Award Winning actress Kelly Murtagh has made a name for herself as a versatile and talented actress. She has appeared in many well-known movies, including the most recent Amazon Prime horror feature from Blumhouse Bingo Hell. Her work explores the many sides of the roles she brings to life, capturing the essence of what makes the characters so interesting, be it in a smaller part, or leading roles.
A Louisiana-native, and an award-winning actress, writer, producer, singer & children’s book author, Murtagh brings excitement and energy to any project she undertakes. With Bingo Hell now out on Amazon Prime, CGMagazine took some time to talk remotely about her acting career, her love of genre and how she managed to write a kids book with her busy schedule.
CGMagazine: What made you get involved with the role, and what made you want to be part of Bingo Hell?
Kelly Murtagh: Oh gosh, when was this? I guess February of this year I got the audition for the character that I play, Raquel, and I just loved her. I think that from the surface, obviously she’s pretty explosive, she’s pretty angry, and I just felt like there was a depth to her. Usually, it’s coming from some deep place, and I felt that with her, and I felt that with the writing.
When I read the script, I just loved it. I’ve never read anything like it. It’s new, which is always refreshing to read something that’s new. In the audition I was like “gosh, I really would love to book this part, I hope it works out.” But you send it off, and you usually never hear anything, and thankfully I heard something, and they wanted me to come play too, so I was very thankful.
CGMagazine: You’ve done a lot of different types of movies and shows. Some romantic, some fun, and then straight up horror. Is there a genre that you gravitate towards more than others?
Kelly Murtagh: I love a big medley of everything. I think that’s something that’s always intrigued me about acting, I’m never usually playing the same character twice. And that breadth of variety is something that’s very, very intriguing to me because it’s creative. I love people. I think humanity is fascinating, why different people react the way they do, how people are raised, how that affects them and what they’re going through. So, for me, I’ve always loved a different variety.
Now I will say because I’m a filmmaker as well, and I have a film that just premiered at Tribeca, Shapeless, in June. I love genre films. I will say I absolutely love genre films because I think in filmmaking in general, but especially genre films, I have always loved the idea of the true horror of our life and humanity when it’s expressed, and filmmaking is very intriguing to me. So, I think I’ve always really enjoyed that type of exploration when it comes to genre films, magic and fantasy and things that are kind of in make believe, even if it is in the dark abscess of our minds. I think that’s pretty fascinating to me.
CGMagazine: Do you have any comment on the concept that horror does allow you to do things that you might not be able to do in other genres? Either tell more complex stories, delve into things that might throw people off in another genre. Say, political or social issues that in horror people accept, but if it was in a drama, or a documentary, they might just scoff at.
Kelly Murtagh: Yeah, I think something that’s so beautiful about the filmmaking experience, and then what that product is, is a lot of these things, you know, mental illness, politics, the experiences of life that people go through are hard to sort of explain. It’s complicated, right? It’s confusing, it can be kind of this mystifying experience and I think that film in the genre capacity can really demystify that. Because it’s not just about words, it’s not just about dialogue.
It can be about visuals, sounds, and it can invoke a feeling to where you’ve kind of experienced what people are trying to portray on so many different levels. Instead of just like, here’s a report that I wrote, read it, you know what I mean? It’s just this whole entire way you can digest an experience and hopefully understand something.
CGMagazine: You’ve done several series’, and a lot of them have been for TV and movies, but also on streaming platforms. What is your take on streaming platforms? Do you think they’re good or bad for the industry, and if so, why?
Kelly Murtagh: I think the way I have to look at it as this neutral thing that can be used for bad or good. It’s kind of the way I look at social media. You know, Facebook, Instagram, all of it. It’s how we use it. I think that the access point is incredible. The access point for people to be able to watch things, and stream things is really, really incredible.
Now that being said, obviously it can be innovating with like the breadth of the things that we have access to. And obviously, we have these strikes that we just met a deal on. I believe in paying people for the work they do, and I believe that people put a lot of work into being filmmakers and working in that type of industry.
I think it’s something that we’re just going to have to keep tabs on. I don’t have the answer, obviously these are just the responses that I have. Because streaming is the Wild West at this point. It’s how I would, I guess, think the music industry had to handle when like Napster and LimeWire and all these things were coming about.
Like back when they did before Spotify, back when we were with CDs, and radio and records and all of those types of things. I think there’s going to be this big period of uncertainty in trying to find how to credit everyone that works on that and compensate people fairly.
CGMagazine: To pivot into your writing and your books, it’s interesting to see someone that does have such a vast array of things. You mentioned directing, acting and working on kid’s books, how does that all work together, and what made you want to be part of that?
Kelly Murtagh: I am a writer as well. I’ve co-wrote, produced, and starred in my feature film Shapeless that premiered at Tribeca back in June. And then all while I was doing that, I also wrote a children’s book. In that film that I mentioned, Shapeless, it’s about my true experience with bulimia. It’s a genre film, it’s told in this creative exploratory type of way.
While we were doing that, I had written this children’s book. Funny little Easter egg, the director of Shapeless, Samantha L. Donna, is the illustrator of the children’s book. We were kind of playing over here in this dark sandbox with the film, and then we were playing this light sandbox for the children’s book.
I think that it all comes from the same place. It all comes from a well of creativity. But I’ll say with both projects, Shapeless and Zoo Krewe, my kid’s book, they both sprouted from a lack that I felt. In Shapeless, my feature film, I first had the idea for it about 11 years ago when I was in treatment for bulimia, and I was really seeking something. I was seeking a film, a book, art, something that really explored the experience of the reality of this mental illness I was going through, and I really felt like I just wanted some sort of way to process it.
I came up short, I didn’t really find anything and the things I did find in films when eating disorders were portrayed, it was very much a punchline of a joke or a sideline story, didn’t really go into the depth, or it was an after school special. So, I felt like there just wasn’t this film that really went into the depth of the mental illness.
I think that’s where that creative seed sparked because I felt like hmm, I know I need this, maybe other people would need this too. That’s kind of where that began. And then same with Zoo Krewe. I was living in Louisiana in New Orleans and my daughter who’s now four, she was a little younger than two. And I wanted to find her some local books that would be to her age range, and there just wasn’t a lot.
There weren’t a lot of books that were offered this age range that were 0-3, 0-4. They were older, they were longer books, it was these things that were just a little above where she was, and I would buy them and read them to her anyway. But I was like, well, we really need these books that are a little younger. Here I am as a mom, and I feel like I want this book for my daughter and that’s kind of where it’s sprouted as well.
I’ve never really put a limit on where I go creatively, and I think that’s helped me in the past couple of years. I don’t know everything, I’m not the best at everything, but I’m just trying my best to express myself and hopefully find other artists who are really incredible at their craft and can help collaborate. Maybe we can create something even better than just what came out of my head.
CGMagazine: Louisiana has been a location with so much horror and so many unique stories. What is it about the state that you find that lends itself to the genre and lends itself to that complex taught style of filmmaking and storytelling?
Kelly Murtagh: Oh gosh, great question. Yes, I grew up in Louisiana in Baton Rouge, about an hour away from New Orleans. My mom grew up in the city of New Orleans and my grandparents lived there, my family was there, so I went there a lot as a child and for me, it always felt more like home than Baton Rouge did. I just love that city, there’s almost like a dark magic vibe to it.
There is a magical vibe where you could be on a quiet street in the French Quarter and all of a sudden, you’re on the cobblestones, and you’re like, “Where is everybody, did I just fall back in time??” There is this experience where you feel like you’re in a different dimension sometimes when you’re in New Orleans. Obviously, there are those beautiful things about it and then there’s also this darkness. The city is decaying, the streets are really bad, there’s like this dance of like light and dark I think that’s there, that’s like super intriguing. I’m very passionate about that city. It is home for me.
We just went through Hurricane Ida, which was super traumatic and a lot going on there, but I think too, New Orleans has been the place that a lot of films or TV series have taken place. Sometimes I watch it as a native, and I’m like “Ugh they got it wrong.” Like, why didn’t they ask one person how to pronounce this or one thing about this.
In Shapeless, my feature film, it does take place in New Orleans, and I hope that we can do this film that people can watch and feel like “oh yeah, I really felt like I was there, and it wasn’t like Hollywood’s version of there,” you know? But it’s a magical place, it’s a creative place, it does have that electricity in the air of you don’t quite know what you’re going to see or what you’re going to experience every day and I find that super inspiring.
CGMagazine: What’s next for your career? Are you going to do more books, are there more roles you’re excited for?
Kelly Murtagh: Well, I don’t know, but that’s kind of a fun place to live in. I do have some things I guess I can mention. Shapeless is in the film festival circuit right now, it’s going to be released in early 2022 theatrically, and on a streamer. I can’t say the time right now, but everyone can follow along on my Instagram if they would like to. They can follow @shapelessthefilm, and they can also follow me on my personal Instagram @kellymurtagh to see what the latest updates are because I’ll be updating everybody there. What we have next is in New Orleans for our hometown premiere at the New Orleans Film Festival.
I’m still very busy producing her and kind of guiding her out into the world, so hopefully something is going to be coming out or will be coming out very soon in early 2022. But other than that, I have so many ideas in my head right now and all of them are marinating, so I think I’m just going to see which one floats to the top without putting any pressure on myself.
Then getting back into music again and a little bit of writing here and there, and auditioning here and there, so we’ll see, I’m open to it. I don’t know where my life will take me. I think we kind of all have to live in that state right now, given that we are going through a global pandemic. It’s hard to plan what’s happening next Wednesday.
CGMagazine: Thank you so much for your time. Anything else you want to add about your book or new Amazon Prime movie, Bingo Hell?
Kelly Murtagh: Oh yes, if anyone wants to pick up a copy of my book Zoo Krewe—it’s a play on a Mardi Gras krewe in New Orleans—you can purchase that on Amazon, Zoo Krewe, and then Shapeless will be coming out soon, watch Bingo Hell on Amazon Prime. And I just hope everyone enjoys what I’ve been doing.
I hope that if you are struggling with an eating disorder, and you do connect to my film, and you do need access to treatment, we have this at the end of our credit, please check out Projectheal.org, great resources there to help people get the help that they need that has systematically been hard to receive access to treatment. I really am wishing everyone the best. Thank you so much for your support.