Actress Darlene Vogel has had a long successful career as an actress in Hollywood. She has appeared in films and television shows for over 30 years now. Her favorite performance is her role of Chris Kelly on the long running series, Pacific Blue.
Vogel is probably best known for her character Spike, in the iconic film, Back to the Future II. She made such an impression on the crew during her time filming BTTF II that she was brought back for the filmed portion of Back to the Future The Ride. She played Heather – IFT Spokesperson for the Universal Studios attraction.
We spoke to Darlene Vogel about her work for the Back to the Future franchise. Be sure to follow Darlene Vogel on Instagram here.
Back to the Future II was your first movie. How did you land the part of Spike in the film?
It was my first film. I had just moved out to LA. I walked into my agent’s office one day and he was like, ‘How young can you play?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know…whatever.’ He sent me over to meet with the casting director of Back to the Future II. It wasn’t even an audition. It was just a meet and greet. They brought me back again to meet Ricky Dean Logan (Data) and Jason Scott Lee (Whitey). We just had to improvise and then I got the part. We didn’t know the enormity of things. I don’t even remember if I knew anything about Back to the Future. I have no idea if I even saw the first movie yet. I am the worst person when it comes to this stuff. I have no clue.
It was just a job for you? Back to the Future had no impact on you at all at that point?
Getting the job was just like…this is cool! It was only supposed to be a 2 week job, but it lasted 2 months. We just had a ball. Once we got the job and we were on set, we were all like, ‘This is really cool.’ It was amazing.
Why did the shoot stretch from 2 weeks to 2 months?
It was the first time they used that spilt camera…Tondreau Dolly (computerized dolly system). It captured Michael J. Fox and Tom Wilson and allowed them to play multiple characters in a scene. They had to adjust the lighting for that. It was all new. The Cafe 80s scene took a month and flying on the Hoverboards took another month. We could be sitting around all day long and then they would use us at the end of the day. We sat around a lot. It would take 4 hours to light a scene.
Did you ever discuss your character with Robert Zemeckis (Director) or Bob Gale (Writer)?
No. All my conversations were with Joanna Johnston (Costume Designer). I have one half brown, half blue eye. So she came up with making one of my eyes red for the movie. We didn’t have to do much. I just had one line. There wasn’t much conversation about it. Zemeckis was so sweet, and it was my first film, so I was just like, ‘Whatever you want.’
You had just one line in the film, but it is very memorable. ‘What’s wrong, McFly? You got no scrote?’ Was that exactly how the line was written in the script?
That was definitely in the script. The first time I did the line I was so nervous. Everyone is looking at you, and I am dealing with Michael J. Fox. I had to do it a few times and I got more comfortable each time.
Joanna Johnston was a major contributor to Back to the Future II when it came to all the costumes in the film’s 2015 future. She did some amazing work. You mentioned that you spoke to her mostly about your character. What kind of discussions did you guys have about Spike?
It was just you’re in Griff’s gang, you guys are tough, you want to get Marty. That’s about it. There wasn’t any real depth to the character. It was just chasing Michael J. Fox around. I didn’t really have any dialog. I didn’t have to think about much.
I’m already kind of tough. As I have gotten older, I play a lot of nice and sweet mom roles. When I did Pacific Blue I was this tough and sarcastic ex-navy pilot. I am the nicest person, but I have a tough side to me. It was easy for me to play Spike and be tough. I have that side to me.
Well it seems like there wasn’t a whole lot of thought put into Spike and her character. Does that make it more surprising when you see all the people who cosplay as her, or all the Spike artwork that is out there? Does her impact surprise you?
Yeah, absolutely. How come I didn’t get that costume? I would love to dress up as her for Halloween. My niece dressed up as Spike for Halloween once. I asked my daughter one year if she wanted to be Spike, and she said no. My kids don’t think it’s cool at all.
The costume was just so great. The one single claw. My black nail polish. The spike down my face. They took my bangs and bleached them white. The schoolgirl skirt and the bullets around my neck. It was just awesome. Joanna is just amazing. She has amazing vision.
You didn’t get to keep the costume – but did you get anything from the set?
I used to have the lifecycle bike. The one that is in the Cafe 80s that the girl is riding on. They gave it to me. Lifecycle bikes were big back then to exercise on. But, it was so big and cumbersome. I just gave it to a friend of mine. I didn’t think about the fact that it was from the set of Back to the Future II. I just asked her a year ago, ‘Do you still have that lifecycle?’ She was like, ‘I got rid of it a longtime ago.’ That would be worth so much money now. I never think about stuff like that.
You did a lot of your own Hoverboard stunt work. How functional was the costume when it came to doing your stunts?
It was really functional. They hid a harness underneath my skirt. I had bike shorts underneath too. It was very comfortable. It was just like a leotard and bike shorts with a skirt over it. We did a lot of the flying which was so fun. We couldn’t wait to do that because we practiced for it. We worked with the stunt people and flew around to be comfortable. It was a new type of stunt for the stunt people too. Everyone was kind of learning.
So how did you end up playing Heather in Back to the Future The Ride?
Joanna Johnston suggested me for it. It was a different production and had nothing to do with Zemeckis. Joanna did the costumes for the ride too. When I filmed my stuff the teleprompter had broken. So they printed all my dialog out on pages. I had to memorize it last minute, but I could look down because I was playing a reporter. That was really fun. I didn’t really know what that was going to be either. A lot of people didn’t realize I played Spike too when they rode the ride and saw me. Only real fans know really.
There has been a lot of speculation or rumors regarding Heather and Spike. A lot of fans think the characters are related in some way. Is there any truth to that? Were you ever told that Heather and Spike were related?
No. Not at all. It was a different job. We didn’t have that in there. Heather was just a futuristic news reporter. That’s all it was.
You have been a part of the Back to the Future franchise for over 30 years now. What has been the best part of the experience for you?
The great thing about Back to the Future is the longevity. When I meet fans and they say, ‘You were such a big part of my childhood,’ it just gets me. That is so amazing. I am so proud that I am part of a franchise that has touched so many people around the world. As far as impact, Back to the Future is the thing I am most proud of in my career. The script was just brilliant. Bob Gale was just brilliant to come up with the twists and storylines of all these movies. What brain works like that? Some of these fans have watched these movies thousands of times. They still laugh and react to things after seeing it so many times. That’s pretty awesome. It’s also not corny. When you watch Back to the Future it’s still cool. After more than 30 years you can still get fans who are young and that can grow up with it. We are going to have fans of these movies for life.
Keep up with Darlene Vogel here.