INTERVIEW: Lee Lawson on Future Projects and Becoming an Actress in Toronto
Lee Lawson is both an actress and a writer based in Toronto, Canada who can be seen playing a diverse range of roles onscreen. She can be seen in independent films starring as as a soldier dealing with PTSD in director Tamara Moos’ Kavod, a young teacher navigating the childhood crush of a gifted student in Hue’s Theatre and as Leaf Girl in Joëlle Wallinga’s conceptual collaboration with child writers; Cave Big, Cave Small. We chatted with her about her journey in acting and her upcoming projects.
Tell us more about yourself and what inspired you to become a creative person and pursue acting. What has that journey been like for you?
Hi! so happy to be chatting with you! It’s funny; I certainly wasn’t the typical actor kid. I was quite shy; a day dreamer. It took me a really long time to find my way into onscreen acting. I always felt this instinctive pull towards story telling, but theatre never fit quite right. It was so freeing when I finally discovered the Independent film scene. In front of the camera I felt like there was no distance to contend with. For me, acting for camera is an incredibly intimate experience. My artistic journey has been all about finding the right medium, material and community to work within.
What projects are you working on currently? Where can people watch you now?
I just wrapped a fantastic Indie feature called Speak Your Mind. I play a young psychotherapist who councils an aspiring actor to practice an experimental therapeutic method that utterly destroys his life. It’s very funny. I love my character Iris. It’s such a joy to play intelligent, witty women who can hold their own. The film is the latest project from writer-director Cyrus Baetz, so keep an eye out for that! I’m also about to start shooting a film with Ilir Pristine about a woman grappling with the pains and pleasures of dating multiple men at once. It’ll be shot in black and white by David Humphreys with music from Andy Lloyd of the Born Ruffians and Matt Beckett of The Bicycles. I kind of feel like a female Alfie.
Toronto is an acting smorgasbord; there is so much happening at every level! If you are willing to work, there is work for you. There’s a vibrant comedy scene, a strong community of independent producers, and vibrant receptive audiences with a hunger for every form and flavor of content. It’s a very exciting place to be. The city is also a hub for much larger scale projects, so the Independent scene benefits from a highly developed production infrastructure and general wealth of talent. It’s not hard to find mentors or get on larger sets to learn. If directors would stop trying to pass off the Toronto beaches for California in the middle of winter, it’d be pretty much perfect.
After working in the industry for awhile, what is the biggest lesson you would want to share with other people who want to pursue a career in acting?
Act. It’s as simple as that. Yes train, but also actively get out there and involve yourself in the aforementioned film scene. I’d be hard pressed to think of a better city to do it in. Act in Indie projects, Act in student films! The GTA is home to so many incredible film programs that use production quality equipment. Participate in projects and build your reel. Learn the rhythms of set, see how you function under pressure, and constantly expand your range. Put yourself out there again and again… and again… and eventually good things will happen. Oh, and be prepared for long hours.
I’ve really been itching to try something a little fantastical. To take on a transformative role; maybe technically challenging in terms of movement or vocal work. Sometimes default naturalism gets a little bit dull. It’s a really special experience to perform a role so different from you. It’s not just the mechanics of a different posture or speech pattern; you have to rethink all of your basic assumptions about how to proceed in any given moment. I think of it as radical empathy. Also, characters like this tend to be awesome alien goddesses and android assassins.
When you’re not on set, what do you like to do outside of acting?
I bake like a fiend. Right now I’m perfecting my macaron technique. I also love to explore the city and discover secret treasures. I recently found the trails that run along side the Don River. They’re beautiful. Full disclosure? I spend an embarrassing amount of time playing Farm Heroes Saga. The game is exactly the same as Candy Crush, but with vegetables. I think that makes it healthier.
We want to know… if you could have any super power, which would it be and why? What would you use it for?
Shape shifting. Straight up. Good-bye type casting!