FYIG recently got to talk to actress Katelyn Wells about her role on Anne With an E and The Psycho She Met Online, and much more. Read more inside!
How did you get your start in acting?
I started doing school plays and community theatre when I was a kid, probably around 7 years old. And I would play an elf or an angel in Christmas plays. Doing those sorts of things at a young age gave me a love for the theatre, so when I started middle school I auditioned for an arts high school called Canterbury Arts High in Ottawa. Once I got accepted into that my entire life changed. I found my first agent, I started going on auditions to Montreal and Toronto, and that’s how I started booking roles and building up my career and my resume.
Was it difficult transitioning from theatre to movies/tv shows? What are some of the similarities and differences between the two?
Not at all. I am a strong advocate that the best training an actor can get starts in the theatre. And I say that because based on my own experience, having done theatre training quite literally every day for four years from the age of 14-18, there is a strong emphasis on being in character and focusing on the scene. When you study elements specific to the role of an actor, like you would do in theatre, you are going to grow exponentially stronger as a performer and as an artist. It wasn’t until I started booking my first film and television roles that I realized there was another factor to consider- that of the camera. But since I had my art form practiced, adding in the camera was something I could learn very quickly, and I have thus been able to remain focused on my acting, rather than worrying about anything else.
The one difference I would point out between the two is how many takes you would do a scene for film and television, versus how many run-throughs you would do for a play. It took me some time getting used to having to perform a scene over and over again, perhaps 15 times from each camera angle, to shoot a scene, whereas you would rehearse a scene over several months, and then perform it once on stage. I find that aspect of film and television the most exhausting, and definitely something an actor has to get used to. By strategizing and finding ways to keep your energy up, you have to be able to perform a scene as strongly as you did in the first take, as you do in the last. And that can be difficult.
What was it like getting a role on Cyberbully when you were just 15 years old?
I remember the day my agent called me to tell me I had booked that role. I was on the yellow school bus, going home from school, I’d say probably about a week after my callback. And my agent said, “Katelyn I just got a call from production and they said you did horribly.” My heart just sank, I thought, “Oh no, this is not good. My agent is going to drop me.” But then she followed it up with, “The producer said you were so horrible he doesn’t want to see you again. And he definitely doesn’t want to see you on April 5th to shoot the movie.” I was so confused and panicked, feeling terrible that I had really messed up my audition, and then my agent started laughing and said, “I’m just kidding, they loved you! You’ll be shooting in April!” My Lord, you should have seen my face. I was so excited, I was pretty much screaming and jumping out of my seat, I’m sure every one of those students on the bus thought I was insane! But it was the happiest day of my life thus far, and that kind of energy is what it felt like being an actor at 15 years old. I was living this extraordinary life on the side, while still being a regular high school student at the same time. I’ll never forget the day my Grade 11 Biology teacher came into class and told everyone she thought she was having a dream of me the night before, only to wake up and realize she was watching me on TV because Cyberbully was playing. So I guess the easiest way to talk about what it was like getting a role on Cyberbully at 15, is to tell you how I experienced it whilst still living my everyday life as a teenager!
Tell us about your role as Mary Joe in Anne With an E.
Mary Joe is a sweet young woman I have the joy of playing on Anne with an E. She works as the maid for the Barry household and has the unique opportunity to closely interact with both the children of the show, as well as the adults and parental figures in the series. Mary Joe is responsible for looking after Anne and her friends, while also tending to the needs of Mrs. Barry and the household chores. And while she does work as The Help to the family, typical of Avonlea fashion, she is welcomed and accepted as part of the family and takes pleasure in working for the Barry’s. An integral part of the Barry family, Mary Joe is simply a helpful and kind young girl, as we will get the chance to see once again in Season 2 of Anne with an E.
How have you evolved as an actress over the past few years?
Over the last few years, I feel that I have evolved as an actress by finding more confidence in my talent and my skills. Through training and experience on-set, I have come to find a confidence I’ve never experienced before in taking on new roles and acting in front of the camera. I can’t deny how much more natural I feel in front of the camera, compared to when I first started performing in film and television years ago. And I’d have to say that that confidence can only be attributed to my experience and knowledge of the industry as I’ve come to know it in recent years. Two years ago I attended the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time, promoting my films February (starring Emma Roberts), and the Oscar-nominated film Room (starring Brie Larson) and it opened my eyes to where the next level of my career is going. Ever since, I have jumped into my career with renewed vigour and determination, focusing on always making each year a step ahead of the last.
In the last two years I have graduated with distinction from Ryerson University with a Bachelor of Arts in Radio and Television and a GPA of 4.2, I have premiered two films at TIFF, landed starring roles in a feature film and a new television series on the Freeform Network, as well as landing a recurring role in the critically-acclaimed series Anne with an E, a story beloved by all Canadians. I have traveled to Los Angeles, California and worked with some of the best coaches in Hollywood and have worked on getting signed with an agent and management team in the American Industry. And I did it all in two years. With my drive and ambition, I can’t wait to see how I will evolve and where I will be in the next two years.
Do you have any dream roles or anything on your career bucket list?
Absolutely! I think every great actor has thought about what their dream role would be. For me, I would love to star in a series film franchise in either the superhero or dystopian genre, similar to any Marvel movie or something like The Hunger Games. I look at Jennifer Lawrence and I am inspired because here you have a young woman who has accomplished this early on in her career, and who has gone on to become an Academy Award-winning actress, starring in films of several different genres. I, too, aspire to be an actress whose career not only spans over an entire lifetime but whose character choices include a wide array of personalities. In the end, if I can do all that, and still challenge myself with my next project, I am finding success no matter what.
You played the role of Pamela in the TV movie, The Psycho She Met Online. Talk to us a bit about that role.
Playing Pamela was an incredible challenge for me. The role itself was emotionally demanding, and at the end of the day when an actor is put in a situation where they have to cry and relive an emotional experience such as Pamela did with the sudden death of her mother, it is really quite exhausting. And of course, we had to shoot several takes of that scene where she is speaking to the paramedics about how her mother died. I’ve spoken before about keeping your energy up during difficult shoots, and this was one of them, because while I was required to cry in every shot, I also had to make it look like I was crying for the first time, again and again, hearing the news again as if I hadn’t heard it before. In instances like that, I’ve realized it’s really important to give yourself some recuperating time between every few takes so that your performance can remain fresh- a lesson I learned only through trial and error. So, overall getting to play Pamela was a great experience because I was able to challenge myself and grow as an actor while gaining from the experience access to a new tool to have in my creative toolbox to bring with me into all of my future roles.
Do you think you’d ever like to try working in some behind the scenes roles?
Oh for sure! While I have a passion for acting, and I am actively pursuing this as my career, the overall idea of storytelling through the medium of theatre or film and television has always been close to my heart. I started writing plays and monologues when I was in high school and had my first play produced at an Arts Festival in Ottawa when I was in Grade 11. I also directed my first play that year in the same Arts Festival, and I went on to graduate from Ryerson University this past June 2017 from the Radio and Television Arts program where I specialized in filmmaking. So, already I have had the pleasure of working behind the scenes in the roles of a writer, director, and producer. Earlier this year I finished my internship at the Toronto-based feature film production company The Film Farm, working as a Producer’s Assistant. Through that experience, I found that when the time comes and I am ready to expand my career to include more participation in behind the scenes roles, I am confident that I will have the knowledge and the experience to do so.
What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of acting?
Outside of acting, I am avid adventurist and traveler! I love to travel all over the world and I enjoy actively seeking out adventure wherever and whenever I can. When I was 15 I traveled out of the country for the first time in my life, by myself, and went to live in the South of France with a host family during the summer I turned 16. There, I learned how to speak French more fluently (I am bilingual), and I was able to travel up and down the country, site-seeing in Paris, Normandy, Marseille, and even making it across the border into Spain. I have since traveled to Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland, and spent Christmas of 2015 with my friend at his family home, and have made it to Los Angeles, California through my work as an actor. Someday soon I hope to go backpacking through Europe, but I have a feeling my next stop might be in Hawaii. I’m not sure where life will take me in the next few years, but as long as I keep it exciting, I can’t wait to find out!
Is there anything you don’t like about acting?
Truth be told, the one aspect of acting that I don’t particularly like is the process of auditioning. There is a reason why actors always use the phrase “Acting is reacting,” because it’s true. When you are on-set working with your co-stars, you feed off of their energy and the talent that they bring to the role. It makes committing to the scene that much easier to do because diving into a scene doesn’t feel manufactured when your scene partner is as committed to their role as you are to yours. That being said, reading for an audition with a line reader is always a hit and miss. I have had so many experiences being in the audition room where my line reader is simply reading the lines, rather than attempting to show any emotional connection to what they are saying, and that can be really distracting for an actor going out for a part.
I also dislike the process of waiting to hear about an audition. Generally, if you didn’t book the role, or you aren’t receiving a callback, you won’t hear back from the casting director. As an actor is it excruciating waiting for a call that may never come. But that’s the nature of the business, and unfortunately, most actors, including myself, have a rule of thumb when it comes to auditioning: give it your all and leave everything on the audition room floor, and then walk out and focus on the next one.
What advice would you give to aspiring actors/actresses?
The best advice I can give to aspiring actors and actresses out there is to number #1: always believe in yourself (because there might come a day when you are the only one who will, and it will be very important that despite everything you don’t give up on yourself), and number #2: never stop training! Anytime you have the opportunity to be in class, studying, rehearsing, training, whatever you want to call it, take it. The best actors never stop learning, and the more you use your skill, the better you will become at your craft. I promise you will never get to a point in life where you will have to say, “There is nothing left to learn.” And that is the beauty of it.
Let the readers know where to find your online.
You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using the handles @iamkatelynwells . And I love to post fun stuff both about acting, as well as fitness and living life between the city and the country! So check me out 😊