We had the chance to talk to Desiree Hall, the lead actor in the recently released indie thriller Donner Pass. The film takes a group of kids on a wild experience at a cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Although it may sound like your typical setting for a horror film, it’s not. There is much more of a plot to this film than your usual bloody massacre. Although Donner Pass marks Desiree’s first time in a leading role, this wasn’t her first shot in from of the camera…and it won’t be her last!
Hall appeared in season one of MTV’s remake of Teen Wolf, as well as a recurring role as lab technician Sara Clark opposite David Caruso on CBS’ hit show CSI: Miami. Desiree has also starred in over 20 national commercials and recently started her own production company, Hall Squared. We spent some time talking to Desiree about her life as an actor, how this all came about for her, and what she hopes to say about herself in the future.
Whether the horror genre is your cup of tea or not…(usually I pass, weak stomach!), this is one film you won’t want to miss. Desiree’s performance truly draws you in, gore and all!
PPLA: How did you decide that acting was what you were going to do as a career?
DESIREE: You know, it’s kind of funny! It all started when I was really young. I grew up in Nashville, and I remember going to see live theater and being completely inspired by the idea that, that could be a job I could one day have. I was so little and at that age, you don’t really understand how the world works. I just remember seeing this person on stage in full costume, and I was like “wow, what a cool thing.” When I got a bit older, I did some music videos. I guess that was my first taste of being in front of the camera, and I was just hooked! It was so fun and creative. What you did on camera was really sort of up to you, and I just liked doing it. So I feel like I’ve been pursuing acting for a very long time.
PPLA: Well, it’s a long time coming then! So, how does it feel to have your movie out there now, picking up steam, gaining such a great response?
DESIREE: It is very surprising, because when we started Donner Pass I had no idea really what the range of it would be. I didn’t know if people were going to respond well to it, or if people were going to appreciate it. I think people expect all horror films to be lots of blood, guts, and gore, and girls screaming or whatever, but I’ve been so, so surprised about how well it’s been received. It’s been so much fun being a part of it and seeing people’s reactions, and knowing that I have something out there that people want to see.
PPLA: How did you land the role in Donner Pass and how much did you know about the Donner Party before you got involved in this film?
DESIREE: I actually didn’t know very much about the Donner Party at all. Then, I did just a quick Google search and thought, “oh my goodness”. It was a world of different information. I had no idea previously, so getting involved in this project and then really doing my research, was very interesting. It [Donner Pass] came about through the film’s director. She and I were actually working together in an acting class. She was teaching this class and had mentioned they were doing a movie and let me read for the part. Then we went through this very long audition process before we began working on the film.
PPLA: What was it like working with a female director in a traditionally male dominated genre?
DESIREE: I can’t really compare in terms of genre because I’ve never done a horror film with a male director. So, I can’t really say, “oh you know it was so different because of this”. But Elise was so great! From my experiences, I can’t imagine that it would be so different working with a man, but I don’t know. It was her idea to take this script, this movie, and make it something that was more plot driven than just your typical blood, guts, and things. I had a lot of fun on set. It was very challenging but very artistically challenging as well. So I think a lot of that can be attributed to Elise, who does happen to be a woman!
PPLA: Is horror a genre you hope to continue working with in the future? Or are you flexible to a variety of genres and types of roles?
DESIREE: I’m completely flexible, but I would absolutely work in horror again. Especially if I were going to do something very similar to the tone of Donner Pass– something that was very plot and character driven, that also had horror elements in it. I enjoyed that a lot; it kept the audience captivated which I think was fun for them. But absolutely, I would love to do all sorts of different jobs. I’d really love to do an action movie!
PPLA: One of the joys of acting is being able to transform yourself and immerse in a character. Where did you have to go mentally in order to pull such emotion in some of your more intense scenes?
DESIREE: Well, it was really interesting,especially with the finale sequence. I did have to go to some pretty wild places. That was like a three-day process, the whole finale. I don’t want to give anything away for the people who haven’t seen it yet. But I got so emotional on day one, that by day two which was actually the more emotional part of it, I was very afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to maintain that emotion. That is actually one of the worst things for an actor, when you are on set and you start telling yourself that you don’t know if you will be able to get to some very emotional peak that you need to find. But I went and talked to Elise and she gave me some things to think about. From there, it was just about going into my imagination and letting things ignite. In an odd way, it was very scary to go into that place and not know if I was going to be able to pull it off or not, but it was also really thrilling. It is hard, but it is one of those things. It’s one of the reasons you become an actor.
PPLA: Fans might recognize you from MTV’s Teen Wolf or some of your other great projects, but what made this project stand out for you?
DESIREE: Well, it was different because I was really able to do a lot of work on it. I had the time and the space in my life to do it. I also got to be the lead character since the story is kind of revolving around Kayley. So there was a really broad character arc that I got to bring forth, which is really different than the other roles that I’ve done. When you’re just a guest on a TV show or something, your part is relatively small in the grand scheme of the show. So it was nice just being able to put more work into it. I was able to decide things about her past, or what was going to happen to her in the future; her hopes and dreams, you know, things like that. So it was very special- just the amount of work I put into her to give her a broad and flushed out life.
PPLA: When you wrapped this film, what were your hopes for how it would affect or really launch your career?
DESIREE: If you’re not in the movie business, no one really understands how hard it is to start from a script and then get it all the way to the distribution process. There is so much time, blood, sweat, and tears, that we as actors performing are only a small part of, that go into the making of a film. I honestly had no expectations of the movie doing what it has done at all. You just never know! It’s like putting together a puzzle and if one piece is missing, the whole thing can just collapse on itself. It has been really amazing though to see what has happened to it, because again I just had no expectation of this level of success. I would wonder if people were going to love it, or if people were going to hate it. This part has just been so, so amazing. It’s been great to witness it and be a part of it.
PPLA: So in 30 years, let’s just say, you’re looking back on your career. What do you hope to be able to say about yourself?
DESIREE: Wow, that is a great question! I hope that I am able to look back and say “good job”. You tried as hard as you could, and you did everything that you could. You lived your life the way you wanted to, and congratulations. You did all of that stuff. And as small or as big as it ends up being, I can look back on it and just be satisfied with the road I took to being however old I am in 30 years; oh gosh! (laughs)
PPLA: Just for fun, can you describe a day in the life of Desiree for our fans who want to get to know you better.
DESIREE: Every day is kind of different in the life of an actor. Lately it’s been lots of auditioning. I’ve recently been trying to eat better. I’ve converted to mostly vegan and gluten free, so I’ve been trying to find food that adheres to those things. I make a Kimerly Snyder’s glowin green smoothie in the morning and then I head out for my day which usually means driving in Santa Monica and Hollywood. I do between 1-3 auditions in a day, sometimes more, sometimes less. After that, it is usually working on projects that I am trying to develop myself. I try to do some sort of exercise everyday- either a yoga class or some type of cardio or something. Then I make dinner, and hop on the phone for a bit with my family and fiancé, things like that. I try to get into bed in order to have at least six hours of sleep a night. I kind of had to let go of the term balance. I don’t think balance exists. Nothing is perfectly balanced. There are days that everything gets done, and there are days that things just get thrown out the window. I really try not to stress myself. I just think…are things getting done? Am I moving forward in different aspects of my life? If the answer is a yes, then I am satisfied. Fans can learn more about me on my website DesireeHall.com. You can ask me questions and check out my photos and updates there.
We will certainly be checking back to find out what’s up next for Desiree!