You won the ACTRA Manitoba Award this year for your performance in “A Warden’s Ransom; CONGRATULATIONS! Tell us about that experience and that role.
My character, Amy, spends the entire 1 hour and 24 minutes running time of that film trying to be useful and help all the characters around her while she herself tries to survive and be strong during a time of great chaos and a fundamental breakdown in the system. Now, if you know me, you know that at my core, I believe in being helpful and want to live a life of service to everyone that crosses my path, so that part was easy. But the strength in a time of great fear and perceived danger? Well… What people outside of the production don’t know is that at the exact time, my own life was under its own sort of breakdown. My father was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma during my audition process and he started his chemo the day before my first day of shooting. The universe had conspired to bring me home to go through that head on, to grow through that pain and become a stronger person, and gave me a stage to pour that entire experience into a character that was experiencing the same thing.
On top of it, the universe blessed me with a figurative and literal cast and crew of humans in my life to give me a safe place to open my heart and be as vulnerable as my character needed to be. The human kindness, encouragement and inspiration to hold still, accept help and stand in my own power that I received from Onalee Ames, Adam Stone, Diane Neal, the incomparable Dave Brown, Jeff Reyes (my other co-star) the cast and crew, the entire Winnipeg film community, the selfless humans at Cancer Care Manitoba, my director Mike Elliot and producers JB and Greg, everybody at Buffalo Gal pictures, and my family among others, is what I hope translated through my character Amy. Every single one of us has struggles, I just choose to do it all in front of everyone, and in this case I am very glad I did.
P.S. Just in case anyone was wondering, my Dad beat his cancer. Go Dad!
Lesson learned: As Rainer Marie Rilke says “Let life Happen to you. Believe me: Life is in the right, always”, but I will add that you have to LET it.
When did you become an ACTRA member, and what was your first union gig?
Hey, isn’t asking someone when they joined ACTRA like asking someone their age? I refuse to answer that.
I remember this like it JUST happened. Without any acting experience whatsoever, I booked the second thing I ever auditioned for. It was a TV series on YTV called 2030 C.E. It starred Tatiana Maslany, Jessica Lucas and Elyse Levesque among others. I played a news anchor that reported on all the sci-fi-shenanigans. I was mainly in the studio, but then they wrote me a part outside and gave my character a great storyline. My experiences in that show began the super intense, sometimes painful, mostly glorious, super confusing, gratitude instilling, “I hate you don’t leave me” type of love affair I still have with acting.
Lesson Learned: “It has been a beautiful fight. Still IS” – Charles Bukowski.
How has being a member of ACTRA benefited you?
I didn’t know what ACTRA even was never mind all the other things I did not know when I booked my first role. I was a baby with this intense wild unpredictable energy, but ACTRA members had my back. I keep saying that the crews in Manitoba raised me and I mean that very much. That crew and fellow members taught me everything I needed to know and FAST. They saved me from myself on a few occasions too, but they did it with such love and to inspire me to embrace myself as I was and where I was in my journey. I’m still in contact with almost all of them and I consider them my family. So much so, that when I booked Erin Haddad on Falcon Beach I found out before anyone else did because someone (who will remain nameless 😉 from the wardrobe department found out before they even told my reps and secretly called me on the down low as the kids say. I could barely hear her through her genuine enthusiasm for a local Winnipeg girl booking a series regular role…that and the fact that she was whispering 😉 The community and support from fellow ACTRA members that I know I will always have whether in Manitoba, NYC, LA or anywhere in between gives me the power to be myself and stay the “messy haired girl with a thirsty heart” I expect I will always be. I also just want to say to Rob Macklin in the Manitoba office “I know all you do for me, and for us, I am grateful for your patience and diligence, and no matter what I will always look forward to our yearly calls to catch up…and to remind me to pay my dues on time ;)”.
4. What has been your favorite most memorable role so far?
Playing Crystal on the TV series “Unreal” for Lifetime. I mean, I auditioned 5 times for 5 different characters on that show. 5 Times! But in the end, they found a role that was a right fit for me and this personality of mine. Beyond that, I got to experience a group of the most talented, beautiful, diverse women. Given the nature of the series being set in the world of a dating reality TV show, and the roles we were playing in it, we quickly became a unit. We spent so much time together and we really walked in each other’s shoes, at times literally.
Those women and that production was a demonstration of female empowerment at its best. The women in the cast and crew outnumbered the men…by a lot, which is rare as we unfortunately read in the news all the time, and it did swiftly cross my mind that they could have been catty “as seen on TV” or popular media, BUT the women I experienced were verifiable bada**es in their own individual rights who understood the notion that we are so much better TOGETHER. Something nothing short of magic happens when women rise in union of anything. As I write this, I am in a plane on the day of the Women’s March across North America (and go ACTRA, and Canada for supporting our American counterpart btw), looking at the newsfeeds and soaking up as much of the experiences of those walking the walk, and I am moved, and I am proud, and I am hopeful for all that we can accomplish together.
Lesson Learned: “A rising tide lifts all boats” – JFK
How do you stay sharp?
How do I stay sharp? I have a life. A crazy, gypsy-like, random always surprising life. I fall…A LOT. I fail… A LOT. I also have 7 children I help care for in Lancaster California, and no they did NOT come out of me ;). Those close to me call them “The Lancaster 7”, and they keep me fighting the good fight. I volunteer anywhere and everywhere I can. I believe I get more out of giving than does the person I am giving to. I have a Nana and a Mum and many other adopted “Mothers” that impart their conviction and wisdom on me whether I want to hear it or not and that has inspired me to boldly do the same with others. I work with a company in Vancouver called Prilyx, and it is there I experience the value of hard work and diligence to engineer this world a better place through technology. I work assisting storytellers whenever I can to help their work in the very long and at times arduous development process. I make it a point to connect as many people as I can across many industries to help get things done, whatever it may be. I have a mass crew of humans who take me places and teach me things about this world outside of acting. My point is, as an actor, the pursuit should not be to be interesting, but rather to be interested, which in tern makes you more interesting. I am in spades, a most curious human, and I believe that helps me in the game.
Lesson Learned: “We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.” – Charles Bukowski.
Do you have any training suggestions?
Train always. Train everywhere. Train with everyone. Train each other. But mostly train in life.
One of the many coaches I have had over the years, Tyler Poelle at Lesly Khan Studio, once demanded of a group of over anxious actors ready to spend the rest of his intensive course exhausting themselves trying figure out the right answers and please the teachers and casting directors to “Stop. Stop looking for cause and effect in an industry that does not tolerate cause and effect”, and that changed everything for me. He really set me free. In that moment, he gave me my power back, and I realized that I was driving the car. I understood that there is no point living in the nightmare of what other people think of you.
There really is no authority in acting classes. There is just you. And you are more than enough. Just as a teacher can only impart on you their experiences, it is up to you to take the pieces that work for you and leave the rest behind or pass it on to people who need it. It is up to us to look within ourselves and take responsibility for our work and careers.
Whether its a class, or a community, find people who will challenge and who will celebrate you, and who will tell you to stop playing the “ideas” you saw and liked in others. To simply look inside, immerse yourself completely in the moment, and connect with an open heart to others in scene. It’s why I love cold reading….no “work” or techniques to hide behind. I have found that the best reads I give are the first time I see the material. My instinct, where true faith and trust lives. The rest of the work I do is mainly to get back to the spontaneity and authenticity of that 1st time. Some of the best people in the business that I have trained with who develop that are Onalee Ames in Winnipeg, Shea Hampton in Vancouver, and Anthony Meindl in Los Angeles.
Lesson Learned: ‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” ― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
Do you have any advice for other actors out there?
Yes. RELAX: Nothing is under control. Now take a deep breath, then take another… Let me be clear. I am writing this to myself as much as I am writing it to others as I am a human and the struggle is real. To whomever is needing to hear this, you will become an unstoppable force once you decide you deserve it. Take care of each other and be kind, especially to yourself. Have faith, always. Because confidence is born from the faith that you will be okay no matter what. And always, always be yourself. Do everything from YOUR soul. I have gotten that note more times than anyone might fathom and I still get it to this day.
Lesson Learned: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then its not the end” – John Lennon