SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Sammie Cassell: My name is Sammie Cassell, I’m 49 years old (cool fact, I was born 2 hours after Jimi Hendrix was pronounced dead), I’m vice-President of Wreak Havoc Productions, a local NC actor, an actor at the Original Hollywood Horror Show haunted house and a comic book enthusiast
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become an actor?
Sammie Cassell: There was a casting call on a local haunt page looking for volunteers to play zombies in a short film (Dan’s Hank vs the Undead). It was our 13th wedding anniversary so my wife, our college age daughter, one of her friends and I went. I met Dan briefly there. He cast me in a speaking part as “The Hobo” and we became fast friends and production partners and I was hooked on acting and producing from there on out.
SKSM: How did you become involved in Uncle Otto’s Truck Dollar Baby film?
Sammie Cassell: Dan and I were involved in a dollar baby that didn’t get off the ground a couple of years ago. I think that planted the seed for him. Unbeknownst to me, he started doing research and last year he came to me and said “let’s do a dollar baby”. I asked which one and, he told me Uncle Otto’s Truck. I picked up my personal copy of Skeleton Crew (a 1st edition) and read it the next day. I went back to Dan and said this is doable, but if it’s going to be in front of Stephen King it’s got to be done right. So we started pre-production. A little later he told me that he needed someone over the top to play the barber and that fit me to a tee.
SKSM: What do you think it is about the story that attracts people so much?
Sammie Cassell: Stephen King haha, it’s a tried and true King story. He’s got a thing about cars. From Christine to Hearts in Atlantis to From a Buick 8 to Maximum Overdrive, whatever his deal is with cars, it’s fueled his writing. To all our benefit. I’m not a huge car guy but Kings stories resonate with me. Christine is one of my favorite books and movies of all time. He’s just an amazing storyteller and Otto is a good one. Plus, it’s the only dollar baby set in Castle Rock. And that’s huge right now.
SKSM: Did you have to audition for the part or was it written directly for you?
Sammie Cassell: Haha I hope not. I get a role in every film we do. Although sometimes I have to lobby for it. This one, Dan had me in mind for.
SKSM: You worked with Dan Sellers on this film, how was that?
Sammie Cassell: Dan and I have become best friends. We collaborate on almost everything. He writes and directs, I produce and act. I’ve found I have a knack for producing. I found the house and the truck through people I know. We’ve since brought some very talented and diverse people into our circle that we like and trust. There’s a great little group now, and we enjoy making films. Dan and I don’t always agree, but we always know where each other stands, and that’s important in any relationship.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when they made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Sammie Cassell: We always try to keep a light and fun set. We pick and carry on until it’s time to work. Jeff Cochran (one of the other producers) and I were cleaning some brush off. We both had these big machetes, I always carry a pocket knife. Dan normally does too, along with Chad Hunt, another collaborator. Well, Jeff and I walk by a van to put our machetes up and sitting in the van is Jennie, our lead actress studying her lines. She’s a city girl, and we’re in the middle of the mountains. She’s cracks the window just a bit and says “Why does everyone have weapons?” Lol. I said, because we may see critters, to which she said “That many?” haha. There are snakes and bears and raccoons, and all sorts of things up there. We needed protection. Another fun aspect was Nelson Hill. His truck, Festus, is the real star. Festus is legit creepy, and we treated him like a real person. Nelson appreciated it I think and he stuck with us the entire time. And was entertaining himself. I’ve know Nelson almost all my life. His daughter and I are the same age. We had fun that weekend.
SKSM: Do you still have any contact with the crew/cast from that time? If so with who?
Sammie Cassell: Well, with social media it’s easier, but yea. Most everyone was a friend or someone we’ve worked with frequently. Jennie was really the only outsider, but we all stay in touch. North Carolina has a very close knit film community
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Sammie Cassell: I’ve been doing some background exttras stuff. I worked on the new Halloween movie, Halloween Kills. I’ve worked on the untitled Walking Dead spin-off. Next spring, I’ve got a role in one feature called Can You Smell the Flowers, another one called Dark Trepidation 3 (I had a role in 2), and a small role in Killer Babes and the Frightening Film Fiasco from Brett Mullen. Other than that, I’m on the festival circuit promoting Uncle Otto, a short drama from writer/director Zack Fox (cinematographer on Otto) called Sea, Salt, Wind that we produced, and films that I’ve acted in, It’s All Fun and Games and Silent Breath and debuting in 2020, the brilliant feature Kill Giggles from Jaysen Buterin. I try to stay busy. And this is my hobby haha
SKSM: Are you a fan of Stephen King’s work?
Sammie Cassell: I love Stephen King. My first year in high school, I came home after the last day of school and went to my room. There was a note from my mom that said, “I know you’ve got a summer reading list from school, but I’m giving you one too. Under that note was King’s Pet Semetary. The next year it was Christine, then IT, and it took off from there. I devoured every King book I could. IT is my favorite novel ever! I also really like The Stand and Cujo. I also really like most of the films. Especially The Shawshank Redemption (look for an Easter egg in Otto), the new IT, and The Shining.
SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Sammie Cassell: I’m also known as Sammie the Comic Book Man. I go around to schools, libraries, senior centers, wherever and do presentations encouraging people to read, specifically comic books. Every kid leaves with two books, gender based. It’s basically a show and tell. I do a section on how a comic is made, real history in comics, women creators, and when comics were almost banned. It’s a passion project for me, and Dan did a documentary about it a while back. That’s my heart up on a screen and I’m forever indebted to him for it.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Sammie Cassell: Please check out our stuff. It’s all on social media. Like, share, all that good stuff. We also do a podcast about movies called the Wreak Havoc Film Buffs Podcast.
SKSM: Do you like to add anything else?
Sammie Cassell: Thank you so much for giving us this outlet to promote Otto. We’re really proud of it and it’s already won 3 awards. We hope we do Mr King proud.