Thursday, 9 October 2014

The woman behind the slime - an interview with Robin Shelby

"What the hell was that?" I thought, as I looked down at my shoe. I had stepped on some kind of goo... Green goo... disgusting green goo... 

I put my hand out to steady myself while I inspected my sole, but to my utter horror my outstretched hand connected with another glob of this green stuff. What was it? I smelt it... no odour. So curious, I thought. After collecting a sample to inspect in the lab later I looked for something to wipe it off with, but there was nothing. Where was the bathroom? I wasn't happy wiping it on my clothes, I mean they weren't anything special, but lord only knew what this stuff was.

Then a sudden noise stopped me in my tracks. This place was meant to be empty, but there was definitely something or somebody here and I felt the hairs on the back of neck begin to rise. Everybody knew the rumours about this place and the... happenings. Things flying about by themselves, strange laughter, sightings of things... ghostly things...

"H...H...Hello," I stuttered... "Is anybody there?" 

My heart pounded and armed with an old tennis racket - the only thing I could find to defend myself with - I tentatively inched towards the room the sound was coming from. As I got to the door, I took a deep breath, quietly and then on "Three!" barged into the room, shouting and brandishing my weapon. I will never be sure what I expected to see that day, but what I did see was possibly the last thing I could ever have imagined.

There, sitting at a table just about to bite into a very tasty-looking sandwich was Robin Shelby: actress, stunt-woman, producer, costume character performer and the woman behind Ghostbusters' 'Slimer'! And she looked as surprised as me!

Quick as a flash, I dropped my tennis racket and joined her at the table. I was starving and that sandwich did look good, but more than that. I was more interested in getting to know her.

So, how did you get the part in 'Ghostbusters 2'? Were you trained in puppetry?
"I worked at ILM on the film 'Willow' (where I played a troll on a bridge that gets eaten by a two headed Hydra monster), and about a year later I was called in to audition for 'Slimer'. When they had lost the actor originally scheduled to play Slimer because of scheduling conflicts, they had remembered me from Willow and decided to call me in.  As far as puppetry goes, this was a job that was more a full body costumed character, not so much what I would consider a 'puppet'.  I was lucky that they were able to see what I could do in a full body costume with Willow."

So was the job advertised?
"They went to my agency to contact me for an audition.  I don’t believe there was any advertisement done."

It must have been an interesting audition? What did you have to do?
"They gave me a few scenarios that Slimer may be in to portray and see what energy and character I would bring.  I’m a fairly hyper and expressive person by nature…so it seemed to be a really good fit right away."

That costume was big, what was it like inside Slimer? Was he hard to manoeuvre?
"It took rehearsals and some getting used to, but after a few weeks of working with the team at ILM and watching rehearsals through a monitor so I could see what it all looked like,  it got easier as we approached shooting."

And heavy I bet?!
"For me, that was the biggest challenge.  The head had motors, wires, cable…you name it.  That was needed as every section of his face could be manipulated by puppeteers off camera.  The eyes, lips, nose, cheeks, eyebrows…everything was movable to create the amazing expressions that Slimer was capable of.  So that definitely meant there was some weight to wearing the costume."

And hot!!
"It was very hot, but they were so amazing about making sure all was well, and taking pretty regular breaks to cool off and get some water.  The good news…no gym was needed when I was working.  The sweat from the costume was more than enough."

While we laughed Robin could obviously sense me scanning the table; the bread, the cheese, the tomatoes and the large jar of mayonnaise. She handed me a knife and pushed the ingredients towards me. Oh yes, I thought and grabbed some bread...

So could you see inside him? Or hear? 
"Yes, I could see out of the mouth (when the mouth was open).  With the servos in the head running, it was equivalent to what you would hear in a noisy airplane." 

Oh, so how on earth did you take direction?
"Tim Lawrence who was directing me at ILM would basically have to almost shout direction out, but he was wonderful in making sure I was clear in what he was asking for."

And what was Ivan Reitman like to work for and as a person?  
"He came to ILM for a couple of days to relay what he needed from the special effects shots and the crew at ILM.  He wasn’t there at the time we were shooting, but knew what he was going for."

What about the guys? Did you get to meet them?
"All of Slimer's scenes were shot in front of a blue screen in Northern California, and then was later added to what had already been shot with the actors on set.  Because of that, technically I didn’t have to ever be in the same room with them or meet them at all.  I have been very lucky to have met some of the cast since then.

Bill Murray also showed up at ILM around the time Ivan was there.  He hung out with us, gave some input with Ivan, and also was goofing around as you might expect.  I was in awe of him and his work, and being basically almost a kid myself then…I was so nervous meeting him, but he quickly put me (and everyone else) at ease with him being around.  Such a great, funny man."

It must have been crushing for all who knew him when Harold Ramis passed away, do you remember where you were when you found out?
"Yes, I was at my computer and my Facebook blew up almost right away.  Started with a message, a few comments and then I went to check a news site and it confirmed it.  I was devastated as many were."

I grabbed the giant jar of mayo and slopped in on my bread. It got me thinking about Slimer.

OK… So being a ghost, Slimer must have once been a human. What do you think he was like, and why was he forced to spend the afterlife as a ‘disgusting green blob’?
"You know, while we were shooting, I was more focused on trying to outwit Lewis a bit, eating any food Slimer could get in his mouth (of course) and keeping that fun, manic energy about him.  I personally found Slimer pretty adorable…but I’m biased."

Slamming one slice of bread against the other I picked up my creation, and just before taking a
gigantic mouthful asked:

So do you get many gifts? The fans must be crazy! Do you enjoy seeing the fanart and reading the fanfiction?
"Yes, I do events and almost always am surprised with an amazing gift or two from a fan.  My husband last year set out to get as many franchise patches he could to put on a jacket for me.  The response was overwhelming.  The GB fans have always been so generous and just wonderful with me.  Definitely a mutual admiration society between me and the fans."

How lovely I thought. What a truly lovely woman. I smiled; a full smile, showing more than just teeth and gums, a smile revealing a mush of bread, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Oh so much mayonnaise. I must have looked a sight! I quickly finished my mouthful, and downplaying my embarrassment carried on with my questions.

How does it feel to know that you were part of such an iconic film franchise?
"I feel so lucky to be even a small part of such a talented group of people and a wonderful franchise.  I’ll never take it for granted." 

When was the last time you saw it?
"I watched the re-mastered Anniversary Edition about a week ago.  Still made me laugh, which is 
testament to how good the writing and cast really was."

I can watch the films, and have watched them100 times and never tire of them. OOh, I thought maybe she would know...?

Do you know if 'Ghostbusters 3' will ever be made, and how could it now without Harold?
"I have heard so many different things about  GB3, it’s hard to get involved until it’s something that is concrete.  If they do make it, I truly hope it’s made because it’s a script that can hold up to the first two…and makes the fans happy again."

When was the last time you went to the firehouse?
"I sadly have never been to the firehouse.  I hope to change that soon."

Right, however much I wanted to talk about 'Ghostbusters', Robin has done so much more! 

Now you worked with Eddie Murphy on 'Beverly Hills Cop 3', what was that like?
"That was also a character costume.  I played the “fox” in the park that Eddie Murphy sees dancing in a character show in the park and ends up on stage in the show.  It was so much fun…got to be back in Santa Clara at Great America where it was shot, and got to work with a great group of people."

What is Eddie like? He is such a funny guy, was he a clown on set?
"We didn’t do a lot of interaction with Eddie on the days that we shot.  We had our dance rehearsals to get our stuff perfect, and Eddie and the characters we were playing were brought together at the last moment to shoot.  Even though the film wasn’t really seen as a critical success, you can still see Eddie’s comic brilliance shine through Beverly Hills Cop 3 as well."

And you were in 'Cybill'… I was a 'Moonlighting' fanatic, so I
hope she was nice… Was she? Is she just as beautiful up close?
"She definitely is as beautiful up close, and was a work-horse who was very driven to get a good product on set.  As I found out watching her, helming a popular TV show isn’t for the faint of heart.  I think sometimes that drive and determination can be taken the wrong way and people can be misunderstood and sometimes misjudged."

I took the last bite of my sandwich and wiped the excess mayonnaise from around my mouth, one more question I thought.

So, Robin, do you believe in ghosts?
"Truth is... I believe that spirits exist, and I do have a certain respect and fear for the paranormal."

Good answer! Yes, this had been so much better than seeing a ghost I thought, so much better. Mind you, I could have done with some chips...

For more info about Robin go to:


  1. You know, I never realised it was an actress as Slimer in Ghostbusters 2, although obviously that makes sense. ;) Nice interview!