Being the Hallmark Channel fan that I am, I am always interested in “discovering” as many of the actors and actresses connected with their shows and films as possible. And in this case, I noticed Brittany Willacy in last week’s Chesapeake Shores show, and I knew that I longed for the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her role of Leigh. However, there is more to this lady than one might expect. Just this week, Brittany responded to a few questions about her music career, her acting career, her role in Chesapeake Shores, and even some hints at her future aspirations.
RH: Why did you become a singer/musician? What kind of training have you had in music?
BW: Both my parents are music fans and artists, so I was surrounded by music and encouraged to start lessons at a young age. I took piano and voice lessons for years and got myself in as many school choirs, bands and musicals as I could. Eventually, I got to a point where I wanted to explore writing music and playing with other people in a band. Music has always been therapeutic for me and a fun way to spend time and create with friends. I’ve jammed and played shows with a few different bands in Vancouver for fun over the years, but it wasn’t until I was approached to tour that I started to look at it more seriously.
I was in Head of the Herd, which was a rock band based out of Vancouver. There was a major blues component to the sound, but it was definitely rock, and it was loud. I played the keyboard, tambourine and sang backup and duets with the lead singer. We toured across the country a bunch of times with some incredible bands. It was an incredible experience. Totally life-changing and a lot of fun.
It goes hand in hand with music. I’ve been making up characters and stories and trying to make people laugh ever since I can remember. While I always liked being in musicals and school plays, I think the catalyst into acting was when I was in grade nine, and I had a film teacher that helped us write, produce, shoot, act in and edit a feature film over the course of the school year. It even screened in a big theatre, and all I could think was “Yup. I wanna do that again.” So I moved to Vancouver after high school and studied acting at Vancouver Film School. I’ve taken various classes since then, there are some really great studios and teachers in Vancouver.
I think your first Hallmark film was Mrs. Miracle. How did you get that role? What was that experience like?
One of my first gigs outta the gate! I auditioned for the part, (and not that I’d recommend it to actors,) but I totally ad-libbed in my audition and I’m pretty sure that’s why I got it, haha. I played a grocery store clerk who rang up Mrs. Miracle. It was a really great set, and a treat to get to work with Doris Roberts. She was very cool.
What do you like about working for Hallmark?
I think I can safely say that any actor based out of Vancouver should count their blessings when it comes to Hallmark. They bring so many heartfelt scripts to BC to be filmed, and they’re responsible for a lot of our rent being paid. They seem to really listen to their audience as well and create content with a message of love, family, and overall positivity which is pretty remarkable in this day and age.
I was really excited when I read the breakdown for this character… Musical characters don’t come around every day, so I was pretty thrilled to be called in to audition. On top of the scenes, I had to prepare a country song to sing and play on guitar. I don’t play guitar, and lugging my piano seemed insane, so I borrowed my friend’s autoharp and played one of my favourite songs, Satisfied Mind by Johnny Cash. Auditioning is nerve-wracking for me at the best of times, but somehow the whole auditioning process for this role was really organic and dare I say, fun. During the callback, the executives from Chesapeake couldn’t have been warmer. I felt like part of the family from the moment I met them. I left with that rare “I did it!” feeling… The on-set experience was pretty magical, too. I’ve known Laci J Mailey and Emilie Ullerup (Jess and Bree) for years, so it was pretty awesome to get to work with friends. Meeting and working with the rest of the cast and crew was such a wonderful experience and in one of the most beautiful settings you could imagine. Working with Jesse Metcalfe was great too; he’s such a hard-working actor, really devoted to his craft. He gave so much in every take – I couldn’t have asked for a better scene partner. The whole experience was pretty surreal.
I really like Leigh, and I think I could learn a lesson or two about determination from her. She knows what she wants,and she isn’t afraid to go after it. Music is a huge driving force in her life, and she and Trace had a pretty incredible partnership that was cut short for reasons that will be explained down the road. She obviously loves Trace, not for just the guy he is, but also for the opportunities that working with him brought to her life. I think musically they worked very well together, but I can’t say it translated to a healthy romantic partnership. I dunno. She loves the guy and wants him to realize the positive impact music had on their lives and wants to forge on, together. Can you blame her? Haha… It’s funny reading some of the tweets and comments from people telling Leigh to pack her bags. Guaranteed if any one of those people were in her shoes, they’d be sticking around to fight for him, too!
You are listed as appearing on four episodes. Will we hear you sing any more?
Yep! There will be more singing. Jesse and I (with the help of some local musician friends) recorded a duet called Lean which will appear in a couple weeks.
It’s different every time. I had a band with my friend Missy Cross, called The Cross Legged Willies. We co-wrote folky, soulful kind of songs; I’d write the melody on piano most of the time, while we both came up with lyrics. We’d write about themes we liked to explore… dreams, ghosts, being brave, heartbreak, graveyards, you know, the usual. Sometimes it’s lyrics first, sometimes it’s melody first. Oftentimes I’d spend days working a song only to realize I had essentially re-written Hotel California and that I can’t afford to be sued by The Eagles.
I was excited when the director (Martin Wood) asked if I would come up with something for Leigh to sing and play at Jess’s B&B. It gave me the chance to write something for the autoharp, which I’d never done before. In this case, I knew I wanted the song to be about a love that was lost and fighting to claim it back. Luckily, my boyfriend Jamie and his roommate Dallas are big country fans (and can be bought with a steak dinner and nice bottle of tequila) and they helped come up with the opening lyrics which I thought were classic. I had a lot of downtime while travelling to the set on Vancouver Island, so I spent my time messing around on the autoharp and coming up with the rest of the lyrics on the ferry.
If Chesapeake Shores is renewed, are you hopeful that your character will come back? Why or why not?
I’m crossing every finger and toe on my body that the powers that be create more story for Leigh! There are some twists and turns coming up that make me think that Leigh could figure a good reason or two to stick around awhile in Chesapeake Shores…
I used to do singer/songwriter stuff, but after being in Head of the Herd, I can’t imagine playing anything other than rock ‘n’ roll. I love playing music with other people and look forward to getting back to it one day, but right now I’m really happy to be able to put my focus back on acting and writing. I tend to be the type to have a lot of pots on the stove, so right now I’m glad to simplify.
Speaking of TV and film, do you have any plans to eventually write and/or direct?
Oh yeah. I love writing stories and scripts and have every intention to bring a feature to life. I’ve got a project on the go that makes me very excited, though it’s in the early stages.
If you could spend the day with anyone living or dead, whom would you choose and why?
Part of me wants nothing other than to run errands with John Candy all day, but I think I would have to pick a day with my Grandma Willacy. She passed when I was too little to remember, and from what I’ve heard she was an absolute ball of love. Also, I’ve heard she spun a good tale and babysat for Paul McCartney.
Quite frankly, I had no idea the depth and breadth of Brittany’s talent before interviewing her. She appears to be on who wants to do it all, in a sense, and she seems to have the gifts and desire to accomplish every single dream within her heart and mind. In addition to her versatility, another outstanding quality is the signature way in which she expresses herself. I enjoy perusing responses from those who are proficient at crafting their words to convey precise meaning in prolific ways, and Brittany does that with astute finesse and amiable humor. She is fully aware of who she is, and in spite of any insecurities she may experience from time to time, she is confident of her unique abilities and capabilities, and she is willing to invest the necessary time and adequate resources to ultimately succeed in her endeavors. Be sure to watch her on Chesapeake Shores Sunday nights on the Hallmark Channel (she will be on three more episodes). Furthermore, please check her out at the links below, and don’t forget to click on that follow button when applicable because this performing artist is on the steady ascent, and I look for great things from her in the days and years to come.