Toronto-based actress Christine Horne is finishing up an acclaimed run of The Company Theatre production of Belleville with actor Allan Hawco, star of The Republic of Doyle, at the Berkeley Theatre in downtown Toronto. She took time from her busy performance schedule to answer a hodge-podge of questions from Culture Toronto contributor Kiersten Hallie Krum on performance, the benefits of working in Canadian independent film, and her prowess with a certain children’s toy…
Kiersten Hallie Krum: Congratulations on the success of Belleville! What have you found to be the biggest difference between working on TV, film, and on stage? Is how you prepare a role different for each medium? What preparations do you do for one that you don’t need to do for either of the others?
Christine Horne: I find the biggest difference to be the amount of time we have to figure things out. I love the theatre more than anything because we get weeks to rehearse, to try different things, to make terrible choices, and then, even through the run our performances evolve. With film and television, you essentially get one chance and then it’s preserved for all eternity. It’s a lot of pressure that, for me, can be a bit paralyzing. In terms of preparation, I think those things differ from project to project regardless of the medium. I’ve done plays where I did a lot of research and others—like Belleville—where I did virtually none.
KHK: You have a lot of diversity in your work. Do you have a favorite genre in which to work?
CH: I am really game to try anything and I would love to keep working as diversely as possible. I think all actors run the risk of being cast in the same type of project, or playing the same type of part, over and over again. I feel pretty lucky to have more or less avoided that.
KHK: You’ve done a number of short films, including the beautifully shot Flutter. What’s the draw of a short film for you? Do you find the time limitation freeing or constraining in character development?
CH: If I could make a career out of doing plays and short films, I would! I love short films. Everyone is in it for the art and nothing else. There’s no network, no executives, it’s amazing. And often they’re being made by emerging filmmakers and that’s exciting—to be working with the new generation of artists. Some of my most satisfying on-camera experiences have been working on shorts. (I also met my husband working on a short that he wrote, so….!)
KHK: You’ve also worked on several independent projects with Jeremy LaLonde, both short and feature length. What’s the draw of these projects? Do you think independent films give you the chance to be more creative and organic than studio-driven projects?
CH: I think you’re exactly right. There’s less external pressure and I feel like the actors are a more integral part of the process. With bigger projects I can feel like a very tiny cog in a very big machine. Working with Jeremy, for example, is great because there’s so much room for dialogue and collaboration with him.
KHK: You’re in the middle of the run of Belleville. Tell us a little about how it’s going. How does it feel at this point in the run? Any good stories about the play’s run you can share with us? A live audience is always a different energy than being on film or TV. Are there times lines are forgotten? How do you recover a scene when that happens?
CH: I’m having such an incredible time on this show. The way our director, Jason Byrne, worked with us is that we try everything in rehearsal—good choices, bad choices, clichéd choices, non-literal choices— everything. And that sense of “anything goes” remains through the run. The play isn’t staged—we can move where we want when we want and it’s different from night to night. The lines are always the same, of course, but what we do with them varies. Ordinarily, you discover moments in rehearsal and spend the run trying to hit those same notes. With Belleville, that pressure is gone. It keeps it very much alive from night to night and really, really fun. We are working with an extraordinary script by Amy Herzog and I trust the other actors completely. So even though there’s less structure than usual, we’re very safe. With any play, lines do get flubbed from time to time, but nothing catastrophic has happened yet. And again, because of the nature of the way we work, there’s really no “right” way something has to happen—so nothing can really go wrong. I can’t believe we’ve only got [less than] a week left. I’ll be so devastated when it’s done.
KHK: Do you have any superstitions when doing a show, live or otherwise, or any type of routine that you follow without fail? Do you get nervous before the curtain goes up and if so, what do you do to calm those nerves? How do you manage the adrenaline of live performing? What’s it like when the show is firing on all cylinders? Or when it’s not? What’s the weirdest prop you’ve had to use on any show? Have you ever kept a prop or set piece after a role was done?
I definitely get nervous before the first couple of shows with an audience and opening night is a very particular kind of terror. But beyond that it doesn’t bother me. I struggle with anxiety on film/TV sets because we’re doing every scene for the first time—it all feels like opening night. Calming my ass down is a real challenge and I just do my best to be as prepared as I can. The more confident I am that I’m on top of my material, the more likely I am to relax a bit.
The adrenaline part of doing a play is extraordinary. It almost doesn’t matter how tired I am beforehand, or if I’m feeling under the weather, my body will get me through it. I don’t think I can really explain the feeling of when it’s going well or not, but I can say that when it’s not I just have an overwhelming desire to say, “Sorry everybody, can we start again?”
I can’t think of a weird prop, but I do have an enormous sign hanging on my kitchen wall that says “Verona, Porta Nuova” from a production of Romeo and Juliet that I did. I also have a t-shirt that says “SUCK IT” from a short film called We Wanted More by Stephen Dunn.
KHK: I’m going to steal a little from The Actor’s Studio and ask what is your favorite curse word because everyone has a go-to one. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be? What’s a quirk about you that no one or only a few intimate friends and your family know? If you could give your thirteen-year-old self any advice, what would it be? Do you have a dream role? What is it? Do you ever feel as though you’ve learned enough or know enough about your craft? Is there one thing that could happen that would make you think “now I’ve got it”?
Superpower: Does speaking another language count as a superpower? I’d love to be able to do that, but I have virtually no facility for it. Accents, yes. Languages, no.
Quirk: I’m really good with an Etch-a-Sketch. I’m one of those freaks who can actually draw stuff with it.
Advice to 13-year-old self: Be yourself. Stop copying your friends.
Dream role: I actually don’t have one. I kind of want every role to be a dream role.
Have I learned enough about my craft? No, definitely not. I hope I become a better actor every time I do a play. If I walk away from a project feeling like I haven’t learned anything, it feels like a bit of a waste.
Anything that could make me think I’ve got it: I hope not! I think it would all get pretty boring after that.
KHK: The first trailer for The Captive was just released, an upcoming movie you’re in with Ryan Reynolds, Bruce Greenwood, and Rosario Dawson among others. Can you tell us about that? What other projects do you have coming up after Belleville closes?
CH: I’m really grateful to have been a part of that film. Atom Egoyan had seen me in a couple of plays and offered me this part—it’s the dream scenario! I haven’t seen it yet so I can’t speak to how any of it plays out, but I had a really great time working on it. It’s inspiring to be around filmmakers of that calibre.
Just before I shot The Captive I worked on a film called Tru Love, which is currently doing festival rounds. It should be screening in Toronto sometime soon. As for theatre, I’m going to the Magnetic North Festival in Halifax in June with a play called Iceland by Nicolas Billon, which recently won the Governor General’s Award. And next year I’m doing The Seagull with Crow’s Theatre and Canadian Stage, and then Tom at the Farm by Michel Marc Bouchard at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
Thank you, Christine, for joining us on Culture Toronto!
You can catch Christine on stage in Belleville at the Berkeley Theatre until May 4, 2014.