INTERVIEW: DFW Native and Paranormal Activity Actress Katie Featherston Returns Home For A Terrifying Weekend

As Texas Frightmare Weekend nears, I decided to look back on some of the films that have defined the horror movies of the past decade. Arguably, one of the most notable and unique additions to the genre would have to be the Paranormal Activity series. It is hard to overlook the fact that, in addition to scaring an entire generation, the first Paranormal Activity movie is one of the most profitable movies of all time.

Oren Peli began production on the film with a handheld camera, his house, and an extremely small budget. Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat were able to bring Peli’s vision to life as their characters encountered a haunting entity in their home. Katie continued to play a pivotal role in the next four movies of the series. I was fortunate enough to be able to catch up with her to answer a few lingering questions about the films before her appearance at Texas Frightmare Weekend.

It has been reported that there was no formal script for Paranormal Activity and most of your acting was improvisation. How difficult was this as opposed to having more a more structured character line?

It was a wonderful challenge! The fact that we had no script meant that the three of us (Oren, Micah and myself) had to trust each other and collaborate in big ways from the start. Oren gave us the opportunity to help create these characters and the storyline from the ground up. I loved discovering the moments as they unfolded naturally and then honing in on what we thought worked or served the scene best--I think it allowed the film to feel more natural.

Looking back on the films and time spent on set, what particular moments in the filming process stand out the most?

Oh man, so, so many. I could fill a novel. One of my favorites though, is from the first film. Oren, Micah and I filmed a number of big scenes all in one night. At some point, in the wee hours of the morning, as we were filming the attic scene, tired and probably a bit delirious, I remember us getting so tickled that we laughed until tears were running down our faces, sitting together on the floor in the hallway, belly laughing. People always ask if it was scary filming the movies, and I know they want me to say yes… but the truth is, filming PA1 was one of the most joyfully fun experiences of my life.

Katie only has a very minor role in the late installments (The Marked Ones and The Ghost Dimensions). Many fans still want to know, what happened to her?

Your guess is as good as mine! Maybe we’ll find out someday.

You were actually waiting tables while the first Paranormal Activity movie hit theatres. At what point did you realize that the film was going to change your life?

I don’t know if there was ever an exact moment when I knew, though part of me always believed and hoped. It was such a whirlwind. When the movie opened up nationwide, I had given my two weeks at my restaurant, but still had a few shifts left to work. It was a very surreal experience to say the least. Still doesn’t feel like it happened to me.

Oren Peli used his own house for the set of the movie. Have you ever considered how this impacted the film?

It certainly made for a safe and fun filming experience! We often shot around the clock, and we ate all our meals together and rarely left the house during that first week together. I think it helped us to be tucked away together and in the flow. No distractions.

Since the Paranormal Activity series seems to have run its course with Katie, what is the next step in your career?

I’ve been spending time creating my own work lately. Truthfully, it doesn’t feel all that different than what it was like in the beginning of PA. I’m developing a feature (a dramedy, not a horror film!), and have produced some smaller projects with my company TexLove Films, in the past. All of which you can find if you explore my website katiefeatherston.com. I like creating environments where artists (in front of and behind the camera) feel valued, and safe to explore and do their best work. It’s fun to be an actress and it’s especially fun when I have a hand in developing the story that’s being told.

You went from being a DFW local and SMU graduate to Hollywood horror icon. What have been the biggest changes or challenges for you?

Well, I still wonder if you’re really talking about me, when you say Hollywood horror icon! I still just feel like me. I guess the biggest challenge has been learning how to navigate being an artist in an industry that’s a business. When I shot PA1 I was basically fresh out of SMU theatre and pretty new to LA. That’s a big shift to make into Hollywood. At the end of the day though, whether its SMU or Hollywood, my focus is always on showing up authentically and be the fullest version of myself as an artist; while pushing myself as a creator and storyteller. The biggest change, I suppose, is being known for something so specific. Some days I forget that PA is the only side of me people really know. There’s a lot more to discover.

Hypothetically your house becomes haunted. Are you calling the Ghostbusters, Sam and Dean from Supernatural, Sheriff Jim Hopper at the Hawkins PD, or Scooby’s gang at Mystery Inc.?

Haha, great question. I’m calling Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her gang of “scoobies”. There is nothing they can’t handle, and I admire anyone who can save the world with just some friends, a stake and a healthy dose of quick wit.

Texas Frightmare Weekend will be held at the Hyatt Regency at DFW Airport on May 4-6. You will be able to find Katie and many other horror icons in attendance for panels, photos, and autographs. Please visit www.texasfrightmareweekend.com for more information about the event, including tickets and schedules.