I’ve been a huge fan of Doug Burch ever since seeing him in Full Auto Films and Chad Ridgely’s (our interview) 2016 Christmas horror comedy, Massacre on Aisle 12 (my review). He managed to make Mr. Kipper loveable despite him being a bit of a greedy horndog. So when I heard that he was going to be in another of Chad’s movies, 2021’s Self Isolated, I knew I had to talk to him about it. We chatted about being an actor, working on Massacre on Aisle 12 and Self Isolated, filming during the pandemic, his favorite candy to get on Halloween, and more.
PopHorror: You’ve had quite an impressive acting career so far.
Doug Burch: I’ve been very lucky to not have a real job for quite some time. My days of doing that, I look back and go, “Man, I’m surprised I got out of that alive.”
PopHorror: Right. But then your parents are still like, when are you going to get a real job?
Doug Burch: My poor mother, she never understood that. She goes, “You know what? You want to just get on one of those soap operas.” That’s a great idea. I’ll jump on that right now, Mom. They never understood. My dad, God love him. He said, “I don’t know what you do. I don’t know how you do it. But you seem to be doing okay. So keep doing it if that’s what you want to do.” And I’ve always thought this was kind of a mantra. He said, “At the end, what you want when you die, you want to be able to look back and go, ‘What a kick.’” And so I’ve taken that to heart. Yeah, that’s the way I’m looking at it. And when this all wraps up, I want to be able to say, “What a kick. I have had a great time. No regrets.” For an old army guy, he was pretty smart.
The thing for me has always been just just love what you’re doing. I realize that I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to do this, because I know a lot of amazing people, a lot of talented people, that just gave up and said, “It’s too hard. It’s too many no’s.” They could never deal with it. They just passed on it, and they were amazing. Some of them I thought, “Oh my gosh, if I had your talent…” and they just quit for whatever reason. You just get used to the “no” and you go, “Okay, that’s just part of the game. Eventually, someone will say, “Yes.” When they do you go, “I’m going to enjoy the hell out of this.”
PopHorror: I’ve always wondered what is so scary about having someone saying no? It’s not like you’re being sent to jail or your your life is in upheaval. It just means somebody didn’t need you for that particular thing. And maybe the next one will be even better.
Doug Burch: There’s that insecurity or that feeling of stability that’s ingrained in us for so long. You have to have a stable job. You have to have this. You have to have that. And I remember years ago, watching an interview with Martin Sheen, and he said, “I could walk out in the street and get hit by a car. I have no guarantees.” I think that’s the way to look at it. There are no guarantees. So if this is what you want, give it a shot. And with any luck, and, and a few breaks here or there, you can make it. And if not, at least you tried. I think that’s the fear a lot of people have if you try something in any kind of artistic form where you’re always at the beck and call of someone else. Their decision and whether they choose you or not is out of your hands. It’s not like you’re a great accountant, and you worked at the same place for 20 years. Here, you’re going from job to job, gig to gig, and it’s always how many no’s you get before you get a yes.
Years ago, I had auditioned for a casting director, and she looked at me and said, “You’re good, but I’ll never cast you.” Oh, my goodness. And I said, “Okay… Do you mind if I ask why?” “Because you really remind me of my cousin who beat me up when I was young.” I have no control over that. So whenever my agent said, “I’ve got a casting for such,” I said, “Don’t even waste your time.” Knowing what you do have control over and what you don’t is I one of the biggest things in this business. I can only do what I can do. And if they it, they like it, or if they think it fits in or something, then great. If not, okay. I’m alright. Something else will come up. Like I said, I realized how blessed I’ve been that I have gotten to work with some amazing people and meet some great people. And yeah, it’s been a fun life, so I hope it keeps going.
PopHorror: And the fact that you get to play as a job and pretend to be somebody else…
Doug Burch: Yeah, it’s a job. But it’s not work, because it’s so much fun. I’ve been on a couple of sets where someone cast is bitching and moaning, especially if there’s no reason to switching mode. You’re getting to do what so many people would love to do. Why are you complaining? Why are you in this if you’re not enjoying it? Why are you wasting everyone’s time? And why do you think that your whatever issue is more important than all the cast and crew that are standing around you trying to do this?
On some sets, it’s a family. I know that’s that’s why I like working with certain people. I was lucky enough to work with Chad [Ridgely] again and do [Self Isolated] is because it was a family thing. That may come from my background being raised as a military brat because I was always the new kid in school. This is the perfect business for me because I’m always creating a new family. And you want to hang out with those people. You want to play with them again. You go, “Oh my gosh, I hope I get a chance to work with you again!” Because it was such a great experience. The same is true if you find people you I never want to be around again.
PopHorror: I’m glad you brought up Chad. How did you two meet?
Doug Burch: I worked with Director Jim Klock [our interview] who’s worked with Chad on several projects, and he needed an actor for film that he was shooting in Wilmington, South Carolina. And he cast me for a non-speaking role. “I just need someone there because I need an actor to react and be there.” And I said, “Absolutely.” So I did that. And Chad was starting to work together with Jim who was going to direct Massacre On Aisle 12. They were putting together their cast and crew. And Chad didn’t know me from Adam. We met for a coffee over in the valley and just started chatting. And he said, “Great! Would you want to come on board?” I said, “Sure!”
Originally, it was going to shoot in New Jersey. I think that was the original story. And then things happened with the location falling through. One of the other actors, William Mark McCullough, was in Savannah, and he knew of a location that they could use. So they moved everything down there. I got a call to came on on set, and we had a great time. It was amazing. Every night, we’re going to be shooting because that’s when the actual hardware store closes. And we get to use it every night until 6am. They open at eight, so they had two hours. And it was just a blast. It was amazing and just turned out to be so much fun.
And everyone worked on this. If like the prop guy said, “I need such and such,” it was like, “Okay, I’m on board. What do you need? I can help out.” My training was always that it’s not just one person, you just ask if you can lend a hand. I know in some union jobs, you can’t do that. But if you’re in a situation where someone needs help, don’t be afraid to help. It’s not just you. For me, it’s always been an ensemble, where if a camera man has a problem, or the sound person has a problem, you know, how can I make it easier for them? It’s like if you pick up a cup of wine the same way every time. It’s a small thing, but it’s something that the editor could use.
PopHorror: And then your final performance is so much better because it meshed so well for editing.
Doug Burch: Exactly. Do you need me to do something different? You need me to be louder? Do you need me to slow down? Do you need me to take more time when I pick up that so you can follow with the camera? As opposed to saying, “Well, that’s how I pick it up.” So it makes his life easier and it makes the shot better.
And what I love about Chad was when we were doing Self Isolated, he would get what he would want, and then he would say. “Now let’s try something different,” which was really great because it gave you the opportunity to give him something that he may say, “Oh, I like that better.” He had no fear in saying, “Okay, try something else. Let’s see what else we got.” So it opened up the possibilities. And that’s always fun because then it’s not just locked. And then later on, when he’s going through the dailies, he says, “Oh, I like that look better. Let’s use that?
My writing partner and I, we were on a set in with a script of ours. And the line reading that the actress gave was so different from how both of us had originally thought it was going to be. My writing partner looked at me, and he said, “I’ve never thought about it like that. This brilliant. Let’s take credit for it!” It was just magical. And, and when the movie screened, it got one of the biggest laughs, because it wasn’t supposed to be a laugh line. It was just a line, but it came off as funny. So at that point in the movie, it was like, “Oh, my God, this woman is bonkers!” But it wasn’t written that way. It was just a throwaway line. So again, that was the that was the beauty of seeing that happen and experiencing that.
PopHorror: So, I’ve interviewed Jim and I’ve interviewed Chad. So let’s talk about Massacre on Aisle 12, like how the hardware store in the film is a real place that looks exactly like it does in the movie. And I also learned there was a person living there.
Doug Burch: Yes! The owner was living in a part of the building. I think he rented part of the building to someone to live in on one of the levels, and we weren’t aware. There was a whole thing there. A family living there.
PopHorror: He was probably thinking, “What the hell is going on?” And you guys are like, “What was that noise?”
Doug Burch: All the screaming! We were screaming all crazy.
PopHorror: It’s almost like you had a movie within the movie.
Doug Burch: Oh, yeah, we could have done a movie within a movie. I wish we had had a crew following us around behind the scenes, because there were so many funny things happening. And it was, it truly was, in terms of the space and in the locations. We could use that one space. It really, I don’t think it could be recreated. But I’m not even sure that building exists anymore. I think Mark [William Mark McCullough] said that it’s gone now, which is a shame because it was such a great location.
But that’s why it was so much fun when he said, “Hey, I’ve got I got a project you might be interested in.” “Yeah, definitely, I’m on board.” He said, “What do you want?” “Nothing. If you’re in it, I know it’s gonna be a good time.”
PopHorror: Let’s talk about Self Isolated. You guys filmed during the pandemic, right? How was that?
Doug Burch: It was great, because everyone’s concern was in stopping transmission and all that, and it was wonderful in terms of isolating. Until we did a scene, everyone was wearing masks. The precautions that were taken were great. I never felt any concern about being exposed or exposing someone. There was already a protocol that was put in place, and this is before they started doing protocols, but they were already on board with that. There was a space to get away, another room that you could go and just hang out until you were needed. I had no concerns at all with the crew. Everyone was very responsible and responsive to the other people around them. So it never felt dangerous at all.
PopHorror: I love how prepared everyone was, especially since no one had any experience in that sort of situation before.
Doug Burch: Temperatures would be checked every day, and then just going through the process of actually filming that way. Okay, so we’re gonna do scene now. And if it was Maggi [Mayfield] and I, or if it was Chad, we would all wait to take our masks off and do the scene. The crew always had their masks on. That is a compliment to Chad for putting that in perspective, for being aware of that from the very beginning. There was sanitizer and cleaners everywhere. As soon as you got there, you got your own personal bottle of hand sanitizer.
Honestly, I wouldn’t expect anything less from Chad, because he’s such a thoughtful, considerate person. I can see other people being very mellow… you take care of yourself, and I’ll take care of myself and hope we’re okay. He was very aware of those things. And because it was part of the process, it didn’t feel intrusive or a problem or a big deal. “Hey, how’s it going? Can I check your temp?” It was part of the procedure, part of the the working environment. It could have been a different situation. It could have been very dicey. And it never was. But again, that’s that’s a compliment to Chad and how he ran the show.
PopHorror: Where did you guys film?
Doug Burch: We were in California.
PopHorror: Can you tell me a bit about the film at all?
Doug Burch: I don’t know if he wants me to or not. I didn’t sign an NDA, but I know he loves keeping it a secret. He wants it to be a surprise. And there’s so many good surprises in this movie, and I don’t want to give anything away. It was a fun experience. It was exciting to do what we were doing because there were some different things than what was in the script, which which is really fun. It takes on a whole different vibe with what Maggie’s character is going through and what’s going on through the with the pandemic. There are a couple of things layered in that are really fascinating. You can tell a little bit just from the trailer. Even I didn’t know some of those things, like, “Whoa, man, that’s incredible! That worked out great!” The shots and things that are on the trailer. It took me by surprise a little bit. It’s touching. It’s darker. It has an edge to it. If the comedy comes out, it comes out in an uncomfortable laughing moment as opposed to set up punch line kind of routine. You’re uncomfortable but still laughing at things you can go. As opposed to to Massacre, which was a full blown comedy.
PopHorror: I heard a rumor that there are some things in Self Isolated that originally came from Massacre and 6:66 PM [2017 – my review]. I’m not gonna ask you what they are, but I do know that there are Easter eggs in the movie. I’m very excited to find them. If I guess, will you tell me if I’m right?
Doug Burch: I better not.
PopHorror: Aw, come on! Alright, fine. Are you actually a horror movie fan?
Doug Burch: I am. Maybe not a not a freak about it like some people. Some people are way over the top about horror movies. I have a lot of friends that have done horror movies that I’ve seen that I’ve enjoyed. But not I’m not an aficionado. A friend of mine was doing the 30th anniversary of Killer Party . And she was doing a behind the scenes kind of thing, catching up with the cast members. She said, “Do you want to come and take my seat?” “Yeah, sure.” So I went to the taping. And the guy had probably two bedrooms full of just horror movies. And he knew everything the film. He knew about her character and her character being a big gay icon because she was so out there and doing her own thing. He said, “Oh my God! I can’t believe who I’m meeting!” There’s this wild second layer of people that were just so nerded out by this.
I have my own people to get star struck by. Years ago, I had a big obsession with Harlan Ellison. I don’t know if you know Harlan Ellison…
PopHorror: Yup, the author. I work at a library.
Doug Burch: Great! So little did I know that my wife was working with a guy who actually close friends with Harlan Ellison. And I was at an event and all of a sudden, there was a short little guy, and we started schmoozing and talking. All of a sudden, my wife goes, “Do you know who that is?” I was like, “Oh, my God!” I couldn’t talk to him anymore after that. I just froze.
PopHorror: So I have two more questions for you, and they’re kind of weird. If you could book a double feature at the drive-in, what movies would you play?
Doug Burch: This goes back to my core. I would love to see Rosemary’s Baby .I know it’s dated and the first 20 minutes is all exposition and setting up, but there are some moments in there that are just incredible. And Possession , an early Sam Neill movie. The actress who plays female lead [Isabelle Adjani] won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival when it came out. It’s a powerful piece. So those two, I think, would be a fun night. I’d probably throw in something from Dario Argento, something splashy.
PopHorror: Nice! Lots of over the top gore and no one knows what the hell’s going on. It’s in Italian, but it’s dubbed, but still crazy. Final question: what was your favorite candy to get when you went trick or treating?
Doug Burch: Snickers. They just started making the small Snickers at that time. They’re tiny but they’re really good. I hated candy corn. I was never big Peeps person, either
PopHorror: What about those peanut butter taffy things? They were twist wrapped in waxy black and orange wax paper.
Doug Burch: Oh, yeah. I’d forgotten about those. Oh, sometimes they used to do Tootsie Pops, too. That was the other thing that was pretty good, because those would last awhile. Usually, when my parents would go through the stuff, they wouldn’t throw those away. They would know they were actually pretty good about okay. I’ve never been Tootsie Roll person, except when I was playing Cowboys and Indians. And then could you worked it like chaw. And then you can spit brown.
We want to send a great big THANK YOU to Doug Burch for taking the time to speak with us. Keep it tuned to PopHorror for more Self Isolated updates and all of your horror news, reviews, and interviews!