Actress Debs Howard joins us on Close-up Culture for a fun chat about everything from playing the lead role in a technophobic slasher to the charm of James Marsden and how motherhood will expand her creativity.
Q: ‘AMI’ is currently picking up a host of awards on the festival circuit. What initially interested you about this story and the character of Cassie?
A: Some of my favourite things about this story is that so many aspects of it are so timely and relevant to our world today.
I mean, let’s face it, almost all of us rely so heavily on our devices that we can feel lost and naked without them! It’s not too much of a stretch to see how a reliance can turn into dependence and addiction. These things can influence us greatly, and affect our mental health to a pretty startling degree I think. I know I’ve been guilty of that for sure!
It’s easy to get sucked in to what I call the black hole of Instagram, where all of a sudden you realise you’ve been staring at your phone for hours and come out of it feeling not fit enough, good looking enough, cool enough and all of a sudden my dog isn’t talented enough either!
Combine this with Cassie’s loss of someone she loves greatly, and how her device starts to fill that void, and you’ve got a recipe for… well I can’t ruin the story! But let’s just say there’s axes involved.
Q: What did you enjoy most about being part of this slasher flick?
A: Well it’s always fun to play someone who is a little off kilter! It’s fun to explore a character that is quite different from yourself, and to dive into what it’s like for that character to lose, and how they then strive to get back up and win.
Also, the cast and crew were the absolute best. We always had such a great time on set and everyone had a super positive attitude, even on our reeeeeeeeally long filming days. Also, there was an incredible massage chair at one of our locations so I never get mad about that…
Q: Cassie gets into a somewhat unhealthy relationship with the A.I system in the film… Did playing Cassie lead you to reflect upon the future of tech and your own relationship with it?
A: It’s definitely not the healthiest relationship! I think our the past few years I’ve become more and more aware of how technology has been influencing my life and what my relationship is to it. It can be a bit scary I think.
I am happy that my growing awareness has kind of led me to make more of a conscious effort to take breaks from my devices, or to go out for dinner without them. I often find it’s such a better experience to not have a phone distracting me, and instead be more present and engaged with whoever else I might be spending time with.
Q: A lot of people are intrigued and excited to see what a ‘Sonic The Hedgehog’ film will look like. Can you reveal anything about your time on set?
A: Well Sonic The Hedgehog is a pretty secretive project at the moment since it’s still in post production so I can’t reveal too much, HOWEVER I will say, for the ladies (and some men!) that James Marsden is just as good looking and charming in real life as he is on film.
Sonic has several shooting locations but my part shot on Vancouver Island, which is always stunning, so that was a nice spot to visit!
Q: You spent a lot of last year working on Hallmark movies including ‘Just Add Romance’, ‘Small Town Christmas’ and ‘Mingle All The Way’. What is the atmosphere like on those Hallmark sets? I imagine them to be more laid back than other projects.
A: In my experience, Hallmark sets have been some of the most smooth running projects to work on! I’m sure this is because they film so many that it’s become like a well-oiled machine.
The directors are always great leaders who create an inviting creative environment, and the crew is so professional. It’s incredible how these movies are shot in just a couple of weeks, which goes to show you how dedicated everyone is and how well everyone works together! I’ve been so lucky to be a part of these Hallmark movies, and hope to play a role in more to come!
Q: What has been your favourite memory from/part of your time working on Hallmark movies?
A: While filming Small Town Christmas, we had some HIGHLY competitive games of Pictionary between scenes, and everyone was just howling laughing. That was a great time for sure!
I also loved the set of Just Add Romance – set dec did such a great job of making that look like an actual reality cooking show!
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Q: You have always kept busy away from acting with an interest in piano and psychology, but it seems you biggest passion might be parallel parking. How long until you get a role in a something like ‘Fast & Furious’ or ‘Mad Max’? I feel like those films are crying out for some neat and tidy parking.
A: Well I keep waiting for the Fast & Furious franchise to call me, but apparently they haven’t seen my incredible parallel parking skills up close yet. If anyone is ever looking for a safe, two to three point parallel park job, you know who to call.
Q: What is next for you? Any ambitions and plans to share with us?
A: Well, at the moment I am preparing for a baby! I am 6 months pregnant as I write this, so that’s become a major priority and love in my life. I will likely slow down on the acting front for the next few months as I learn how to put on shoes without being able to reach my feet, and then get used to being a new mom.
I’m excited to eventually get back to work and bring baby to set one day! I only imagine how much a little human will enrich our lives, both personally and professionally. It will be an adjustment for sure, but I think expanding my world into motherhood will also expand my creativity, passion and dedication to my work, as I hope to show my child how important it is to follow your dreams, work hard, and always think outside the box!
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