Recently, The Purple Fig had the opportunity to chat with young Canadian actress Tommie-Amber Pirie. After making a career switch from figure skating while growing up in Ottawa, this rising star quickly discovered the world of acting. We caught up with her about her inspiration behind becoming an actress, her dream roles and the challenges of a career in showbiz, Here’s what she had to say:
What originally inspired you to become an actress?
From a very young age, I kind of had an innate desire to perform and play. There are so many aspects of being on the ice and performing. From a young age, I was also always watching movies upon movies with my mom. My mom would always set up the camera in the kitchen. I found out a few years ago in retrospect that she had always wanted to be an actress. She was very keen on watching movies, and definitely implemented a desire from a young age in me to want to be exactly that.
Describe your favourite role to date, and why?
I feel like every role inspires me, in a different way. I like the feeling of being on the edge and not knowing what will come (stage/theatre fulfills me). I did a couple of low budget indie films. I did a film called Pretend We’re Kissing and a film called Don’t Get Killed In Alaska. There’s something to be said, because in a indie film everybody has worked very hard to get there. Working on more mainstream, bigger projects, there’s less of a connection. There’s more passion and excitement while working on an indie film. It’s definitely more collaborative and more open, you can bounce ideas off of each other and it’s a different way of working. It’s also very humbling. It reminds me of where I come from and how I started. It’s easy to get caught up in the bigness of it sometimes.
You’ve made a name for yourself with your role in Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays and also with your part in The F Word (What If). How does acting in a movie differ from a TV show?
When you work on a movie, you’re very aware of the art of the entire film. There’s a beginning, middle and end. On a TV show, you don’t know (either because they haven’t written it or because they won’t tell you). You kind of have to roll with the punches in TV. It’s nice to kind of have a change between the two. It’s refreshing to kind of go back and forth.
Describe your ideal movie role. Is there a type of character you have always wanted to play, or a film genre that you love?
I get this question a lot and have a hard time answering it! I feel like the roles that interest me are of real people living real lives. Often, the simple stories are the hardest to express. I love drama. Real women who are going through real things. Like Maggie Gyllenhaal, for example. She has a beautiful way of playing a real woman. I have an affinity to wanting to play a rough-around-the-edges drug addict character. I often find as an actor, when I’m scared to go into something, it means that I need to do it.
As a young breakout actress, what has been your biggest challenge in the industry?
My biggest challenges- there have been many, many highs and many lows. I think without the lows, you can’t learn from the highs and vice versa. As an actor, you never know where your next job is. There’s definitely months of down time. As a young actor, I often put my eggs in one basket. I get a call back for a role, and I think I’ve booked it. Never trust you’re about to work until you’re on stage, or on set. I used to go into an audition room as a young actor wanting so much to book the role! When you go into an audition room with that as a forefront, it reads. When I switched to going in with dedication, I found that I booked more roles.
What are some of the challenges for women in the entertainment industry?
I hope things are changing. It’s a male dominated industry. Generally, women need to speak up for themselves. For example, Emma Watson was hesitant to call herself a feminist in her speech. We have to sit down and have coffee about this topic! There’s a lot of gratuitous sexuality which isn’t appropriate. This fires me up, when is this ever going to change? It takes many women banding together, to change this mentality.
How was your transition and career change from a figure skater to an actress?
It’s been years. I stopped skating competitively at the age of 17. The transition kind of happened seamlessly. I found my voice as a young woman, and figured out what I wanted to do. At the age of 17, I said to my dad. He has a recollection of me holding a Yellow Pages book, looking for acting classes and standing at the top of the stairs at my home in Ottawa. I looked down the stairs and said “Dad, I want to be an actor.” My father is extremely proud of me, almost too much. I grew up in a family where I was always encouraged to do whatever I could. My dad supported me all throughout my years of skating. For him to say “Ok, Tom, I support you”, you know?
I’m 27 years old, and it’s been about 10 years since my transition into acting. I just tried to do everything that I could. I applied to a few theatre schools, because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. It’s been a series of ups and downs.
What are some exciting new projects that are coming up for you?
Currently, I’m working on Bitten on Sy-Fy and Space and How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town. It will be a comedy, and a nice shift in genre. After those two things, I don’t know what my future looks like!
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