Though I've only spoken to her twice (the first time in 2013), Katharine Isabelle is one of my favorite people to interview. Outspoken, funny, and just plain cool, the Canadian actress is about as natural and unpretentious a person as you'll find in the movie business. Perhaps that realness comes from the fact that she's been in the acting game almost her entire life; her film debut was in Joel Schumacher's COUSINS (1989), and she's racked up over 100 film and television credits since, including memorable turns in GINGER SNAPS, AMERICAN MARY, FREDDY VS. JASON and, most recently, NBC's "Hannibal" (in which she plays Margot Verger). As she says in the interview below, she's a "homeless, traveling gypsy," but that fact hasn't dulled her sense of humor or passion for the craft.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Katharine about her new movie 88 (just out on Blu-ray), in which she plays an amnesiac on a mission of vengeance. Interesting note: Katharine hadn't even seen the movie at the time of this interview... and how many actresses would admit that? Among her other admissions: she loves wine, she doesn't think anyone in their right mind would choose to be an actor, she bowls with the Amish, and in another life she'd be a forensic scientist who cries over dead bodies. Got to love her.
So tell me about your character in 88, she's pretty much a badass, right?
I actually read the script one day before I was rolling. I had very, very little time with it, I would have liked a little more, but such is the way of filmmaking. You don't really know much about Gwen to begin with, she's definitely embroiled in a bit of a dark side of life, but she's a strong, confidant girl who's in love and when all of that gets destroyed, she goes into this dissociative dream state and gets revenge.
You get to do a lot of cool things in the film, do you enjoy playing a character who is so strong and take-charge?
Yeah, it's so fun. This is the kind of stuff that you read and go, I just want to do this cuz this is f*cking fun. [Laughs] You get to shoot guns, you get to go crazy, you get to be emotional, and you get to work with a really great group of people. It was a really fun adventure.
Do you enjoy firing guns?
I do, how could you not? There'd be the odd day where my .95 would jam up. [Laughs] It's hilarious, you get to do things you normally wouldn't get to do. That's the dream of every actor, I think.
Do you share anything in common with this character?
Oh, I don't know. Being a human being and having life experiences and doing the best you can to sort through them? [Laughs] I've never dipped into a fugue state. At least that I know of, or that I'm willing to speak about.
You don't tend to gravitate toward run-of-the-mill roles, it seems clear that you seek out characters who are strong, confidant and sexy. Is that difficult sometimes?
Here's what I do: I live in Canada and I'm a working actor. I'm not famous, I'm not rich, I just work. It's hard to find roles like that, it's not like there's someplace you can go where if you dig this deep you'll find this script and they'll give you this character. [Laughs] You can't just sit around and wait for something to fall in my lap and hope that it's amazing. You hope they find you, but it's difficult. There's no math to how to do this.
You've been acting most of your life, and we all know it's not easy to survive in this business, especially at a young age, so how have you been able to persevere?
How? I don't know. Wine, I guess?
That solves all problems.
Yeah, you just poor a little wine on it and it solves everything. [Laughs] I don't know, it's something I've been doing since I was a kid, since before I can remember, and it's what I do. I don't really remember making a decision, or weighing life choices and paths and choosing this one, because it's stupid. [Laughs] You know, I don't know that anyone in their right mind weighs all of their options and says, "Yeah, I think I'll be an actor that sounds like a great idea." But it's the most fun adventure and crazy life that I could think of. It's amazing. It makes you insane, but it's fun.
Do you ever wonder what it would have been like if you didn't take up acting?
Well yeah, it's crossed my mind occasionally, but everyone wonders in their life what it would be like if they'd gone down a different path, but that path doesn't exist. What's the point?
What do you think you'd be doing if you weren't in showbiz?
I don't know. I watch too much "Forensic Files," so I'd be some kind of murder detective, but then I'd cry at the first dead person I saw and would have to drink two bottles of wine to get over it, so that wouldn't work for me either. I'd train horses, but I'm allergic to sawdust, so that's not going to work. [Laughs]
Because you've been in so much, can you name a project that left the biggest impression?
It always depends. There are shows that I had the most adventure on. There are shows where I met some of my best friends on. I always look back on the experience, more so, everyone else looks at the final product. I mean, I haven't even seen 88 yet, like I have no idea what it looks like. I'm sure it's wonderful and great, but I've never seen it. When I think about that, I think about the wrap party we had, and all the kids who worked on the show, and shooting guns in a parking lot at three in the morning behind a Holiday Inn, which is totally illegal but we did it anyway. It's stuff like that, they're all special to me in some weird way.
So you didn't read the script until one day before you shot-
I was like hungover in bed on a Sunday morning and rolled over and there was an email that said, "Read this script." I fell back asleep and woke up three hours later and got another email that said, "F*cking read this right now!" Oh shit! So I read it and thought, oh my god, this is amazing and said yes. The next day I worked on SEE NO EVIL 2 all day, for like 16 hours, got on a plane, flew to Toronto, drove to Niagara Falls and went right into hair and make-up and then started shooting. There was not enough time to prepare for this character who is living in this duality of time.
What do you do when you have downtime?
I worry about working. To be in this industry... you know, I'm a homeless, traveling gypsy. I'm a carny. I live nowhere, I have my dog, and I just go around. [Laughs] You can't plan on anything, or take courses or classes, or sign up for things, or promise anybody you're going to be anywhere at any time because things like that happen. It's like, "Can you be at Niagara Falls tomorrow for a month?" F*ck it, okay! You can't have much of a life, you just drop everything and go.
Is that tough on relationships?
All my good friends, they all know. I'll just peace out for like a year. It's not like high school days where someone's like, "You totally ignored me for two months." Yeah, it's because I was f*cking busy working, bitch. [Laughs] I think everyone in my life know it and understand it. It definitely makes for a challenging situation, trying to lock down what I'm doing for New Year's or Christmas or someone's birthday is like... nope. I have a doctor's appointment next Friday and my mom is like, "Can you do this?" And I'm like, mom, I have no idea. That's next Friday, that might as well be five years from now. [Laughs]
What did you end up doing for New Year's?
I was bowling next to some lovely Amish people in Sarasota, Florida.
That sounds awesome.
Yeah, I was bowling with the Amish in Florida! [Laughs]
That's the actor's life.
[Laughs] Apparently! All the glamour of bowling. It's a glamorous actor's life.
Do you get to see movies with all the work you do? It's awards season now, what were some of your favorite movies last year?
I'm legitimately the worst. I saw two movies last year in the theater, it was THE HOBBIT 2 and 3. [Laughs] THE LEGO MOVIE. I'm honestly the worst, I don't go out and watch a lot of movies. When I'm not working I'm at home, smoking a joint with my dog and watching "Forensic Files." It takes my friends or my family to say, "Okay, we bought you a ticket and you're going with us today." Then I'm like, oh shit, okay. It's a bit sad. I haven't seen any of the awards movies.
That's okay, THE LEGO MOVIE was the best movie anyway.
Right? Okay, so I saw that six times.
Thank you so much for your time, you're really fun to talk to. And hopefully they'll send you a copy of the movie so you can finally watch it.
Yeah, I'd like to friggin' see it one day, thanks!