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Interview with Award-Winning Actress, Tammy Gillis: On Ghosts, Mermaids, and Her Love For Acting
It has been a whirlwind of a year for award-winning actress Tammy Gillis. Not only can you see her in the paranormal drama Ghost Wars, which will be available worldwide on Netflix March. 2nd / 2018, but she will also be appearing in Ashley Judd’s upcoming movie A Dog’s Way Home, and has a recurring role as Deputy Marissa Staub in the intriguing mermaid mystery series, Siren, which will be premiering on Freeform March. 29th / 2018.
The energetic actress has plenty ahead of her, and has already proven her versatility in the many different roles she been cast in. From Hallmark Rom-Coms (such as the upcoming film The Sweetest Heart), to edgy independent films (most notably Menorca, which propelled her to win UBCP/ACTRA Award for Best Actress), Tammy Gillis is a force to be reckoned with.
Below is an interview with her, where she talks about her upcoming roles, and how she keeps inspired in an industry that is demanding and always changing.
Ghost Wars and Siren have common ground; they both have darker atmospheres, fantastical elements, and have you in the role of a tough character. What is the biggest challenge when it comes to these roles?
Ghost Wars is actually super, super fun – the challenge for me, was that it was really outside my comfort zone. That kind of scared me and also really excited me. So, that was one thing that was a challenge. Also standing up to such strong actors, and male characters in particular. Being in a stand-off with Meatloaf and/or Kim Coates from Sons of Anarchy was a little intimidating, you know? I’m like, “I have to bring it with this character!” And for Siren, it is definitely a bit of a different show. For me I feel like there was a lot of stillness for my character, like…not a lot of words, there was a lot going on internally for her, so that was interesting to sort of play a sort of quieter, more internal, analytical kind of character.
Ghost Wars is more chaos, and reaction to situations. Versus Siren, which is more of a mystery. There’s more trying to figure out what is going on.
Do you have any routines to get you into the mindset of your characters?
One of the things I did before and during Ghost Wars is take a gun safety course with a police officer from North Vancouver. I wanted to learn more about the safety behind guns, and how to properly use one. Guns, especially in Canada, we don’t really deal with them a lot, and they are very intimidating. I haven’t been around them very much on set, and when I am, I can get a little freaked out, just because I know how powerful they are. It was interesting taking the gun safety course because he really looked at it as not a weapon, but as something to use for your job, a tool. It totally changes the mind set about it. I also really love learning about the safety. For myself, on set, I was really adamant about when they would show us the guns. I used to be fairly trusting, but now I am like, “no, I want to see it for myself.” Which is also partly like my characters, they don’t just immediately accept what is.
One of the things I had to do, especially this year because it was so amazing, was be really prepared for each role, because I had to keep the integrity for each different character and ensure they are all different. Each one is in a different world. I wanted to make sure I honoured each story.
Siren is set to premiere on March. 29th / 2018 on Freeform. Anything you would like to say to viewers before they watch the pilot?
I haven’t seen the pilot yet! [laughs] I haven’t really seen much of the show at all.
The thing that is kind of great is that I have done hours of ADR on it, which is Automatic Dialogue Replacement. So, what happens, when you are shooting whatever you are shooting and there is a problem with the sound, or the sound isn’t great, or there is a lot of background noise, you have to go in when they are editing the episode and dub the lines, which is a double edged sword. I like to see some of the show before it airs, but I also kind of hate ADR, because you have to get the timing right with the dialogue and the performance, and it can feel really false. Sometimes I’ll have shot stuff, and I’ll be like, “why did I talk so fast? I’m talking so fast! How am I going to match that!”
However, I have seen a couple of things that look really cool. The show, the actors, the lead cast, are all incredible. The storyline follows a mermaid tale that hasn’t been explored before. It’s creepy, and mysterious. I think people are going to love it.
You have a role in Ashley Judd’s upcoming movie, A Dog’s Way Home, which is drastically different from Ghost Wars and Siren. It showcases your flexibility as an actress. Is it difficult for you to shift your mind set?
Not at all, I really love it! I love playing a variety of different characters in a variety of different genres. I love it, and I really, really made an effort in my career to not get stuck, or pigeon holed, in a certain type of genre and/or character. So it’s like, when people start casting me in one thing over and over and over, I will do something to shift that mindset for them. I’ve dyed my hair, I’ve cut it all off, so it’s like…they are kind of forced to deal with me in a new way. Our industry focuses a lot on how you look and how people perceive you, so changing that look once and a while is part of the key for me being able to play a variety of roles.
Going off of that, what do you think is your perfect role?
Oh, man! Perfect role…hmm. I don’t know if there is one, but I know I like it when I am doing something new that sort of challenges and scares me. I also really love doing comedy, that to me is just so much fun. To me, every role is different, and when you work on a project and work with good people, who want to tell a really good story, and they are collaborative, and engaged, and excited to be there…to me, that is the perfect job.
What is something you would never change about set life?
Hmm, well, every set is pretty different! I like it when people are open and kind. Sometimes sets can have an overwhelming stress level, but new sets means meeting new people and kind of making a new family, especially when you are there for a while.
What is your ultimate goal as an actress? What messages do you want to give to viewers, in any role you are in?
First and foremost I want to tell a good story. Part of the reason I became an actress is because I want people to feel. People escape to movies and television. I know, for myself, if I am feeling down, I want to watch a dumb Rom-Com, which immediately changes you. The power we as actors have, to allow and help people to feel, is really an amazing gift. Because people tend to not let themselves feel.
I remember, Francis Fisher was sort of playing this matriarch is this movie we were just about to shoot, and she invited most of the cast to go see a movie, and it was one of the saddest movies I have ever seen. We were all balling in the theater. It was strange, we were all strangers to one another, so we are all kind of embarrassed, but then it was the most brilliant thing. It bonded us all. So, the fact that a movie can make you feel that and make people come together, is really incredible.
I got the acting bug in high school, and I remember being in a play and the audience laughing at what I was doing. I was like, “oh my goodness, I am making these people laugh. I am letting them have joy,” it was so addictive. That is something I love as an actor.
One of the really cool things, in an independent movie I did a couple years ago, Menorca, was the reaction. It’s a darker story about a mom who does these things because she’s depressed, and her son ends up ‘firing’ her. She kind of wakes up and realises he is the most important thing in her life, so she tries to get him back. I got a lot of negative backlash when I first said I was doing it, because people were like, “how could a mother do that?” and so on. That really put a lot of pressure on me and made me realise I had to ensure the audience sees what this character is actually going through, internally and emotionally. One of the most amazing things that happened was a couple people messaged me saying, “I swear that was my ex-wife. And for the first time, I actually saw things from her point of view. So thank you for honouring that.” And that just rocked me, and made me go, “whoa.” It made me cry! The power a project can have, made me feel so good.
What is something that inspires you and keeps you acting?
Definitely emotional connection. I love acting, and it is not easy doing what we do. I am really proud of being an actress, because it takes a lot of work. It’s a hustle, a grind. Right now, I just came off a movie, and I finally saw my family back in Manitoba, and I have a new niece, but the morning I was flying out I taped two auditions, and then I got back, and I had two auditions. I have more auditions after this interview, and a taping. I am right back in the grind, which is totally awesome, but it is a lot of work. You put everything else on hold and you keep focused, because you don’t know what your next job is. But all of it is part of the reason I love this so much, you know? It is never boring. You always have to be active, and hustling, and if you aren’t getting jobs, or getting booking, I am like, “I have to change, or fix something!” I love working in film and television because it is fast, and is always changing, you just have to be ready to adapt, which keeps me driven.
Wonderful answers to these questions, Tammy! Anything else you’d like to say?
Well, I had such an incredible year this year, I have so much coming up!
Tune in and watch Ghost Wars, which will be on Netflix worldwide on March. 2nd / 2018.
I’m not too sure how or when it will be in Canada yet, but definitely keep an eye out for Siren, which has its two hour premiere on Freeform on March. 29th / 2018!
On March. 11th / 2018, I’m in the third installment of the Fixer Upper series on the Hallmark movies, called The Deadly Deed.
On March. 17th/2018, I am in the Hallmark Rom-Com called The Sweetest Heart, which used to be called The Heart’s Desire.
Photographer: Torquille de Jonge Photo
Hair/Makeup: Tianna Marie Beauty
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