While Hallmark wouldn’t necessarily show preferential treatment to any actors, there is no denying the fact that certain industry profressionals grace the screens of their original programming more often than others. Since Hallmark is such a massive part of my viewing list, I noticed Crystal Balint in a wide variety of my favorites. Recently, Crystal took some time out of her insanely busy schedule to answer some questions I had for her concerning how she started in this business, her notable and current works, and most importantly, her outlook on the industry–something for which I greatly respect her.
RH: Why did you become an actress? What kind of training have you had?
CB: First off, I want to thank you for taking the time to interview me! I was pleased that you asked me and I’m looking forward to answering your questions – hope I have some good answers for you!
Well, I’ve always been drawn to the performing arts and had dreams of being a member of that community. I started singing when I was about six or seven years old, and for years in my hometown, I was really known for singing; my dream was to be a famous singer like Brandy, discovered at the age of fourteen.
Then when I got into high school, I started taking drama classes and simply fell in love with the craft of acting, so I got involved in productions taking place at my school as well as with our local community theatre. By the time I graduated, I’d all but forgotten about my dreams of singing and was completely obsessed by the idea of acting in whatever capacity I could, but chiefly in film and TV.
Immediately after I graduated, I moved to Calgary, Alberta and began taking classes at a local New York-style acting studio, studying scene work and more specifically, Meisner technique. About six months later, I got my first headshots, found myself a talent agent, started auditioning and doing commercials and background work, and about a year after that, I booked my first guest star role on a show called MythQuest. After that, I was hooked. Period. I continued to work in local theatre while I pursued film and television and also continued to train at studios both in Calgary and then in Vancouver when I moved here in 2006. I still study when I can with good people who can help me grow in my work and push me outside my comfort zone… to me, that’s the best kind of training.
As I was going through your early credits, I happened upon The Clinic. I saw that film a while back because Sebastian Spence is one of my dearest friends. As that was one of your early works, what was that experience like? Any special memories?
Oh, The Clinic was a wonderful and a really educational experience for me – I’m glad you brought it up! I was cast by Emmy-winning casting director Jackie Lind, who was one of the major casting directors in Calgary at the time, but is now based in Vancouver. She really went to bat for me on that one as I was pretty new and inexperienced, and it was a sizable role. Jackie has continued to be a champion for me over the years and has cast me in several productions, so it was my first lesson in how important good relationships are in this business. I worked for about three weeks on that show and had the pleasure of working with the uber-experienced Mike Farrell (of M.A.S.H. fame) as well as several other talented and experienced actors, including of course Sebastian Spence.
Funny story here: about six months before I was cast in The Clinic, I was working as a background performer on a TV movie that was shooting Calgary. During a break, I found myself at the craft service table with Sebastian. He and I got into a conversation about the industry in Vancouver and more specifically, places to study as I’d mentioned my desire to live there. He recommended a couple of places, but highly praised one in particular, so I made a point to check it out when I moved. Once I made the move to Vancouver, I looked up the place and ended up studying there for about a year under a very talented and wonderful actress named Nancy Sivak, who definitely helped me take my work to the next level and helped me really get to know the community here in Vancouver. So I have Sebastian to thank for that!! ☺
Working on that show was my longest gig to date at the time, and I got a chance to experience being a key cast member for the first time, which was exciting. And we were working with animals, of course (which is a talent unto itself!), shooting in many locations, had a building explosion, action scenes and much more – all original experiences for me as a young actor. Overall, working on The Clinic was a terrific experience and one that I will always look back on fondly.
I always ask about experiences on Supernatural as it’s often a favorite memory for actors. What was your experience like filming that show?
Ahhhh, Supernatural. Can you believe that’s they’re currently shooting their TWELTH season this year…252 episodes… that’s insane! Supernatural has practically become a Vancouver institution and for a while there, when the industry was really struggling in BC, they were one of the few productions that really held it down and continued to employ local crew and cast; that’s a big deal. My experience on the show was a short one, as I only did one episode in the seventh season, but it was an honor to be cast, and I was super grateful to be able to do it. I had a small scene with Jensen Ackles and he was lovely. I remember him being very funny, cordial, kind and a considerate actor, so any nerves I might have had were easily put aside. The crew and cast had been working together for more than six years at that point, so it was a well-oiled machine, and my experience working on it was delightful. Hopefully they’ll be around for many more seasons, cause I’d LOVE to go back… but as a new character, of course ☺
Okay–Hallmark really seems to like you as we have seen you in many Hallmark works in the past few years. What do you like about working for Hallmark?
You’re right, Hallmark has been pretty good to me. Like Supernatural, Hallmark TV movies and original series have become somewhat of a production staple in Vancouver, and we see more and more of them shooting here every year. I’ve been fortunate to work on a handful of them, and I can say that what I’ve enjoyed most are some of the great directors I have had the pleasure of working with and getting to know. There are a few that I’ve been lucky to work with a couple times like Kristoffer Tabori (Love on the Air and Ring By Spring) and Lynne Stopkewich (October Kiss and Summer Love) – both are fantastic directors who really bring something special to the set and production, and have allowed me to flex my creative muscles in the roles that I played. Also, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some pretty talented and terrific co-stars in films I’ve done, and that’s always a treat. Overall, my time working with Hallmark has been a great opportunity for growth and created many opportunities to expand both creatively and personally.
Because you’ve been in so many Hallmark productions, are there any memorable filming moments that stand out for you?
Well, two of my favourite co-stars in Hallmark have been Alison Sweeney and Rachel Leigh Cook. Both women are really formidable talents on screen, can boast pretty remarkable credits and are kind and generous people behind the scenes. Alison, as you know, has had a long career in TV and she is also an author and producer (she was an executive producer on Love on the Air), and while working with her, I learned a lot just by watching her wear all those hats. My role as her best friend had us working together frequently throughout that shoot and she made me feel right at home every time I stepped on set – a total professional.
And this summer, I had the luxury of not only working with a female director I love for a second time (Lynne Stopkewich), but I also had the absolute pleasure of working closely with Rachel Leigh Cook who, again, is a multi-talented, multi-faceted woman with a long, successful career. She and I seemed to hit it off right away, and I was blown away by her comedic timing, her sense of ease and comfort on and off screen and her smart intellect when it came to dissecting the text; she was always trying to make it sing, so to speak. Part of the reason I mention these two specific experiences is because they were inspiring to me to see women who are doing what they love, taking chances, tackling many roles in the industry and making it all look pretty darn easy. THAT, no matter how you slice it, is always encouraging. And I’m tremendously grateful for that.
One thing that hasn’t happened is for you is to play a lead in a Hallmark film. If you could pick any actor to play opposite you in a Hallmark film, whom would you choose and why?
You’re right – I haven’t played a lead in a Hallmark film yet… can you get in touch with them and ask why??! As far as who I’d like to play opposite, assuming you mean as a love interest, my “reality filter” won’t let me choose someone like Idris Elba or Benedict Cumberbatch – and my guess is they might not be available! But really, all jokes aside, if the opportunity were to come knockin’ on my door, and I had a chance to work opposite someone of my choosing… oh man, I think I’d have a heck of a long list of names. There are so many talented actors in our local community that I would be honoured to share the screen with, so I wouldn’t want to rule out anyone. And you know I’d work with any of the wonderful people I’ve already worked with again in a heartbeat. So Lynne, Rachel, Alison, Kris… you know where to find me when the time comes.
I see a few things coming up for you. Please tell us anything you can about your upcoming works.
Yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a pretty busy year so far. I’ve got a number of projects lined up to air this fall and early next year that I think people are really gonna like. In November, you can see me in the newest Disney XD show Mech-X4, a live-action comedic series about four boys who take on the task of controlling a giant robot while protecting their city from danger. The show is a monster itself; with incredible special effects, an excellent cast and a pretty unique storyline, and from what I’ve seen so far, it looks amazing. Also this fall, you can watch out for me on a new show called Aftermath (on Space Channel in Canada and SyFy in the US); it’s an apocalyptic genre series with all kinds of crazy surprises and I’ll be guest starring in a couple episodes. I’ll also be appearing in an upcoming episode of the new CW series Frequency, so keep your eyes open for that and finally, early next year you can see me in the new re-boot of Prison Break on FOX. That was a blast to work on and from what I’ve seen and heard, I think fans of the original series won’t be disappointed by the new one. I’m really proud and excited about all the upcoming shows this fall and I hope that people tune in and enjoy watching them as much as I enjoyed working on them.
Please tell us more about Mech-X4 and your role in that show.
So, Mech-X4 is a live action series that’s focused around four boys who basically control a giant robot to save their city from danger. There are a ton of terrific special effects, really clever storylines, and it’s a huge undertaking production-wise. I play Grace Walker, the mother of two of the lead boys on the show, and I had a blast being a mom on screen since I’m not one in real life. Plus, recurring on a show like this is a new thing for me and I really enjoyed the play of it all. It’s a brand new show for Disney, and they’ve put a lot of weight behind it, so I think when people see it they’re gonna fall in love with it. What I’ve seen so far in the way of clips and trailers is pretty amazing and I’m really proud to be a part of the team. We shot the first season here in Vancouver this past spring, and we’ve just started shooting season two in September, so it’s going really well and all around, it’s been an adventure for me.
I have to laugh a little here because I have this conversation with myself almost daily. The short answer to this is “Yes!”, but I struggle with it because there’s just so much I want to do and there simply doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to do them. I love to write, and it’s a passion that I’m slowly finding my way back to. I’ve got all kinds of ideas I’d love to sit down and hash out, so it’s about designating the time and energy to make it happen. I actually directed some theatre when I was in high school and it gave me the bug, even though I’ve never really followed that desire too deeply. This past year, I’ve been so busy spending so much time working on screen that I’ve been missing the stage, and recently I’ve begun to brainstorm some projects I might want to take a look at, if just simply for the sake of keeping those muscles flexible.
As far as directing/producing film or TV, I have no concrete plans as of yet, but these days it’s pretty easy to get a group of folks together and hash out a short film, and that prospect intrigues me a great deal. I have a pretty talented circle of friends in a very talented community here in Vancouver, so the itch is definitely there.
Please tell us about your other love–music. Any plans to pursue anything musically?
Well, I’ve been involved in music for most of my life and there are never really any concrete “plans to pursue” per se, but I’m always playing. I love to sing – – I mean LOVE to sing – – and if I could find more ways to do so and be paid for it, believe me, I’d be all over it! In truth, I would love to sing with a band again; I’ve sung in a few over the years and I miss making music with people and sharing it with people live. There’s really nothing like that feeling of playing with talented people on stage and having people dance and connect with what you’re sharing with them. I feel like I get to be a different version of myself when I’m singing, too; it’s the most in touch I get to be with my creative side, without judgement and self-doubt. Also, I know it’s time to do something with that guitar of mine… maybe watch for me at a coffee shop open mic? Who knows… ☺
Are there any causes/charities about which you feel strongly that you would like to share?
I lost my Grandmother to lung cancer about three years ago and since then, I’ve become quite passionate about helping the Canadian Cancer Society. Cancers of all manner seem to be affecting everyone, no matter your age, sex or creed and I’ve yet to meet someone who’s not had it affect some area of their life. So I try to do what I can whenever I’m able to donate and am seeking opportunities to volunteer in my local community.
As I reviewed Crystal’s responses, I was riveted by much of what she had to share. Any time someone relates a memory regarding Sebastian Spence, that person gains my genuine appreciation and veneration. But Crystal has continued to recognize the people in the industry who have helped her along the way to become the actress and person she has become. While Crystal is a capable actress who often is cast as a supporting lead and/or a minor character, many viewers may tend to overlook the warmth, tenacity, and insight she brings to each of her roles no matter the size nor definition. Crystal is one who is in this business for all the right reasons, and although she is humble and never minds taking a backseat to the leads, her prowess in her chosen field is unquestioned. She is able to handle it all–drama, comedy, evil, good, and everything in between. While she may never be a “household name,” so to speak, I can only hope that she will ultimately land that lead role which her indisputable talent has earned her, at least in my opinion. However, as Crystal has had such a solid career with more fun and challenging roles in recent years than many of her peers, I know she is content to continue pursuing her dreams by creating a fine body of work with roles of every shape, size, and description. So be certain that you take a glance at all of Crystal’s links listed below as you may find a few gems with which you are familiar and probably many other works with which you are not. I would also remind you to follow her via social media so that you don’t miss a moment of what has become an amazing career for this beautiful, vivacious, strong, and accomplished woman.