Film Festival Interview: Michelle D’Alessandro Hatt

If Leave it to Beaver and Texas Chainsaw Massacre had a love child, it would be the psychological horror film Guess Who’s Not Coming to Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner?

Set in 1956, this short film about the wholesome Swanson family and their unusual dinner rituals had its world premiere in October at the Fargo Fantastic Film Festival and won the award for Best Film at YoungCuts Film Festival in Montreal in November. Tonight, it will be presented for the first time in Toronto as an official selection of the indiefilmTO Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

I recently interviewed Toronto-based actor Michelle D’Alessandro Hatt about her role in the film.

You play Martha Swanson, a fifties housewife with a dark twist. What attracted you to this part?

One of my goals as an actor is to play smart, strong women who aren’t held back by conventions of age or gender, so I loved Martha immediately. I like to think all fifties housewives had a deep, dark secret that they hid from the prying eyes of their neighbours. The social constructs of the period imposed so many restrictions on women, so they had to have some kind of outlet for expressing themselves – it just so happens that Martha’s is quite extreme (which made playing her so much fun).

How did you prepare for a character with such drastically different sides to her personality?

Prior to my audition, in addition to reading and analyzing Spencer Sinclair’s script, I researched both the genre and the past work of the director, Adam King. So on one hand I understood the horror elements of the story and was familiar with the very specific Barbara Billingsly type style the piece warranted, but I also knew that Adam would be infusing the film with his own brand of darkness.

Also, I don’t usually go this far, but I put on a fancy dress, makeup and heels for my audition so that I could really embody the hemmed in, physical limitations of a fifties housewife. That made it even more delicious to explore Martha’s counterpoint to being America’s favourite mom next door – her insatiable, sinister side.

The film was shot in Ancaster, Ontario, just outside of Hamilton. How was your experience on set?

We were on location in a big, old house that is no longer occupied and rumoured to be haunted, so it was very appropriate as it gave everyone the heebie jeebies from the get-go. As you’ll see from the still photos and the film itself, Julia Monson, our talented production designer, did an incredible job with her detailed creation of the interior of the Swanson family home and our costumes. I can honestly say the cast and crew on this project were all amazing to work with – we had a lot of laughs due to the fact that we, fortunately, all have the same sick sense of humour.

What are you working on next?

I’m really excited to be shooting the independent short Technically Love this month. A sci-fi drama directed by Emily Vargas, it’s an unusual romance in which I play yet another gloriously unconventional mom who falls in love with an A.I. her son has built.

What does Martha Swanson want for Christmas?

Ladyfingers, of course!

Festival Screening Details:

WHEN: Monday, December 7, 2015 (Doors @ 7:00pm / Screening @ 7:30pm)
WHERE: Bell Lightbox Theatre (350 King St W)
WEBSITE: www.indiefilmto.com

To purchase tickets, click here. For more info and to watch the trailer, visit the film website.

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