MVP of Horror: Rachel True reflects on her experience as the only Black star of 'The Craft'

Ethan Alter
·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·7 min read

Rachel True is the first to tell you that she wasn’t supposed to be in The Craft. When the script for the 1996 Goth horror favorite first made the rounds in Hollywood, there were several obstacles that stood in the way of her joining a cast that included rising stars Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell and Robin Tunney. “I had to fight to read for it,” True tells Yahoo Entertainment now. “My agents at the time were like, ‘You’re probably too old.’” (Watch our video interview above.)

Not only that, but the role that True auditioned for — Rochelle Zimmerman, one of four teen girls at a Catholic high school who form a Manon-worshipping witch’s coven — was written for a white actress. Undaunted, she relied on “smoke and mirrors” to get into the room and ultimately won the part, setting a new precedent for teen movies in the process. “It’s a big movie in terms of my career, but it’s also a big movie for Black people out there,” she says. “It’s one of the first teen movies that wasn’t a Black teen movie or a white teen movie.”

Rachel True as Rochelle in 'The Craft' (Photo: Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection)
Rachel True as Rochelle in The Craft. (Photo: Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection)

The obstacles didn’t end after True landed the role. If anything, they intensified during and after production as the actress felt herself being marginalized in favor of her co-stars. True makes it clear that she didn’t experience any overt hostility from the rest of the cast; instead, it was the studio and people behind the camera who seemed intent on holding her back. “When we were shooting the movie, I had literally been told by my team to stay away from Fairuza,” she remembers. “[They said] she can get away with stuff, and you will get fired for it. I was literally told, ‘You’re Black, so don’t say, ‘F*** you, mommy,’ like the white girls.’”

She also had to fight for equal attention during the film’s publicity tour. “They put up a poster of the four of us, mentioned the three girls and then skipped down the call sheet, I think, ‘This is how Black actors get underpaid, this is how they get forgotten, and it’s part of why I mouthed off about the publicity back in the day that I was excluded from. At the time, I don’t think my castmates understood; they were like, ‘You’re not as famous as us.’ What they didn’t get is that in the early to mid-1990s, [the studios] excluded the Black person, which meant they were never going to be as famous as you because they didn’t get the press.”

True experienced that exclusion as recently as last year, when she took to Twitter to reveal how a fan convention declined to invite her to a planned Craft reunion featuring Balk, Campbell and Tunney. (The actress credits Balk, now a close friend, with tipping her off about being left out.) “I had my guy call them up and say, ‘You could have the first reunion since 1996 with all the ladies, and they were like, ‘No thanks,’” she says. “My thing is that everything in life comes down to money, and if you don’t want the money [from a cast reunion] then as a Black person, what else am I supposed to think?”

After her tweets went viral, the convention reversed course and the full Craft coven reunited in March 2019. “I’m glad I spoke up,” True says. “Hopefully it opens the door for other people, so that when I go to the conventions it's not just me and maybe one other Black person.”

Racism is a subject within The Craft as well. As originally written, Rochelle struggled with bulimia, but the film’s co-writer/director, Andrew Fleming, revamped that storyline after True was cast. In the finished film, the character’s antagonist is Christine Taylor’s Laura Lizzie, a high school mean girl with a special hate-on for Rochelle. “First of all, Christine Taylor is so nice,” True says, laughing. “People come up to me and say, ‘Was she really racist?’ And I’m like, ‘She’s the sweetest woman in the world!’ I had gone to an all-white public school, so it was a great way to exorcise those demons if you will. It wasn't the first time someone called my hair pubic hair — that's the truth. So to have that in the movie was fitting, I think, as far as how people think.”

During filming, True remembers being uncomfortable with the way Fleming used her skin color as a plot point. “I remember thinking, ‘Do they see Blackness as a problem?’ All the characters have issues, and to me being Black wasn’t an issue; the way other people treat me for being Black is the issue. But once I really thought about when I got older, I realized it’s a good thing they have that in there. We’d come out of a time where we had things like The Cosby Show where nobody ever mentioned racism, and here was a movie that tackled it head on. I do think it’s interesting, though, that the other three characters never say anything about it! Not one of them is ever like, ‘That’s too bad that she’s racist towards you.’ I don’t think they would do that today.”

ISELIN, NJ - MARCH 02:  Rachel True attends the 2018 New Jersey Horror Con & Film Festival  at Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel on March 2, 2018 in Iselin, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bobby Bank/Getty Images)
Rachel True at the 2018 New Jersey Horror Con & Film Festival. (Photo: Bobby Bank/Getty Images)

One other story choice that still rankles her a quarter century later is that Rochelle loses her supernatural powers at the end of the movie, while Tunney’s Sarah keeps hers. “Even in the mid-‘90s they knew they couldn’t kill off the Black chick,” she jokes. “But I was like, ‘Rochelle is more powerful than this! She’s an astral bridge, why is she cowering?’ That’s actually how I felt about that scene.”

Those memories are balanced out by the fun that True had making The Craft, whether it was flying around on harnesses or having a plaster mold made of her face for certain special effects sequences. “I loved all that stuff — I love movie magic. It's why I love being an actor because you put on this character and you get to experience life! I knew there was a lot for me to learn; Fairuza gave me a really good tip, because she was more experienced than I was. For the scene where we licked blood off our fingers, I kind of deep-throated my finger and she told me, ‘Rachel, it’s film and it’s a close-up. Just a small lick will do.’ So she might not have been the friendliest when we were shooting, but she was there to make a great movie. And she makes the movie, right? She’s so intense and fabulous in it.”

True shares other stories about the making of The Craft, as well as tales from her eventful life and career, in True Heart Intuitive Tarot, a boxed set that includes a tarot deck and a guidebook that’s part memoir and part tutorial. “It’s helped me with my career in Hollywood, a town full of smoke and mirrors,” True says of her lifelong interest in tarot. “I use tarot as a therapist — like a shrink in a box I like to say — so that I understand what I’m upset about or what’s going on.”

And with the True Heart book and deck, she’s hoping to instruct other people on mastering the art of reading tarot cards. “People hit me up on my DMs, saying, ‘Can I get a reading from you?’ And I’m like, ‘No, you can’t afford me!’” she laughs, adding that she’s mostly retired from doing public and private readings. “The idea with the book is that you can learn it for yourself... and you can heal yourself.”

The Craft is available to stream on Hulu or rent or our purchase on Amazon, iTunes and FandangoNOW. True Heart Intuitive Tarot is available on Amazon.

— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by John Santo

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