Most noted for her portrayal of Slimer in 1989's Ghostbusters II, Robin Shelby has enjoyed success as a Hollywood suit actor and stunt woman, working on a variety of high-profile productions. She's also done voice acting and is a producer for television. Retro Injection emailed her some questions about her career in working just outside of the spotlight.
What would someone need to be a convincing suit actor?
Really, it’s not much different than the skills needed to be a good actor outside of a suit. It takes being prepared for the job you’re going to do, listening and committing 100% to what you are doing at the time. I will say acting in a suit requires your energy to be able to transcend through the suit, so you do have to be aware of how the character reads with your movements. It requires a higher energy to have your physical actions read on camera through a full body suit.
What was it like performing in the Slimer suit for Ghostbusters II? Did you have any interaction with the rest of the cast? How did you get the job?
It was as hot as you’d think, and heavier than you would ever believe. But, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. My interaction with the cast didn’t happen while I was shooting, as I was working with the special effects team at ILM in front of a blue screen. The shots that Slimer was being put into had already been shot with the cast. I have had the good fortune to meet many of the cast members since then. I got the job because I had worked for a few days on “Willow” at ILM a year earlier. When they needed someone to step into the role of Slimer, they had remembered me and asked me in for an audition.
Please explain how you came to voice the Lady Slimer character in the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot.
I was messaged on Twitter by Paul Feig (who I didn’t know at the time) reaching out to see if I’d be interested. Of course, that decision took about 2 seconds. ;) I was surprised, honored and grateful he thought of me.
How would you compare the directorial styles of Ivan Reitmann, who helmed the original Ghostbusters films, and Paul Feig, director of Ghostbusters: Answer the Call?
I met both Ivan and Paul prior to working on their films. But with Ghostbusters 2, before we started shooting Ivan had given direction to the crew and myself for the shots that we had to do, and I was directed by Tim Lawrence on set for Ghostbusters 2. Tim was incredibly creative, patient and always making sure all was well with me and the crew while we were shooting. He was a joy. With Answer the Call, Paul Feig had met with Becky Sullivan (Supervising Sound Editor) and she was with me in the booth when we recorded Lady Slimer. Paul is amazing, kind and simply brilliant. I consider myself one of the luckiest actresses in the world to say I’ve been in both of these directors' films.
Ghostbusters went twenty-seven years with no new feature films, and the Paul Feig movie was met with a flurry of publicity. Why do you feel there is an enduring fandom for the Ghostbusters franchise?
I think the comedy stands the test of time. There is also an “underdog” quality to the Ghostbusters films that people can relate to. Friends who are against all odds and come together to kick some butt and save the world…who doesn’t love that?
Ghostbusters II and Ghostbusters: Answer the Call are unique in that they combine the genres of action, comedy, horror and science fiction. What did you want to emphasize and convey in your portrayal of ghosts?
For me, it was important to have as much fun as I could and add an element of that to these characters. I figured if Slimer and Lady Slimer were having the time of their life… people watching it would, too.
Which Ghostbusters character is your favorite, and why?
I’ve always loved the character of Louis. I think Rick Moranis is brilliant, and truly respect his body of work.
You performed in front of a blue screen as Slimer in Ghostbusters II and as a troll in the fantasy epic Willow. What difficulties do actors face when working with composite sequences?
With Slimer and Willow, it was just me on screen even when you may have another actor in the scene with you. It’s using your imagination (and in some cases, watching the previously shot footage with the actor in the scene with you over and over before shooting) to make it work. It’s so much fun to see it all put together in the end.
You appear in 1994's Beverly Hills Cop 3 as Floyd and Axel Fox, costumed theme park mascots. Would you share a story about working with Eddie Murphy and/or director John Landis?
John Landis was wonderful to us, and he had his hands full with shooting at Great America, a theme park in Northern California. Eddie Murphy had his work cut out for him, and we didn’t talk to him too much on set. (And I didn’t want to bug him!) For me, being on set with these people at all was like being a kid in a candy shop.
Tell us about your experiences with performing stunt work.
I had done stunts for “The Little Rascals” (stunt double for Spanky) and “The Fantasticks”. (stunt double for Luisa). I had a blast doing both, but realized that acting is more in my blood than stunt work. I have such mad respect for any stunt person who is doing it every day!
You're the executive producer of the television show Far from the Tree (2011-2012) and the upcoming 2 Cops and a Car. What's the most challenging part of bringing a TV show to fruition?
The most challenging is getting a group of people together at the same time. People are busy, and scheduling can be crazy to make one day work for everyone involved. But, the end result makes it all worthwhile.
Suit and stunt actors are “secret celebrities.” How does it feel to have appeared in major films, and not have people recognize you on the street?
It’s kind of fun! What’s great is having a conversation with someone on the street about Ghostbusters, for example. I’ll tell them about the work I did on it, and sometimes they freak out a little. I love it.
What projects of yours have been the most personally satisfying?
I did a musical with my husband called “I love you, you’re perfect, now change”. Was so proud of it, and so glad I got to work with him on that. The projects we have produced are pretty special and satisfying because it’s your “baby” and something that was created by you.
Thank you so much for your time, Robin. We really appreciate it. I had to end this interview with a photo of my Ghostbusters II kids' meal boxes from Hardee's, featuring Slimer himself. I've had these since 1989. Since they were meant to last about five minutes, the containers are quite brittle, and I don't dare dust them! For more Ghostbusters fun, check out my other articles.