In preparation for the release of The Amityville Murders, I had the opportunity to speak with actress Chelsea Ricketts. During our chat, we discussed the uniqueness of playing a non-fictional character versus a fictional character, the tragedy that occurred at 112 Ocean Avenue those many years ago, and touched upon some fun and spooky incidents that occurred on set.
In the film, The Amityville Murders Chelsea portrays a real person, Dawn Defeo. In the early morning hours of November 13th, 1974 Dawn’s life was cut drastically short when her eldest brother took a high powered rifle and wiped her out along with her three younger siblings, mother, and father. I have followed this case for the past three decades, watching hours of documentaries and reading any and all material I could get my hands onto. I whole heartedly felt that Chelsea did Dawn justice with her stellar performance and I am looking forward to her future work in cinema.
Read our interview below and be sure to check out The Amityville Murders on February 8th.
Chelsea Ricketts Interview
Chelsea Ricketts: Hi Ryan.
Ryan T. Cusick: Hi Chelsea, how are you doing?
CR: I’m doing good, how are you doing?
RTC: I’m doing well, and thank you so much for speaking with me today.
CR: Of course, I am so excited.
RTC: I saw the movie and I very much enjoyed it.
CR: Oh good!
RTC: Your portrayal of Dawn Defeo was just great. The Amityville series for me, the case, everything is just something that I have been into personally since I was a young child, so it was great to see the movie and how it came together.
CR: I am so happy that you enjoyed it, thank you for saying that. It was a blast to shoot that’s for sure, spooky.
RTC: Most definitely. What were your biggest influences in capturing your character Dawn Defeo?
CR: Well truly I think stories like this are always intimidating to go into. I remember reading Dan [Farrands], the director, I remember reading his script when I was just in the auditioning process. Like you, I have always been interested in this and I have always loved true crime. Just getting to hear the true story as to what happened or as close as you can get to the true story because you’ll never really know. I just researched, I wanted to do Dawn as much justice as I could and I wanted to find out as much background on her and information on her as I could. I wanted to kind of show her youth and show just as much truth as I could as to who she was as I could. I, of course, watched all the Amityville movies ever made. [Laughs] Including my hero Diane and definitely just took little pieces of everything I had seen to kind of create my version of Dawn while still doing her justice.
RTC: How was it working with Diane [Franklin]?
CR: I feel like in interviews people say, “oh everybody is amazing.” I have to tell you she is the warmest, kindness, and most giving human that I have had the pleasure of working with. She was just everything. Every, everything you would want her to be she is. We became great friends, I still talk to her today. She was just so kind, and she is so passionate about Amityville, obviously, it is such a part of her life even from her childhood. And she was just so willing and giving and helped me with any questions I had, she is so knowledgable about the true story and not just the films that had been made about it but actually what happened and she helped me with my accent.
RTC: That is awesome and it was great seeing her and Burt Young, I remember seeing both of them in Amityville II.
RTC: That was definitely a treat.
CR: It was so fun getting to work with Burt too. I was a little fangirling that day. Like if Diane wasn’t enough, now we’re bringing Burt.
RTC: Did Dan Farrands offer you any hardcore direction during filming or did you just do it on your own?
CR: Dan is really fun to work with because he is a total… I don’t know the right way to say this, he’s definitely for the actors. I definitely had the freedom to create and when you’re doing such character creation it is so nice to work with a director that gives you that. I leaned heavily on Dan asking, bless his heart, a thousand questions. He is so passionate about Amityville, the true story. He knows, gosh I probably didn’t even need to do research I probably just needed to buy him dinner. I leaned on him big time, but he definitely created an environment where I felt the freedom to create.
RTC: He is like the walking, talking Wikipedia of Amityville, for sure.
CR: It is so true [giggles] it is so true. He just knows everything and he cares.
RTC: Yeah, he does.
CR: The story was important to him.
RTC: Do you have any funny or spooky stories from the set?
CR: Gosh, there was so many I’m trying to remember some of the big ones. We filmed in Los Angeles believe it or not.
RTC: We would have never have known.
CR: Shocking [giggles]. Out of nowhere we were in this beautiful house and I don’t know what happened, I don’t know exactly technically what happened but the house, the whole bottom floor flooded. We were filming, you know the red room scene when you saw the movie? The penny scene with Butch and all of that, the red room was down there. We were filming one of the scenes and some plumbing pipe burst while we were filming that and flooded the whole outside… not outside the whole bottom floor and of course it
RTC: Yeah the most infamous probably in the entire house.
CR: Exactly. I kept telling myself on the set “it’s nothing.” “Keep going.”
RTC: Did you have a most challenging scene to film or did everything just flow?
CR: I honestly think…
RTC: Your character was very emotional at times.
CR: Exactly. Yeah, the whole ending was really challenging. Just because the place you even have to go, I mean I can’t, there is no way of relating what Dawn may have seen or experienced. I would have never been able to relate to that kind of pain and terror in the same way. To have to create that day after day after day, because it all flashes by so quickly but we are filming that for days on end. So I would say all of that was very, very difficult. Emotionally.
RTC: I bet, it sounds draining.
CR: Even the fighting stuff up the stairs, I am sobbing through all of it, but it was fun too. I mean as fun as it can be. You try not to go too dark, at least I do with my work as an actress. I care and I want to respect the story and tell it the way that I can, but at the same time not letting it take you too dark of a place. Within reason it was difficult but I really had fun telling the story.
RTC: I know that sometimes you can go to that dark place and at times it is hard to come back from it.
CR: Get out of it, exactly. Yeah, that is what I have learned throughout my decent amount of horror or thriller dark material. I like it, I get drawn to it because I am a fan of it just as myself. But that is the biggest thing that I have learned and take yourself out of it and remember you’re making a movie, otherwise you kind of live in that space. Didn’t do it on this and it was fun.
(L-R) John Robinson as Butch DeFeo and Chelsea Ricketts as Dawn DeFeo in the “THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS” a horror film by Skyline Entertainment. Photo courtesy of Skyline Entertainment.
RTC: Are you working on anything now? Anything in the pipeline?
CR: Yeah, I actually have a movie coming out. They haven’t set the date but it will be a movie premiering on Lifetime actually, and of course, it is a thriller. [Laughs] Stickin with the genre here. Definitely sticking with the genre. yeah, a couple of exciting films coming out.
RTC: Very good, well Chelsea thank you so much.
CR: Yeah, thanks, Ryan.
RTC: It was really great, a really great performance.
CR: Thank you for having me I appreciate it.
The Amityville Murders will be in Theaters, On Demand and Digital on February 8th!