CFC Alumna Sarah Allen Stands with the ‘Beeba Boys’ at TIFF 2015
By Emily Gagne ● September 09, 2015 15:00
While the Toronto International Film Festival hopes to hop from the big screen to the small screen with this year’s festival as they add TV series and films to their line-up, actor alumna, 2011 TIFF Rising Star and recurring television actress Sarah Allen (Remedy, 19-2) is doing just the opposite as she stars in TIFF selection Beeba Boys.
Directed by Canadian icon Deepa Mehta, Beeba Boys tells the story of a Sikh mobster and his gang (the Beeba Boys) as they attempt to maintain their status in Vancouver’s illegal trafficking scene. Allen plays a pivotal role in the film (which also features actor alumnus Gabe Grey and current actor resident Gia Sandhu) and will be on hand for the film’s world premiere at TIFF this Sunday. She took some time to catch up with the CFC recently, speaking about being the girl among Deepa and her Beeba Boys, as well as the ways in which she continues to evolve as an actress on all screens.
How would you describe your character in Beeba Boys?
I play Katya Drobot. She is an “innocent” in the Beeba Boys story. She is the romantic interest for the lead of the film, Jeet Johar (Randeep Hooda). And she's Polish.
How do you think Katya compares to the previous characters you’ve played, including Sarah Conner on Remedy and Catherine on 19-2?
I guess I found the Sandy Connor and Catherine characters easier to relate to.I had a lot of judgment towards Katya before we began shooting. I was really hung up on the fact that she was a jury member at Jeet’s trial. That she was in lust/love with a murderer.
In the original script, I think Katya was much harder to like, actually. The way the film was edited you would never know, so I guess I spent a lot of time worrying for nothing. But I like to believe all the work I did to develop the character that was written added layers to the Katya we see in the film.
Also, the fact that the other characters were from television made them very different, for me anyway, to play. Television moves so much quicker, you don't have loads of time to second-guess yourself or overthink the Hows and the Whys. You don't know that much about the long arc of the characters, so there doesn't seem as much to get “right.”
Most of the work I've done has been in television, so I guess I'm more familiar with that medium. Though, prep work aside, I think, when it comes down to shooting day in film or television, the job is the same: listen, respond.
What lessons from your time at the Canadian Film Centre proved helpful in crafting this character?
The character mask study we did with Kristen Thompson was one I relayed back to when prepping for Katya. That was an invaluable exercise for me during the program.
I had applied to the CFC partly because I was feeling very uninspired and in a rut. Kristen’s method of character creation was so satisfying because everything about the characters we worked on came seemingly out of nowhere. They were 100 per cent products of our imaginations. I guess the lesson that came from that was to trust ourselves and to listen to the artist in us.Also, I had a session with Rae Ellen Bodie, whom I met at the CFC, to discuss Katya’s voice and accent.
This role was mostly so different for me because I had so much time to prepare. So I ended up reaching out to all kinds of coaches (David Rotenburg, Stephen Park), as well as a dancer friend and colleague who teaches burlesque inspired movement class (Melissa Robertson). I also took a workshop on manicures, asked a Polish lady who worked at my bank to meet me for lunch every week to teach me Polish.
I basically tried everything I could think of because I had the luxury of time and quite a few of those resources came from the CFC.
What new lessons did you learn working with Canadian legend Deepa Mehta?
Deepa never settles and the result is that it’s incredibly satisfying to work with her.
Do you ever feel a desire to explore the other side of the camera after with a strong female filmmaker? Why or why not?
I love being an actor. Right now, I’m fulfilled by it. I just want to keep working with kickass filmmakers.
What’s next for you following Beeba Boys’ release?
I have no idea what my next project is going to be. I recently had a baby, so I took some time off. I just started getting back out to auditions, though. I used to hate auditioning, but now I love it.
What advice would you offer actors just getting into the industry?
If you are an actor just getting into the industry, my advice would be to get in the habit of taking classes. You’ll meet other actors, be part of a community and keep practicing.
I guess if you can’t afford a class or make time to be at the same place at the same time each week, read biographies and books about the craft. Just keep being curious. Otherwise you’ll lose steam. This industry isn’t always fair, so be the artist you want to be and it can’t hurt you.
Beeba Boys premieres at TIFF this Sunday, September 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall. For more information, including how to get tickets, head over to TIFF’s official page for the film.