EJ Moreno chats to horror icon Linda Blair about her career and her work with the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation…
Capturing the magic and energy of Linda Blair is near impossible. I’ve spoken to many people, but never during a conversation or interview with any actor has it felt more like catching up with any old friend.
The Exorcist actress is warm and wants to share her stories with anyone, and you need to hear what she has to say. Her time in Hollywood has been up and down, but what has stayed true is her passion for caring.
Whether it’s her time fighting for climate change before it was trendy or her demanding work with the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation, she does it with gusto.
During our recent chat during a promotional tour for the streaming release of The Exorcist: Believer, Blair offered us the chance to see what she is doing now and what it would take for her to get back into acting more. She still loves the industry, no matter the rocky times, but her work on her property is demanding.
During a chat about tarantulas (yes, we spoke about eight-legged friends), Blair reveals how much work it takes to do what she does. She notes, “I am in the high desert. It’s the only place I could get land for the animals. And I thought I was here for two years. I’m going on my 17th anniversary and hoping to get out soon. I’d like the laws to change. I’d like things to change. I’d like to go back to work.”
But what she is doing now is hard work, and I asked her how long she’s felt this call to give back. When I asked when she first saw this side of herself, she said it was from childhood.
The actress explains, “I was raised to give back, to be compassionate. So, whether it was during the summer, there would be events to help those in need, and during the winter and the holidays, you would go to the church, and they would give you different options.
We were raised around wildlife, so skunks, possums, deer, and all types of things, with the family dog Rusty and cats. And, of course, nobody knew about spay-neuter back then, so we had a lot of cats *laughs*”
She then adds that her childhood time on The Exorcist furthered that love. She explains:
“When the time came for anything during The Exorcist, I had a tutor. Her name was Ellen, and she would have to come in when I was always in makeup. I feel more sorry for her because I was in makeup. Can you imagine?
She’s teaching me, you know, everything I’m supposed to be learning, but for my science project, Mom went to Fao Schwartz and got some incubators and hatched a chicken and a rooster. There are pictures, and we promote them sometimes. But I raised a chicken and a rooster. And I had rabbits because I could have those in my dressing room.”
It was important for Linda Blair’s mother to be seen as an actual person, just not a scary character. This led to Blair always being able to do what mattered to her. She recalls:
“When the movie opened, Mom always taught me to tell the truth, research, and talk about passions because that was very important for people to realize I was human. I was not this particular character who went through this horrible ordeal; it was just an acting job.
So, I was able to use the film to talk about things that were important to me at the time. It was only animals and horses. Years later, I got more involved with the environment, scuba diving, and talking about the oceans. I was involved with those groups and other animal groups and always volunteered my time, which I still do, in creating my foundation in 2003 out of what I felt was the need to have a very respected voice.”
This led me to my following conversation about the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation. I ask her what the group does and what it means to her personally. She goes back to her origins in humanitarian work:
“So, I got very involved with animal welfare in the eighties. I worked with a group called Last Chance for Animals, which was about pet theft. There were a lot of animals being stolen for medical research. It’s not necessary, and then there were a lot of different horrific things around the world that needed attention.
Chris DeRose [founder of Last Chance for Animals] was a former police officer and really took me under his wing and taught me everything that he could on how to run a foundation and what it means and to just keep going, no matter how hard it gets and the difficulties that you’re going to be up against.
So, the [Linda Blair WorldHeart] foundation itself, we fight for animals, but first it was environmental. I wrote a book called Going Vegan, explaining the environment, the attachment to human health, heart disease, and diabetes, why it was important, why a plant-based diet will turn you around, and why the top doctors will put you on a plant-based diet.
And that’s what I’m about in rescuing, trying to stop the overpopulation. There are laws that could be enforced. Mandatory Spay/Neuter Laws and vaccinations are very important. So, I try to keep that information on the website.”
We then get into a detailed conversation about The Exorcist: Believer and her role in the new film.
Now I have to get at least one question concerning movies, especially the new Exorcist. And what I want to ask is not really about your history with it, but more about your future and what you do now.
Your career has come full circle working as a kid actor on The Exorcist and now advising for the new film, which involved these two incredibly talented young actresses. The work they did was stellar. Was there some protection you wanted to instill for this new generation? Did you come on set very mama bear wanting everything to go smoothly?
That’s a perfect question because when they first brought the project to me, they explained, ‘This is what we’re going to do, but you are not involved in this one.’ And I was relieved they were not approaching me to be part of it.
Number one: it’s very difficult to leave the property. I run this rescue from food to the care of the animals, too. You know, I’m the main behavior trainer rescuer.
I explained to them that I’d gone on record saying, don’t ever do it to another child. And I said, if you’re going to do this, you must understand I stand with that statement. Do not do this to kids. So, if you’re going to hire children, there are things you need to put in place because you can never do it to a child again. That wasn’t fair what happened to me.
They were very supportive. And they said, ‘Linda, we don’t want to do anything wrong. We want to do it right. So if you have things, please.’ And that’s how I came on as an advisor.
I got the psychologist on the set. I got the religious factors on the set. Anything that these girls might need to ask: ‘Is this real? Is it not? Where is it acting compared to reality?’ The language is very abusive. And the characters are very out there.
This character is one of the most grotesque creatures of humanity that exists or doesn’t exist. It’s called the devil for a reason. It’s the nastiest entity that you could ever come across to make you think of the truth, what’s the truth, and what’s a lie.
This is something that we factor in with everything right now: good and evil fighting. But I didn’t know the girls, and I didn’t know what they might need, and you can’t hire me to sit there on a set and be there for people. But you can hire me to advise, and that’s what I did.
The entire cast came to me after it was done and said, ‘We can’t thank you enough for this because they did have questions; the adults had more questions than the kids.
It is an adult film, but the girls are so smart. And thank you for saying how incredible they are and their work. To get to know them, they are incredible people, and each has a very strong story. And I’ve shown them their way of what they’re going to do with their volunteer work and what they can do to help others in need.
I think and hope that they will have a wonderful journey.
I thank you for your work, especially for passing your knowledge along to a new generation and putting those needed protections in place. So it’s lovely that you were able to do that. And it’s been an honor to speak with you.
You would hate me for as much as I’ve watched Roller Boogie. So again, you know, I’m a big fan of yours.
You can slip that in and remind people, like Born Innocent and Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic that changed primetime television and history. I was the first to do TV movies, working with Richard Burton; nobody can take that away. Working with Wes Craven, nobody can take that away. Then, Roller Boogie and Hell Night were all the same producers. They’re really good films.
I’m happy that you love those, too.
Absolutely. And we need more lightheartedness. I mean, why did Barbie do so well this year? People are so challenged right now, mentally and emotionally.
People are fragile. So to be able to go to something like that, you can find comfort, and it was fun and loving, and family and share that with your kids. We need to get back to more of that. And I hope people would see your story and go, ‘I’m going to watch Roller Boogie or Repossessed with Leslie Nielsen.’
Many thanks to Linda Blair for taking the time for this interview. For more information on the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation, check out the official website here.