Interview: Kris Holden-RiedMarch 20, 2020
Recently we had the chance to talk with Kris Holden-Ried about his acting career, including how he got on this career path, his experience on Lost Girl and the profession in general.
Before acting came along you had quite a career as an athlete. Can you tell me a bit about that and why you left that behind for acting?
Kris: I was a country kid, grew up on a farm horseback riding, my mom’s love was horseback riding, so naturally she put me in it. In horseback riding there’s an association for kids called Pony Club, it’s based out of the UK but an international association. If you’re good at that there’s a little sport called Tetra Form and if you get good at that the bigger boys go on to a bigger sport called Pentathlon, so I was doing that as a teenager, moved into competitive swimming as well because it was one of the sports. Long story short, after being on the National team for three or four years I was tremendously broke because to maintain international standards you have to travel for World Cups. So I was in Montreal, at Concordia, for international commerce, second year and having an anxious meltdown because I knew I was financially distraught. Then I saw this little ad in the local paper that read: ‘Wanted: Actors/Models, people with special skills’, and two the sports in Pentathlon were horseback riding and sword fighting so I thought you know what, what the hell else do I have to lose? Strangely, I had wanted to be an actor in high school but I didn’t know anything about it because I was a country kid but yeah, my first audition came along, it was a period piece, so they needed someone who could horseback ride and swordfight, and I got the part and never looked back. I don’t even call it work, I call it play but yeah, that’s how it started, through desperation, I guess.
Acting is a tough profession to make a career out of. Was there ever a moment, a role, where you realized that this was something you could do long term or is acting simply going from one audition to the next?
Kris: I think I’m at a point now where I know I can keep going for the rest of my life, it’s a feeling that’s been growing over the last decade of my work. I certainly didn’t feel that way in the first ten years in the industry, in fact, there were many times I thought, what the hell am I doing? Then there was sort of a transitional five years where when I started, that’s where I got The Tudors, started working on more high profile projects that got international recognition, and that’s really is what translated for me into having more of a career. The more work you do, the more recognition and reputation you get in the industry which is nothing but good, as long as you’re not an asshole. (Laughs) Now I’m twenty-five years in and I’ve got really good representation, I’m respected and I’ve also grown, during that time frame you go from the youthful passion to relearning everything through professionalism and craftsmanship.
You’ve done a lot of work in television and movies. Do you have a favorite medium to work in or do you simply go where the work takes you?
Kris: It really depends on the project and who’s running it, really, and both mediums can be incredible. Lately, I have been drawn more towards television because of the longevity of the work and the arc that you can create with your characters.
Television really is enjoying a golden age right now, with all the streaming services out there. As an actor, has this opened more doors for you or is the competition as fierce as ever?
Kris: That’s a tough one, but I would say it doesn’t feel like there is that much more work. I’m a Canadian actor and Canadians are in a difficult spot because the industry is very much dependent on the American projects that have higher budgets so a lot of our producing bodies pander to that, including the CRTA. It used to be if you were working in Canada that eight out of ten positions had to be Canadian, the crew naturally builds up a significant amount, but there was still some leftover for acting. Now they have changed that under the pressure of the American producers to make it only six out of ten positions now, so that now gets completely filled up by the crew and so the mandate to hire Canadian actors is very low, so it’s actually very difficult right now for a Canadian actor to get a good gig on an American or a good show.
I saw that it’s been ten years since Lost Girl first debuted. How did you end up landing the role on that show?
Kris: (Laughs) Yeah, my son was one and a half when we shot that pilot and he’s now twelve, so time flies. For Lost Girl, it was a standard audition but there were two projects on my plate at that point, one was a series out in Vancouver called Defying Gravity. It had a lot of money and clout behind it, producers from Grey’s Anatomy and so on and then this little show called Lost Girl that was filming in Toronto and I filmed auditions for both of them and they both ended up coming back with offers for me and I ended up choosing Lost Girl for a few reasons. One was because I like the pilot, it was grittier and you’re going to laugh but it was more mature. The show ended up taking a terrible turn to the ridiculous, just under different creative captaining, but it was mostly because of my son and the material. Jay Firestone, the executive producer, he always says the reason I got the job was that I walked in and basically pitched them on my take of the character, I’d read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy as well, so I had a lot of sort of depth I could bring to it.
The show was gritty no question, with some great sci-fi and supernatural elements, but the characters on Lost Girl were fantastic. Did the cast have a natural chemistry together or was it something you had to work on?
Kris: We got very lucky, that show had a magical alchemy between the whole cast. Anna Silk was one of the sweetest women you ever met, Ksenia Solo was just a brilliant firecracker, Zoie Palmer is one of funniest people you’ll ever meet, Rick Howland is the salt of the Earth, Paul Amos is a terrific Welsh actor, it was always good times and we still keep in touch to this day.
Was it hard to say goodbye to the show or was it time to walk away?
Kris: Yeah, the show had run its course, it had jumped the shark as they say. No one was happy how it ended up, including the executive producers, so we knew it was time. Also, there’s a budgetary thing with Canada where after five years or so it becomes very difficult to make a show profitable, wages go up, etc, so typically it just gets more expensive.
The movie business these days seems to be split between big blockbusters and indie films, and the forty to fifty million dollar movie has sort of disappeared. As an actor, do think the streaming services have picked up the slack or have you noticed a lack of work in general?
Kris: I think they are attempting to and yeah, the forty to fifty million dollar films are scarce. I think it has to do with return on investment, it’s probably now too big of a number to get out there and have enough clout to get that return. I’m finding the streaming services are doing a ten to twenty million dollar budget, and that’s perfectly fine to make a movie with, I mean, a lot of Canadian movies I work on barely have a million dollars.
You’ve done a lot of different roles over the years. Is there any one particular role/series/movie you’d like to do or be a part of or you happy the way your career is unfolding right now?
Kris: I love things that are outside the normal day to day, my goals aren’t to play like a lawyer or a cop. Put me in the past, the future, put me in fantasy and give me wizard robes, ride dragons that shoot fireballs or ride horses and swing swords, or something historical based. I don’t know, I love things more in the realm of the imagination and less in the realm of the real I guess.
So if you were offered either the part on a big blockbuster or a regular character on a TV series, what would you choose?
Kris: Not both? (Laughs) It would depend on who was involved with the project, what the script was, which one I gravitated towards better and maybe which one served my career better at this point. It really would depend on the project, I can’t say one or the other, but both of them definitely have their good and bad points, no question.
What projects do you have coming up next?
Kris: So I just finished a film called Maternal, Megan Follows, the director who was on Anne of Green Gables and then Reign, this was her film debut so that should be finishing in the fall or something like that. In the summer I’ll be on season two of The Umbrella Academy, this spring season two of a mini-series called Departure starts filming, so that’s what the year looks like for me so far.
I want to thank Kris for taking the time to talk with us.