Actress and model Arielle Brachfeld was brought to my attention by award-winning writer and filmmaker Staci Layne Wilson. Staci sent me the recent press release for her upcoming film Good Family Times, in which Arielle stars as Beatrice. After looking over Arielle’s impressive list of credits, it was obvious that this lady had horror in her blood.
Despite considering herself “awkward,” Arielle is a skilled fencer and has an extensive fashion modeling background. Even though the mannequin-like demeanor of a runway model is unfitting to Arielle’s personality, she’s graced runways for some top US fashion and hair designers. However and not surprisingly, she tells me she feels more at home on a movie set covered in blood.
When she’s not in front of the camera, Arielle spends much of her time doing volunteer work for the charitable organizations she belongs to. One of which is the the Young Storytellers Foundation, a wonderful organization who provide underprivileged kids with programs to encourage literacy through storytelling, script writing, and stage performances. Another one of her involvements is with The Horror Starlets, a genre-based group of actresses who work in conjunction with the Busted Foundation, a Los Angeles-based breast cancer charity.
I recently had the pleasure speaking with Arielle about her latest projects, as well as delving a bit into her background, interests, and what certain bongo-playing physicist’s name, when mentioned, will cause her to giggle like a giddy schoolgirl. (No, it’s not Sheldon Cooper.) Above photo by Tiffany Keeyes.
Audio excerpts from Arielle’s February 6, 2015 interview. Full transcription below.
CHRIS CHARLES: As you know, Staci Layne Wilson sent me the press release for her latest film Good Family Times, in which you have a starring role.
ARIELLE BRACHFELD: Yes, I feel so incredibly fortunate to be working with such amazing filmmakers as Staci and Jen (Jennifer Blanc-Biehn), and then when I was finding out who else was involved, in terms of the cast ….when I saw that Elissa Dowling was on board, it was really exciting. She and I have worked together on a couple of various things and she’s an amazing gal and I’m thrilled to be a part of this.
CHRIS: The synopsis states that your character is a young mother who’s a talented artist and adores her husband and young son ….who aren’t “exactly alive.” Can you give me a few more details on your character at this point? For example, is she nuts?
ARIELLE: (Laughs) Unfortunately, I don’t think I can quite come clean with some of the secrets yet ….but I can tell you you’re in for a very unique and chilling story.
CHRIS: Okay, because the synopsis leads me to believe that character’s nuts. Am I correct?
ARIELLE: Well, I would say they most characters in horror films tend to be a little bit insane.
CHRIS: No, I mean, literally; she’s insane.
ARIELLE: Oh, literally? (laughs) Yes, but she doesn’t think she is. CHRIS: Okay, I got it. So, you’re really gorgeous. You have natural red hair and hazel eyes, but, and I mean this in the most complementary way; with the right makeup, you make an excellent zombie and can really look psychotic as hell. Is that something that has not gone unnoticed by directors auditioning you for a horror film?
ARIELLE: Ah, you know what, honestly, it is the best attribute that I bring in, other than the fact that I can do mad crazy eyes, is my really dirty sense of humor. That tends to actually get me called back, and I have like an extensive modeling background, so being able to really utilize costumes, makeup, knowing the right angels to appear grotesque, etc., it gave me a huge advantage when I started doing more character work, when it came to horror films. That was definitely fun to call back on, in terms of previous experience before I really go into to doing horror.
CHRIS: But have you ever gone to an audition and had a director say; “Oh yeah, she’s got the right look!”?
ARIELLE: Oh yeah, absolutely. Again, having been fortunate to be on both sides, be it producing and also in front of the camera, I definitely know that I’ve gotten in the door simply based on the look, and it’s really a major plus actually to be able to pull off red hair (laughs).
CHRIS: With your list of credits, one would have to assume your favorite genre is horror, but, especially after seeing some of the videos you made with Matt Hoss for his Youtube channel, I see you also have quite a flair for comedy. Could you see yourself someday as a regular on a sitcom and maybe putting horror on the back burner?
ARIELLE: Absolutely. The thing that I love about horror is the emotional strains that the characters go through. It’s literally life and death, you know, you’re fighting against your own demise most of the time …or a loved one. That’s a huge juicy thing for an actress to play with on a regular basis. However, being able to actually cut loose and play with comedy, and honestly comedy for most characters is tragedy. Generally you’re dealing with some horrible things and it’s just, like you said, situational. Like a sitcom, that would be a dream. I think we all grew up watching these favorite sitcoms and play acting, if you were a dork like me, like you were on one. CHRIS: But don’t you think you’d miss horror after a while, even if it were a very successful sitcom show you were on?
ARIELLE: Oh yeah, when you have a deep love for a genre, I’m also a huge sci-fi nerd, like I don’t know that I could ever, “walk away” from it. Again, the depths that you can go to ….the justifications you have to make as an actor ….Yeah, I could never walk away from these genres, no.
CHRIS: Yes, I figured your first love was and always will be horror. While going down your list of acting credits, among all the horror titles, I saw you had a role in a 2011 film called American Nudist. Who was your character in that one?
ARIELLE: (Laughs) That one ….okay, so long story short, the director of Blue Dream ….which I believe now has a different title, but one of the producers was named Tony Young, and this was his project. So, I had met him on Blue Dream with Greg Hatanaka, who’s the director of that one and Tony felt that I had a great look, and I just came on as a brief day player. It was more, just giving me a quick cameo because he liked me.
CHRIS: Ah, I see, I didn’t see it but I assumed from the synopsis I read, it wasn’t your typical 1950s black and white volleyball-playing-type of nudist film.
ARIELLE: (Laughs) Right, right. No, that was uh ….you know, Hollywood can be really funny. Like I had no clue what I was walking on to, and again, I didn’t really know too much about it other than I had liked working with Tony on set. And it was a fine project, it definitely surprised me, I will say. Especially because it was all improvised. I mean, you’d come on without really knowing your part. Especially in that type of cameo and scenario you don’t necessarily get quality information (laughs). So that was a really interesting experience ….if I can be politically correct about it.
CHRIS: What is your stance on doing nude scenes in films?
ARIELLE: You know, I have actually yet to do one. Um, I feel like, honestly just in terms of where I am as an actress, as an artist ….I don’t know that I would be able to move past that type of vulnerability, in terms of the character. Like if there is one thing that I’m realizing, is that I honestly ….you got to be able to give everything you can to a character for it to really come across well, and again, to feel fulfilled as an artist. If you can’t get past that, the character’s going to suffer. So, I’m holding off for now just because I honestly don’t feel that I would be able to do it justice, and frankly ….(laughs) I’m so damn gawky and awkward, I’m not sure anyone else would be into it, either.
CHRIS: Okay, fair enough, So, moving on to one of your latest films that’s been released; Chemical Peel. You were also a co-writer on that one. Are there any scenes in that one can you take sole credit for?
ARIELLE: Well, the whole movie came about because Natalie Victoria and I, who’s also well-known in the genre, she and I wanted to do a project together. So, in terms of theatrical characters, in terms of character development, the story, we all worked collectively hardcore on that. In terms of specific scenes; there is a scene that we were going back and forth on ….and I don’t want to give any spoilers but, you know, Natalie’s character Rae is very down-and-out and Angela, the one that I play, is um ….well, she’s just a god-awful ….she’s a cunt. I’m just gonna ….she’s an absolute cunt and she lords over Rae …and there’s a scene down in the basement where Angela is just being so cruel to Rae, and I’m actually pretty proud that I had a hand in that one. Of course, when you’re on set, you know suggestions come from the director, come from the other actors, you know, I would never say that anyone can take full credit for a scene, just because so much of a life is played out with the people around you, with the crew, with the director ….you know, it comes down to even lighting and costumes. So, I would be hesitant to take full credit, but in terms of writing, in terms of really pushing the sense of the scene; I would take credit for that one.
CHRIS: That film has some pretty intense scenes. Would you say your character in that one, Angela, was one of your most challenging roles?
ARIELLE: Yes. I grew more with Angela than I really had previously. It was nice being involved all the way from the conception of the idea where I wanted a character that was really super challenging.
CHRIS: Did you base her on anyone you knew of or saw somewhere?
ARIELLE: God no, thank goodness! No, I’ve never met any Angelas, however, you know certain character traits. You know highly manipulative people, you know the girls in high school, who you hated but were somehow fascinated by. You know these people who are so deeply wounded that they lash out at everyone else around them. So, in terms of those types of character traits; yes, but in terms of a specific person who encompasses all of Angela; no.
CHRIS: No, I’d hope not.
ARIELLE: (Laughs) Oh, I got a fun piece or trivia when it comes to Chemical Peel. Stephanie Greco, who played Jordan, who I was also in The Haunting of Whaley House with, uh, she actually did punch me, for real. So that was pretty fun, she actually hit me in the face during our fight scene ….and she was crying worse than I was. She felt so terrible. I was ready to keep shooting after it stopped stinging like a motherfucker but ….yeah, so that was pretty fun.
CHRIS: Ah okay, so it was accidental. I mean there was no bad blood between you two?
ARIELLE Oh yeah, absolutely (accidental). Angela’s terrible (laughs) but Steph had pretty good character separation.
CHRIS: So you’ve mentioned this earlier, and I’ll ask you about it now. You’ve also done quite a bit of modeling. Do you still model or is that behind you now?
ARIELLE: You know, it’s one of those things where I will always love being able to create a reality in a frame ….but in terms of me actively pursuing it now, I mean, I’ll do commercial work here and there because I’m a Los Angeles actor and that means, a “whore” to a certain extent, when it comes to pay (laughs). So, yeah, commercial work I’ll do but I don’t really actively pursue modeling. If I get approached by a specific designer or specific photographer, or even a makeup artist who has a really amazing idea, I’m all for it, but in terms of me going out and drumming up work; not so much anymore.
CHRIS: I know you’ve done quite a range, from art to runway. Would you say you’re just as comfortable doing a high fashion photo shoot as you are shooting a scene for a horror movie covered in blood?
ARIELLE: (Laughs) At this point, I’m far more comfortable covered in blood. You know, it’s weird, I feel like I’ve gotten ….um, clumsy is not the word. I feel like I’ve separated from that model mentality. Like you have runway, and you’re in these death machines that are called high heels …. CHRIS: ..and you have to be mannequin-like. ARIELLE: Yeah, exactly and you have to go to this weird “zen” place and carry just hints of emotion. It’s a very very zen exercise, I frankly ….no, I’ve lived too long doing really expressive things like horror films, so I don’t know that I could go back to that zen stage ….and being covered in blood is a far better look in my opinion, anyway.
CHRIS: Are there any old school Scream Queens whom you particularly admire?
ARIELLE: I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing women. Elissa Dowling, actually she and I were alums on Axeman at Cutter’s Creek by Joston Theney, and I had the pleasure of working with Brinke Stevens. CHRIS: Okay, there ya go. ARIELLE: Yeah, and again, like, A; the woman’s freaking talented, and B; she’s just cool and down-to-earth. Like, we were sitting out on a river bank, because we were up in the middle of Big Bear, and she telling me about how her dad and her would smoke trout as she was growing up. Ya know, I mean it was just the coolest experience. CHRIS: Yeah, she’s an icon in the industry.
ARIELLE: Yeah! That was incredible. And again, just one of the coolest people you could meet. I had the recent pleasure of working with Lin Shaye, as well, on this project called Day For Night by Michael Chrisoulakis. He’s the director and Lin came on as a really awesome character ….uh, I’m not sure that I can go too much into that either, but again, I feel so fortunate that I’m able to work with some of my idols, some of these icons who are just fabulous, fabulous people. Monique Parent, she was on Axeman 2 (Overkill), and again, same thing; it was just really cool hanging out with someone like that in the flesh and having them be just amazing people. It’s always the worst when someone that you admire turns out to be a total dick. CHRIS: If you ever get a chance to work with Linnea Quigley or Debra Lamb, I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful experience with either of those ladies. ARIELLE: Absolutely. Maria Olsen is a dear friend of mine and I know that she and Linnea go back and they just did Trophy Heads together and Debra, I’ve just heard some lovely amazing things about ….yeah, they’re absolutely on my list, I would geek out a bit (laughs). I would totally geek out a bit. CHRIS: I understand your “day job” is at Swordplay LA? ARIELLE: Yeah, I stab children for money. CHRIS: So, you’re a trained fencer and a kids instructor there?
ARIELLE: Yes, yes, but generally, I get paid to stab children. The parents actually pay me to teach their kids how to fence but most of the time, I’m just poking them with swords. Though, actually a really exciting thing happened. As of January 2nd, I am the project manager for the executive director of performing arts education at LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District). So, that’s like a huge jump for me. and I’m helping out with a couple of different arts initiatives. Another huge part of my journey is art activism, basically. So, being able to have the affect of being able to potentially reach 1.2 million kids, you know, and reintroduce art programs, that is a dream! So, I’ve been entrenched in that world for three weeks and I’m ready to bang my head against the wall until it implodes (laughs) ….dealing with that bureaucracy. But, yeah, I would say that the most entertaining job that I have right now is with Swordplay. CHRIS: Like another lady I had the pleasure of interviewing last year, Traycee King, you’re also involved with the Young Storytellers Foundation. ARIELLE: Yes, yes ….yes! One of the BEST organizations! CHRIS: Do you know Traycee?
ARIELLE: I actually don’t know Traycee personally. I’ve heard amazing things, though. It’s funny, like this town is so incestuous, (Yes, you read that correctly. Arielle says the community is “one big family.”) you know, it’s so tiny, it feels weird, it feels counterintuitive because you constantly are surrounded by just mobs of people and the faces blur together but the working community is incestuous, so yeah, I ‘ve heard of Traycee but I’ve never had the pleasure of working with her or meeting her yet. But Young Storytellers, they are seriously one of the best organizations. I think as artists, it’s our responsibility to help out other artists ….so to be a part of an organization like that, where you’re able to directly mentor kids, get them to really play with imagination, get them to write, and to get them comfortable with scripts and all these cool ideas they come up with ….it’s easily my favorite charity pastime.
I’m also a member of the Dread Central Horror Starlets and that’s really an amazing group, too. I’ve had friends and family members who have had breast cancer and are survivors, so that’s a really personal experience too ….but in terms of seeing the joy out of the little kids’ eyes, beaming at you when they finally understand like, protagonist, antagonist ….awww, it’s so good! It’s so good! (laughs) I highly recommend people check them (The Young Storytellers Foundation) out. CHRIS: My next question was actually going to be about your work with the Horror Starlets. So, please give me a few more details on that. ARIELLE: Sure! Sean Decker, who is another just incredible amazing individual, he came up on Axeman to do an on-set interview series and we got to talking, I was making cracks about PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, which Arielle and Sean were bonding over) and we hit it off. He and Natalie were already familiar with each other and Natalie and I had wrapped Chemical Peel earlier that year so it was a really nice introduction through her. So, when Axeman wrapped, Sean kept in touch and we ended up hanging out, playing video games, and eating pizza every couple of weeks and he got to know I was pretty interested in charity and giving back, and he was telling me about the Horror Starlets, which I was already totally aware of but trying to play cool (laughs) and he offered me a spot on the team, which was, again, like huge ….working with these women. Brooke Lewis is one of the sweetest, like, she’s the “mama bear” you know! She’s one of the sweetest women you will ever meet and Cerina is …is just a goddess. Carlee Baker is just so cool and so funny, and Anne McDaniels and I were the babies on the team. It was out first year. So, that was really neat, going through that experience. Again, I love this community. The horror community is so cool and so loyal. We support the right types of things and we support each other as artists, so, one of the best experiences in show biz, that I’ve had, easily.
CHRIS: Wow, that is a cool thing to be a part of. Switching gears here; you’re originally from Denver, and I see you’re a Colorado Avalanche fan. ARIELLE: Uh, limitedly, yes. I was, now I’m ashamed to say, I don’t really keep up that much with it, but if a hockey game is on, I’ll try and catch it. CHRIS: Are you a big hockey fan, in general. ARIELLE: Um, I go through phases, I get really pissed-off and I stop watching for awhile, and then I get back in to it. I’m actually a big fan of the documentary series 24/7 because you’re following the actually players,you’re seeing their lives. I’m more of a fan of that at this point. I will watch every season of that verses every hockey game (laughs). CHRIS:You’re 5’9″, correct? ARIELLE: Mm hmm, yes ….when I don’t slouch (laughs).
CHRIS: I assume you played some basketball or volleyball when you were in school?
ARIELLE: Oh, god no, I was terrified of balls hitting my face (laughs).
CHRIS: Oh really? So did you play any sports while in school? ARIELLE: I’m telling you, I’m really awkward now, I was more so as a kid. Like, it was not good, I was a danger to myself and others if you put me in a sports arena. Fencing was great, because you’re already dealing with weapons, so people are expecting to get beat up a little bit. CHRIS: So, when did you take up fencing? ARIELLE: Oh, so really cool, speaking of Denver; I had the opportunity of doing an after school fencing program. I mean, how amazing is that? So, I got into that in elementary school, dropped it, picked it back up again in high school because I needed more college curricular stuff, and dropped it again because it’s so time intensive and I’m highly competitive so if I’m not really good at something, it’s hard for me to keep at it (laughs) And then, Swordplay was actually looking to hire Jedi instructors and that’s how I found them. CHRIS: I see. Now, have you ever gotten a chance to put your fencing skills to use in a film? ARIELLE: Um, not in a film, in two commercials and one music video. I’m hoping, I’m really really hoping that I get to put my sword skills to the test in a film. That would be amazing.
CHRIS: Do you have any hobbies or interests most people don’t know about? ARIELLE: Oh gosh ….again, I think just a huge sci-fi nerd. I think a lot of people assume that. I grew up reading Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke, so, I definitely have an optimistic view of our future as a species. That hasn’t been shaken yet. In terms of other hobbies other than swords ….um, yeah ….I collect weird sweaters. I have a cat sweater and a squirrel sweater, and a couple of other really awesome weird sweaters.
CHRIS: Just animal sweaters? ARIELLE: Um, honestly, if it looks kind of like it was supposed to be aborted by the factory, I will try and grab it (laughs). I feel that we owe it to these inanimate objects that are just clearly botched. You know, we need to give them a home (laughs). CHRIS: Yeah, okay. That’s unique. (I then tell her about the Hollywood stuntwoman I interviewed who collects Pez dispensers, we both agree how awesomely cool that is, and Arielle, awesome nerd that she is, mentions the sick video game collection she had and later traded for the latest Wii, and that she has all the emulators but still misses going into the cartridges.)Well, as I expected, it’s been great talking with you, Arielle and I thank you again for doing this. In closing, any shout-outs to anyone?
ARIELLE: Yes! Definitely ….I would love to give a shout-out to the whole Day For Night crew and team, again, Michael Chrisoulakis, Kimmie Yan, and Guy Jackson. Without them we would not have this incredible feature starring Camilla Jackson, Ruben Pla, Azim Rizk, and Lin Shay. So I want to give a huge shout-out to them. Also, I’m in pre-production for another endeavor that I helped co-write and we’re bringing on Axeman director Joston Theney and a couple of other actors and alums including Edward Gusts, who helped me write and produce a film called The Letter Red, and it’s basically Macbeth turned up to 11, in terms of horror and gore, so definitely keep your eyes peeled for that, that should be a really fun, cool, hardcore movie.It shoots in June. We’re co producing with Joston Theney, who is also directing. Chemical Peel is still available on all platforms in North America ….and I really want to that you for having me on, oh and of course, Good Family Times! We have our Facebook page, you can follow Staci Layne Wilson on Twitter and Jen Blanc on Twitter, as well as the rest of our lovely cast, which includes Elissa Dowling, Doug Tait …ack, I’m a terrible person, I’m going down the rest of their names; Jen, Sean Keller, The Richard (aka Richard Cardinal) ….and I feel really terrible ’cause I feel like I’m leaving someone out! Um, Aaron Kai, Nikita Black, and of course that amazing Staci Layne Wilson is at the helm, so definitely keep your eyes peeled for that. CHRIS: Oh, just one last question: Do you still have a crush on Richard Feynman? ARIELLE: (Giggling like a giddy schoolgirl) Yes! You show me another bongo-playing physicist, okay? Especially one with that head of hair. Chris, it’s been a pleasure.
Arielle and Crash, from Disney XD’s Crash and Bernsteins performing
for the Young Storytellers Foundation in 2013
Arielle’s most recent demo reel. Included are clips from Chemical Peel and The Haunting of Whaley House.
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.
Many fans of 1970s adult cinema may best remember Kristine DeBell as the titular, innocent-but-quick-learning lass in the 1976 adult feature film Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy (arguably one of her best-know roles).
Actress and model Deborah Funes began her career performing in elementary school plays in her native Argentina, where she acted to an audience of teachers, parents, and nuns. She will always be remembered as a favorite lady we have had the pleasure of presenting.