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TRIM SEASON: Jane Badler On Bringing One of Her Most Haunting Villains From Script To Screen!

Jane Badler is the definition of cool. A seasoned actress with undeniable prowess, she’s brought strong female characters to the screen long before it was buzzworthy.  Trained at Northwestern University, she cut her teeth as a young actress on the TV soap opera “One Life to Live” (1968), where she played Melinda Cramer Janssen until 1981, returning briefly to reprise the role in 1983. However, it wasn’t until she landed the role as Diana, the evil reptilian Visitor leader Diana in the NBC mini-series “V” (1983) and its sequel “V: The Final Battle (1984) that she became a driving force in a pop culture phenomenon. The sci-fi franchise took the world by storm. It launched her to superstardom as she was quickly one of the most recognizable faces on television! 

In 2024, she is as passionate about her craft as ever, taking on only the material that moves her creativity. Her latest project, ‘Trim Season, definitely moves the needle. Not only does she serve as a producer on the project, but she also delivers a haunting performance where she returns to her villainous ways!  The film, directed by Ariel Vida, centers around a group of young women who, jobless and searching for purpose, depart Los Angeles in hopes of some quick cash trimming marijuana on a secluded farm in Northern California. Cut off from the rest of the world, they soon realize that Mona (Jane Badler) – the seemingly amiable owner of the estate – is harboring secrets darker than any of them could imagine. It becomes a race against time to escape the dense woods with their lives.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Jane Badler to discuss her journey as an actress, the challenges of bringing ‘Trim Season from script to screen, and much more!

It’s great to sit down with you again today, Jane. You’ve got another winner on your hands with ‘Trim Season.’ It’s a gorgeous and haunting film. How did this one show up on your radar?

Thank you! That is so nice to hear. We put a lot of hard work into the film. I was initially sent the script by one of the producers, Sean E. DeMott, who had found the script from David Blair. I remember reading it and saying, ‘Oh, my God!” It’s based on the true story of Murder Mountain, where people have gone into the mountains and were never seen again. They had been murdered due to all of the illegality going on up in the Northern Mountains of California. The role of “Mona” felt a bit like that of “Diane” (who Jane Badler portrayed in the classic 80s television series “V”) but was much more complex. It was a project I could throw myself into, which I had been looking for. That was my initial reaction to it! As a producer, I was very involved with the script. As we worked on it, we were able to add a lot more layers to it, from trauma, intergenerational trauma, trauma from pain, and the strange relationship between Mona and her sons. It had so much to it that we were able to develop the script.

Tell us a little about the creative process for stepping into a character like this. You deliver a genuinely haunting performance!

I was very afraid of the character coming off as a one-dimensional, cardboard character. It was written in a way, especially in the last speech when I talked about how the weed has been in the family for generations. I had to work very hard to go against that! I worked with a coach named Ivana Chubbuck, who’s a very well-known Los Angeles coach. We worked it on every week, going through all of the scenes and looking for the humanity in the role. I didn’t need to worry about the evil part of it; the things I do speak for themselves. What I did need to find was the reason why I did that. That is what I had to tap into and did tap into. When we finally shot it, about three years after we found the script, I had been through a lot in my personal life that was hugely emotional. My son had passed away, and there were all sorts of things going on in my life. I found that, even more than ever, I needed something like this to throw myself into. Although I had a lot going on at the time, I put my whole being into that role!

What do you look for in the material you take on at this point in your career?

That’s an excellent question. I’ve come to a unique point in my life and career. I live in Australia. Living there, I am offered a lot of low-budget films. Don’t get me wrong, I do a lot of low-budget films, but if it does not have a good director and cast, and the role doesn’t give me at least one scene where I can show my stuff, then there is no point in my doing it. I don’t get any pleasure out of just being on a set. The pleasure comes from the work. I recently shot “Ricky Stanicky” in Melbourne, a 60 million dollar Hollywood film with Zac Efron and William H. Macy. That was not a meaty role, but that role allowed me to work with one of the greats, William H. Macy! I also got to be directed by one of the great directors, Peter Farrelly. So, that was reason enough for me to say yes to that role!

‘Trim Season’ is directed by Ariel Vida, a tremendous young talent. What did she bring to the table for a project like this one?

This film would be nothing without Ariel! She had a very specific vision for the film. She is one of these directors that doesn’t just show up on the set. Everything in that film, from the props up, results from all her hard work before the film started. She was sourcing and doing on locations months before shooting. Nothing was too much trouble for Ariel. She is the hardest worker I know and brought her own imagery to the project. It reminds me of the hit “Midsommar.” She has a beautiful way of filming, an ethereal, supernatural way of shooting with the camera. The woods became an entity unto itself with the ways she shot it. She’s a remarkable talent. In working with her, I could see her enthusiasm and hard work spread throughout the whole cast and crew.

Was it easy for you to connect with the young actors who round out the cast?

It was interesting for me because I don’t live here. Most of the time, as I’ve said, I work in Australia. I don’t work too much in America anymore. So, I didn’t know these young actors, and they didn’t know me. Maybe they might have heard that I was in “V” thousands of years ago, but we didn’t really know each other. We also didn’t have any rehearsals. You get thrown into these films that are on a lower budget! You arrive on the day of, block, do a rehearsal, and you shoot, and that’s basically it. You really have to come armored with your performance. So, we all had to get used to each other. “Who are you? What do you do? Can I respect you? Can I trust you?” — This is always the game you play with the other actors and it was good! I really enjoyed that aspect of it. I was so impressed with Beth [Million] and Alex [Essoe]. While everybody had big roles, I’d say these were the two leads, and I thought they did an outstanding job! They both have extremely lovely nature. No start stuff, no diva stuff. It was a very hard shoot, and we had to work through the night, most nights in the cold mountains of Utah. We were in the woods with moose and all sorts of things, so it wasn’t an easy shoot! You remember when people all worked together and had wonderful attitudes!

Anyone who follows your career knows that you have a musical side. We touch on that a bit in the film. In your opinion, what type of musical vibe does Mona exude?

She is most likened to old songs from Prussia or Romania, with haunting melodies. Maybe these are songs that her mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother used to sing her to sleep: very haunting melodies that carry generations of pain. The melody was more of what I felt than actual words.

That’s very interesting. Can we expect more music from Jane Badler shortly? I ask because you always deliver!

Thank you so much! I am thinking about it again. It’s been quite a long time. The last time I recorded something was a song called “One Love.” I recorded that two years ago with a great producer, Fernando Gariba, who has worked with Lady Gaga. That song I put out there was the last thing I’ve done because I haven’t found another song that leaves me feeling like, “Oh wow, I’ve got to record this!” However, I know that it will happen again!

You’ve spent a lifetime bringing unique characters to life. How do you view your creative evolution?

I had my Hollywood career in the 80s. The pinnacle would have been “V,” but like all jobbing actresses, I was fortunate to do many great guest stars with Angela Lansbury, Kim Novak, and Betty White. I was amidst all that, and then I got “Mission Impossible,” the excellent TV series. I ended up moving to Australia and marrying an Aussie. So, I consider that body of work my Hollywood television career. Once I got to Australia, everything was very different for me. It’s a very different star system there. It wasn’t a glamorous type of environment.

At that point, I shifted to the theater. I did about 15 different productions. I also did a show called “Cluedo,” based on the board game, along with quite a bit of Aussie television. I ended up really treading the boards a lot. That was an exciting time in my career, culminating with a “two-hander” from Neil LaBute, one of the great playwrights I did at one of the fantastic independent theater companies there. I really grew as an actress doing that! From there, I started to produce! I produced for my late son, Harry Hains, and myself. Now, more than ever, rather than looking for fame or fortune, I see acting as a vehicle for my creative output. That’s so important to me!

What lessons did you learn early on in your career that continue to resonate decades later?

That’s another good question. There are a lot of things that people will ask you to do along the way that you probably don’t believe in. There are a lot of comprises that you make in order to be successful or to get a job. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you always have to ask yourself if you will regret the choices that you have made later on. You do have to live with yourself, ultimately. You have to be true to your art and know that it’s a tough business. This is a very tough business with a lot of ups and downs. I’m just grateful that I’ve been able to continually find vehicles for my creativity, as I said before. I think you have to be a self-starter! You can’t just wait for that phone to ring, which I did for years.  You can’t wait for your agent or manager to give you a call to say, “You’ve got an audition.” You have to get out there and make your own contacts and projects happen! That’s really important!

Before I let you go, thank you and your family for bringing your late son Harry Hain’s ANTIBOY project full circle after his passing. He did some fantastic work, so I’m glad I could experience it.

Oh, thank you! That means so much to me. There was so much beauty in those videos, which my other son did. He is a video artist and animator, so he created all those works. To me, they are works of beauty. So, thank you, it really means so much to me!

Thanks so much for your time today, Jane. I appreciate it. By all means, keep the good stuff coming!

Thank you, Jason! Take care.

Directed by Ariel Vida and starring the legendary Jane Badler, ‘Trim Season’ is not to be missed! Catch it on June 7th in theaters and On Demand!