Interview With Actress Rebecca Davis, “With Love, Christmas”

By Ruth on December 29, 2017 in Interview, movie, television
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As Hallmark’s popular “Countdown to Christmas” programming comes to a conclusion, I would like to share with you another supporting actress that viewers had the pleasure of seeing this year in the new classic With Love, Christmas. While the stars Emilie Ullerup and Aaron O’Connell dominate the majority of the story (as the leads should), in the role of Jude, Rebecca Davis treated viewers to an effervescent embodiment of this character. Recently, she and I had a delightful chat where we discussed her career in general as well as a few other topics about which she is decidedly passionate.

RH: Rebecca, It is so nice to get to chat with you today. In fact, just before we got on here, I noticed With Love, Christmas was playing again.

RD: Oh, really? That’s cool. Nice to chat with you too, Ruth.

With Love, Christmas

I really have enjoyed all the Christmas movies this year. And this one was such a sweet story that featured such a great cast.

I agree it was a joy to be a part of. And it’s really nice that Hallmark does a lot of their movies up here in Vancouver. That’s so fortunate for the film and TV community up here. We appreciate all the work the network brings to us, but it goes beyond that. These movies are positive and have good values, and they are ultimately about joy, connection, and relationships. Their movies are always a lot of fun to be a part of.

I couldn’t agree more. Yes, there are other networks that do holiday movies, but Hallmark is very consistent and they know their brand so well.  You know that when you sit down and watch a Hallmark movie, you’re not going to be surprised or offended by something that pops up in the movie. They’re family-friendly and positive.

With Love, Christmas

I think it’s such a beautiful thing, especially during the holidays when families are getting together and you want to be able to create that loving, snuggly feeling that we associate with the holidays. Hallmark just does that so well with their programming. I love to think of families gathering around the TV and watching a film that is ultimately about love and togetherness. In fact, my half-sister told me that she PVR’d my Hallmark movie, and we’re planning to watch it together on Christmas Eve. So she’ll be watching it with her kids and her husband, and I’m like, “That’s so sweet.” They’re on the other side of the country from me, so I won’t be able to see them this year for the holidays, and I actually feel closer to them knowing that they will be gathered around their TV, watching a movie that I have a little part in. I just love that thought of them gathering together like that. It’s really sweet.

With Love, Christmas

How special. And it’s great because you can have your kids there while the movie is on and you don’t have to worry about it. My daughter is fourteen now, so I don’t have to worry about it as much now, but my parents live with us too, and they prefer programming the way it used to be. Especially my dad. And Hallmark delivers that. 

I’m so pleased.

Now, I was reading about you, and you began as a figure skater?

Yes, I was a competitive figure skater. I started skating when I was three. I started taking lessons when I was five. By the time I was seven, I was competing. I ended up competing to the senior national rank in Canada and then toured with Disney On Ice for a couple of years before I retired at the age of twenty-one.

Courtesy of Dan Poh Photography

Of course, there’s the athletic aspect to skating, but there’s also the artistry and the interpretive aspect. You’re doing these amazing feats of jumping up in the air and landing on a quarter-inch blade of steel, which just blows my mind. While you’re doing that, however, you’re also interpreting music and performing and telling a story through your routines. I loved that part about it.

I started dabbling in acting when I was quite young. I remember writing and performing plays for my grade five class with two friends of mine. One of those friends is now a director, and the other is a professional musician. So we all went on to follow our passions in different ways. And from there, I did regional youth theater, and every time there was a high school musical production that I could be a part of–meaning I wasn’t away competing and skating at the time–I would always be involved with it. So acting was always there, but skating was my focus in the years I was growing up. But they both have this commonality in terms of performance and expression and telling a story. Skating tells the story through your body, and acting tells the story through your body, words, and everything else. I always knew in the back of my mind that I would move on to acting professionally when I finished with skating.

And figure skating is something that can’t be done for a long period of time. I think figure skaters usually retire young, just like you did. And I understand it is very taxing on the body. 

Yes, it is taxing on the body, and I think most of the time by the time we’re into our thirties, we’re moving on to coaching or other realms. Yes, you can continue to skate, but the height of competitive skating seems to be the teens and the early twenties.

So after you retired from figure skating, how did you move towards acting?

It’s kind of an interesting story. I was finishing up my time with Disney On Ice. I was in Thailand at the time where my contract was finishing. I was at this very weird crossroads in my life. I was twenty-one and on the other side of the world and hanging up my skates, which had been the thing I identified with my whole life. It was what I did. Every day was focused around skating. I loved that, but I was ready to move on.

My best friend from the tour at the time was from Australia, and she said, “You know you’re finishing the tour, and I have a little break. We’re already on this side of the world. Why don’t you come visit me in Sydney for a little while?” I was like, “Okay, I’ve always wanted to visit Australia. I don’t know when I’ll be back on this side of the world. ”

So I booked what was a couple-week holiday to Australia, but when I got there, I just fell in love with it and ended up staying longer and choosing to get a holiday work visa. And that’s where I got my professional and proper training start in acting. I started to do some research because I knew Australia had a cool film industry. I knew they had some amazing actors, and we’ve certainly seen that over the years. They’ve produced some incredible actors.

My first acting teacher was John Noble, who played Denethor on Lord of the Rings and was the lead on a show called Fringe, which shot in Vancouver for many years. I became very close friends with his daughter, and we would take acting classes together. And that was actually my start. I ended up studying at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts in Australia, and then I auditioned for little things that I could. I was able to book some short films. So from age twenty-one to twenty-two, I had my first year of acting and training in Australia. I think that was an interesting way to start because it is a different culture over there. They create a very interesting type of actor, and it’s a very interesting type of film scene.

With Love, Christmas

I knew I wanted to pursue it full-time, so when my visa ran up, I came back to Canada. I’m originally from Toronto, Ontario, so that’s where I returned. I thought that was the place that would make the most sense for me as a Canadian to get started in the industry. I settled in Toronto and was close to my family and friends. I got an agent and started training with the best coaches that they had there. I started booking, and it just took off.

After a number of years there, I came out west to Vancouver. Vancouver has such a vibrant and very, very busy film and television industry, and we’re very fortunate that we get a lot of big American work too. So it’s a great place to build as an actor. I know this is a bit of a long story.

No, that’s great. And actually, I’ve heard longer stories than that, so it’s fine. Anyway, I thought it was a fascinating story. So when you came back to Canada, what do you consider your first significant role?

Well, this is a bit of a controversial one, but I am ultimately so grateful for it, and it opened a lot of doors for me. It was my first small role, but in a big film that I landed in Toronto. It was an Atom Egoyan film, and Atom Egoyan is one of Canada’s premier auteur directors.  He has won at the Cannes Film Festival a number of times. He’s Oscar-nominated. I think I was twenty-three or twenty-four when I auditioned for this role and then ultimately booked it. I even remember getting the audition. At that time, it was a struggle for my agency to be able to even get me in the room because I was so new. I hadn’t done much except student films, but he managed to get me in the room and be seen for this role.

So I went in and did my best, but I didn’t think I got it. Then I found out I got a callback. So I found out I was going to meet Atom Egoyan. So I went in and did my best for him. He’s very kind and very nice in the room, and I thought I did well. But when I didn’t hear anything, I was like, “Oh, I guess I didn’t get it. That’s okay.”

The assistant to the casting director at the time was my next-door neighbor, and he told me about a month later how I was shortlisted for the role. He said, “They’re casting in LA right now, but you’re shortlisted and you should hear soon.” That was great, but then I didn’t hear. Another month passed, and then this assistant said, “You know, it’s down to you and one other person. You’re still one of the top choices.” So I waited by the phone with bated breath for a week or so. And then another month passed! It’s been literally three months since I auditioned! I found out they had cast in LA and Toronto and the UK, and then I found out that I got the role!

It was a small role in this movie called Where the Truth Lies, but I got to work opposite Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth. And it was an Atom Egoyan that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in France. And then it had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. So I got to walk the red carpet. Even though my role was small, it was so amazing! Seeing these professionals work and being part of an Atom Egoyan production was such an honor.

And that role kind of put me on the map and has continued to do so. It became a reference point for casting later on. I got such incredible press from that role, which always helps. That role has been like the gift that keeps on giving. I still have press from that film that people refer to. While this role was a small role, I describe it as a “small big break.”  I was a complete unknown, but Atom saw the performance that he wanted. And I think they already had the stars on board to carry the film. I think he took a bit of a gamble and went with me for the role. I feel very fortunate.

I also got to shoot, not only in Toronto but in London. It was a co-production with the UK, so I was also flown to London and go to shoot there. We got to shoot at the Shepperton Studios, which is just legendary!

That’s really amazing. I can imagine that it’s quite memorable. So why do you call it controversial?

I call it controversial because Atom Egoyan’s works tend to be very evocative. This film pushed a lot of boundaries, especially at that time. I did have an intimate scene with Kevin Bacon. {laughs} That was also a new experience for me to do that kind of scene in a movie and to do that on set and how it all works. It’s just so technical. It’s not quite the way it looks at all on screen. That’s why I call is controversial. As his work tends to do, the film caused a lot of waves. It was reviewed well, and it was reviewed negatively.

I think every actor I’ve ever interviewed has done at least one controversial film, and interestingly enough, those are the films that usually open other doors for them. Sometimes they are the ones people tend to remember. And with such a diverse Hallmark audience, no doubt some of the fans will want to check out this film if they have not seen it before. And it wouldn’t surprise me if some had seen it. 

Well, that’s good to know.

In fact, many Hallmark fans are fans of shows like Bates Motel and Supernatural. I noticed you did the Supernatural thing.

Yes, I’ve done the Supernatural thing. And it’s interesting, for myself, in evaluating the kinds of projects I want to be a part of and whether they are controversial or not, I always look at, “Is it gratuitous? Is it exploitative?” It may be exploring something controversial or boundary-pressing or something like that, but if it’s for a purpose and it ultimately lets us explore ourselves more deeply as humans, I think that’s important. But if it’s violence for the sake of violence, I don’t like it. If it’s just for the sake of gratuitous exploitation, I don’t want to be a part of it. If it’s art and it’s exploring the human condition in order to help us understand ourselves a little bit more and it’s tastefully done–which I knew Atom’s work was and is–then it’s something I at least consider or I’m open to.

I also filmed that one a long time ago, and I’ve matured as an actor. My agent is wonderful at getting me roles where I don’t have to be concerned about any of these issues anymore. My agent is also great at finding roles for me that show women in a positive light and in a strong way. It wasn’t always like that when I was in my twenties. I found I had to wade into that territory carefully and make sure that the roles that came up for me to audition for were ones that I wanted. Now I find there are roles that I don’t want to audition for, and as I have established myself more and grown more as a person, I know what roles I want to play. I want to be able to play roles that are capable and forward-moving and most importantly, help to portray women in a positive way.

And I think that is most important. Most of the actors I talk to–probably all of them, come to think of it–have that same desire. Whether male or female, they want women portrayed in the right way. They don’t want the woman to be characterized as a doormat or where the male dominates the woman. I really don’t think most people want to see movies or shows like that anymore. 

I would like to think we are evolving to that point as a society.

It’s Christmas, Carol! with Carson Kressley and Patti Allan

Your first Hallmark thing was It’s Christmas, Carol!, I think. 

Yeah, I loved that film! It was so much fun to be a part of. I know it’s been awhile since we did that film, but it was a great ensemble cast, and I think it turned out really well. It did quite well in ratings, and it’s been reaired quite a lot.

You also got to be in one of the Garage Sale Mystery films.

Yes, I grew up watching Lori Loughlin on Full House. I loved her and I loved her character. I used to watch Full House all the time. She was one of the women that I looked up to when I was growing up. Like, “Wow, I’d like to be like her.” So it was really neat to be able to work on that series. And to talk with her and say, “Hey, thank you for inspiring me.” She really did make an impression on me. And she was very sweet and very gracious. Just a consummate professional.

This Christmas, we saw you in With Love, Christmas

Yes, that movie kicked off the special Thanksgiving movie premieres. And it did well and has been shown a lot since then.

With Love, Christmas

Is there any story about how you got involved with this movie?

It was just a normal audition. I auditioned for a great casting director in the city and went in and did my thing. I was very fortunate to book this role. Sometimes you learn with this business that you always go in and do your best work and then sometimes your piece of the puzzle is the piece that matches the puzzle that production is putting together and that they have in their minds. Then sometimes it’s not, but if you do good work, they tend to bring you back at least for the next one.

With Love, Christmas

So with this film, it was a match, and it was such a joy to be a part of it. There was a little joke on set. We were calling it “Christmas in September.” We were shooting it in September in Vancouver. September in Vancouver tends to be just glorious. It was beautiful, hot and sunny…almost like Christmas in July. A little cooler, but not much. I loved working with Emilie {Ullerup} and Aaron {O’Connell}. They were so much fun. Jett Klyne is the incredibly talented little guy who played my son. He was so sweet, and a very talented kid and really fun to work with. And the director, Marita Grabiak, was just wonderful. And the producer, Maura Dunbar, was also amazing.

Something else really great about this film that was really cool for me is this was my first time being on set with an all-female team, in terms of female director and female producer.

 

with her mom

Also, a little sidebar for me was that my mom, who lives back in Ontario where I’m from, came out to visit me during the time that I was shooting. So I got to bring her to set one of the days that I was working, and this is the first time that my mom had ever been on set to see me work. She watches my things, but it was so cool to be able to bring my mom to see me work. The cast and crew were so welcoming and very gracious. It was such a wonderful thing to be a part of.

That is just so wonderful! I noticed that it was also a female writer {Marcy Holland} in addition to director and producer. I just love the fact that Hallmark empowers women so much on both sides of the camera. 

I agree completely. We women have come a long away, and it’s becoming more common to see women behind the camera as directors and producers. I think it will become more the norm to see a female director and female producer. I think we’ll get to the point where it’s not an anomaly to see a woman in the director’s seat or the producer’s chair. But it was great to have a female team on this. I think it really added to the film and the experience for everyone.

I notice you are also in the show Ice coming up next year. 

Yes, I’m in two episodes for season two. And I had a female director on that show, too. I think it’s very progressive and forward-moving, and I like to see all these women in these roles. This show explores the diamond industry, and it explores the underbelly and the glitz and glam and the duality around all of that. I think it’s interesting and important to look into all of that. I was very fortunate to be working on this. It was a great team and a really positive experience. I certainly hope that season two goes really well.

You’re also in Green Beret’s Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse.

Yes, that will be coming out in 2018. It’s a new apocalyptic comedy, and it will premiere on Netflix. There is a great team behind it. It was executive produced by Matt Damon and Peter Berg. That was a ridiculous amount of fun to be a part of. I love comedy, and basically, the show at…each episode is an entirely different apocalyptic situation in which the characters need to survive. And it looks at this from a comedic standpoint. It is co-written by the star, Shawn Vance. He is ex-military and a personal trainer to many celebrities. He and his writing partner, who is also ex-military, have brought in their experience about how to survive in all sorts of different situations. I played this character, Cheyenne, the lead’s sister-in-law, and we’re very antagonistic towards each other. I’m very controlling. It was fun, and such a wild comedy to be a part of.

I think Jason Cermak was in this too.

Yes, he is in the pilot. I know him. He’s a great guy.

According to your credits, you are listed as a writer and a director on a short film.

Ephemeral in 2013. That was my first time dipping my toe into writing and directing. And I should say I had a lot of help. I had a friend of mine who is an excellent and successful writer helping me with it. I had a cinematographer who works a ton, and he was excellent. I had an amazing co-director. So when I said I wrote and directed it, there were a lot of others involved offering professional support. It was not just me.

It’s a short film based on a true experience where I had a chance conversation with a homeless man in Vancouver. It really shifted my perspective on people and connecting with them. Sometimes we get so busy in our day-to-day lives that we forget that we’re surrounded by precious, living, breathing, deep-feeling human beings who have their own struggles and their own life and experience. This man was so kind to me, and I remember walking away from that little talk and seeing people a little differently as I walked down the street.

So from there, this idea developed of this high-powered career woman who was all about the career and money and working up the corporate ladder. She works in finance, and she tries to build as much as she can as quickly as possible without concern for the effects of certain deals she makes brokering. One night, on her way home late from work, she has a run-in with a homeless man. I intentionally made the socio-economic demographics of these two very far apart. He helps her connect just for a second with what is most important in life: experiencing and connecting with the people. We know and recognize at the end of the day, you can’t take any of this material stuff with you. What you have is the life you’ve lived and love and the experiences that you’ve had with people. So what kind of person do you want to be and what kind of life do you want to have lived? It explores that.

The homeless man is played by a wonderful Canadian actor, Colin Foo. He has a Buddha-like quality about him. He’s very wise, and a very sweet and kind and excellent actor. He brought so much to the role. It ended up premiering at the Canadian Filmmakers Festival in Toronto, which was a big surprise for me.

I noticed that Giles Panton is in the cast. He’s a good friend of mine.

Aw, Giles is great. I know Giles well. He’s a great part of the Vancouver film community. He played an additional role in this film. And as he always delivers to any project or role, he brought kindness, charisma, and depth to his character.

And that was a little foray into writing and directing.

Is this something you would like to do more of?

Maybe. I think just in doing it, I realized how much work is involved in writing and directing. Sometimes I thought that in some ways, I have no business doing this ’cause I don’t know what I’m doing. But it helped me realize just how much goes into becoming a wonderful writer and a really wonderful director. I would really want to hone that craft before I were to do anything else. It would be about determining what I want to put out there. If and when a story comes to me again that I feel inspired, that might inspire people and help us to all become a little more connected to each other. Then I might look into it again.

With Love, Christmas

When you do have free time, what do you like to do?

I love yoga. I’m a longtime yogi. Over this past year, I have been getting my two-hundred-hour yoga teacher training. Yoga has been a part of my life for about fifteen years. It’s a foundational part of my life in terms of its…it’s like a spiritual home for me. Meditation is where I connect to me and something greater for me. I love the practice of yoga and learning more about the philosophy. It’s so old. It’s thousands of years old. It speaks with so much wisdom. I find the principles of it very helpful for just living my daily life. It’s been this beautiful guide that guides me through my life in terms of growth in myself and how I want to be in the world, be with other people in the world, and experience the world.

I’m interested in cooking. Ayurvedic medicine, which is Indian medicine, is something I’m interested in. I’m exploring it right now, and I’m cooking Ayurvedic dishes that are supportive for my body type. I love nutrition and learning about that kind of stuff.

And of course, when I moved out to Vancouver to the West coast, I got out here and I felt like I was home. Nature, specifically in Vancouver is beautiful…the mountains, the oceans, forests everywhere. I love to spend time in that. I’m very fortunate that I live right near the water. I love to spend time at the beach. Those are my biggies. Then, of course, reading and film and television. Just settling down with my laptop and watching something on Netflix.

You have a very full life, Rebecca.

I’m always working to cultivate balance in it, but yes, I agree. It’s a full, rich, and beautiful life, one I’m very grateful to live.

One of the best things about interviewing the supporting cast of movies and shows like this is enabling young women like Rebecca to voice their perspective, ideas, and so much more. Trust me, I’m like most every other viewer who typically pays heed to the leads in these Christmas films, and of course, there is nothing wrong with that. However, I have begun to purpose within my mind and heart to examine the supporting cast because as we all know, without them, there wouldn’t be a solid story. Actors like Rebecca are proficient in interacting with the leads in such a way that we discover more about those principal characters, and sometimes their scenes with the leads are frequently so memorable that we may not even realize the importance of these other experienced professionals. 

After chatting with Rebecca and discerning just how talented, articulate, and pragmatic she is, I can only hope that her years of investing in this industry will ultimately grant her the opportunity for a more substantial role in a movie or show in the near future, maybe even in 2018. There is no doubt in my mind that she made an enduring impression in With Love, Christmas, and I am confident that Hallmark viewers would relish seeing this beauty in more Hallmark works. Her intrinsic authenticity and fresh perspective are invigorating as are her abilities and positivity, and no doubt she is incredibly thrilled for her prospective pursuits, and I certainly join her in that.

So please consider following Rebecca at the links below. And if you have not had the occasion to watch With Love, Christmas, take the opportunity before the chance passes you by this season. Hallmark audiences are blessed to have someone of her caliber, stamina, and outlook in our midst, and I pray that this network (as well as others) utilizes her talents to the utmost, for she is definitely prepared to challenge herself professionally in the weeks, months, and years to come!

FOLLOW REBECCA

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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

1 Comment

  1. Alain Jacobée December 30, 2017 Reply

    The interview with Rebecca Davis is super great, I always think that work pays one day, and that’s very much what is written about her life. Many thanks for your report and wish you all the best for the year 2018.

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