Interview: Kristian Bruun and Cara Gee Talk Acting, ‘Red Rover’May 25, 2020
Recently, we had the chance to talk with Kristian Bruun and Cara Gee about the world of acting, including working on big projects like Orphan Black and The Expanse, the movie they co-starred in together, Red Rover.
Did the two of you always want to be actors or did that interest develop over time?
Cara: I did not always want to be an actor. I did a play when I was in my very last year of high school, I needed one extra credit so I took a drama class and it was fun and easy and I thought, this can be a job? So in my last year of high school I ended up going to an art school, by a totally random set of circumstances, so I took a drama class and did that play and decided that that’s what I wanted to do. I actually did an extra year at the art school, a kind of victory lap if you will, and filled out my schedule with the arts, drama, music, dance, and choir. I was the oldest person there so it was challenging at times but overall it was pretty awesome.
Kristian: I always wanted to be an actor but I didn’t think it was possible because I was from Toronto and I thought, that’s not Hollywood, that’s not where they make movies. For high school, I actually went to an American military school for four years, outside of Philadelphia, called Valley Forge Military Academy and I was there on a music scholarship, I was a trumpet player. I was really into music, played a lot of instruments and they had this great music program at this military school but that was it for the arts, except for one musical they would do a year but they would bring in girls for the female roles so that was a good incentive for me to do a musical. (laughs) Then I went to university in Canada, Queen’s University, a physics major, and I just needed a degree in anything because I was going to join the army as an infantry officer. I walked out of my first lab in physics crying because I felt so stupid and immediately switched my major to classical studies because I loved archeology, thank you Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Park. However, one day, in my first semester a friend of mine dared me to audition for the crazy drunken comedy show they did in a pub so I did and got in and then learned there was a theater department and I was like, you can study that in university? By the end of university I wanted to do acting for a living so I went to George Brown Theater School after that for three years, started doing Shakespeare, and never looked back.
Speaking of the theater, do you think it’s something every actor should try, working without a net so to speak, or is it just not for everyone?
Cara: Oh, they should definitely try it, for sure. Also, it gives you a real concrete idea of the audience. When you’re working in film and TV your audience, the idea of the audience can become a little abstract, the camera is your audience. Being in theater, in front of a real live audience, you are telling stories for someone.
Kristian: There is this weird, magical thing that happens in theater, that you don’t get in film and television, where if you’re on stage and you’re doing a scene you can tell if the audience is into it or not, there’s this vibe they put out, I don’t know how to describe it unless you experience it. There’s like this weird sixth sense, it’s so crazy and that only comes from experience on stage, where you can tell if you’re not on, or if the audience is getting bored, you don’t have their attention, it’s like a relationship you get into with the audience, they are the other actor, the other character in the play. Also in theater, you are the editor, you are your own editor on stage. You have to know pacing and you have to have a good understanding of how natural conversations work, compared to working with film and TV actors.
You’ve both done work in theater, TV, and film. Do you have a favorite medium to work in or do they all have their own individual charms?
Cara: I think one of the great things about working in television is that you get to play the same character for a good chunk of time in a row, where you’re constantly being brought new scripts, which is a unique challenge. In film, you know the whole entire arc before you set out and I feel film is a little pocket of a world to explore, whereas television is like running a marathon with a character. Theater, honestly, it scares me shitless. (Laughs)
Kristian: I did theater recently, as part of a fundraiser, I did a two-day production of Much Ado About Nothing, and it was terrifying to be doing theater again. Also, it was a rush job, so we were putting together this crazy one-hour production pretty quickly on the weekends and it was terrifying yes, but also exhilarating at the same time. My favorite part of theater is the rehearsal process, working six days a week trying to make something work better, you don’t really get that with film and TV. What I like about theater and film is you have the full script, you can fully flesh out a character before you go to work but with TV they are always writing for you, and sometimes come up with stuff that doesn’t work, doesn’t fit your backstory, so that can frustrating at times, too. You do get to flesh out a character for years, which is a real privilege, something you don’t get to do in other mediums.
You have both been part of big and successful TV productions with Orphan Black and The Expanse. How has this changed you as actors, both in terms of your acting ability and what you expect from yourself and other projects going forward?
Cara: For me, with The Expanse, in particular, that show has given me the opportunity to work with some really incredible actors, in particular David Strathan, because it’s like doing a master a class in acting with someone who’s been so successful and been doing this for so long. He raises the bar so high and when you’re acting opposite that you can’t help but grow, you have to match him in the scenes.
Kristian: I think my career has really blossomed because I worked on Orphan Black and it was really cool working on a show where everyone got along so well. We’re all pretty close, we’re all a family, we don’t get to see each other a lot but we really grew with each other, we were a bunch of unknowns, and we had Tatiana, who is this firecracker of energy and talent. We tried to keep with her but also, be the best support and partners that we could be and it really taught me a lot about teamwork, collaboration. I felt like working on Orphan Black would ruin it for me in terms of other shows but I’ve been lucky to work on some projects since then that have had great casts and crews.
Ok, let’s talk about Red Rover. What was the main reason the two of you signed up for this film? Was it the script, the characters, or a bit of both?
Kristian: For me what was particularly thrilling was, I don’t get to play leads too much, I’m more of a supporting character actor type, so to get the opportunity to step in and play the lead with Cara was very exciting, thrilling and also scared the shit out of me. (Laughs) A common theme in my life is I love to do things that scare the hell out of me and I felt very close to the character Damon, I could understand where he was coming from in many ways. This film had so much heart, the whole cast, the crew, we were not a large group of people and really working hard, with very little money and time, a truly collaborative experience. I was very grateful for the opportunity, it was very dear to my heart and something I will never forget.
Cara: It was such a good time…it was summer, it was Toronto, we were outside so much. When you’re working with the right people, there is something magical about doing a super low budget indie film like that. We’re shooting in all these locations, running around so fast, trying to make it work with what we had. The team behind the scenes, Duane Murray, Michelle St. John, Shane Belcourt, they were really well organized and when quite smoothly actually, for how little resources they had. Knowing these people were going to be part of this shoot was a big reason why I said yes. Another big part was I’m Ojibway, First Nations, and to get to be a lead in a movie that’s a romantic comedy, where the character is native but it’s not based around trauma or some issue, it’s about two people falling in love.
You two have great chemistry together in the film. Did that come naturally or did that build up over time?
Kristian: Cara and I knew each other, we were acquaintances from around the community, we’d met at functions and parties and stuff like that, but it was just very natural, we get along really well.
Cara: Yeah, that was also part of saying yes to this project, working with Kristian, I thought that would be great fun.
There’s a lot going on in the film, the colonization, the love story, the back story for the characters…what were the challenges for you both, playing these characters?
Cara: I think for me the challenge was because I have played so many super hardcore badasses, that this character felt so close to me, the challenge was not letting myself be too casual. I had to remember that this was a performance and not me, to sort of try and walk that line. When it’s so different it’s a lot easier to slip into that skin but yeah, it was challenging because she was so close to me.
Kristian: For me, I think the biggest challenge was, I was used to working on these big productions, having a big trailer and entourage, and I just couldn’t have that on this film. (Laughs) Seriously, though, the biggest challenge was, we filmed over 14 days I think, and I’m pretty much in every scene of the film and I knew I was going to have to be on the ball, it’s going to be a tough schedule, I was going to be really tired, and I’d never worked at that pace before, so I was really nervous I wasn’t going to be able to do. I’d seen Tatiana do it on Orphan Black, I’m not saying I’m her, she is incredible, so I knew it could be done, it was just a new challenge for me to be able to step up and deliver. Watching the film, and being self-critical like I am, I think man, I could have done this or that better but I love the film, I’m really proud of it and everyone brought their A-game and worked their ass off for this thing, it was great.
For indie films, it’s a double-edged sword these days. There are a lot of ways to view movies, like VOD, theatrical release, film festivals but there is just so much content out there. How do you get a film like Red Rover to rise about all that and get noticed?
Kristian: By using our massive marketing budget. (laughs) It’s always word of mouth with indie films, more than anything. Reviews, an article like yours, I’ve been very appreciative of the attention and I’ve had people send me reviews from all over the place and I’m like, holy shit, it’s getting around, that’s awesome. You make the movie, hope people watch it, you hope it turns out well and hope people enjoy it but it’s such a joy when it actually happens. Obviously social media is a big part of it as well and also, weirdly enough in this pandemic, people are searching for new content, new things to watch, to escape what’s going on, so I hope they do find this film.
Cara: Stories are important right now, I think we see people turning to the storytellers and I think that’s so human and with this film, we are telling a story that really talks about grappling with feelings of isolation and loneliness, and I hope this film can be soothing for some during this time. That’s why we do this job, to uplift or inspire, connect, and I hope this film does that for people.
Acting is not an easy craft or an easy profession to make a career out of. What would the two of you say to someone who was interested in a career as an actor?
Kristian: Don’t do it. (laughs) I’m joking…just study your ass off. Get proper training, whether it’s in theater school, university program, or if you can’t afford that, try and focus on a really good actor’s studio so you act consistently and grow and you can see your growth. Watch a ton of movies from the masters, read a ton of plays, go see theater, consume art, travel, become passionate about human nature. You kind of have to get obsessed with the world you live in, to be able to transfer that onto the stage and in front of a camera.
Cara: That is so good, Kristian. I have to agree, all of that, exactly.
What other projects do the two of you have coming up next?
Cara: I just finished shooting season five of The Expanse, right before the pandemic hit, so I hope that will be coming out sooner than later. They’ve been working on post-production during quarantine, so the timing was very fortunate, that’s for sure. Call of the Wild, that one just came out On Demand as well, you can watch that with me and my cool pal, Harrison Ford. That was a really cool, fun time.
Kristian: I have this film called Red Rover coming out (laughs), I’m also in a film starring Felicity Huffman called Tammy’s Always Dying, which was directed by Amy Jo Johnson that came out a few weeks ago, a series coming out Avocado Toast which will be on Out TV in Canada, it’s very fun and exciting, Carter season two is out on Crave but yeah, that’s it for now.
I want to thank Kristian and Cara for taking the time to talk with us