The hint Katharine Isabelle gives about her next movie is the very definition of a tease.
“We were having an orgy. It was awesome, and all weekend, all day, we giggle at how ridiculous we are.”
Before that comedy comes out sometime next year however, which looks to be somewhat of a departure for the Canadian actress, Isabelle finds her in yet another film with a leading role portraying a strong female character.
“It’s like being typecast in the best possible way,” said the Vancouver actress on the phone ahead of the release of 88. “If people continually think of me for these interesting, layered, multifaceted characters, I’m really happy with that. And please don’t ever stop.”
The star of American Mary, which was directed by the Soska sisters, and Ginger Snaps, among many other films and shows, seems to be the go-to actress for independent, determined leading women in the indie circuit. The films usually involve blood and death and maybe some form of vengeance too, which makes them particularly entertaining—especially Mary.
“I just want to like her,” Isabelle says of the parts she chooses. “I’m not trying to make her a role model to anything; I just want to like her. If it isn’t something particularly written that way, I’ll try and find those holes in it to make me like her, or try to give her a more interesting personality.”
“I look for things I like. What that entails, I’m not always sure. I couldn’t tell you what that was; I know what it looks like when I see it.”
Her latest film is 88, a mysterious revenge thriller directed by April Mullen and also starring Christopher Lloyd. It has the viewer alongside Isabelle’s Gwen as she tries to piece together what is exactly going on in her world of police chases and shootouts and dead bodies and doting men. Gwen, who also has an alias as we later learn, is prone to fugue states, these disconnections in her brain where she forgets who she is or what she is doing. Isabelle sympathizes with Gwen.
“Acting is a bit of fugue state,” says Isabelle, laughing. “You drop everything you think or feel, and you take on a different person. If it makes me completely psychotic and emotionally unstable, that’s why.”
Isabelle, 34, has grown accustom to flying around and working on intense, quick shoots—88 was shot just over two weeks in Niagara Falls on a low budget with a passionate, young crew. Isabelle read the script just a day before the filming began.
She balances such indies out with network TV, working on Hannibal and Being Human, while navigating between Toronto, her home in Vancouver, and Los Angeles. It allows her to still keep a life outside of work, a seemingly an ideal situation for a woman who is self-described as a ‘carny,’ having worked on set since the age of nine.
“I need my friends and family and animals,” she explained. “Working in this business, you can lose it very quickly. You get paid handsomely for it, but you lose your life. I want to like work and do what I do, and come home at the end of the day, and whether the end of the day is at the end of two months, or four, I want to work and have my life and not give up my life for work.”
“It’s a weird thing to say when you are an actress,” she continued. “The more things you are, the richer you are, you get to support your life, but you really don’t ever get to have one at that point.”
Isabelle stays balances with within work and outside of it, and certainly seems to have fun doing everything. Coming soon, so to speak, is How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town, a comedy about a group of people viewed as repressed and conservative who look to break free. Written and directed by Jeremy LaLonde, with a slew of Canadian talent including Toronto’s Tommie-Amber Pirie, Isabelle explains these characters “stage a very awkward, hilarious orgy that will be terribly enjoyable for the audience.”
“We all worked closely,” said Isabelle, laughing again. “I’m excited to see it.”
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. You can follow him on Twitter @MrAnthonyWrites.