Kristin Bauer van Straten on Lore, Robert the Doll, & The State of Horror

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As October begins, and the witching hour is upon us, scary stories are at a plenty … but how are any of them true?

Well look no further my fact seekers, as Lore, which premieres on Amazon Prime on Friday October 13, is here to scare you good with history and facts on its side.

The six-part series, which started out and continues as a mega popular podcast created by Aaron Mahnke, is anthology horror at its finest. It chills you to the bone while showing that sometimes fact is scarier than fiction.

Like any good anthology, Lore will feature a plethora of talented actors, with a new, distinct cast headlining each episode. One of the actors who is part of of the Lore cast is Kristin Bauer van Straten, who is most famous for her role as Pam de Beaufort in True Blood. The actress has played with, werewolves, vampires, and fairies, now she gets to add possessed dolls to that list.

Pop Break sat down with Kristin Bauer van Straten as she talked about her upcoming episode with Lore, entitled Unboxed, and how it was for her to be in such a well known and terrifying tale of Robert the Doll.

Lore Robert the Doll
Photo Courtesy of Amazon

What episode are you starring in?

I believe it was originally called “Robert the Doll,” but it may changed. [Editor’s Note: The episode is title ‘Unboxed.’] My story is the story that inspired Chucky (Child’s Play), and this whole genre of haunted dolls. This story is a true myth, a folklore story that has been passed down since 1900 in Key West. Robert the Doll still exists; he’s in a museum.

It’s creepy. Have you read the whole story behind Robert the Doll?

Yes, before we started filming I googled it. I couldn’t believe he actually exists. And that’s what’s¬†interesting about the way they tell the stories on Lore. I think that’s what’s new and really exciting. They have a documentary mixed with a TV show.

Did you have any weird experiences while filming the episode?

No, we didn’t. Thank God! At certain points I was taking pictures of the set, and I realized I was taking pictures of Robert. I did delete them. I’m not somebody who’s superstitious, but…

Did you delete them, or did HE delete them?

(Laughs) Yes, that is the question. [This episode] is really well done, and it’s made by people who tell amazing stories. I’m excited to see the whole episode.

[The rumor out there is that] Lore is unscripted — how does that work? Was it a challenging? Did you have to take a new approach to this?

Well, my stuff was scripted. I’ve only done one thing that was unscripted ever, but I did see that in the [press information] so I was wondering if I should [admit] that my stuff was written down for me. So [this role] was classic, playing a character of fiction. However, there was no information on the mother of the boy who was haunted by Robert the Doll that I could find. So my part felt like a mother role who has a very troubled child.

What drew you to the show?

It was the people who were running the show. I know I’d be in good hands, especially with the stories they’ve been telling. I was a huge fan of The X-Files, and The Walking Dead is incredible. I was late to that party, and everyone was telling me it was not about zombies, it was about the people. I thought it was amazing they could pull it off. Then I read this script. And the director I had was a Walking Dead director and he was absolutely lovely. So I felt like I was in good hands. That’s what it comes down to — if you look at who’s involved and you trust them; then you look at the dialogue. If it’s great, and I start to feel like I want to start saying it.

As you started reading the dialogue did you feel the character in the moment — is that how you knew you wanted to do this show?

Yes. Usually for me, I don’t get better the longer I think about. I take my first impressions, and if the character doesn’t start living during the first read, then I’m not sure I’m the actor for the role. The more I try to make it fit me, it’s usually not comfortable.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon

Does that influence your acting choices?

It does. Once you get one set, you do a first take and you throw it out there. It’s really nice to do a first take, and you hear that you’re in the ballpark. We talked a lot about how this story is told from the mother’s view point. On True Blood, I don’t play vampire, I don’t play immortal, I play that I love this person. Here, I didn’t have to play anything supernatural, I just had to play that I loved my kid, and something is terribly wrong. I think that’s the best way to tell stories. I think that’s the best way to tell stories, and how we can relate to vampires, and werewolves. They’re people in extraordinary circumstances.

Amazon Prime, and similar streaming services are becoming the new model for Hollywood. Is there anything different filming a show for them as opposed to a more traditional network?

I don’t think so. I don’t think of it as different, but then I realize all these episodes are being released on the same day. It is different for the audience perspective, but for me it’s exciting as an actor. Back in the day when I started you had three networks. Storytelling was limited by advertising — you had limits on what stories you could tell, and what you could say. Obviously, HBO changed that. I think it’s incredible there’s all these new avenues for interesting ways to tell stories.

Creativity has exploded with these streaming services. I’m really impressed with the Amazon shows. My teacher was Jeffrey Tambor so I had to watch Transparent. He’s incredible. Man in the High Castle – what an incredible concept to explore. The production value is so beautiful. It’s great that actors can now find work 12 months a year to tell stories. Instead of pilot season for three to four months, and if you didn’t get picked, you had to wait until next year to try again.

So with these stories, since they are based on supposed true stories, or at least popular lore — were you given information about the character you were portraying?

There was very little on the mom specifically. She was never photographed, there’s almost nothing on her. There’s a lot on the son, and there’s pictures of the time period.

What was fun shooting this was that they rented an incredible Victorian home that we shot and lived in, we didn’t sleep there, but we were there 14 hours a day. We had these great costumes, and they had aging make-up on me so I played ages 30-70. So it’s fun to be really in it — especially since we weren’t in Key West, but Atlanta is hot as hell and it kicked in, and I’m in petty coats, corsets and a wig.

Is there any folklore that you’ve read that’s been particularly scary that you think would be a great addition to the show?

I don’t think I have. My mother-in-law collects and retells African folklore, but that’s a little different. It’s a little more surrealist, and I think that would be really interesting. There’s a lot of voodoo, and there’s a lot of superstition. I’m not superstitious, but [in this episode] I did have to manhandle the doll a bit. I accidentally pulled his arm off (laughs), and there’s a moment where I was like [audible shriek/laugh]!

That must be good when there’s something that’s scary and you have a moment like that.

Yes, I had to convince myself that it wasn’t the real Robert. He’s in a museum. (laughs).

How close did your doll look to the original?

Identical. It is amazing. When you see this doll you wonder — how this was a good idea? All these movies are the same, these dolls obviously have something wrong with them. But the people are like, ‘Oh no, my child loves it, let’s keep it.’ Yet it does all these strange things, but people don’t do anything. This doll is actually the size of my son in the show.

The way the show is structured is not a typical type of horror show. So do you think your typical fan would be into this?

I think typical fans will. When we watch horror we try to immerse ourselves, and believe in it to some degree. This helps you take that next step into believing. Lore goes back and forth between actual stories from people that it actually happened to. I think it help breaks down the wall between entertainment, and documentary. Blair Witch tried to do that. It’s harder and harder in the modern day to impress because special effects, and gore, and stunts have been gone to the limit. I’ve been thinking we need to go back to engaging the mind, and this is what Lore does. It’s like sitting around the campfire, and freaking yourself out. Its exceedingly clever.

Have you always been a fan of horror?

Yes. I’ve always been a fan, but True Blood changed that for me, because I saw how it was done. So now I ruin it for anyone I’m with. I’ll watch something and say, ‘Oh see that, the had a double. Go back and I’ll show you.’

In your personal opinion what’s the scariest movie you’ve seen, and a movie you think should be the way modern horror stories are told?

I saw it again, and it didn’t hold up…but back in the day it was Ghost Story starring Fred Astaire. It engaged my mind, and that’s what I love about Lore.

Catch Kristin Bauer van Straten in Lore, ‘Unboxed’ which premieres Friday October 13 on Amazon Prime.

Hello! My name is Laura Dengrove. I am currently a Junior at Rutgers University, double majoring in Journalism/Media Studies and Cinema Studies. I am a film critic and interviewer by choice, professional Linda Belcher impersonator by birth.

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