Melissa Anschutz is an actress with many credits to her name. With a major in theater, she has performed both on stage and in film. To date she has performed in 26 films, five television series, and several commercials. In 2009, she earned her SAG eligibility with films like “The Domino Effect” and the supporting role in the HBO pilot, “Night Moves”.
To her credit she stars in the Michael Dault/Phil Sieb production of “Land of the Outlaws”, a post-apocalyptic action thriller TV series. She plays Maddison Rawlings, or Maddie as she is otherwise known, one of only two female roles in this production.
Melissa talked about her role as Maddie Rawlings, a strong, both physically and mentally, fiercely loyal and brutally independent female, a character she identifies with and in many ways is very different from.
MMM2 You play the part of Maddie Rawlings soon to be released pilot for the sci-fi thriller “Land of the Outlaws”. How would you describe this character?
MA I would describe Maddie Rawlings as strong, both physically and mentally, fiercely loyal and brutally independent. She is very careful to whom she becomes close emotionally, and that number is specific, select and small.
MMM2 How did you audition for this role?
MA I had been cast previously in Michael Dault’s “Sons of Summer” feature film. When the project was in preproduction and casting ‘Land of The Outlaws’, Michael contacted me and sent me the script. I fell in love with the story and the character immediately! He invited me to read for the other producers for the role of ‘Madison Rawlings’. It was one of my favorite auditions. The director, Jeff Morgan, allowed us to explore, expand and improvise deeper into the scenes. He then asked me to ‘take him down’, yes literally, he wanted me to give him a beat down. He wanted to be sure I possessed the strength Maddie carried. Basically I got to “beat up” the director as part of my audition. How cool is that! I come from an extremely athletic family and grew up with zero ‘girlie-girl’ treatment, so this was right up my alley.
MMM2 How did you prepare to play Maddie Rawlings?
MA The preparation of becoming Maddie Rawlings was interesting and different than most of the roles I’d prepared for in the past. I’m often cast to characters that possess a high level of emotion, not to say they are weak. On the contrary. Most of the women I have become are not weak, but Maddie was different. One of the main traits in her was both her strength and her weakness. She has no emotion and when she does, she is select in choice. Imagine how freeing it would be to not ‘feel’; imagine how isolating it would be to not ‘feel’. Maddie comes from a dark world, where everyday things we take for granted are precious commodities like food, fuel and yes even life. A world where many are ambivalent about ‘right and wrong’, she is not. She has a clear, untainted definition which drives her life to the point of placing her alone and in situations where most would feel fear she feels nothing more than ‘righting’ the ‘wrong’. When I prepared to become her, I imagined her world, how she grew up, and how it would have sculpted her to be born into this world.
MMM2 Do you see Maddie as an extension of yourself? Or is she completely different?
MA Maddie and I are similar in some ways, different in others. Her fierce loyalty, her deep love for a small few, her belief that there is no challenge too great and her will to survive, all things we share. However, she isn’t the warm and friendly give you ‘hug’ type of person, in that way we are very different Her ‘void of emotion’ was the most fascinating part of my study, for Maddie Rawlings bringing emotion/feelings into a situation is foreign, but I will say, this does have one exception, one man and I won’t spoil the ‘who’ You’ll have to see the series!
MMM2 Do you find it more challenging to portray a familiar character, or create a personality that had previously not existed?
MA I find it far more challenging to portray a familiar character than to create! People have a predetermined idea of familiar characters so you are, in some ways, fighting to change their minds if the interpretations do not match. Creating from scratch allows for you to introduce this person to the audience for the first time.
MMM2 Do your find the role of Maddie empowering? (If so) In what ways?
MA Yes! Being Maddie was incredibly empowering, she made me realize if you are able to eliminate emotion from circumstances/situations, you will have no fear, no cloud in judgement and zero waste of energy. Be cautious of who you invest in, make them earn it, but once they have, then you fight for them at all cost.
MMM2 Are strong female roles important to you?
MA Yes, strong female roles are important, but I would say strong stories are far more important. I have found strength in every one of the women I have become, different kinds of strengths because they are different women, for instance, ‘Mary’ in “40 Nights”, certainly she was a strong woman, but her strength was very different than Maddie’s. ‘Anne Harper’, in “Bestseller”, a strong and successful lady, ‘Dana’ in “Ashes of Eden”, ‘Cheryl’, “Realizism”, ‘Laura’ “7 Stones”, and the list goes on, strong for their children, strong for their faith, strong for their husband, strong for their world, strong in their convictions, but it was their stories that allowed us to see their strengths.
MMM2 Maddie is one of the lead roles. Other than one other character in this series, there is only one other female character. How did you feel acting with essentially an all male cast?
MA In real life I am predominantly with an ‘all male cast’; I’m a wife and a mother of two boys, so an all male household, even our dog is a boy. At Collective Development Inc., all men producers and even growing up my most of my best friends were boys. In other words this is very familiar to me, however many of Maddie’s scenes were alone. We often broke off with a second unit camera team. I’ll give you a small hint…Maddie hunts alone .
MMM2 According to sources, the pilot is the only completed part of this series. Have you had a chance to see plans for future episodes? Or been part of talks regarding plans?
MA I haven’t seen the scripts for the future episodes, but I’ve heard bits and pieces of the story-lines and those tidbits have made me hungry to start shooting again!
MMM2 Looking ahead, do you foresee any romantic interests for Maddie?
MMM2 Michael Dault is the writer/producer of this series. How did you like working with Michael Dault?
MA My experience in working with him was very positive. He is a great talent and I’m wild over the world he created! Both he and Phil Sieb, another producer on the project, were extremely professional every step of the way and personally both are great people, good souls who I enjoyed working with very much.
Melissa Anschutz IMDB http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3090924/?ref_=fn_nm_nm_1
Land of the Outlaws http://tiptoepictures.com/project/land-of-the-outlaws/