Check our interview with talented multi-talented actor, director and producer Annette Reilly. She has appeared in numerous series and films such as Fox’s “The X Files”, A&E’s upcoming drama series, “Project Blue Book”, Disney’s I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS and indie comedy feature, MILLIONAIRE’S CLUB. Additionally, she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her work in ARC at Portsmouth International Film Festival (2015) and UBC Film Festival (2014).
Annette founded Exeunt Productions, the umbrella in which she directed and acted in A TYPICAL FAIRYTALE, a short film partially funded by Telus Storyhive and FOR MY DAUGHTER, a documentary that emulates an intimate portrayal of her cancer journey.
Hi Annette, tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello! A little bit about myself, heh? Well… I’m a Canadian Actor, Director, and Producer. I’m a mother and a colon cancer survivor. Really, I’m a storyteller. I like to use my medium to tell stories, make people think about themselves and society, and enrich lives!
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Hardworking, Compassionate, Goofy
Who has made the biggest impact on your life so far, and why.
I would say my step-dad, Ron. This man helped raise me, gave his time and money to help me reach my goals. He has always been supportive of me, without judgement. He’s full of wisdom and has taught me to navigate the world with integrity. He’s always been there for me in the best of times and in the worst of times. He’s also relied on me during his hard times, which has been an honour. I know I can talk to him about anything and will always receive a loving and truthful response.
Why and how did you get started in acting?
I was fairly young when I was bitten by the bug. I started doing small school performances when I was about eight years old. It wasn’t until I went onstage in a community theatre production of The Sound of Music, as Marta Von Trapp, where I was officially hooked. It was a thrill to be onstage, singing and dancing. The adrenaline was pumping. I remember thinking there was no feeling like that in the world! It was incredibly freeing and I couldn’t wait to do it again!
What was your first role?
My first speaking role on stage was the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. I had to wear this giant sweater with arms made out of sleeping bags. I was so hot under the stage lights as I pranced around singing “A-E-I-O-U”. Ugh. I get warm just thinking of it. Haha.
My first film/tv role was on The X-Files, back in the 90’s. It was a pretty big deal at the time. I had two lines and was so excited to be there, even though I spent the entire time out in the rain. It was the beginning of my love of filmmaking.
Tell us about your character Diana Spellman in highly-popular Netflix adaptation of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”.
Diana Spellman is Sabrina Spellman’s mortal mother. Sabrina has always been told that her parents died in a plane crash when she was a baby. Diana keeps appearing to her in visions and…other places…to give her guidance and advice.
What was it like working in big name productions like Fox’s “The X Files and A&E’s drama series “Project Blue Book?”
You have to remember that those two productions were over 20 years apart. The world of television and how we create it has changed so much! Shooting X-Files was much simpler in many ways. Granted the scene I was in was pretty simple, as I just had to sit on a picnic table and yell at my friends, as opposed to “Project Blue Book” where I was in a different era airplane that was experiencing turbulence. Haha.
What I love about film and tv is that every on set experience is different.
You’re put in different circumstances with different movie magic happening around you. Even though I’m much more experienced now and much more comfortable on set, there’s still new things happening around me that I’ve never seen before. It’s always exhilarating to me.
How do you prepare for a role?
I prepare differently depending on how much time I have. If I have a lot of time, I will go through the script numerous times to catch hints of my character. I will get very specific about my past experiences and my present choices. I will analyze the relationships that my character has to all the other characters. I will unpack whatever scenes I’m in and really get to the bottom of why I’m saying what I’m saying. And, of course, I’ll learn my lines. The most arduous part of all! Hahaha.
If I don’t have much time, I rely much more on instinct and coaching. Thankfully, I have a built in coach with my fiancé. It’s handy having another actor in the household!
I will also do physical work to decide how my character stands and moves. I want to know what part of my body will be leading. Sometimes it’s the heart. Sometimes it’s the groin. Sometimes it’s the head. This will change depending on my character’s intentions and goals. I also find myself falling into the character completely once I’ve had my costume fitting. For me, fabric and the way it moves on my body will dictate some of my character choices. As will the shoes. Essentially, I have a private moment with myself at every fitting to really feel out my character and why they are in those clothes.
What have you learned from your other actors?
I have learned vulnerability from other actors. I have learned when and how to indulge my impulses. I have learned to play and have fun. I have been challenged to work hard studying this craft because there’s always another actor out there who is working harder than I am to get that role. I have learned to depend on my own work when I share a scene with an actor who hasn’t done their own work. As a whole, I love actors and their emotional availability. I adore my actor friends and wish the rest of the world could step into the mind of an actor for just a few minutes so they could see things from an actor’s perspective. I think it’s a completely different point of view.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years, I see myself continuing to act and direct. By then I will have directed my first feature film, perhaps two? I’ll still be plugging away in this industry that I love, meeting new collaborators, and telling more stories!
If you weren’t an actress what would you be doing?
I’ve often thought about that… When I graduated high school, I was fighting with myself about pursuing acting or science. I’ve always loved math and had just discovered nuclear physics. It’s a thrilling world to know that even at the nuclear level, the laws of physics still apply. I’ve always wanted to explore space as well. Maybe I would have become an astronaut?
At this point though, I’d be directing. It’s definitely a huge passion of mine. I love storytelling and I believe directing is one of the most fulfilling ways to do that.
Best advice ever given to you?
In the words of Shakespeare, but often repeated to me by my step-dad, Ron, “This above all; To thine own self be true, And it must follow as the night the day Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Basically, you have to do what’s right for you. You need to own who you are and stay true to yourself, your integrity, and your passions. Don’t try to be like others, as it will take you down a false path. Don’t let judgment from others sway you. Stay true to you.
And your favorite cheat food?
I don’t have cheat foods. I think any food is fine in moderation. Although, I’m really not supposed to eat bacon, for health reasons. Sometimes I’ll have a bite…even though I shouldn’t. I just love it so much.
What’s your favorite music?
Hahaha. I love 80’s Pop. It’s so upbeat! Great to dance to and even better to belt out in the car when nobody is listening!
How would you describe your fashion style?
Eclectic. My fashion style definitely changes with my mood and with life changes. I went through a phase where I filled my closet with hot pink, when I was doing chemotherapy. It was the colour that called to me at that time. It defined that era of my life.
Idea of a perfect Sunday?
My perfect Sunday would start by me waking up with no alarm. I’d go out for brunch with some friends, maybe catch a matinee movie; a thoughtful film that I can continue discuss throughout the day and week. Maybe have a midday nap? Ideally, it would be a Sunday where there’s a holiday on the Monday so I don’t have to go to work the next day!! Hahaha.
Do you have a role model?
I think I have had role models in the past… I know I looked up to my big sister, Katie, a lot as a child. I can’t say as I currently have one. What I discovered after having cancer was a great trust in my own abilities and rather than looking outward for inspiration and direction, I’ve been looking inward.
Any upcoming projects you can share with us?
I recently finished shooting a feature film called Broil where I play a Vampire trying to take over the family business from my dad, played by the charming and talented Timothy V. Murphy, with the help of an unsuspecting chef, played by the lovely and truly spectacular Jonathan Lipnicki. I reached a career goal in that one. I’ve always wanted to be a vampire. Haha
I also have a short film that is starting it’s film festival run right now. It’s called “A Typical Fairytale”. The story takes form in the classic fairytale format – complete with rhyming verse – but with a twist. The princess tells her parents that she is actually a Prince. The story is about how the parents react to this information. It’s a story of love and acceptance. Quite relevant at this particular point in time. I can’t wait for people to see this film. I’m incredibly proud of our entire team and what we put together given the resources we had. This was my baby, in which I executive produced, directed, and acted in. My soul is up on that screen, in every frame and every beat.
Where we can follow you?
You can follow me on:
Quote: This above all; To thine own self be true. – Shakespeare
Book: Dragon Riders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey
Sports Team: Vancouver Canucks
Favorite movie: Rocky
Holiday Destination: Greece
TV Show: Don’t make me choose!! Game of Thrones… no, Star Trek: TNG…no! Sabrina! Hahahaha.
Photo Credit: Liz Rosa