INTERVIEW: Tennille Read of Workin’ Moms Talks About Complex Female Characters
Tennille Read stars as Frankie’s close friend, Bianca, in season two of Workin’ Moms. She is also the co-founder of Theatre Inamorata, a company focused on developing female-centric stories for the stage. Tennille talks to Defective Geeks about her work and the importance of representation in the creative community.
Hi Tennille, thank you for answering our questions! Tell us about Workin’ Moms and your character, Bianca? How did you get involve with the show?
Workin’ Moms is a comedic sitcom about women who are juggling their professional careers with their personal lives and being moms. I love the show because we get to see women in different situations, expressing themselves in ways that we don’t typically see on tv. I first got involved at the end of Season 2. My scenes were with Juno Rinaldo’s character Frankie, and I think the powers that be liked our chemistry because I was brought back in Season 3. I think Bianca is pretty courageous, choosing to become a solo-parent and all, and I think she’s pretty relatable.
What is it like working in a sitcom format for television? Do you feel like it has given you a different opportunity to evolve and get to know the character you are playing?
Working on a sitcom is a great space to develop a character. You have more opportunities to flesh out and layer on character traits. I didn’t read all of the season 3 episodes before we began shooting so I honestly didn’t know where my story arc was headed. I enjoyed the process of finding clues in the scripts, seeing how other characters responded to Bianca, and making sense of the impulses that would come up in the moment after playing the scenes.
Have you always known you wanted to become an actor? How did you discover your love for performing and who or what inspired you?
I did always know I wanted to be an actor. I loved storytelling and performing stories for friends while walking home from school, or impersonating teachers for my Mum. My sister and I also used to record ourselves doing the voices to some of our favourite storybook characters. I think there’s a hilarious narration of Frog And Toad Are Friends on cassette somewhere. I’ve always been inspired by a good story. I’m especially inspired by good stories with female protagonists who make things happen, good or bad.
You are also the co-founder of Theatre Inamorata– what is the story behind this project? What was your motivation to want to produce female-centric stories on stage?
Theatre Inamorata (which roughly means, desirable woman, in Italian) came out of three friends and I wanting to make theatre that featured complex female characters. And because we loved heightened language, with all its imagery and poetry, we looked to the classics. We spent about a year looking around for that diamond in the rough. But there honestly wasn’t anything that met our standards. We didn’t just want complex female characters, we wanted complex female characters that drove the plot – who had agency – and who weren’t always motivated by securing a man and getting married. It’s a tall order for classical texts to answer!
So, then we began workshopping and collaborating with writers to create our own script. Eventually we came up with a work called Gray, by Kristopher VanSoelen, which was loosely based on Oscar Wilde’s novel, Picture of Dorian Gray. Our script had a female Dorian Gray and a 90% all-female cast. Working with Kris on the script was amazing. He was so open to our input and incorporated many of the things we had to offer. The story was laid in a contemporary world, but he used heightened speech to navigate through the magical and fantastical parts that Dorian experienced through monologues. So we ended up getting everything we wanted in a script.
What shows are you currently developing with Theatre Inamorata and where can people find more information about it?
Right now, we are figuring out our next steps. Every June for the last four years we’ve held an event to raise money for our workshops, productions and co-pros. It’s called Virgin Burlesque: You Never Forget Your First Time. Two of our members are out of town right now, so it makes organizing a little more challenging. Stay tuned!
Do you believe that it’s important to have more support for women (and non-binary individuals) within the entertainment industry? What is your hope for the future and would you ever want to produce television and movies as well with the same goals as Theatre Inamorata?
I totally believe that it’s important to have more support for women, non-binary individuals, and ethnic diversity in the entertainment industry. Representation is key, and it’s so important for audiences to see themselves in stories and characters.
When we were casting Gray we made diversity a priority. But we had difficulty casting one of the roles in particular. It was a transgendered character who identifies now as female. Because some of the script used Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, we needed an actor who could handle that heightened text. We eventually did find the perfect fit, and she did an excellent job, but it informed us on how few transgendered actors are out there getting a solid theatre training to handle that kind of text. I don’t think all theatre schools have been the most open to work with transgendered actors and as a result we’re not seeing a lot who have that kind of rigorous training. And it goes the other way too, if you don’t see yourself on stage, then you’re discouraged from even trying.
It’s not just theatre training that needs re-vamping, we also need to see more plays, scripts in general, that feature more diversity. And with the scripts that are already out there, we need to give more roles to minorities.
My hope for the future is that we see an even playing field for all groups of people. I’m hopeful because there has been change. It’s small, but it’s happening.
I would love to produce television and movies with the same goals as Theatre Inamorata. Maybe not with the heightened Shakespearean text that us ladies in Theatre Inamorata love, but you never know! I believe that anything is possible, with the right players and inspiration, and I love that I’m in the industry at this time when breaking down walls is palpable and happening.
Also, what is your dream role or project that you would want to work on someday?
My dream role, at this moment, would be to play a complex female character whose thoughts and actions propel the story forward. Right now I’m in love with Wonder Women, Olive Kittridge (Francis McDormand) and all the women in Pretty Little Liars. Give me a character and story line with elements from those three shows and I’d consider that a dream role made in heaven.
Final question– if you wake up one day with a super power, what kind of super power would you want and why?
I’d like to be able to create force fields around things I’d like to protect. So oceans, forests, and animal life wouldn’t be effected by silly human behaviours and pollution. But I’m not totally selfless. I’d also use this force field to create a big enough bio-dome to cover the city of Toronto, where I live, that keeps winter away.
Photo by Dane Clark.