Interview: The Room actress Robyn Paris – 'I think we all went through the various stages of grief'
Actress, writer and producer talks about being in the worst movie ever made, and reuniting its cast for her new comedy project
In 2003 the enigmatic writer, producer, director and one-time jeans salesman Tommy Wiseau unleashed his directorial debut on an unsuspecting world. His first and – mercifully only – feature, The Room, is widely regarded as one of the worst films ever made. It's a remarkably watchable disaster with an appalling script, misjudged performances and downmarket production design, and its extraordinary legacy endures to this day. The film regularly sells out to midnight movie crowds across the world (many of whom shout out stock phrases while watching the film according to a long-established set of rules), and its genesis became the subject of the (ironically) award-winning book The Disaster Artist in 2013, which is presently being adapted into James Franco's film, The Masterpiece, due next year and featuring Seth Rogen, Zac Effron and Bryan Cranston.
But what of the actors who inadvertently ended up as collateral in auteur Wiseau's wild fever dream? Robyn Paris played Michelle in The Room, and now – 13 years on from her life-changing experience – she has created a mockumentary web series, The Room Actors: Where are They Now?, currently in production, which imagines what travails life may have thrown at the cast in the intervening years.
So how does it feel to find yourself a part of the worst film ever made? 'I think we all went through the various stages of grief,' remembers Paris. 'Initially, there was denial that we were in this movie – I think that happened in 2008 when the first Entertainment Weekly article came out about The Room and sort of made it more mainstream, and we all tried to hide from it for a while. And then over time we came to accept it and eventually embrace it.'
Paris adopted a sanguine approach to her predicament surprisingly early on, perhaps because she actually liked the film from the off. 'I always loved The Room,' she admits. 'I was at the première and I was one of the people literally crying with laughter. I thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen and there was so much at the premiere that I didn't know about because I was only in these specific scenes and I hadn't seen the whole movie. So I was just as surprised as the fans and the people in the audience and I was blown away and thought it was hilarious.'
It was several years before Paris realised the film was turning into an ironic sleeper hit (much like Plan 9 from Outer Space and Showgirls) and she was initially reticent about its potential impact. 'To begin with, I did have mixed feelings about wanting to be associated with it for the rest of my life. But then I think all of us realised: this is so fun; it's an amazing movie that brings so many people together and there's this kind of spirit of levity and connectedness in the audience when you go to a screening, and you can't really replace it. I've never experienced it anywhere else. And so we thought it would be fun to be a part of and then we all started kind of embracing it. Eventually.'
The apotheosis of 'embracing it' must surely be Paris' most recent project. The Room Actors: Where are They Now? is a comedy series following seven of the original ten actors as they play fictionalised versions of themselves trying to make sense of their lives in the years since its release. Impressively, she's assembled almost everyone except the film's mysterious creator, Wiseau, and Greg Sestero, co-star and co-author of The Disaster Artist; also AWOL is Scott Holmes who played her boyfriend. 'It's scripted but I have a background in improv so there's a lot of that as well,' she explains. 'I came up with the idea and I wrote and directed it.'
Considering The Room has such a bad (if ironically beloved) reputation, it's impressive that Paris managed to corral so many former cast members to get behind her project. 'It went pretty smoothly, actually,' she says. 'We all got back together originally to shoot a mini promo for Greg's book. That's when I originally approached Juliette (Danielle), Kyle (Vogt), Carolyn (Minnott) and Greg with the idea of this project, and I had already written a draft and they were really excited. I rewrote it a few more times, expanded it and they all jumped on board. And then I reached out to Philip (Haldiman) and Dan Janjigian, and they jumped on board. So I had everybody except Greg, who was on pre-production on what's now called The Masterpiece and he'd signed a non-compete agreement that meant he couldn't really be involved in other Room-related projects.'
And what of The Room's secretive creator, Tommy Wiseau? Paris thinks hard before guardedly explaining. 'I did not initially try to get Tommy involved because he was so busy touring the world with The Room so I did not reach out to him. When we did our Kickstarter campaign two years ago to raise money, I was in touch with Tommy at that point and I did invite him to be a part of the project then and he said he would only be involved if we paid him $200,000. And obviously we can't do that.'
Paris remains approachable should Wiseau choose to lower his fee to something more realistic. 'We're so open. If he is interested in being involved in some capacity then we would welcome that, but I can't pay that kind of money. And the project itself is really about the other actors from The Room.' Returning to the project itself, she explains, 'We don't really talk about Tommy, we don't talk about The Room – it's what our lives have become since we were in this kind of disaster.'
The Room Actors: Where are They Now? is currently a three episode miniseries which recently premiered at the Raindance Film Festival and is scheduled to play at a number of festivals across the US. Robyn Paris is currently seeking further investment in order to complete the remaining seven episodes before unleashing the series upon Room fans in the near future.