The University area will be crawling with creepy this weekend as Charlotte’s annual horror convention, Mad Monster Party, returns for its eighth year.
This year’s guest list includes “Evil Dead’s” Bruce Campbell, “The X-Files’” Mitch Pileggi, “Twin Peaks’” Ray Wise, and Adrienne Barbeau of “The Fog,” “Swamp Thing” and “Creepshow” fame. Barbeau spoke to The Observer last week to discuss her various roles — from ’70s sitcoms to contemporary soaps to voice work — as well as meeting fans on the convention circuit.
Q. Pop culture conventions have become hugely popular. How did you first get involved in the convention circuit?
A. I was approached by Dee Wallace (“Cujo,” “E.T.”) at least 10 or 15 years ago. She had just started doing them and was working with a convention manager. Since then, it’s become an entire culture. It’s a fascinating culture. My third novel in my “Vampires of Hollywood” series is set in a fictitious convention in New Orleans. Since ComicCon in San Diego started taking off and becoming so successful, more people are aware and know what (conventions) are like. For me, it’s great to see old friends and it’s gratifying. I try to get to ones where my buddies from “The Fog” and “Creepshow” are.
Q. What was the most fun you had working on a film?
A. Probably “Creepshow” in Pittsburgh. Maybe equally the most fun was “The Fog” in Northern California. I knew all the crew and cast. They were all family really. I loved the location and was married to the director (John Carpenter). It was a really warm, loving experience. I had such a good time on “Creepshow.” I’d never met George Romero before and fell in love with him and his wife, and I loved Pittsburgh. I’ve written stories about a lot of those experiences in my memoir.
Some shoots are more difficult than others. “Swamp Thing” was shot in Charleston and was a difficult shoot because the studio kept pulling the budget out from under (director) Wes Craven. We had to throw out entire scenes. They didn’t have money to hire the actors and we were working very long hours, and it was hot and muggy in the swamp and you’ve got chiggers and ticks. That’s a little less fun.
Q. As a viewer, do you watch horror?
A. I’m not a fan of the genre, but I have a great time doing them. They offer an actor the opportunity to explore so many different facets of their talent. The performance Emily Blunt gives in “A Quiet Place” — only speaking maybe 15 lines of dialogue — is just remarkable. You don’t find that in the other genres.
Q. Besides those kinds of films, what do fans approach you about?
A. Since the success of the box set, they ask about Catwoman. I was the voice of Catwoman in “Batman: The Animated Series.” Until two years ago, no one knew that. I still have people ask about (co-star) Bea Arthur and “Maude.” The real strong Trekkies know I was on “Deep Space Nine.”
Q. Did your kids watch any of your work when they were growing up? (Barbeau famously had twin boys at age 51, who are now in their early 20s.)
A. The night (HBO’s) “Carnivàle” premiered, I’d invited friends over and then realized, What am I going to do with the kids? They can’t watch it. They would’ve been 6 or 7. I thought, I’ll put “The Cannonball Run” on for them. That’s a comedy. I go into check on them and both boys are in tears. One is terrified of (actor) Jack Elam’s lazy eye and the other one is so upset and says, “Mommy, don’t you ever do that again.” He was talking about where I’m trying to get out of a ticket so I unzip my shirt and the policeman turns out to be a woman. It’s only been in the last few years they’ve watched anything. “Criminal Minds” — they were really upset by that. But they got upset when I was hanging upside down in “Pippin.”
Q. You mentioned “Carnivàle.” Were you as upset as fans were when it was cancelled?
A. That was a great disappointment of all of our lives. HBO was just coming off the success of “Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under” and wanted those kinds of numbers. It was very expensive to film because of it being set in the ’30s. The reason it ends the way it does is because we shot the final episode of that season in November, and HBO wasn’t going to make their decision whether we were continuing until March. It was one of my all-time favorite jobs. It allowed me to be home with the kids and take them to school and still get to work. I loved the metaphysical aspect of the show. Loved the writers and producers, the character and all the cast.
Mad Monster Party
When: 6-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Hilton Charlotte University, 8629 J.M. Keynes Drive.
Tickets: $30-$35 for single-day tickets Friday and Sunday, $40-$45 for Saturday. $70-$80 for three-day passes. $199 for “RIP” (aka VIP), which includes entry into after-hours events.