Horror is one of the greatest film genres on Earth because it really does cross boundaries. Everyone likes to be scared or on the edge of their seat. In this case, horror crosses The United States, The Atlantic Ocean, and ends up in Wales, Great Britain. Let me introduce you to Derek Nelson, a rising actor who’s appeared in half a dozen straight-to-DVD films you can find in stores around the world. Originally from Chicago, it was love and education that brought the performer to the UK horror scene. Derek explains, “I have a BA in Theater Performance from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It took me three colleges and four years to earn it. From there, I spent nine months at an acting apprenticeship in Louisville, Kentucky – which is where I met my wife. She’s originally from Wales and was studying abroad when I met her. Three years ago, we decided to get married; so I packed my bags and moved to Wales! All of this has shaped me into the actor I am today because it put me out of my comfort zone. It showed me something different that I hadn’t experienced before.”
While it’s true that positive growth greatly effects any area of study and progression, Derek never imagined his resume would grow ten fold when he made the jump to England. Although Derek tells me he didn’t start booking film roles until the move, I wondered what film-making and behind-the-scenes production was like in England in comparison to America. He says, “Through talking with friends in The United States, there does seem to be a few differences. In the United Kingdom, there is a much better market for micro budget movies. They are alive and thriving! This country is a great place for people to learn film-making in all of its forms. In The United States, I feel like there are a lot of independent films being made, but even those films cost millions and have huge stars attached! So, it’s difficult for actors like myself to break into them.” But, Mr. Nelson did manage to break into the industry in England, and he can be found in lead and supporting roles in films such as Cabin 28, Jurassic Predator, Revenge of Robert the Doll and Werewolves of the Third Reich.
From unsolved mysteries to lycanthropy thrills and everything in between, Derek gushes about some of the movies he’s starred in. “Cabin 28 is based on the horrific Keddie Cabin Murders, which took place in 1981 in Keddie, California. Sue Sharp, her son – John, and his friend – Dana Wingate, were found dead in their cabin by Sue’s eldest daughter, Sheila, on the morning of April 12. Sue’s other daughter, Tina, was reported missing and it wasn’t until 1984 that a skull was found 63 miles away that belonged to her. The worst thing about this case is that it was never solved, even though there were two very obvious suspects. It was a truly tragic event. And Werewolves of the Third Reich is probably the most fun title for a film I’ve ever hard of! When Andrew [Jones] approached me about the project, I said yes based on the title alone! Mixing monsters of our imagination with the monsters of the real world is what makes horror films strive! Werewolf Nazis are what B-movies are all about!”
And what about doing battle with killers that aren’t as interactive on screen – as seen in Jurassic Predator and Revenge of Robert the Doll. Where I assumed it to be a daunting task, Derek seems to have taken it in stride, proving he’s capable of delivering a standout performance no matter what the scene entails. He says, “I loved getting to work with a legend, [Robert the Killer Doll]. I got to do a grand finale with him. After taking out a British secret agent and pushing Robert’s creator, I get ambushed by Robert and two of his pals. I dispatch them quickly, but not without escaping a bullet to the head from Robert. It’s a Hell of a way to go, and Robert was such a Diva about it on set. He has it in his contract that he has to win any fight he gets into, which I think is a bit unfair. Seriously, though, the woman who operates Robert is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet!” Revenge of Robert the Doll was, at the time, the third collaboration between actor Derek Nelson and director Andrew Jones. I asked the actor about his working association wit the director and he said, “I owe Andrew a lot. He gave me my first job in a film that went to DVD. He is one of the nicest people I have ever worked with. If Andrew ever has a part he wants me to play, then I’ll be there!”
Derek and Andrew have a few more projects together that are on the horizon, including crime-drama Alcatraz, war movie D-Day Assassins, and – of course – horror’s The Manson Family Massacre. I’m most excited about the Mason movie, and decided to have Derek elaborate on that. “We already shot the film and I loved the script! I don’t want to spoil too much, but it’s about a young musician who is writing an album in Charles Manson’s house. The film is about how you can get too close to something and lose yourself in your art. Of course, there is a little horror involved, and the main difference between Massacre and other Manson movies coming out next year is that you have the musician’s part of the film, which takes place in the 90’s, and Manson’s stuff in the 60’s. It jumps between two completely different time periods. In Massacre, I play Bobby [Beausoleil], which was a different type of challenge. One thing I try to do when I play a character is approach them from an unbiased view. I cannot look at them as a villain because as soon as I do, I can’t do my job. I’ll end up judging the person and that never leads to an honest portrayal. Yet, I found it very tricky to relate to a man who has done the things Bobby has in his life.”
Speaking about an upcoming title that has yet to be filmed, Derek brings up another werewolf movie – a short titled Werehouse. An old-school flick with a practical effects werewolf costume, Werehouse is aiming to launch a Kickstarter campaign in October. Derek gushes, “I am so excited! I cannot wait to shoot this, as I’ll be playing the werewolf! I’ve worked with Viral Films UK before on For Her… and we had a fantastic time shooting that. They’re a great group of people to work with and [they] tell amazing stories in the horror genre.” As you can read, after years in the business, Mr. Nelson remains as humble and optimistic as ever. He explains, “I am still new to the film industry. I’m only one small cog in the machine of film-making. I’ve gotten really lucky to get involved with the film-makers I’ve met so far. The pressure that I feel is that I want the audience to enjoy what they are watching. At the end of the day, my job is to be an entertainer. My hope when people watch a film that I am a part of is that they can forget about the real world for a while and enjoy something different for an hour and a half. I want to stay humble and down to Earth. I don’t know where my career will take me, but if I end up entertaining people, then I will feel like I’ve accomplished my goal.”
Thanks for taking the time to chat, Derek! Can’t wait to watch the new movies in 2018, 2019 and beyond!