ED- The Eerie Digest is very proud to present the well-known actress Catherine Black to all our readers. Catherine, it is an honor having you with us. Tell us a little about yourself and what influenced you into making acting as your career?
CB- It is pleasure to be apart of Eerie Digest! Thank you for having me.
Growing up, I fancied myself an artist. Always painting and drawing for hours, sketchpad in hand ALWAYS. Telling everyone I couldn’t play because “I had work to do”. I also loved to dress up and imitate anyone I could. I made Weird Al type “albums” of all my favorite songs, recorded with my fisher price recorder. I got my sisters and the neighborhood kids to perform in all my “productions”. Naturally my parents realized they had to get me an agent. I did a few commercials and had a top agent in Toronto, but I told my agent (at the age of 12) that I wanted to be a fashion designer instead. She told me to come back when I changed my mind. I learned how to paint classical oil paintings at the age of 16 and I was cast as Juliet in a professional production of Romeo and Juliet. It was a huge year. These were both pivotal moments in my life. I remember stomping across the stage to yell at The Friar as Juliet and thinking “OH MY GOD I WANT TO DO THIS FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!” My first agent, who I left to pursue my “fashion career”, was in the audience and so it all began.
ED- Your early career saw you in several TV series including, ‘Mr. Headmistress’, and ‘Highlander: The Raven’. What were these first experiences like for you and how did it strengthen your resolve towards your career?
CB- Well, I learned while filming Mr. Headmistress that I had to get rid of my Northern Canadian accent if I was going to work in Hollywood! They had to cut out every aboot , oot and soory! I have since learned, in fact now my family makes fun of my American accent! My Dad is always saying, “What did you just say? It’s oot honey”. It is an on going thing with us now.
I’m not sure why, but from the moment I set foot on a film and TV set, I felt at home. I loved learning from other actors. I am inspired by confidence and passion. Watching the big guys and matching their skill is how I learned the quickest. I studied with many great teachers, but it was in the ring where I was challenged and terrified and rose to the occasion, where I really grew as an actress. Also, “Mr. Headmistress” was filmed on location and I just loved that! It felt like going to camp.
CB- Film can be a much more languid beast. It can take days to film a single scene in. In American Psycho we filmed a single scene for 18 hours. As an actor, you have to know when to let the scene breath in film. Mary Harron loved all the little details and she wanted to capture everything. She would spend hours just filming the way I picked up my chopsticks. In TV, it is rapid fast no time. At first, I did not know that and I just wanted to do movies forever. People were so much more stressed out on TV sets. Now I relish in the differences, and I love the speed and sheer skill involved in TV making. “Letters To a street Child” is a movie for TV, and that was something else entirely. Filming Letters a real gift for me. It was about the director’s life on the street, and working with someone you are playing, is a real symbiotic experience. We were nearly interdependent during the whole production process! It really was amazing to have such an experience. The movie was shot as fast and furious, yet with such an attention to detail, as anything that was destined to be good. It was a real submersion into a life and character for me. I can only wish for more experiences like that as an actress.
ED- You next had roles in several television series that includes ‘In a Heartbeat’, ‘Blue Murder’, ‘I Love Mummy’, and ‘The Scream Team’. Please tell our readers all about these shows and the roles that you played in them.
CB- “In A Heartbeat” Disney Channel Original Series inspired by real life EMT squads whose staff consists of high school students. I played Bobby The Bullet, a motocross riding, antagonistic tomboy, former love and current rival of Jamie Waite. What a fun gig that was! Bobby was my second motocross racing character. I grew up around motorcycles in a small town, so this was like playtime for me.
“Blue Murder” is a Canadian crime drama television series, featuring stories that reflected the turbulence of urban life and the crimes that make headlines. The Blue Murder squad members were an elite group of big-city investigators out to solve some of the cities most complicated and riveting crimes. I played Andre, a “street kid” who left home really young and was now in her 20’s, choosing to live a nomadic life. Some of her friends got murdered and it looks like she might have something to do with it.
In “I Love Mummy” I was Ursala, a Gothic Fashionista who was in love with and stalked Nuff, an Egyptian Mummy who lives with a modern day American family. This was a super fun multi camera show. When I first arrived on set, I was quickly informed that the studio “Had no ceiling”. This was my first acting experience where I could spread some comedic wings. I have been deemed a dramatic actress over the years, and I love those dark roles, but I am really interested in comedy now, and that has become my newest love actually.
“The Scream Team”, a Disney movie about 2 children who move into a small town where their grandfather had just died. They later discover that a society of ghosts are searching for their grandfather’s lost soul. They decide to join forces with the Soul Patrol, a group of dead people who search for ghosts, to find the souls, and destroy the evil ghost. In the end, the truth comes out. I played a dead ballerina next to Eric Idle.
CB- Of all the shows I have worked on, I would have to say, I have had the greatest time with all my fellow co-stars. Actors love to bounce energy and inspiration back and forth and create something fun together, and I would have say that about every show I have worked on. Of course, working with Eric Idle was hilarious and an honor. There was one potentially difficult time filming “In a Heartbeat”, because the guy who I had a romantic scene with was dating another actress on set, and he was clearly uncomfortable. And without a clue However, I forged a conversation about it, after a few awkward takes, and we were both then able to find the scene. Ironically, this conversation gave us something to connect with and ultimately allowed us to find the intimacy the scene needed.
ED- You shared your talents between television and the cinema after that, and played roles in ‘Adam & Eve’, ‘Odyssey 5′, and ‘72 Hours: True Crime’. How were you able to make these adjustments and what did they do for your acting career?
CB- Just before I was told that I booked Odyssey 5 I stupidly lopped off all my hair due to a breakup (as cliché as that is) My agent nearly killed me because I was just cast in this Showtime Time show with Peter Weller and could essentially loose the role over this! The production didn’t even blink and just got me an awesome wig. Working with Peter Weller was quite the lesson. He is a powerhouse of a man and a performer. The first day on set I arrived at 5am to all my lines having been completely changed while I was sleeping. I had one hour to learn them while in makeup and hair. It was a nightmare, but that’s TV. I was game. Peter wasn’t. He stood up for me and demanded extra time before we went to camera so he could run lines with me. What a classy guy. I’ll never forget that. He has such a huge, almost scene stealing presence, but he really shares the spotlight, and encourages you to be as big as you can possibly be. It was a great experience and where I truly learned how to be on my toes for TV. “Adam and Eve” was such a stretch for me because I think it was my first “woman” role. I remember joking with my agent and we moved my file from the “Girl” cabinet to the “Woman’s”. It was a really bold and choice for the director to cast me in this role. During casting I originally auditioned for the young ingénue and had several callbacks. It was between me and one other girl. When the director, Isadore, asked me about the role I told him that I did not like the character and that I thought she was just a one-dimensional male fantasy. Obviously I did not get THAT role, but Isadore respected me and just gave me another role. I was cast as a mature woman, with many layers running very deep. I was flattered to say the least.
“72 Hours” was difficult in that I had to tap into something that I had, thankfully, never experienced, but that rattled my core. My character was brutally assaulted with a baseball bat by a rapist. Playing somebody who goes through something like that, it is impossible not to be at least a little effected by it. It was after this performance that I had to learn how to act from a place of liberation as opposed to just feeling the right the feelings. These emotions stuck with me for days. I was sad and scared for no apparent reason for days after t hat job. Ever since that day, I made sure I learned how to liberate the emotions for myself, but most importantly for the audience. I realized that the audience does not want to see something that makes them feel stuck, they want a catharsis, and that is my job. My job is to evoke emotion in others, not in myself. There is a big difference. Every role and every story is different, and that is the fun part. Often what makes you cry is the actor not crying. It is not as simple as just that, it is more like figuring out a really complicated math equation. Basically people are complex and that’s the fun stuff for an actor. It is very interesting that you chose these three performances because I learned some valuable lessons as both a performer and as an actress in all three roles..
CB-I have always been blessed with colorful roles. “Ham and Cheese” is a hilarious Canadian film about two talentless actors attempt to make it in the cruel world of showbiz, written by and starring The Daily Show’s Jason Jones.
“Tracks” was written and directed by a friend of mine, Patrick Hagarty, about destiny, two rails, one train and all the ties that bind. I just had knee surgery and Patrick asked me to do the film. I told him that I couldn’t walk, but he didn’t seem to mind. We shot the film about 2 weeks after I had reconstructive knee surgery.
ED- ‘Dawgs Playing Poker’ and ‘Ten for Grandpa’ came next and your performances were flawless once again. Please tell us how you keep pace with all the films that you have worked on ?
CB- Why, thank you! Those films were shot one after the other in Toronto. Each film could not have been any different. However, the female roles in both these films are about cleaning up what the men have done. Dawgs Playing Poker” is an absurd caper comedy where I got to work with some my favorite actors, playing the nagging wife who is also one of the boys. I loved Maggie. She kept her husband and his gaggle of idiotic friends on track. “Ten For Grandpa” is a fast paced, introspective look at the enigmatic life of the most influential ancestor of director Doug Karr. I played Katherine Karr; the disturbed daughter of White House press reporter, film producer, powerful millionaire, defense contractor, Corporate CEO, renaissance businessman… Soviet agent.. David Karr. The film reaches to understand the forces that push an individual to immerse himself in a nefarious web of danger and infamy and those who are left behind with the mess.
CB- My strongest performance is in “The Donner Party” simply because of the nature of the role. First of all, the film is about The Donner Party! It is one of the most gruesome and horrific tales about human survival in all of American history. I play Ann, (actually Sarah Graves) a woman who forced her lover to marry her the night before her family left Illinois, to travel West to California in 1846. Ann, forces her new husband to go West with her. Most of us know the story. The early snow fall in the uninhabitable mountains and all the gory cannibalistic details. Ann’s entire family dies except her sister who goes crazy, and she is forced to avenge and carry out her role as survivor. What was the most amazing part about playing Ann, was acquiring a taste for her strength and her how she just got stronger with each step she took. This woman knew what was right, she avenged wrongs, she took care of business and she survived under the most disturbing circumstances. This was a role I could sink my teeth into.
CB- You can sometimes find me at UCB in Hollywood performing improv. I am currently in pre-production for my own film that I wrote. The film is a very dark dramady starring Donner Party co-star, Crispian Belfrage and myself. I have my favorite director on board to shoot this Spring 2011 in California. I am very inspired by this project, by the role I wrote for myself, and this new filmmaking experience. I realized that it is not only the performing aspect of acting that I am obsessed with, is the script. I love to analyze characters; why they do the things they do, how to get to that scene. We are all so complex and I love to figure it all out! I have produced a few music videos recently for The Dahls, and I loved the process. I am really scared to make my first film, which is why I know I must do it!
I am also, still, a visual artist. I realized not too long ago that I paint people because I am an actress. Now I try an incorporate both mediums into one. I love unveiling the many layers of an individual and understanding why we do what we do. Painting is one of the ways that I can do that. I just finished photographing my current series of paintings on a cinematic journey. I first came up with idea while preparing for a film. I love when I find a way to include all my art forms in one project.
I also wish to pay tribute to two extremely talented actors whom I had the honor to know and work with, died tragically last year. My “Pizza With Bullets” co-star, Johnny Palermo, tragically passed away June 2009. Johnny was one of the first people to welcome me with open arms to LA. He was a great actor and wonderful person. Radek Hajda, my co-star from both “Tracks” and “Letters To A Street Child”, died May 2009. Radek Hajda means Likable Loner in Czech. Radek was a good friend of mine, and an extraordinary actor who inspired many young actors in Canada.
ED- Catherine, it has been a real joy to be able to have this interview with you, and introduce you to all our readers. We want to thank you and wish you much luck in all that you do. Please promise that you will come back to The Eerie Digest in the near future so that we can keep our readers in the ‘loop’ in all your latest ventures.
CB- Thank you ED! It has been a pleasure. I hope to pop by soon.