You won the ACTRA Manitoba Award this year for your performance on The Pinkertons, CONGRATULATIONS! Tell us about that experience and that role.
I’d had several auditions for the series, and of course, every one seemed like the role of a lifetime, so not getting every one was disappointing! I just kept feeling grateful for the opportunity to act – because each audition is hard-earned, and is a gift. I’d had a really hard week leading up to my audition for the role I ended up getting. I’d had a mental health breakdown, and had been in the hospital. I’d heard the day before the audition that the role was “mine to lose”, which puts a lot of pressure on a person not to lose it! I didn’t even know if I could muster the audition, but working on it gave me a lot of strength. The character was so different from me in so many ways. I was able to let go of a lot of sadness by channeling some deep-down-inside rage to do the audition, and then “capping” it as acting teachers will tell you to do. Playing the role a short time later was another challenge – a lot of people on set knew that I had been in the hospital, and why, and mental health breakdowns can be embarrassing. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. The cast and crew were so amazing – nobody brought it up, and everyone treated me like I was normal. That included the incredible director Doug Mitchell kicking my ass to get my best performance, and it was so much fun. It was very cool to be on set with my beloved ACTRA member friends, like Rick Skene, and a new friend, Kevin Ramberran, who is phenomenal, but was experiencing his first on-set gig in a huge role. I learned a lot from him, because he is brilliant, and such a wonderful collaborator. When I got the ACTRA nomination, I burst out crying, because I’d come so far from the lowest time in my life. I think this role really helped me feel strong. It was a real gift.
When did you become an ACTRA member, and what was your first union gig?
My first on set role was in The Adventures of Shirley Holmes, and Kim Todd was directing. I was already a full CAEA member, so I joined under the reciprocal agreement. At the time, the ACTRA rep (not Rob Macklin!) tried to dissuade me from joining, in a formal letter, claiming that I wouldn’t work enough to make it worth my while. I explained that I had some big plans as an actor, but I had to fight for it! How things have changed, for the better!
How has being a member of ACTRA benefited you?
The legitimacy of being an ACTRA member has tangibly benefited me, particularly in my work in other cities. I could not have gotten an agent in Toronto or Vancouver (and I had among the best agents in both cities) if I had not been an ACTRA member. I would not have been seen for auditions. We have it very easy here, relatively speaking. I recently decided to work without an agent for a while, because acting has taken a back seat to my work as a writer, director, and producer.
What has been your favorite or most memorable role thus far?
My favorite role so far is in the upcoming film Lovesick, written and directed by one of my best friends Tyson Caron. Being part of the Lovesick family provided me with an opportunity to connect with some of my favorite Canadian talents (Jay Baruchel, Jacob Tierney, and Jessica Paré), and to play with some of my favorite local actors, Ali Tataryn, Sarah Constible, Ross McMillan, Darren Wall, Tracey Nepinak, Lorraine James, Sean Skene, Kristen Sawatzky, Pam Iveta… so many Manitoba-based ACTRA members! I wrote/directed/produced the EPK for that too, so I got to interview a lot of those lovely folks, and that was a treat too, to showcase them!
How do you stay sharp? Do you have any training suggestions?
I do not take acting lightly, which is why I’m on a break. When I’m acting, I work out every day. I eat healthy foods, and I get good rest (although, the last one suffers the most with the other work I do!). I prep monologues even though I don’t do theatre to keep my skills sharp. I used to hound my agent, and maintain a fruitful, profitable relationship so I’d keep getting more opportunity. I’d regularly get new headshots, constantly update my resume, say yes to everything… I used to take classes, but frankly they weren’t doing a lot for me after a long while. I’ve been acting for three decades now. I don’t get a pass on training, but I train myself, and I am diligent with my technique every single time, even for a small audition. If you can take classes, do it. If you’re not booking almost every time, you probably need classes, otherwise why waste your time, and the casting director’s time?
I know you are involved in a couple of social initiatives, please tell us about them!
Please visit orangedaisyproject.com and takentheseries.com for a couple of projects I’m currently working on that connect with social issues. I’m so lucky to get to do the work I love, and working on those shows as Co-Creator, Writer, Director, and Producer is proof to me that working hard, knowing who you are, and working hard to be the best you can be can lead to tremendous opportunity. I also have some features in development that have themes of social justice – and I hope to engage ACTRA members for lots of roles in the near future. Producing is very challenging. It’s hard to get projects off the ground, but my dream is to cast the people whose work I love… and that’s a lot of ACTRA Manitoba members!
Do you have any advice for other actors out there?
I recommend reading the book Audition by Michael Shurtleff, and adhering to the Twelve Guideposts. Also, I recommend pushing yourself artistically – there are scripts available online. Practice. Tape yourself. Find out who you are and represent that in your headshots. Make sure your resume is impeccable. Whether you are a background performer or a lead, you represent our community, so represent yourself with perfect professionalism. Be your best, look your best, and do your best, every single time. Don’t take this business for granted. Make our community proud.