I recently got the chance to talk to Katie Wallack about her role in silent film, ‘The Artist’. Here, Katie talks about how she got involved in the project and what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…
Hey Katie. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your role in ‘The Artist’!
What’s the general plotline of the film?
An established silent film star, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), and an extra/actress, Peppy Miller (Bernice Bejo), share a love connection, but their Hollywood journeys are greatly different. While Peppy ascends to stardom in a new and bustling film career, George struggles to maintain his iconic star status with the new medium of talkies taking over the scene.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play a dancer who auditions with the main character, Peppy Miller. What was fun for me was watching the film’s plot chronicle Peppy’s career develop from a walk on part, to a featured role, to a supporting role, to the lead. And thinking about how my career is developing and I had that featured role part in THIS movie – it was a delightful glimpse into where my career is headed.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
Michael Sanford and his casting team, including the fabulous Heidi Levitt, have been tremendously supportive of my career and to me personally. I booked a commercial campaign for Dish Network through their office two months after moving to LA. I had stopped into his office to say thank you for another project we worked on and Michael told me to go home and put on a flapper outfit and come back. I auditioned for the role, Michel Hazanavicius liked my work, and the rest is history.
The film stars Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller and Missi Pyle – with Michel Hazanavicius onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
Not having sound department on set made me feel more connected to the crew. They played music, Michel talked to us while the cameras were rolling, more people could watch and be close to set because the fear of extraneous noise was no longer a factor. It was freeing actually. In the silent film days of the past, they had musicians on set, which sounds nice to me. I think this is one of the reasons silent film stars had a hard time transitioning to talkies, because you don’t feel as connected to the crew who are standing right there!
Let’s talk about you Katie. What made you want to get into the world of film in the first place?
I came into film through the theatre. And I came into theatre through my gymnastics. I was a gymnast for 10 years and I hurt my back when I was 15. After that injury, I couldn’t compete and I had a lot of time on my hands. The school drama teacher cast me in a couple of musicals to dance, do the splits and back handsprings. I loved performing and when I went to college I began acting because it was fun. After college I studied with a phenomenal woman, Laurel Smith. It was in her class where I learned that true authenticity in performance is rooted in how willing the actor is to be honest with himself or herself in life. This is what the greats in acting do. And you CAN make a living as an actor.
You’ve been in a number of different TV series and films – which project has been your favourite to work on so far?
Last fall, I worked on a film called ‘On Frozen Ground’. It is based on the investigation and apprehension of Alaska’s serial killer, Robert Hansen. We shot on location in Alaska – actually in the exact town where I grew up. This project has been a highlight for me on three key levels.
- First, the opportunity to work opposite Nicholas Cage. There is nothing more thrilling than the challenge to raise the bar of your craft. And working opposite an Oscar-winning actor definitely upped my game.
- Second, the opportunity to work back home. It’s exciting to see movies that were shot in my hometown and equally exciting when people see my work on the big screen or TV. To have both together in one project is aces. And I was so humbled by the support of my friends, family and community.
- Third and most importantly was the opportunity to play Bobby Morehead. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the making of this film. Alaskans were and still are concerned about sensationalizing Robert Hansen for profit. As an Alaskan, I took the social responsibility of this role very seriously. There is a silent majority of people who are still suffering from the loss of their loved ones because of this man and I feel I was trusted with the opportunity to give voice to that experience in the film. It is a dark, dark chapter in our state’s history and my hope is that awareness and healing will come as a result of the film. It was a privilege and an honour for me.
If I could invite three guests to dinner – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Mary Pickford and Meryl Streep. I would love to hear them exchange their experiences as women in the industry and gain some insight into how much or how little has changed in 80 years. Then I’d like Louis CK to come for dessert because he’s hilarious and it could be a cool or disastrous wild card.
What is your favorite holiday destination and why?
Alaska for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It’s a classic winter wonderland; ice-skating, skiing, snow, moose running down the road, fireplaces and frostbite. Love it.
What is your favourite food/drink and why?
I love orange juice. It tastes SO good and helps prevent scurvy.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
‘On Frozen Ground’ premieres sometime in the fall and the rest has yet to be written. I’m excited to find out as well. I’ll keep you posted…
Thanks for the interview!