were offered earlier in your career have nude scenes?
RACHAEL: All of my earliest parts had nudity in them. That was just a given. It was hard to break away from that and once I did, I realized it was no big deal! As long as the part was great, the nudity was worth it. ALL Hollywood actresses do it? Why wouldn’t a little b movie actress like me Then once I got comfortable with it, I stopped getting offered those roles. Go figure.
CHRIS: I see you’re a dog owner and partial to Chihuahuas. Is there anything particular about that breed you’re drawn to?
RACHAEL:I have two Chihuahuas; Tony Montana (the bad guy) and the Notorious P.I.G. I am crazy about Chinese crested hairless and also micro pigs. I would never get another Chihuahua after these guys leave me because they could never be replaced, but I am dead set on a micro pig, and I will call it DOG.
CHRIS: You also ride horses. Do you plan on be showing off your equestrian talents in a film someday?
RACHAEL: I have been an equestrian all my life. I would be thrilled to show those skills in a movie!! But for now it’s my zen place. Where being glamorous means nothing. The film accomplishments or failures are inconsequential. And everything in my life just fades away. It’s the only time that my mind is focused on the present 100%. It’s my favorite three hours of the week.
CHRIS: Well Rachael, I can now say I’ve interviewed three of the five “Van Houten” sisters from Captured Hearts. In closing, any shout-outs to anyone?
RACHAEL: Shout out to my girl Erika Smith who asked me to direct her one woman Marilyn Monroe show at the Metropolitan room this april!! If you live in the tri state area, don’t miss it! To my parents who are the other two members of Team Robbins. My #1’s in life. My non-industry friends who keep me sane. Vintage rock n’ roll t-shirts. Flea markets. Dirty martinis. Fleetwood Mac. Hulu. And my two god daughters; Viva and Isla, who one day, will think it was cool they got mentioned in an interview by their Auntie Rach.
CHRIS: Oh just one last question: Do you really have “Striker” carpenters’ pencils in your home? RACHAEL: Nope. Gave all the Strikers to my dad. He’s the handy one in this family!
Gracing the poster for the 2008 comedy-horror Bikini Bloodbath Carwash
The updated edition of Timothy W. Long’s The Zombie Wilson
Diaries features a bound and partially devoured Rachael.
2006 commercial Rachael did for the Striker carpenter’s pencils. Like she said, she gave
all the pencils she she got from Striker to her father and doesn’t have any left, so anyone
thinking of writing and requesting one from her, forget it.
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 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 quarterly magazine, Effective.
Rachael was included in my first James Girls feature and a subsequent solo interview. Her resume includes Playboy magazine to, more recently, her role as the leader of the Van Houten sisters in the indie horror Bleeding Hearts.
Top Hollywood stuntwoman Jasi Lanier was one of the “James Girls” featured in this article last month. She commented that she’s a real tomboy but photographer Mike James helps her get in touch with her