Actor and filmmaker Samantha Wan talks to Close-Up Culture about her recent Canadian Screen Awards nomination, directing Love At Sky Gardens, her role in Run The Burbs, and much more.
You were recently nominated at the Canadian Screen Awards for Best Director for your work in the TV movie Love At Sky Gardens. What does this recognition mean to you?
Because I am a multi-hyphen artist (director, actor, writer), it’s really nice to specifically be recognized for directing and to know my skills in just that area can stand on their own. It’s an area of my career that I’ve been leaning more towards and been trying to build my reputation in, so this is really gratifying.
How do you reflect on your experience directing Love At Sky Gardens?
Love At Sky Gardens was my first project where I was only directing. Because I didn’t have to act or write at the same time, I was really able to discover who I was just as a director and that was such a gift. I I love playing with actors and finding improv and spontaneity in performances. We shot the entire film in 13 days and I loved working with my production team to make the impossible happen, whether it was bringing together a giant rooftop garden wedding, trying to capture a beautiful sunset, or pitching funny ideas for comedic montages.
You are also starring in the CBC comedy series, Run The Burbs. Can you tell us about your role on the show?
Of course! I play Cathy Tan, the owner of Bubble Bae. It’s like the Central Perk of the neighbourhood where everyone comes to meet. I love playing Cathy because she is very dry and doesn’t have time for anybody’s crap. Honestly, she’s so much cooler than me. Her straightforwardness is almost harsh sometimes which is something I’m too nervous to do in real life so it’s a lot of fun for me to play on screen.
On top of that, you’ve also received acclaim for your work on the web series, Lady Ada’s Secret Society. It sounds like a lot of fun. What can you tell us about the show and your time working on it?
Thank you. I feel so fortunate to have received directing nominations and awards with that series. I’m very close to the creator Shannon Fewster who brought me onto the project, so it was a very collaborative process from the start. We didn’t have a lot of restraints on how the project had to be, so we we’re really able to go wild. I took a lot of inspiration from the movie Matilda in creating a larger than life look and feel, which complimented Shannon’s writing. I love that it’s a story that empowers young girls and technology and pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a “proper” young lady. I’m really proud of the work and help more people can check it out on YouTube.
Can you tell us what initially drew you to performing and storytelling?
When I was a teenager I needed a place to express myself and process my feelings. I started first as an actor, which gave me permission to explore a lot of what would be taboo emotions. I had the benefit of going to a classical theatre school for post secondary and fell in love with the craft of storytelling there. Then after creating my television series Second Jen I began to feel the importance of telling my own story and sharing that with other people. Not only was it empowering for myself but it made me feel connected to others.
What type of projects would you love to work on in the future?
There are two types of projects I’m drawn to. One type, are projects that are larger than life that use imagination (and sometimes absurdity) to reveal the deeper meaning of things like “Everything Everywhere All at Once”. Then alternatively I love projects that are intimate and bare-bones, where it’s all about simplicity of humans connecting like the before sunset trilogy.
What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
I’m currently developing probably my most personal project yet. It’s a feature film inspired by my journey with my father and dementia. It takes place during the two week lockdown in Ontario during the pandemic and explores themes of grief and complex family relationships. I’m really looking forward to sharing my more dramatic side with this project.