Horror’s Scream Queens and Rising Talent: Six Questions for Dawna Lee Heising
“Dawna Lee Heising is a working actress and member of SAG-AFTRA, and is the vice president of Aki Aleong’s Mustard Seed Media Group. Dawna has worked on Gregory Hatanaka’s “Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance; Aki Aleong’s “Road to Hell”; Ted V. Mikels’ “Ten Violent Women; Part Two”; Richard Rossi’s “Canaan Land”; Gregory Blair’s “Garden Party Massacre; Michael S. Rodriguez’s “Lake of Shadows”; Dustin Ferguson’s “Meathook Massacre II”; and upcoming films with filmmakers Gregory Hatanaka, Thomas J. Churchill, Mark Savage, Andrew Hugger and Keith Barrows. Dawna is excited to be working with Aki Aleong in Adolfo Rivera’s international science fiction/action/adventure television series “Scorpion Girl”.
Dawna is studying acting at South Coast Repertory, and the Strasberg method with Michael Sewell. She belonged to Sal Romeo’s Friends and Artists Theatre Group in Los Angeles for many years, and has trained with acting teachers Sal Romeo; Mark Majarian; Guy Stockwell; Tim Russ; Richard Hatch; as well as at Tepper-Gallegos; Fullerton College; Cypress College; and at U.C. Berkeley. She won Best Actress for her role as Naomi Perkins in “After School Massacre” at the 2014 Mockfest Film Festival. She also won a 2013 EOTM Award for Outstanding Television Talk Show Host for her television show “Eye on Entertainment”, which is televised nationally on the Prime Network. She has a B.S. in Business Management and MBA from Pepperdine University. Dawna’s uncle is famed Director of Photography Tak Fujimoto, and her cousins are Emmy Award winners David Ka Lik Wong and George Daugherty for “Peter and the Wolf on Broadway”.
Dawna won Ms. World 2008; Ms. Universe 2009; Mrs. California United States 2000; Mrs. American Achievement 2001; and Miss Galactic Film Festival 2015. She is a past winner of Miss Los Angeles Chinatown; Miss Orange County Universe: Miss San Francisco Universe; and Miss California Hemisphere, among other titles. She has worked as a model for Ujena Swimwear; Venus Swimwear; Catalina; Bikini Magazine; Glamour Magazine and FVM Global Magazine. She is trained in ballet and jazz dancing, Tae Kwon Do, kick boxing and pole dancing. Her manager is Joe Williamson of The Williamson Management Company and her agent is Andrew Hugger.”*
1. How did you get into the industry?
I’ve covered Shriekfest and Shockfest for many years, and Seth Metoyer added me as the Hollywood Correspondent for MoreHorror.com. Since then, I’ve been Joan in Jared Masters’ “Slink” and Mz. Perkins in his “Teachers’ Day” and I’ve done “Waiting for Dracula”, directed by Steve Oakley and Domiziano Arcangeli, “Pond Scum” for Mark Savage, and “Deadly Revisions” for Gregory Blair.
2. What Scream Queen/Woman in Horror inspired you most?
I most admire Sybil Danning. I interviewed her at the premiere of “Virus X” and she was gorgeous and so gracious. She is the epitome of a STAR to me!
3. What horror film hooked you on the genre and why?
I am Catholic so the films “The Exorcist” and “The Omen” were particularly scary to me as a child. The film that I think was the most frightening was “Silence of the Lambs”. I remember coming home from the theater after watching it for the first time and checking in all of the rooms and closets to make sure the house was safe. Another film that particularly affected me was “Sixth Sense” and the phrase “I see dead people”. All of these timeless films were worthy of an Academy Award, with excellent plots, great acting and superior production values. My uncle Tak Fujimoto was the DP on “Silence of the Lambs” and “Sixth Sense”.
4. When you are presented with a script or movie concept, what are the things that draw you to certain projects and away from others?
I have been studying acting at South Coast Repertory and the Strasberg method with Michael Sewell for the last two years, and I want to be taken seriously as an actress now. I’ve been very fortunate to work with talented filmmakers in the horror/sci-fi genres, including Gregory Hatanaka, Ted V. Mikels, Gregory Blair, Thomas J. Churchill, Sid Burston, Ernest Serrano, Jared Masters, Michael J. Rodriguez, Mark Savage and Dustin Ferguson. It’s fun working with Steve Oakley and Melanie Grunder because they have so many well known actors in their films, and the set is like a party with my friends.
I feel like I have paid my dues now as an actor, and I am striving for bigger roles in better projects. My goal is to have roles that will make me grow as actress, and to be in projects that I would be proud to show my family. If I can’t show something to my family, then I no longer want to do the project. I am still taking pole dancing, but I am also taking martial arts now to prepare for more action roles. I no longer want to be just the victim or sex object in a horror film, but I want to also be the evil protagonist or action heroine.
5. The evolution of women in the genre continues to change almost daily, so what are your thoughts on how things have changed and what do you see coming for the current and future women of horror?
I am seeing more and more women take matters into their own hands, and producing their own projects. I have an MBA from Pepperdine University, and I publicize all projects that I work on. If I am going to work that hard for a project, I want to make sure that the role I am playing is worth it.
“Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance” was not strictly a horror film, but it had horror/sci-fi elements. I thank Gregory Hatanaka every day for giving me a role with the legendary Tommy Wiseau and taking my career to a new level. It’s made me think about having more control over my roles and the quality of the projects that I work on. John Cox is developing a show for Art Roberts and me that we will pitch to Amazon Prime, and I am excited about having more control and expanding to different platforms. John has a children’s show called “Billy Rabbit” on Amazon Prime and knows what he is doing. Art played my husband in Jared Master’s award-winning film “Slink”, and he is a fantastic actor. I am really excited about the project!
6. What are the next couple projects you are working on?
- Gregory Blair will be releasing the horror/comedy “Garden Party Massacre” this year, and I know it is going to be hilarious! I am playing a crazy MILF named Melanie in the film.
- Ernest Serrano and Sid Burston will be releasing “Grim Weaver” this year. I play an evil shop owner in the horror film with supernatural overtones. I hope to be working on another project with Ernest this year.
- I just had a role in the intro to Thomas J. Churchill’s horror television series “Cold Plastic TV”, and it was a really fun shoot! I am excited to finally be working with the multi-talented filmmaker! My friends Mel Novak and Vida Ghaffari are also in the project, as well as my great manager Joe Williamson!
- I had a role in Michael S. Rodriguez and Tino Zamora’s “Lake of Shadows: The Legend of Avocado Lake” and I can’t wait to see the finished film!
- I will be playing Britney Kao in Fito Rivera’s international television series “Scorpion Girl”, which also features my good friends and great actors Aki Aleong, Mel Novak and Ford Austin.
- I play Joanna in the late Ted V. Mikels’ film “Ten Violent Women: Part Two” and filmmakers Drew Marvick and Johnny Cornett will be finishing the film for the legendary director this year.
- I played the Mother in Dustin Ferguson’s “Meathook Massacre II” and it was a really fun shoot! Deborah Dutch played my sister in the film.
- John Cox and I cover all horror projects I work on for Seth Metoyer and the television series “More Horror in Hollywood”.
- I am honored to also be working on films with Gregory Hatanaka, Keith Barrows and Andrew Hugger this year. Hopefully, more great opportunities will present themselves in the future!
Dawna Lee Heising’s Links
*Bio Courtesy of Dawna Lee Heising