[ photo ]What made you want to become an actor?
Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated with film. Growing up, I would go to the movies at least twice a week and cry myself to sleep at night because my mom didn't want me to become a child actor - she wanted me to have a full childhood. She still has crumpled notes I'd written saying: "Mommy pleas put me in a movee".

How did you get started?
When I was three or four I would tell my mom I am going to make myself cry- and I'd go to the bathroom, climb on the sink and practice crying in the mirror. I would to this for a whole spectrum of emotional possibilities… My poor parents must've agonized over what a strange child they had...

After that I did plays throughout school, and while at Arizona State University, Cameron Crowe came through town shooting Jerry Maguire. I got involved with Bill Dance casting and helped to prep for the shoot dates. After that incredible experience I came to California every summer to work in film and then returned to Arizona in the fall to continue with school.

You now live in Hollywood - how do you survive the 'Actor's Life'?
I think the thing that has helped me the most is creating a sense of structure. I give myself deadlines, and work on my craft almost every day. Then of course there is the comfy bed I got this year and all the trips to the coffee houses during the week...

How did you get involved in Paranoid?
Jay called me about a new project that he was working on and mentioned it was based on a Stephen King poem, and I was instantly excited! I have been a Stephen King fan since I was 10.

Had you done many films before?
Until Paranoid, I had only done small parts in big movies, and this was my first chance to be really creative in film. Most of my prior experience has been in the theatre.

What was your initial impression of the script?
My initial impression of the script was that it was very visual. Stephen King is brilliant at engaging the imagination and his choice of detail is impeccable. At first I thought the poem had a masculine tone, but as I got into it I could see a feminine side and then it became almost genderless as I focused on the character's struggle and began to feel her fear.

How did you approach the character?
After my third meeting Jay he asked me to write journals to be used as props in the film. It turned out to be an incredible character study for me. In the poem she keeps lists and details of everything. I made up my own code then started finding unordinary things in the everyday ordinary. I wanted to put myself into her world.

Early on, there was a bit of a creative disagreement on what the costume should be. Now that the film is completed, how do you feel about the final decision?
When Jay and I had our first discussion about the costume - I have to admit I felt a little awkward. I didn't see any reason for my character to be in her underwear, I didn't think it was necessary. I asked him to give me his reasons for it, because I had a ton against it, and he said it was the look he was going for or that was how he pictured it. We went back and forth about it and I finally decided that I needed to trust his vision.

What was the set like during filming?
The set - Jay's cozy house - was really warm and comfortable. The crew was a great group, so it was a really great working atmosphere.

Are there any specific memories you have from filming?
My favorite moments were the really organic, unplanned ones. I'd be screwin' around with the journals or finding things in my greasy hair and Jay had the foresight to say let's explore it and use it in the shot. And of course the cheesy pizza at lunch was great, too.

What are your feelings on the completed project?
At first I was very judgmental of myself. It's really hard for me to look at myself objectively. Once I got past some of that, I thought it was a visually engaging and well-made film. I love how it was pieced together; it's very stimulating how we see her paranoia grow.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Of course! Culda, Shulda, Wulda... Honestly, I would love to have done more collaborative work with Jay on the voice-over, but other than that, I am truly happy with the results.

How was working with Holben?
Jay was great, he understood my need for detail and gave me homework that fulfilled that. The work I did on the journals and poem itself helped to give me a strong foundation for the character.

How difficult was working without being able to speak or interrelate with other characters/actors?
It was a unique experience. There are definitely things that are more difficult - it is always helpful to have another actor to react to and help ground you, but there were also things that were just fun. I could explore on my own without worrying about anyone else. It was a great learning experience for me.

Almost immediately after Paranoid, you went off to work on Ron Howard's How The Grinch Stole Christmas - how different was that experience?
The two projects were on such different planes- one a grand scale and one a small cozy scale. The only elements that the two had in common were a creative vision and crazy costuming. :)

What are you working on now?
Right now I am taking time to study the craft of acting. I took a departure from education after I got my B.A. because I was wary of getting burned out, but I miss it! I still have so much to learn.

Stealing somewhat from Inside the Actor's Studio - here are a series of questions about you -

What is your favorite word?
Beautiful, and jackhole

What is your least favorite word?
The "c" word

What is your favorite sound?
Rain on the roof

What is your least favorite sound?
Nails on chalkboard

In 100 years, how would you like to be remembered?
That I made a unique contribution to acting and film.

What scares you?
Failure, success, spiders

What is your most vivid nightmare?
I have a reoccurring one: There is this dark narrow hallway with a bright green exit sign at the end. I have to make it to the sign without getting killed. Over the entire trial there is this booming voice - like Oz - telling me that I might not make it. The floor drops out in the pitch black and I have to get myself, and those closest to me, across- while hundreds of bats fly at us. Then there is an obstacle course (in the dark, as well) that I have to pass in order to complete the task. I am never able to finish and the voice laughs, and the exit sign gleams. And I wake up before anyone dies. It is actually much scarier than it sounds...

Who do you most admire and why?
I have one who is personal and one who is professional:

First is my grandma. I know that everyone says their grandma is the best... then they met mine. She gave an incredible unconditional love that I have never since experienced with another human being. Amazing. Small town (Winslow, AZ), strong character- taught my Dad to be such an incredible man.

Secondly - and this is kind of cliché, I know, but - Julia Roberts... She is the epitome of movie stars. Not that I am striving to be a "star," but she has such style and grace - not to mention her incredible persona and talent. I can't help but look at her in awe. She has creative control and the power to play with the big boys.

OK one more - Paul Thomas Anderson. Because he writes and creates these masterpieces. Beautiful.

What words of advice can you offer other young actors?
Study and take risks with yourself.

Many thanks to Tonya for taking the time to talk with us. Tonya can be reached at


© 2000 Adakin Productions
Paranoid: A Chant © Stephen King. Used by permission.
All rights reserved.
Last Update 8 Feb 2001