A 20-year showbiz veteran with dozens of movie and TV credits, Denise Gossett has come home to our community while continuing her exciting career
It’s not easy finding work in show business, says Denise Gossett.
After all, the actress says, as many as 500 people may audition for the tiniest role in a major film.
But through talent and determination, Denise has made her mark, appearing in dozens of television shows and films, including comedies, dramas, and science fiction. She has also endeared herself to the huge, demanding subculture of horror movie fans.
“I’m a hustler,” says the tae kwon do black belt, who can break two concrete blocks with a single kick.
There are frustrations. Auditions that go nowhere. Juicy little parts that get axed in final editing.
But in what other profession would you find yourself in some bar deep inside Mexico, sharing drinks with
actor Peter Stormare, the pancake-loving psychotic Swede in Fargo?
Denise began acting at Lake Brantley High School, taking a role in the female version of The Odd Couple, a twist on playwright Neil Simon’s comedy classic. Her first professional gig was in the Superboy television series, where she played Lex Luthor’s sister, Lena.
A career breakthrough came with a turn in the 2012 critically praised thriller Get the Gringo, which stars Mel Gibson as a getaway driver who finds himself in a Mexican jail after crashing through a border fence.
“It’s edgy, it’s raw, it’s total action,” she says of the movie, which also stars Stormare and Bob Gunton, the sadistic and corrupt warden in The Shawshank Redemption. In Gringo, Denise is the secretary for Gunton’s character, a Gibson adversary.
Denise has discovered she has a natural talent for comedy and is very funny in a scene shot for the sixth season of The Office television series, where she plays a stockholder confronting the managers of the troubled Dunder Mifflin paper company.
Throughout her career, Denise has also found a niche in horror.
Besides acting in movies with such macabre titles as Chain of Souls and The Cellar Door: Preymates, she is the founder of Shriekfest, the Los Angeles horror-film festival that is now entering its 16th year and growing bigger all the time.
“It’s blown up,” she says, adding that horror fans are an “insanely loyal” group. One horror film forum even named Denise one of the 13 most influential women in the genre, right up there with the likes of gothic novelist Anne Rice.
Shriekfest is four days of fun and fright at L.A.’s Raleigh Studios, with some 40 judges choosing the best of the entries, which also include thrillers, science fiction, and fantasy films.
A good horror film, Denise believes, must have a strong story to build the menace around. And just as important, she says, is credibility.
“It has to be a story that we can believe,” she says. “You shouldn’t be asking questions like, ‘Why would she run back into the house where the killer is?’”
Denise’s latest motion-picture release is I Saw The Light, the story of troubled country legend Hank Williams, portrayed by Tom Hiddleston. She plays the singer’s mother-in-law, a Southern matriarch-type who is initially wary of him.
“He charms her over,” Denise says. “He comes in a full suit to a barbecue.”
The silver screen may seem glamorous, but the reality is acting can be a grueling occupation. For a major part, Denise says, there may be months and months of callbacks, interviews, and more interviews with casting directors, producers, and directors.
“It is not a career I would wish on anyone,” she says. “It is a lifetime of rejection. It’s tough to handle sometimes.”
But Denise succeeds because of her ferocious work ethic. She aggressively pursues roles, rather than relying on her various agents to do so. This year alone she has auditioned for close to 30 parts. She has friends in the industry who have done just one or two.
Denise lived in Los Angeles for a while but decided she did not want to raise her seven-year-old daughter, Riley, in that gritty city. So she and her husband, Todd Beeson, decided to settle in the more idyllic Lake Mary.
While she still travels frequently to the West Coast, Denise can find plenty of work on this side of the continent. In fact, her last three movies were shot in Louisiana, and Atlanta is turning into a filmmaking hub.
Raising a child has not put a crimp in her career, but it has made her more judicious in the parts she will play. For example, she had a chance to pursue a meaty part as a truly despicable character in a halfway home for girls.
Ultimately she decided against it, for Riley’s sake.
“I would not want her to see her mom in that role.”
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