Death, Dolls and Drama: An Interview with Child’s Play Actress, Jennifer Tilly

Jennifer Tilly has been landing roles since the 1980s, in movies such as No Small Affair, Shadow of the Wolf, and The Fabulous Baker Boys. Alongside actor Jim Carrey in the ’90s, Tilly was part of the comedy phenomenon Liar, Liar, and also starred in the cult thriller, Bound. Yet despite many popular projects, few would argue that it is her role as horror icon Tiffany in the Child’s Play film and TV series that has catapulted her to new heights.

Working alongside Child’s Play writer and director Don Mancini, Jennifer Tilly has become an undeniable central part of the horror doll series. It was in 1998’s Bride of Chucky role as Tiffany Valentine that the star became a horror legend, and she was to be forevermore tied to the iconic killer doll. It’s safe to say she has rightfully earned her place as Chucky’s entertaining sidekick ever since.

As Tiffany, Tilly has gained a cult following of hard-core fans who are as interested in her character as they are in Chucky himself. Whether it’s her sultry sensuality, her vivid and unique style, the sharp delivery of her dark humour, or her authentic portrayal of the sexy murderess, fans can’t get enough.

I invited the actress for an interview, and we discussed her time playing Tiffany in film and TV.

Movie poster for Chucky

Fiona Dodwell: Chucky Season 1 has been so well received, and now fans are buzzing about Season 2. It must have been great for you to join in with these projects.

Jennifer Tilly: Yeah! Back when it began, we had the pandemic with absolutely nothing going on, and all of a sudden Don called me and I was off to Toronto for five months to film the first Chucky series. It was great. Don loved doing the show and Universal was so good to him. There are so many layers in the Chucky series, too. I’m proud to be part of it, especially as the main character is based on a young Don Mancini. It’s like a coming-of-age story, but tagged as a “coming of rage story”!

FD: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced playing Tiffany?

Jennifer Tilly: Tiffany is an acting challenge for me because she never ages! I’m at this age of my life where it’s usually all about grannies [laughs] and yet Don wants me to be all sexy and fabulous! She’s such a fun character to play though. Especially after the pandemic, when we originally started filming the series, getting to be glamorous and strut around again was so much fun.

FD: I think it’s fair to say the Child’s Play franchise is popular with the LGBTQ+ community. Would you agree? Why do you think this is?

Jennifer Tilly: Tiffany has gotten so camp over the years. She’s almost like a drag queen! But yes, it’s ahead of its time. The goth girls and goth boys and lesbians, they’ve always loved the Chucky series because there have always been positive role models in it, and it’s such an inclusive series… In Seed of Chucky, we have John Waters, a gay icon! The character Glenn/Glenda, Chucky’s child, many in the trans community have said they really embraced him as a character. But apparently, in the Chucky series, Seed was quite a reviled film, but I happened to love it because it was about me, ha!

FD: I personally love Seed of Chucky.

Jennifer Tilly: Yeah! I loved Seed of Chucky! There are so many layers to my character. In the movie I’m literally chasing around myself as a doll, being a fan of myself. It’s so much fun! Now in that movie, Tiffany is living Jennifer’s movie star life. There’s a scene where she goes to an event as Jennifer, she loves being a movie star, she loves the glamour and adoration she gets. So in Seed of Chucky, it was fun to do their different voices: Tiffany has plastic doll lungs, so I make her sound more dolly. At times I had a bit of a Marilyn Monroe voice.

Jennifer Tilly bound by Chucky to a bed
Seed of Chucky (2004)

FD: Did you get to make suggestions about what you wanted to see happen to Tiffany?

Jennifer Tilly: In Seed of Chucky, when I knew it was about me, I was delighted! We threw around ideas and jokes. I said I wanted him to make me the diva, a bitch actress from hell. “Jennifer Tilly is so mean,” the studio said, and I think they wanted a sweet girl! We actually had to reshoot a scene: there’s a scene where Jennifer discovers a dead body. She leaves the studio and is surrounded by paparazzi asking her about the body, and as she gets in the limo, I played it like she was really thrilled and feeling relevant again. She was happy to be all over the news! But we had to reshoot the scene; the studio said it makes Jennifer look too mean. So I re-did the lines and had to make myself sound a bit more sympathetic. But yes, I helped write certain things and certain lines. You know that line in Seed of Chucky, where Tiffany is dragging Jennifer’s body? She says, “F*ck she’s fat!” I came up with that [laughs].

FD: There was some comedy in a couple of the Child’s Play movies, but I think Don pushed Chucky to a darker place again in later years. Would you agree?

Jennifer Tilly: Yes. Don wanted to make Chucky scary again. Chucky had been around for so long and he decided to get him back to his horror roots—let’s make Chucky scary again, he said. So he put the whole Seed of Chucky thing aside and then made it all darker again with Cult of Chucky. I came in as a cameo. I didn’t get much of an input in those last two movies, but Don always has a plan. Like when he brought back Andy Barclay. These things aren’t a plot line, he’s always thinking ahead about what he wants, and who he wants. Many fans have said they thought the Chucky TV series was beautifully shot…The cinematography is so beautiful in Don’s films! When you see the Chucky series, it’s actually so beautiful, we have amazing sets, it all looks so gorgeous. And everything—from the costumes, the look of it. You can tell even from the trailers, without seeing the show, it’s beautiful.

FD: Tiffany’s character is explored quite deeply in the series, isn’t she?

Jennifer Tilly: Yes. I’m semi-retired…just enjoying life, enjoying being with my boyfriend, and not having to work. But then Don sent me the script, and I was so happy as he really went into Tiffany’s back story. It was amazing to see a younger actress playing me in the backstory scenes, and I realised how horrible she is! I always tried to justify Tiffany’s kills and her bad actions, but when I saw someone else playing her, I thought, “She’s not nice at all!” She is so diabolical and unhinged, which is so delicious to play. I actually thanked Don.

I loved, loved, loved playing Tiffany in the series. I had so many juicy scenes and got to explore her so much. Don put so many Easter eggs in which refer to the films that have come before it. They all converge. It all comes together, the two worlds collide. It is very operatic and reaches a crescendo. It’s wonderful.

Chucky and Bride of Chucky in Seed of Chucky, with Jennifer Tilly gagged in background
Seed of Chucky

FD: Why do you think it is that Child’s Play has become so popular?

Jennifer Tilly: Well, the doll is so adorable! As a Goodguy doll, he is so f*cking cute. And the doll in the series is amazing. When I watched the puppeteers working Chucky, he looked so sweet and innocent, yet he has Brad [Dourif]’s nasty snarl. It’s hypnotic. People really identify with Chucky, too! They identify with him—he’s a working guy, with a nagging wife, a gender-fluid kid, a mid-life crisis, like in Seed of Chucky. Brad loves Chucky. He understands Chucky. He is doing Oscar-nominated acting in the movies. In the first film I did, Bride of Chucky, Brad and I went into the booth together to actually interact together rather than recording separately.

In one scene, I felt such profound sadness, and he’s giving me so much with his eyes, and I started to cry, and he started to cry. Brad is a lot of Chucky’s appeal, I think. He’s very powerful. Plus Don. He’s a Chucky fan himself, and a horror fan. So he’s like a kid with candy! He thinks, what would I like to see, as a Chucky fan, what would I want to see? Which is why he bought back Andy Barclay. And the fans went wild! Alex is great, he loves doing it, and the fans go insane for him. The fans just love the Chucky universe and have made an emotional commitment to the film, I think.

FD: I’ve thought about this before—don’t you think it’d be fun to see a Tiffany spin-off show?

Jennifer Tilly: She is such a great character with so many layers…I like being in the main movie, coming in, and doing my thing. I feel a Tiffany spin-off might be too much Tiffany, though. There’s a good balance with Chucky. You have to have somebody to revolve around, so I wouldn’t really like a spin-off, but I’d like a cartoon with Tiffany, Chucky, and Glenda. I love strolling into the Chucky world and the way that I am incorporated into the Chucky movies. Plus there was so much of me in the series I was just happy to be part of that.

I think fans see Tiffany as a horror icon and even love her as much as Chucky. Fans love her, and they dress up as her at Halloween. The fans are so creative. Sometimes they are a better Tiffany than me! And also the kids who dress up as her, they do wonderful things. There’s even a dog outfit. Google it and trust me, it’s really funny, it makes the dog looks like a Chucky running towards you!

Jennifer Tilly in the Chucky series

If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to check out these too!

Don’t Look at the Demon: An Interview With Director Brando Lee

Grimmfest 2022: An Interview With Andy Mitton About The Harbinger

New Religion: An Interview With Keishi Kondo and Satoshi Oka

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Written by Fiona Dodwell

I'm a freelance writer and horror author.
I've produced content for Music-News, Made In Shoreditch Magazine, Medium, Theatre News and several record companies.

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