In The Exorcism of Karen Walker (out on DVD this week), raven haired beauty Janine Nerissa plays Diane Walker, a woman helpless as she is thrust into a terrifying nightmare of demonic possession in small town America. But the actress, who is increasingly catching the eye of the British tabloids, is far from helpless in real life: away from the red carpet Janine is a brown belt in Washinkai Karate and told us it’s a passion she would love to bring to the screen.
“The first film I ever saw on video was Blood Sport starring Jean-Claude Van Damme,” she explains: “I grew up in that era of all the brilliant 80s fighting movies and was a huge fan of Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee. Martial Arts movies had a really big cultural impact on that era and it sparked an interest in me that has only grown stronger over the years.”
Janine, a mother of 4 who is – unbelievably – 48 this year, took up martial arts a decade ago. “My son Dylan (who is 18 next week) obviously inherited my passion for martial arts as he was mad about it by the age of 4,” she says, “taking him to classes meant that I had no excuse not to try it myself. All the other mums used to just sit watching and eating cakes but I thought if I did it too I could spar with Dylan at home and so it wasn’t long before I took it up and of course I was hooked immediately.”
Janine began her karate training in 2008 – her background as a ballerina gave her a naturally fluid and graceful movement and she rapidly worked her way through the grading system. She competed at an international level and eventually taught young students kata (movements and form in karate). “The thing I love most about karate is pushing myself to be better each time I practice. For example I get incredible satisfaction from practicing a kushanku kata, which has 60 individual movements in it. Karate is an incredible high and I get such a buzz from it. I love the discipline of martial arts – if you don’t put in the time you just can’t do it. I’ve run the London Marathon twice, for the charities Diabetes UK and JDRF (my youngest son has type 1 diabetes), and my martial arts background undoubtedly helped with my discipline and stamina.”
Janine would love to show off her combat sports prowess in a movie: “I’d love to do a martial arts movie! That’s a real ambition of mine,” she explains, “I think there’s something really cool about female fighting movies. My favourite actress is Angelina Jolie and my favourite film of hers is Salt. Of course she was amazing in Tomb Raider too. I’d kill to play a role like that.”
“I rewatched Bloodsport for the umpteenth time with my partner (film producer Jonathan Sothcott) last month,” Janine tells us, “and we had such a great time. We still love those movies – Marked For Death, American Ninja: that’s what our Blu Ray collection looks like! Those are the sort of movies I’d really love to do.”