In 1999 Heather Donahue played the lead character of the hit film The Blair Witch Project. After appearing in various independent films and television shows, she put her Hollywood career aside and turned her focus onto growing medical marijuana. This lead to her writing a book about her exploits, Growgirl: The Blossoming of an Unlikely Outlaw. I had the opportunity to correspond with Heather and talk to her about her life and career.
What was growing up in Philadelphia like for you?
It made me very grounded. I especially appreciate that now that I live in NorCal. You can take the girl out of Philly, but you can’t take the Philly out of the girl.
You got your first start in a movie called Raw: Stripped to the Bone. What path led you to your first film?
I’ve been acting, writing, dancing, since I was a kid. I did that NYU student film just after I graduated with my BFA in theater.
Had you had much experience with improv prior to The Blair Witch Project?
I was a founding member of the NYC improv troupe Red Shag. That was what drew me to Blair Witch, that it was going to be improvised.
About how much of The Blair Witch Project was improvised?
All of it.
What does it feel like to see that even today people are still referencing scenes from Blair Witch?
I did Blair when I was 23, so I don’t know anything else. It just feels like this thing that I know is sort of weird, but has always been a part of my life.
Are you recognized often for your work?
Weirdly, yes. A blow out and little mascara prevents that when needed.
What was it like to work with the folks from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia?
Those guys are great and I love that show. I remember being at the first table read in Philly and saying that the show would go ten years. Looks like I was spot on!
Did you hold onto any thing from Blair Witch after your purge?
I still have the hat.
What inspired you to write a book?
I’m a life long writer and reader. It’s been a dream since I was a kid to write a book.
What did you think about the Blair Witch Project 2: Book of Shadows?
I’ve never seen it.
What made you decide to grow medical marijuana?
I wanted a change. My life in LA wasn’t what I wanted anymore.
What authors do you find the most inspirational?
The Howe sisters, Jeanette Winterson, Elaine Dundy, Iris Owens
In an interview you once said, “Romance is a castle of lies.” Can you explain that?
I don’t remember that, but I’m guessing it was said around the dissolution of my 10-year relationship.
You showed me a wrist tattoo via twitter. What does that symbol mean?
Annica. Impermanence. Impermanence is just another word for freedom.
Has the reception for Growgirl been positive?
Among everyone in the world? No. Among most readers? Yes. I have been really touched by the emails I’ve received from readers for whom the book nailed something about their own searches. Their desire for freedom and a life they can live with.
What types of movies scare you?
Tense, psychological ones like the Shining.
Do you miss anything about the world of acting?
I like performing, but I don’t miss anything about being an LA actress.
What is the best part about giving up your acting career?
The time to write and being able to change my hair whenever I want.
Do you ever see yourself behind a camera or perhaps in front of one again?
For sure. I’m producing an independent pilot called Grass Valley right now. We’re shooting in January. We’re putting together a cast of the most incredibly funny people. People who I have massive respect for. Bold, brave, hilarious comedians.
What project are you currently working on?
It’s a sitcom. The working title is Grass Valley. It has many familiar characters from my book, Growgirl. It’s an ensemble comedy about family, friends, and freedom, set in the marijuana growing world of rural NorCal. Follow me @aheatherdonahue for updates on that and all the things.
Heather Donahue can be found on Twitter at @aheatherdonahue as well as her website http://heatherdonahue.com. Her book, Growgirl: The Blossoming of an Unlikely Outlaw, is available wherever books are sold.