With Halloween just around the corner, what better time to start your horror movie binge? Between group screenings of The Exorcist, Scream and Hocus Pocus, grab some candy and tune into Netflix's latest original, 1922. Canadian actress, Kaitlyn Bernard, stars alongside Thomas Jane and Molly Parker, as Shannon Cotterie in the year's most impressive Stephen King adaptation, which is now available to watch on Netflix. Read on as I talk to Kaitlyn about her role in this movie, what inspired her to be an actress, and how she still makes time for her other passion - travel.
Hi Kaitlyn, can you tell me a bit about your new movie, 1922, and the role you play?
1922 is an eerie suspenseful horror film based on the Stephen King novella Full Dark, No Stars. It's the story of Wilfred James' confession of his wife's murder. After he buries her body, his life begins to unravel and he becomes convinced that his wife is haunting him. Wilfred’s son Henry is also involved in the murder, and I play Shannon Cotterie, Henry’s girlfriend. Without giving too much away, Henry and I end up on the run, getting into trouble, and are known in the film as 'The Sweetheart Bandits'.
Do you have a stand out memory from working on this movie?
I have so many. We actually shot this movie in October just before Halloween, and being a huge horror movie fan the timing felt pretty cool. Some of the set locations were really memorable as they were so creepy, especially at that time of the year. And of course, working alongside Thomas Jane and Molly Parker was also a wonderful experience.
Were you a fan of Stephen King before landing the role of Shannon?
I love horror movies, and I'm definitely a Stephen King fan. When I read the short story 1922 is based on, I immediately became entranced with the way the story unraveled. The film is narrated by Wilfred, the lead protagonist, but his narrating becomes quite unreliable and the audience has to question what is real and what are possible delusions. Zak Hilditch, the director, and writer did an incredible job bringing this story to life.
Are there any particular techniques you use to prepare yourself for this role?
When preparing for a role I have a specific process that I go through each time. My preparation involves creating a backstory, as well as doing extensive research and character analysis prior to filming. Another added challenge to 1922 was, of course, the Nebraskan accent, which I had fun learning and working on throughout the rehearsal stage.
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently, I am keeping myself busy through training. I love experiencing and learning as much as I possibly can, in all aspects of my life, including acting. When I’m not working I’m most likely taking a class or a workshop to expand my knowledge and learn new techniques. I really enjoy working on my craft and I'm constantly looking at ways I can build on what I have already experienced as an actress.
Did you have any other career dreams besides acting, or was this always something you wanted to pursue?
To be completely honest, I have been doing some form of acting most of my life. I fell in love with acting through musical theater when I was about 3 years old and haven’t looked back. I loved performing live and still do, however after auditioning for a few film roles, I became more drawn to the film and television side of the art. Fortunately, my career in film and television has continued to develop organically. Acting has been such a huge part of my life, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Of all the locations where you’ve filmed, do you have any particularly memorable stories you can share with us?
I was fortunate to have been cast in a fantastic project called The Healer, which shot on the East Coast of Canada in the province of Nova Scotia. One of our locations included an incredible little town called Lunenberg which I absolutely loved. My family actually owns a property on that side of the country, and so I have spent so much time there. I definitely consider the East Coast to be like home despite living in Vancouver now. We stayed in Lunenburg for two weeks while we were filming. It's a very cute town by the sea with all kinds of colorful and interesting houses overlooking a fantastic view of the ocean and looks like it should be right out of a movie. The people there were also so friendly and very excited that a feature film was being shot in their hometown. It's a location I will always be grateful to have been able to shoot in.
Do you travel much when you aren't filming?
Travelling is definitely one of my favorite things to do while I’m not working. I love exploring and taking in the culture of wherever I’m visiting. I also love to experience new things, whether it be a restaurant or museum or anything unique to where I am. Whenever I have a trip planned I’m the one in our family who maps out every second of it, to ensure we don’t miss out on anything. Despite a busy schedule, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to travel a lot with my family, and I know traveling will always be part of my life.
Do you have one city that you consider a home base?
Vancouver is currently my home base, but I do tend to go back and forth to LA whenever I can, and I still spend time on the East Coast of Canada in the summer months.
Where are you now, and where do you plan to travel next?
Currently, I’m between Vancouver and LA, but I’m hoping to possibly go to Brazil in the new year when The Healer opens there, and I’ll be in Hawaii, my favorite place, just after Christmas.
How would you describe your lifestyle? Is it pretty flexible, or the opposite?
I’m really fortunate that despite a very full schedule I do have flexibility. You really have to have this if you want to be in the acting industry. So much is last minute that you have to really learn to go with the flow. I'm currently attending Crofton House School, and I'm very lucky to have a school that supports my acting career and has really gone the extra mile to help me have flexibility for auditions, training, and filming. That said, I love to be busy, so when I do find there are gaps in my schedule, I always manage to fill them. I’m happiest that way.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
I love Hanalei, Kauai. I’ve been twice now, and it will always be a place I continue to go back to as much as I can. I love Hawaii period, but the Island of Kauai is really special - its untouched beauty is so unique.
Which destinations haven’t you been to that are on your wish list?
I’ve haven't been to Europe, so that is on my list for next summer. I recently read A Movable Feast, and it made me want to visit Paris.
Do you have any future travel plans lined up?
I’m going to Hawaii in December and then possibly Brazil in the New Year. I will also be down in LA for a month in February, and then I’m planning to do four weeks in Europe after I graduate high school.
I'm really interested to hear more about your film, The Healer? Can you tell me a bit more about how the project started and what you hope to achieve?
I’m so glad you asked me about The Healer because it was a very special project. The Healer is a magical story about a man who is given the gift of healing but doesn’t want it until he meets a young girl with incurable cancer, which is my character. When I first met the director, Paco Arango, a huge supporter of kids living with cancer in Spain, I knew it was special and a project I wanted to be part of. When he cast me to play the lead role of Abigail, I spent a lot of time learning about the significant impact an incurable diagnosis has on a child and their family. I met with the Mom of the girl who my character was based on, I visited hospitals, and I spent a lot of time talking to Paco.
When I wrapped the film, I felt compelled to find ways to help kids and families living with serious illness. I decided to follow in Paco’s footsteps and start my own foundation, which I called Just Breathe, after a poem my character reads in the film. My foundation has raised close to $120,000 to date, which goes towards supporting kids living with serious illness, and specifically towards the Canadian Cancer Society’s Camp Goodtimes. I am very proud to also share that The Healer has been released so far in eight countries with 100% of its proceeds going back to support kids living with serious illness. And in 2018, The Healer will be partnering with Paul Neuman’s Serious Fun Camps. The film also stars Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Dracula), Camilla Luddington (Grey’s Anatomy), Jonathon Price (Pirates of the Caribean) and Jorge Garcia (Lost).
What does the average workday look like for you?
When I’m not filming, my days are pretty full. I start my day early, around 5:30 am, with either spin class at Soul Cycle, yoga, or a run. Then I attend school, work on any auditions or tapes that I have, and dedicate time to my foundation. Beyond all this, I spend time with my family, my dogs, and my boyfriend.
If someone else wanted to follow a path similar to yours, what advice would you give them?
I would tell them to learn how to really fall in love with the “process” of auditioning, becoming the character, and to be less focused on booking the role. This industry demands super thick skin at times, and it can be easy to focus on things not moving fast enough or not going your way when you really want a role. But if you look longer term and realize that each audition, regardless of the outcome, helps prepare you for the next one, it makes it easier to just fall in love with the process. I also think its super important to surround yourself with the right people who can support you and who understand the emotions that go along with this industry.
In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about acting?
Riding the highs and lows. When you audition for a role you really want, you become very emotionally invested. You put everything you can into preparing. You can do all you possibly can to have a great audition, but in the end, you may not get the role and it has nothing to do with you. You have to let it go and focus on your next one.
Do you have any role models who have helped you or motivated you to achieve your goals?
My parents have always been a huge support to my career. They have done so much to help me achieve my goals.