The Daily Quirk: What made you want to enter the realm of acting?
Lara Jean Chorostecki: When I was eight, I saw a production of Les Mis here in Toronto at the Royal Alexandra Theatre and my parents said I was basically on the edge of my seat the whole time leaning over the balcony. And the next day at church, I took the bulletin of the church and drew little pictures of Les Mis. So I made my own little storyboard, and I think that it was from that moment on, at 8 years old there was no other choice. I just always kind of knew what I was going to do.
TDQ: You’re a classically trained actress with a lot of stage experience, so do you prefer working on stage or on screen?
LJC: I think that they’re just very different animals and they require very different techniques. I remember when I first switched into concentrating on TV and film four and a half years ago, it was a steep learning curve to figure out the technical requirements of being on a set and having a camera in your face instead of interacting with an audience. I think any theater person will tell you that there’s nothing like having a live audience, but at the same time because I’ve been blessed with great parts in films I can’t really say I like one better. I just think that they’re very different.
TDQ: Is one harder than the other?
LJC: It just requires a different level of concentration. Truthfully, the amount of energy and concentration that’s required to carry a three-hour Shakespeare show is incredibly intense. And in that sense, I think that certain stage shows are definitely harder. But again, it’s just in training yourself to have a different focus. So in film, your focus is ‘I need to do this take a million times, over and over again, and I need to access that same emotion.’ Where in theater, what’s harder is that ‘I have to sustain this whole journey for three hours.’
TDQ: You previously starred as Bridget in Starz & CBC’s Camelot along with some impressive costars. Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like working on the miniseries?
LJC: It was really exciting. That was in 2010 and working in Ireland, which the film crew that they have up there are really second-to-none. From the drivers to the people who you’re working with on-set to the production team behind you was really an incredible experience in that sense. And it was a really big learning experience for me too, because I was able to watch Joe (Joesph Fiennes) to see how he works and Claire (Forlani) too, who was actually a lovely mentor for me at that time. All in all, it was really enjoyable. And I loved doing that show too because I love any period pieces, and especially period pieces that have a good costume team. Of course, Joan Bergin has won Emmys for her work on The Tudors before, and she was incredible because I would show up and as soon as I put on my costume I felt like half my work was done for me. There’s a different feel. I think any time you strap on a corset or you strap on a dress, it works for you and you’re already in character. And the people who did the costume design and production design are equally amazing in helping you immerse yourself in that world.
TDQ: You also recently filmed a stint on BBC’s Copper as Detective O’Brien’s wife Sybil. Was it fun to play a character who was such a spitfire?
LJC: Absolutely, and I’m hoping to be able to play her again. It’s rumored that that might happen. But yeah, she was so much fun. I really enjoyed, first of all, after coming off Camelot and living in Ireland, being able to add a little bit of an Irish lilt to my accent. And she was really an awesome character. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be the kind of character who can walk into a room and yell at her husband and then walk away without having to worry about anything? And Dylan (Taylor), who play’s O’Brien, and I had such a blast on set, so it was probably the most fun I’ve had.
TDQ: Next, we’re going to see you as Freddie Lounds in NBC’s Hannibal. What attracted you to the role?
LJC: She is quite something. People who are fans of the Thomas Harris books, or even the movies, will know that she was a he. And they know how Stephan Lang and Philip Seymour Hoffman played the character before, but she is very, very different from those interpretations. Bryan Fuller, who is the creator of the show, sat down with me when we first were starting to shoot back in August. And he showed me a picture of Rebekah Brooks. I don’t know if you’ve heard of her but she ran news at the World (News of the World) and The Sun and News International, and she has now arrested currently under suspicion of a phone hacking scandal in the UK. And if you see a picture of Rebekah Brooks, you’ll notice that she has this massive, beautiful mane of red, curly hair. So he showed me this picture and said ‘This is who you’re based on.’ So we had a little chat about that and one of the great anecdotes said about her was that ‘She’s the type of woman who can get you fired, yet have you send her thank you flowers.’ And I went home after this meeting and read a great Vanity Fair article about Rebekah Brooks by Suzanna Andrews called ‘Untangling Rebekah Brooks.’ So I read it before shooting Episode 2 and it was a great kind of insight into who Freddie might be. She’s a younger version and I call her spirited. She’s unflappable and she ignores the rules at every point possible, if she needs to. And she’s really good at her job, so I think that’s something. She sometimes fails, but she always manages to find her way around things.
TDQ: Because this role has been portrayed twice before by Stephan Lang and Philip Seymour Hoffman, were you ever hesitant in taking on the part?
LJC: No, not really. I think the gender switch always gives so much freedom and Bryan has a brilliant way of inspiring his actors to, first of all, want to work really hard for him, and also to feel very confident in your ability to create a character that is entirely your own. So I loved both interpretations and I actually rewatched Red Dragon right before I started, but they’re so different. And the interpretations are so different down to even the costumes that I’m wearing. Our costume designer is amazing and has Freddie outfitted as fresh and central and so high fashion, she always looks her best. So everything is so different about it that I think I felt really confident about making her my own without having to worry about comparing. And that would be a really scary comparison because they are amazing!
TDQ: Now, are you anything like Freddie in real life?
LJC: I like to think not, because she doesn’t have much of a moral compass. So I like to think that I have a little more of a moral compass but it makes her like Sybil in that she’s so much fun to play, because I have these little parts of myself that don’t get to come out very often but I now get to bring out and kind of fan the flames of these personality traits that I don’t think I really have. But I certainly am a passionate person and I certainly can be a go-getter, so in that sense sure, there are parts of myself that I’ve been able to explode and make them so much bigger to be able to explore her. When people see her and her personality, I’d like to think I’m a lot nicer. At least I hope.
TDQ: You could say that you have one thing in common with Freddie, in that you’re both writers. Your poem “Casa Loma at Midnight” was just recently published in the Great Lakes Review and Freddie is a journalist. What inspires you as a writer?
LJC: I’ve been writing poetry since I was really little. My parents took me camping a lot and every summer we’d go to a different provincial park in Ontario and since then I’ve continued that tradition. My partner, he and I love to go camping, so we go to provincial parks and national parks and that is where I’d say I draw most of my inspiration, from the outdoors. That particular poem is actually about Toronto, but it’s still about outdoors Toronto. So yeah, my main inspiration is outdoors, experiential kind of stuff. So nothing like Freddie, she’s a criminal justice journalist.
TDQ: So you’d never give journalism a try?
LJC: Well I am enrolled in university right now getting my certificate in English Literature and I did my Master’s in Shakespeare, so I certainly have a passion for words. But no, I’ve never done journalism.
TDQ: What scoop can you give us about the show without risking a Hannibal Lecter-style wrath from producers?
LJC: I like that, a Hannibal Lecter-style wrath. I think Bryan would come down on me with a Lecter-style wrath if I gave away too much. What can you expect? It’s hard because I think there are so many twists and turns that I think the audience will be excited about, so it’s hard to not give too much away. The interaction between Mads (Mikkelson) and Hugh (Dancy) who play Hannibal and Will Graham is something to really look forward to. And the beginning of their relationship is something that the audience has never really seen before, so being able to know, as an audience, where we’re going to end up is really exciting. Because we all know what Hannibal does, and we’re going to know that from Episode 1, but nobody else knows what Hannibal does. So there’s a lot of tension and suspense which is really exciting. I can say we start off four or five years before Red Dragon, so it’s pre-Hannibal being caught and it revolves around the cop story where we start off. So people can look forward to seeing that at the very beginning and all the consequences that happen afterwards. And that’s as safe as I can talk. Freddie gets to interact with a lot or really exciting people, too. So, it’s been a fantastic ride.
TDQ: It is a big change to go from the period pieces to a show that’s really modern like Hannibal?
LJC: Yeah, it’s fun to be able to switch. This is a new territory and it’s so much en vogue right now to do these kind of darker, modern pieces and it’s exciting to be in this realm of dramatic modern stuff. I mean, Freddie, as she is a journalist, still gives me the great fun of being able to utilize my love of words because Bryan writes a lot of great vocabulary for her. So in that sense, period pieces have that kind of rich vocabulary so it’s familiar in that way. But it’s nice to take off the corsets and stop walking around cobblestone streets. I’m only 5’2″ so I always have to be in heels or on apple boxes so it’s nice to be in heels and on apple boxes on flat surfaces rather than cobblestone and dirt.
TDQ: You have another project coming out, the film Please Kill Mr. Know It All, which just screened in Toronto at the Canadian Film Festival. Can you tell us a little bit about the film?
LJC: Yeah, I’m actually a writer in that film too. I play Sally, and she’s an advice columnists for a paper but she’s very shy. I like to think of her as a la Meg Ryan in the 90s romantic comedy kind of character. So she’s a little neurotic, quite shy and the paper that she works for wants her to come out and show her face and through a misunderstanding they think that she’s a man. So she ends up giving them a picture of this guy that she sees in a movie theater and it turns out that this guy is a hit man. So now that everyone thinks he’s this advice columnist, he can longer do his job because he’s being recognized. So everyone ends up trying to kill this anonymous advice columnist because he’s preventing them all from doing what they want to do. So I meet him because tried to figure out who this Mr. Know It All actually is and why his picture is being used an it is a rom-com, so we might have some sparks flying. It’s really cute and it’s a lovely film with a lot of really great Canadian people. And that is screening here in Toronto on Thursday and it will open up to the nation in May.
TDQ: Any other upcoming projects we should look out for?
LJC: Actually, I’m hoping that Hannibal Season 2 will start to shoot, but in the meantime I’m going to be going across the pond to Poland. My partner and I are both Polish, so he and I are going to go on a journey that we haven’t yet and spend a month in Poland. That’s my next project.
TDQ: Because we like to end our interviews with a fun little question, could you share with us a personality trait or a habit that you would consider your “quirk?”
LJC: What’s my quirk? I absolutely can share something. My quirk is definitely cats. I can absolutely, 100 percent call myself a cat lady. I volunteer for a couple of organizations here in Toronto. I own two cats, one of which has one eye. She’s a cancer survivor. She’s wonderful. And if you let me, I will talk your ear off about cats.
Hannibal premieres Thursday, April 4 at 10 p.m. on NBC.
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