PHOTOGRAPHY BY HELEN TANSEY
What can you say about Utopia Falls as a series? How will people react to it?
Utopia Falls is a genre-bending, coming of age story that takes place in a distant future colony called New Babyl. New Babyl is divided into sectors; Nature, Progress, Industry and Reform, and every year, a select group of 16-year-olds from the sectors is chosen to compete in the ultimate talent competition called The Exemplar. In New Babyl, all forms of music and dance are based on pre-established cultures and norms, however, the competing teens uncover an ancient forbidden archive of historical, cultural and musical relics called the Archive (voiced by Snoop Dogg! WHOOP WHOOP!) And this discovery forces them to question everything they've been taught. Their performances start to be influenced by these newly found relics, and through their music and dance, the teens start to express themselves differently and push boundaries. The show is about music and dance, but it's also about family dynamics, power struggles, at what cost we will go to maintain the status quo. That's where I come in...
What's your part in this series?
I play Authority Phydra, the head of the New Babyl Police Force. I'm in charge of ensuring that every citizen of New Babyl is adhering to the rules and laws set out for them. I'm a force to be reckoned with in this show and the ultimate antagonist and obstacle for this group of teens who are pushing the boundaries. Phydra is ruthless and smart, manipulative, and passionate about maintaining order. It's such a fun role. I read online that the fans of the show are really having their buttons pushed by Phydra and I love that. I love playing the villain that the fans love to hate!
How did you prepare yourself for this role?
Well, I've played this type of antagonist role before... Lucado in Wynonna Earp and Sajen in Dark Matter... so really, I definitely channeled these characters. Also, when I get a role like this, I like to ask myself questions like: What is my biggest fear? Who broke my heart the most in my life? What do I dream about at night? What is my favorite song? I do a "Day in the Life" journal for my character. Lots of fun things that make sure I'm bringing authenticity to my work and to make sure that I bring a more rounded character. The answers to these questions may never reveal themselves in my work, but for me as an actor, it gives my character and my understanding of my character, more depth. More heart. More humanity. Also, I have to say, being a school teacher of pre-teens for many years, I channeled a little Miss Drummond from those days when my students were really pushing my buttons!
Outside of acting, I read you are a TEDx speaker, can you describe what that was like?
Doing that TEDx talk was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It was like a personal check-in in away. I was invited to speak about anything I wanted and at first, I panicked. I mean, what did I have to say that was of any value? I think we all question our own stories and think they aren't anything special, right? But then I just started writing... and rewriting... each edit getting more and more truthful until I was absolutely terrified with what I had written. That's how I knew it was done. I was scared because I was revealed. I remember feeling so proud when I was done, but also I was a little embarrassed. I'd gotten emotional during the talk and I started to question if maybe I'd overshared. But looking back? It was just me reaching another level of truth in my life. And it was at the perfect time. Since the talk, I've had letters, notes, emails, you name it... from people all over the world who are sharing their own personal stories of pursuing their dreams. It is such a gift to me. I am so inspired by people.
Is there a mantra you say before a big event like TEDx?
I am enough. I am enough. I am enough.
What are your main interests like nowadays?
My main interests will always be my family, writing, and hanging with my pup, Zelda... but also, I'm starting to get interested in things like cooking, and I really want to learn how to macrame! lol I just find that I'm being pulled to explore other aspects of art. I have also been playing a lot with voice work and trying different voices! That's really fun.
How did you start off in acting?
I took my first class when I was 30 and never looked back. I did community theatre, took classes at night, and taught my students during the days. When I was about 35, I took a year off from teaching to pursue my dream a little more seriously. That was almost a decade ago.
Do you believe in meditation daily?
Yes, absolutely. I love all forms of meditation; chanting, quite breathing, listening to a guided meditation. I do try to meditate daily but I miss a day every so often.
Are you a fan of social media? If so which is your favorite or least favorite?
My favorite part of social media is connecting with people whom I'd otherwise never have the opportunity to interact with. Take the Earpers, for example. These are fans of the show, Wynonna Earp, and they live all over the world. They really are like a family online. I love interacting with the fans. I mean, they are who we make shows for, and without fans, I don't have a job, so I love social media for that reason.
What I'm not a fan of, however, is the occasional troll that comes online and tries to shut me down. I'm a sensitive person so as much as I try to not let it bother me, it always hurts a little when someone says something unkind. I like Instagram too because I can share pics of my life, outside of acting as well, and see what everyone else is up to.
How often do you have a full day off? How do you like to spend that day?
If I don't schedule a day off, I would never have a day off! I could easily work all day, every day, if I let myself because If I'm not on set, or in a voice booth, I'm writing my screenplay or my kids' book, or I'm prepping auditions or taping auditions, or taking classes. So I really value a day off. On those days, I will sleep in as long as the pup will let me... I'll have coffee... spend time in nature...and watch tv... talk on the phone... make food.... nap.
What projects should fans of yours be looking out for this year?
Oh! I have a couple of movies coming out this year so far: The Novice and A Dangerous Test. Also, I still have some movies making the rounds right now: Trapped: The Alex Cooper Story and Secrets in a Small Town/Nowhere to be Found.