Interview: Tom Nowell (Tyen), Jason Lives: Friday The 13th Part VI

By Dan Sartain

Thomas Nowell is a prolific writer/actor that resides in Los Angeles, CA. He has appeared on screen with such names as Michael J Fox, Chuck Norris, Jonah Hill, and countless others. The readers of this site would know him best from his scene stealing roll in Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives. His character was Tayen, but we would know him best as the “We’re Dead-Meat” kid. We catch up with Mr. Nowell now to see what he’s been up to since. Also to reflect on the time he spent filming not one, but 2 films at Camp Daniel Morgan consecutively.


Q: Jason Lives has not been your last venture into the horror genre. Would you tell us a bit about your career since filming Friday 6?

A: The summer after Jason Lives, I was lucky enough to have been cast in Vincent Price’s, I believe, second-to-last film, From a Whisper to a Scream. It was originally released with the title The Offspring, and it was the debut feature of director Jeff Burr, who went on to direct a number of horror titles like Stepfather IITexas Chainsaw Massacre IIIPumpkinhead II, and Puppet Master 4 and 5 . He was pretty much the go-to horror sequel director there for a while and a really fantastic guy. From a Whisper was a horror anthology, with Price as the kind-of host stringing the vignettes together. I was the villain in the final vignette, the leader of town of cannibalistic child Civil War survivors. Regrettably I didn’t have any scenes with Vincent Price, but I did get to stab a Union soldier in the crotch and light Cameron Mitchell on fire before all the kids ate him.  

Bear in mind this was all some time ago, when I was 12 or 13. Since then I haven’t done anything nearly as exciting, though I did have the pleasure of appearing in a couple of seasons of the Netflix show Friends from College as Keegan-Michael Key’s creepy roommate. I’m still waiting for a call from Jordan Peele.


Q: As mentioned above, you filmed 2 movies in as many years at Camp Daniel Morgan. The first being ‘Poison Ivy’ (1985) the second being ‘Friday the 13th Pt.6: Jason Lives’ (1986). Was it coincidence?

A: I guess so. Most of the filming back then in Georgia where I lived was low-budget fare like horror or summer camp movies. Or horror summer camp movie hybrids like Jason Lives, or Sleepaway Camp II, in which my brother Justin was butchered by a serial killer camp counselor played by Bruce Springsteen’s sister, Pamela. I think that one was shot at a different camp, though Camp Daniel Morgan was a popular location.


Q: At the time you filmed ‘Poison Ivy’, Michael J Fox was on the verge of breaking into superstardom with the Zemeckis/Spielberg hit ‘Back to the Future’. He was a television star with a lot of momentum behind him. Did you have any idea you were working with one of the biggest stars of the decade during the shoot?

A: I was obsessed with his character Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties, so yeah, I was pretty star struck getting to work with Michael J. Fox. And it was only a year later that both Teen Wolf and Back to the Future came out, so it wasn’t that long a wait before he became this huge movie star. 


Q: By the time you filmed ‘Jason Lives’, you were a veteran performer at that location. Was it like putting on an old hat?

A: I vaguely remember being kind of disappointed I didn’t get to go someplace new.


Q: Did you attend the camp as a child, or was it strictly a work environment?

A: Strictly work. I did go to camp, but in Colorado. All of us kid actors had a blast shooting at Camp Daniel Morgan, though. Particularly on Poison Ivy. It was a thirty day shoot with the whole cast and crew staying at a Holiday Inn down the road the entire time, so it definitely felt like that summer camp kind of experience. Michael J. Fox was really incredible with all the kids, too. Even after a full day of shooting he’d be there playing water polo in the motel pool with us. He really was like our camp counselor off screen, as well.      


Q: It is well know to our readers that ‘Jason Lives’ was filmed under the name ‘Aladdin Sane’. This was to throw off the rabid fans of the series from finding the location during filming. Were you aware that you were making a Friday the 13th movie?

A: Not until after I was cast. And it wasn’t until a few years after that that I learned Aladdin Sane was the name of a David Bowie album. I led a semi-sheltered childhood.


Q: Had you seen any of the previous Friday the 13th films prior to filming?

A: I don’t think that I had. No, I’m sure I hadn’t.


Q: ‘Poison Ivy’ was quite tonally different from ‘Friday the 13th 6’. The first being a romantic comedy, and a family friendly romp of a made for TV movie, the second being a hardcore slasher film made during the golden age of 80’s horror. How was the mood on set different between the two films?

A: Not so different, really. I mean, there’s a lot of joking around on most of the film sets I’ve been on. I don’t recall Part VI being any different in that regard. Also, for all it’s family-friendliness, Poison Ivy did have a whole serial killer subplot, where the campers were convinced the camp handyman was an axe murderer. As it turned out, he was just a frustrated abstract expressionist and the dried blood on his hatchet was red paint he’d fling at his Jackson Pollock-like canvases. 


Q: Are you aware that ‘Jason Lives’ is considered by many to be the best of the series?

A: And rightly so! No, I did not realize that was the fan consensus, but I’m happy it is. It’s a seriously fun movie.


Q: Do you consider yourself to be a fan of the horror genre?

A: Absolutely -- I know which side my bread is buttered on! I just watched Gaspar Noé’s Climax and Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake back-to-back a couple of months ago, and let me tell you, they made for a terrifying and claustrophobic quarantine double bill.


Q: Lastly, what does the immediate future hold for you?

A: Dear God, hopefully getting out of the house someday soon and going back to work!


Thank you for your time!

Thank you, Dan!

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