Interview With Actress Debs Howard, “The Perfect Bride”

By Ruth on July 22, 2017 in Interview, movie, television
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As is customary with me, I always pay attention to the supporting cast of any film or TV show–especially when watching Hallmark films–and as usual, I was delighted to the core by the conglomerate of amazing actors (and friends) I found in that cast. But there was one character that seized my attention in a most auspicious way, and I found one of her lines especially memorable. After doing my compulsory research, I discovered it was none other than Debs Howard, who had breathed life into the quirky and hilarious Quinn, and it was my mission to seek an interview with her. She made the task easy, and in no time, we were chatting about all things Hallmark amongst the varied aspects of her intriguing career.

DH: Ruth, thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me.

RH:  My pleasure, Debs, it worked out pretty well.

It worked out pretty well for me too, as this is my only day off this week.

That’s great. It was so nice to see you in The Perfect Bride. Have you gotten to see the movie yet?

I have, yeah.

Good, I’m glad. I thought it was really cute. I know our family really liked it. I am a fan of Kavan {Smith} and Pascale {Hutton} definitely–

Yeah, they’re great.

Now I was reading the bio on your IMDB page, and you were actually born in South Africa?

Yeah, in a town called Pietermaritzburg

Is that where your family is originally from?

Yes, my parents grew up in South Africa. I’m the youngest of four, and my siblings were born in South Africa as well. I lost the accent a long time ago because we moved to Canada when I was three.

What was the reason for making the move to Canada? 

My parents were sort of just looking for different opportunities for the kids in terms of education mostly. My dad is a psychiatrist, so he got a really great job opportunity in Canada and decided that we should come here so he could take it.

I would never have guessed you were from South Africa since there’s no trace of accent.

Yeah, I wish I still had it, but sometimes when I’m around my family and we all get together, my accent comes back a little bit more.

Were you always interested in acting?

Yes! That’s something a lot of people have asked me. Was it something I always knew I wanted to do? And the answer is, “Yes, absolutely!”  I was really, really lucky. When I was in elementary school, I had these amazing teachers that let me write and perform skits and plays in class instead of handing in
an essay or project. They just let me perform skits.  My most treasured asset as a kid was my dress-up box.  I was always dressing up and putting on plays for my family and my parents’ friends. They were probably horrified all the time. {laughs} And then to get the opportunity at school that instead of handing in essays, I just go to perform.  Maybe it drove some of my teachers nuts, but they let me. At the time, I didn’t really think about how amazing that was that they let me do that.

When you were growing up, did you also do school plays?

I grew up in a really small town called Cranbrook. There was some community plays, but nothing major. We had a high school play.  There was also a drama camp that I went to in the summers, but it was basically just eating snacks all day and going to the park. We didn’t do acting in that camp. So to be honest with you, there wasn’t a ton of opportunity to explore the craft of acting in the town that I grew up in, so I had to make my own opportunities.

According to what I read, you went to college in Victoria. How did you make a switch from being in just a small town to getting the opportunity to go to a bigger city for college?

I knew that I didn’t want to stay in Cranbrook.  It just didn’t have the kind of opportunity for growth that I was looking for.  My brother lived in Victoria, so I moved in with my brother after high school. Now, my family is really academic, so my parents always wanted me to do the classic thing–go to university and get your degree and be a doctor or something like that. But it was just never really in my DNA. I did really well in school and I took my studies pretty seriously. I went to college straight away, but it just never felt like it was what I wanted to do.  I ended up leaving early and then switching over to the acting school. And then that just felt right.

I’m used to hearing about people going to Vancouver Film School or someplace in LA, but when I saw Victoria, I thought that was cool and a bit different.

That was my kind of my first taste of acting school and then when I moved to Vancouver, I kept going to school in Vancouver.  But my only full-time program was in Victoria.  I continued my studies in Vancouver. I went to Toronto as well and studied with Second City. People like Tina Fey and other amazing comedic actors and actresses went to Second City as well, so you may have heard of it before. I can remember telling my mom when I was a kid and she asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up….I said that I wanted to be an actor because I wanted to make people think and I wanted to make people laugh. That was initially my whole reason for becoming an actor. Comedy is definitely a great way to do both of those.

What was your first professional job? 

Well, I’d done a couple of commercials, but I don’t know if those count really as acting.  Sometimes you just kind of dance around. {laughs} My first film or TV professional job was probably Supernatural. I guess I’d done a couple of really low-budget things before that, but the first big scale opportunity I got was Supernatural.

Supernatural

It seems like just about everybody that I talk to in Vancouver has been on Supernatural or they’re trying to get on Supernatural.

Totally! There’s a few shows that like everybody’s worked on. And that’s great because you can share stories and it gives you something that you can relate to no matter who you meet in an audition room.

It looks like you were in that back in 2015, so that was a couple of years ago.  What was that on-set film experience like when you were filming Supernatural?

Oh, it was wild! I remember someone asking me if I wanted a coffee and the people being just so incredibly accommodating on set–the actors and crew and everyone connected with the show. I
couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t know that that was going to happen. I didn’t expect it. I just remember going into my trailer and it had a fireplace in it.  I remember just kind of like screaming and stomping around because I was so excited.  I was jumping up and down in my trailer and it started to shake.  But I didn’t realize that there was someone beside me in the next trailer and they were conjoined. So I was shaking their trailer as well. But I couldn’t believe what a wonderful family that crew is.  Everyone on Supernatural has worked together for years, and most of them have been there for the majority of the twelve seasons going into the thirteenth. They had a really good flow and everyone worked really efficiently together. They had tons of respect for each other and they were really welcoming. That was so nice for me, but it was such an amazing first experience for me too.

I can imagine that would be. I have heard nothing but great things about Supernatural. A lot of actors have been there for one episode, and they’re waiting for the next time they might get asked to come back. Even if their character died, they are hoping to somehow come back.

That’s my situation. My character died, and I would love to get back on there.

Well, you never know. I’m sure the fans would love to see you again too.

The cast is just so down-to-earth and they are such friendly people.

So were you on iZombie around the same time?

With iZombie, I actually booked it about six months after Supernatural. And that was really great. I feel like the CW shows just have it worked out. They have so many great shows, and it’s almost like a formula.  Everyone knows exactly what to do, and so the CW shows run so smoothly, which is really wonderful. Ravi is played by one of the leads on the show, and I got to play his new, kind of insane girlfriend, which I guess I play a lot. {laughs}  Maybe I should take a moment and reflect and see what that means! Steph was my character’s name. When you first meet my character, she comes across as really quite normal, sweet, and down-to-earth. But the next time you see her, she is like,  “Whoa!” It’s kind of a whole other ball game.  Ravi inevitably breaks up with me, unfortunately.

iZombie

Though I bet playing those crazy girlfriend parts has to be a blast. 

You know, they are so much fun! I just love them.  They give you an opportunity to really play and do things a little out of the ordinary or think outside the box a bit.  You get really creative and the writing often lends itself to your actions and your choices. They’re just so much fun.  You get to do a few things that you might think about doing in your real life, but you never actually would. And then you actually do them! So it’s  great.

It may very well be that the reason they keep casting you in these parts is that you do them so well. It’s the opposite of who you are, but you’re able to do them well. 

Well, thank you. I hope that’s the reason. Maybe I should ask my boyfriend, and maybe he’ll tell you if I’m crazy or not. {laughs}

You also were in Lucifer, correct?

Yes, but my part actually got cut out of Lucifer.  I had a couple of scenes with Tom Ellis in the very beginning of the episode, and during editing, I guess they were running over time, so they had to cut out the scenes that weren’t absolutely necessary to the plotline.  Mine wasn’t really, so they cut mine out.

Oh, my goodness. And they probably didn’t tell you ahead of time that they were cutting your part.

No, they didn’t. My two best friends still live in Cranbrook. They are always so sweet. They have movie nights or TV nights whenever I’m on something.  They had a night set up to watch me on Lucifer and then I just was never on.

I have talked to so many actors who have had that experience. I think it has happened to just about everyone in the business at some point.

When I first got back into acting and things like this would happen or if I didn’t get a role or something, I would take it real personally and I would kind of be like, “Oh no, I didn’t do a good job,”
and I’d start stressing. But you never know the actual reason, and I would say ninety-eight percent of the time, it isn’t personal anyways. So you just learn that it’s a business. They’ve got a time and a deadline that they have to fill. You learn that it’s just the business, and you learn to be a little more resilient and not take things personally. The same thing happened with X-Files. I have a couple of scenes on that show that got cut too. That was two shows in a row where my scenes got cut. So it was a little bit disheartening, but I guess I grew thicker skin as a result.

I do understand. I think things like that have to be hard, and it’s easy to take them personally. Very hard not to sometimes.

So true. It’s amazing the things life hands to you, and hopefully, you learn. I think not taking things personally is a huge lesson that is easier said than done, so once you grasp it, life becomes a whole lot lighter.

I agree with you on that. It’s one of those things I think we all tend to battle.  Sometimes you think that you’re doing okay with it, and then something else comes that you weren’t expecting it sort of blindsides you.

Oh yeah, totally.

Behind-The-Scenes The Evil in Us

I noticed this movie The Evil in Us on your IMDB page. I’m assuming you have a lead role in it?

Yes, I do, and the really good news is that it is now available for preorder in the U.S.!

Very cool! So what can you tell us about it?

Well, this was my first lead role. I actually booked that before Supernatural. It was a lower-budget film, and it was the first feature film for the production company that did it. They’d done tons of short films and things like that, and they were great. So then they decided that they were gonna get the funding and do a feature film. So I booked the lead role. It was really fun to be on set for like two months. We did a lot of night shoots so I didn’t get a lot of sleep for a couple of months. I probably wasn’t the nicest human being during that time.

The Evil in Us

Well, hey, it was a horror film, so that’s okay, right? {laughs}

Exactly! {laughs} I wasn’t supposed to be too nice anyway.

I’m glad to see you’ve been in a couple of Hallmark things. And the first one you were in was the first Hailey Dean mystery.

Yes, with Kellie Martin, who is so lovely. I think I was only on set for a day or two. It was my first Hallmark experience which was pretty cool. They’ve got it down to a science in the way that everything is run. They’ve been doing tons of these movies for so long, so it’s like a well-oiled machine.

It’s a great thing for actresses like you who come in for a supporting role like that or even just a small role because if they like you, they start bringing you back. Hallmark likes to use a lot of the same actors, especially in the supporting roles. 

Yes, it’s like a loyalty program.

They must have been happy with what you did for Hailey Dean since they brought you back for The Perfect Bride. That was even a bigger role.

I’ve been very fortunate that Hallmark keeps bringing me in for auditions. I’ve actually been second-choice for a lot of roles this year. And that’s when you really understand the sentiment behind second place being the loser to first place. {laughs} When you’re second choice for a film.  I love the Hallmark family and so I hope they continue to see me and that I can continue to be a part of their projects because it’s so much fun.

The Perfect Bride

Back to The Perfect Bride, the character that you played, Quinn, she had to be lots of fun to play. When you were talking about the comedy thing…. for me, you had that memorable line when they’re doing those crunches, and your character says–

{laughs} Oh yeah! “I like stomach crunches!”

When your character said that, I thought it was so perfect. I thought it was the best line of the whole scene.

It was really, really fun to play her. I just decided that she was just like over-the-top, super positive super enthusiastic, super in love, kind of like rose-colored glasses all the time. It was so much fun. She was a blast!

I thought it was also great to have so many females in those scenes. That had to be a great time to have so many women in those scenes. Lots of times, you maybe have two females in a scene, but with those boot camp scenes, when the guys weren’t around, how many girls did you have in a scene?

There were five of us who were the core group, and I think they brought in probably another five actresses, but they kept them the same.  We kept using the same extras so that the boot camp was consistent. We all became really good friends; the extras were really lovely as well. They were really nice and it was hilarious.  We had so many laughs. And Leanne Lapp is hilarious; she’s so funny. I spent like most of the day just laughing at her jokes.

I can imagine. And then with Pascale, she is–

She is phenomenal. She’s got such a great energy.

Oh my goodness, she does! And I would also say she seems like she really cares about everyone and makes sure that everyone is doing well.

Totally. She was very caring on set. She came up to me a couple of times for kind of a private conversation. She said, “I really loved what you’re doing with this character. Keep it up.” I improv-ed a lot in that movie.  Martin {Wood}, the director, kept letting me do it. And Pascale would come up to me and give me accolades, and she was really encouraging and lovely. She didn’t have to do that, you know. She’s the number one on the movie. But it was very lovely to have her feedback. She just such a pro.  She is someone who can work sixteen-hour days and she’s still treating everyone around her with so much respect, so much patience, and so much positivity.

And it wasn’t that long ago that she had a baby.

Yeah! I don’t know how she does it!

I don’t know either. In fact, it was something I talked about with her in my interview. She never made out that her work was any better or any harder than the work of any other working mothers. She is not one who thinks she’s better than everyone because she’s an actress. 

Totally. She is so down-to-earth and genuine. She is such a breath of fresh air.

When the guys were in the scenes with you ladies, how did that change the dynamics?

In my opinion, as far as my part went, it was hilarious. Rennie {Kerry James}, Leanne’s character’s fiancee, he was cast in that role. But all the other guys who played our fiancés were background actors who were just assigned to us. The guy who played my fiancé, his real name is Zander. I told him, “Okay, here’s what’s happening. I’m insane. I’m so in love with you. And I hope you’re okay with that. I’m gonna be crazy.” And he totally went for it with me. We were just staring into each other’s eyes so crazily and he was just so game, which was really nice. And it was hilarious. Actually, the other actors kept cracking up at us because we were so ridiculous and so ridiculously in love.

I’m glad I asked you about that ’cause I didn’t realize any of that. I love reaching out to the supporting cast, and you filled me in on a lot of things I just didn’t know. 

As one of those supporting actors, I really appreciate your reaching out.

I really am so happy to do it. I love following the careers of actors just like you and seeing you move up the scale and get bigger and better roles as the time goes on. It’s wonderful to know your story because more than likely we’ll see you again in more Hallmark movies and elsewhere. I have interviewed so many different cast members and crew members as well. Sometimes people forget how important the costume designers are or even those that provide the jewelry. It might seem minor, but those kinds of things can make the scene sometimes.

You know, it is important. It will even make the actors feel different. If you’ve got a great costume and great jewelry and everything to go with it, it completely adds to your character. It even helps you drop into your character more. Every part on a set is so crucial. Everyone’s job, whether you’re in props, or costume, or makeup, it’s so vital. And a lot of these people do not get the recognition they deserve.

Do you have anything else upcoming that you can mention?

Yeah, I just finished working on the show Travelers.  That’s been really cool. I will be in one episode for the second season. But of course, if they want to bring me back for another episode, I certainly won’t say no.

I am so excited you got this opportunity, so good for you. Travelers is a popular show, and we’ll look forward to seeing you.

Thank you, I’m really excited about it. I love Eric McCormack.

Me too. And after his work on A Heavenly Christmas where he did some wonderful singing as well as acting, Hallmark audiences love him too.

I didn’t know he could sing. I may have to look that one up and ask him about it.

Debs, I am so glad it worked out to chat with you today.

Well, thank you so much for contacting my agent and wanting to do this. And now for a bit of trivia. My middle name is actually Ruth.

Really? That is really something. 

I don’t hear the name a lot, so it’s pretty cool.

I hear ya. Usually, when I meet someone with the name Ruth, they’re much older than I. 

Well, my first name is Deborah, so I’m Deborah Ruth. People make fun of me all the time. “Are you eighty?”  {laughs} My parents went old school.

Well, in my case, my parents chose Biblical names. I have a brother named David, and my daughter is Martha. 

Same here. All my siblings are Biblical names. So yet another thing that ties us together.

Well, Debs, I think we have covered most of your career today, so that’s all good. But just taking a moment to go back to your character from The Perfect Bride, not that the other ladies were not good or anything like that, but I think you got really lucky there because you were given this character that you could really play with. 

Thank you so much, and yes, I was really fortunate to have a fun person to play. The writers did a great job with her,  and the director, Martin, gave me a ton of creative freedom.  So everything kind of fell into line.

And that film overall was fantastic. I would say everybody really brought their A-game. 

Oh, good, I’m glad you liked it.

In my opinion, everyone who works for Hallmark is just wonderful people, and they produce great content. 

Yes, everyone I’ve met so far absolutely has been. And I look forward to working with Hallmark, as well as other networks, for many, many years to come!

I cannot tell you how much fun I had chatting with Debs. So much of our interview was me talking (my readers can be glad I did a lot of editing), and she was gracious and listened to and interacted with everything I had to say. Without a doubt, I can declare that our connection was very strong as we discovered what we had in common and how we viewed life in much the same vein. The humor that Debs infused into our chat was delightfully infectious, and her excitement was readily apparent about every opportunity she has had throughout her acting career. Debs is a warm, amiable human being who has nurtured her God-given talent and creative spirit and enjoys nothing more than the honor of bringing a character to life in her own indomitable style. She always takes her task seriously, no matter the size nor the scope of the role, and her point of view is consistently positive and upbeat. She seamlessly injects her unique perspective into every character she is chosen to portray, and I believe this is something that sets her apart in the vast sea of aspiring actors and actresses within the entertainment universe. Her authenticity perpetually shines through, and I so appreciate her willingness to be open and real in this interview. If you have not seen The Perfect Bride, keep your eyes open for the next time Hallmark shows it as her performance, in addition to the stellar cast, makes this a charming and pleasurable viewing experience that will enchant you to the core. Additionally, if you are so inclined, please feel free to check out the links below and perhaps even look up her other works as she is one whose kindness, sweetness, versatility, and amazing sense of humor deserves to be rewarded as she continues in the pursuit of her dreams. 

FOLLOW DEBS

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IMDB

 

 

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth

43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl
Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA
Entertainment Writer
Available For Interviews and Reviews
Substitute Teacher

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