[Interview] A Conversation with BURY THE BRIDE Actor and Producer Chaz Bono
Chaz Bono is a critically acclaimed actor, producer, and activist best known for his work on American Horror Story (2011) and Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000). Along with being a beloved actor within the horror genre, he is a three-time published author. Bono is also a proud trans man. As a social activist, he became a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign and served as Entertainment Media Director for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
Bono’s work has been nominated for multiple prestigious awards. His 2018 horror feature, Reborn, was selected for Best Ensemble Cast at San Deigo’s Fantastic Horror Film Festival. Bono won the festival’s award for Best Supporting Actor in a Feature Film. He also made Becoming Chaz, a documentary film about his transition that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011. The documentary was nominated for a Primetime Emmy.
Produced in collaboration with writers Krsy Fox and Spider One (who also directed the film), Bono’s latest project, Bury The Bride, is about sisterhood, brotherhood, and all the horrors in between. While he serves as a producer on the film, Bono also plays the role of Puppy, a quiet man who rarely, if ever, speaks. The film had its world premiere at Panic Fest in Kansas City, Missouri on April 15th and debuted on Tubi across North America on April 21st, and at Salem Horror Film Fest on April 22nd.
Bury The Bride follows two sisters, Sadie (Fox) and June (Scout Taylor-Compton), as they spend the weekend celebrating June’s upcoming nuptials to her mysterious fiancé, David (Dylan Rourke). The weekend escalates into a bloodbath when the sisters realize that the men have sinister intentions.
Dani Shembesh interviews Bono to discuss his career, working on a smaller, independent project, and his complex character in Bury The Bride.
Mainstream stuff right now, there’s still a hesitation to have trans actors playing cis-gender parts. I’ve worked in horror and found it’s a non-issue. I really appreciate that. Plus, I think there’s just a misfit quality you have as a horror fan.
Dani Shembesh: Having had a long career both in film and television, how do you look at your career so far within the horror genre?
Chaz Bono: I mean, I love working in this genre. I feel like I’ve kind of found a home here. I can play the type of parts that I like to play. You know, more extreme, larger characters. To me, it’s just been kind of a great thing to be able to work in horror. It’s such a great genre to work in. And I love the genre; I’ve watched horror movies since I was a kid. Only as I’ve gotten older have I learned to appreciate them more and more.
Dani Shembesh: One thing often said about horror is that it’s very much for the queer community. It offers a safe space and roles that might appear strange, weird, or other in mainstream media. Does that ring true in your experiences as an actor?
Chaz Bono: It has felt like a safe space where I can express myself and do the kind of work I like to do. I feel like in mainstream stuff right now; there’s still a hesitation to have trans actors playing cis-gender parts. I’ve worked in horror and found it’s a non-issue. I really appreciate that. Plus, I think there’s just a misfit quality you have as a horror fan. So many sub-groups within that have found a home because [horror] takes in different communities and different people. You just feel a little bit of an outsider, and it’s a place where lots of different groups can kind of come together and feel a part of and feel that safe space.
Dani Shembesh: We weren’t expecting Puppy to have the impact he did in the film. When the character first came up, was there something in particular that drew you to him?
Chaz Bono: What happened was I came on as a producer first, knowing I would play a part. Krsy and Spider hadn’t exactly figured that out, so Krsy said, “Okay, I want you to play Puppy.” My first reaction was, “He doesn’t speak!” I just remember Krsy saying, “Trust me, this character’s going to be very impactful. When you do finally speak, it’s going to be kind of a turning point in the film.” They were trying to build something with this character, and so I feel like the advice was absolutely spot on. I’m so glad that I trusted Krsy to take on this part.
I ended up having a really good time playing Puppy. He’s very different from any of the characters I’ve played before, and it was challenging not to be able to speak for most of the movie. I wanted to ensure that the work I was doing through my facial expressions and body language would track and make sense once you hear my story. I think that was achieved, and so I’m really pleased with how it all came out.
Dani Shembesh: Do you think Puppy’s speech in Bury The Bride comes from a place of real vulnerability for him, or is he trying to save his skin a little bit?
Chaz Bono: My choice as an actor was to play it straight. Kind of, you know: this is what happened to him; it’s all real; he’s telling the truth. That doesn’t make him not a dangerous person, by nature of what he is, but yeah, I feel like that was an absolute, sincere story. And that’s what’s so interesting about this character. I think this weekend [in the film] means different things to different people. I think for Puppy, it is traumatic, and you know, I looked at him as a character dealing with a lot of PTSD, and this weekend that’s coming is just shooting that up.
Dani Shembesh: As a producer on Bury The Bride, was it difficult to switch between the different hats you had to wear?
Chaz Bono: I think for me, the main difference for working on this film as a producer also, is that it just… the project didn’t really end for me until now. Usually, as an actor, you finish your work on a movie, and you have to let it go because you have no control over anything or where it’s going to end up. With this movie, I felt like very much a part of it, from pre-production on, from helping with casting to getting through the movie and after. Just seeing all the different cuts and scenes put together. I really enjoyed having the experience with that throughout to now, where it finally feels okay to be like, “We’re letting this go and putting it out into the public, and finally take it off our plate and start the next project.”
Dani Shembesh: You’ve worked on bigger shows like American Horror Story, with a larger cast and crew. How has it been to shift from something like that to a smaller production?
Chaz Bono: So, I’ve done both. There are nice things about both of them too. So, obviously, you make more money on American Horror Story, so that’s nice. And that crew has been working together for so long, and they’re so good. They know what they’re doing; it’s such a well-oiled machine, and it’s just really an honor to be part of that for me, but working on smaller films allows a different opportunity — a lot more creativity and intimacy.
Usually, you shoot very quickly, and you move from project to project. So, you know there are great things to both, and the best thing about an independent, or at least a big part of it, as a producer is that you’re not waiting for other people to greenlight your movie. You’re not having to deal with a bunch of executives making a bunch of decisions about your projects and something that is so close to you. You have a lot more control, and you can kind of get to work when you want to get to work and not have to rely on anybody else. So that’s great too.
Dani Shembesh: Spoiler warning, but in terms of Bury The Bride's story, there’s a twist that comes into play that I don’t think many will expect. What was your reaction to that reveal?
Chaz Bono: I think that I probably knew about [the spoiler] before. I think that, as I was talking to them about the film and everything, they described that to me. So I knew that was coming, and I knew why Krsy wanted to include that and show a different type of individual than we usually see in [the vampire horror subgenre] that our film ends up in.
For Krsy, it was a very personal script. Sadie and June's relationship really comes from her life, the love of her sisters, and her relationship with them. Same kind of thing with us. She said, “The guys, I knew my brother’s friends, and those are my brother’s friends.” With Puppy, she said, “There was always one of them with a strange name.” That’s how that came up. It was for both of [Krsy and Spider One] a very personal script. Really, the core story is the love of these two sisters and the complications of relationships between sisters. And everything else is what they started to come up with as they worked on it. But it started with that, which I really like. And I love the end of the film. Reading the script and going, “Okay, yeah, I’m definitely in.”
Dani Shembesh: Do you have any upcoming projects you can share, specifically in the horror genre? Anything you can tease?
Chaz Bono: I’ve got a movie coming out, I believe, in October. It’s called The Bell Keeper, and it’s something I’m really excited about. It was a lot of fun to make. And my character is kind of a little bit of comic relief. He’s a little goofy but a good guy, and so that was fun. I’m definitely, in that one, squarely in the good people camp.