September 15, 2019

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ACTRESS CARA GEE ON FOOL FOR LOVE & PORTRAYING INDIGENOUS WOMEN ON SCREEN & IN THEATRE

ACTRESS CARA GEE ON FOOL FOR LOVE & PORTRAYING INDIGENOUS WOMEN ON SCREEN & IN THEATRE

Cara Gee as May in Fool For Love | photo by Dahlia Katz

Ojibway actress, Cara Gee is on fire right now. She is currently starring in the classic Sam Shephard play Fool For Love, a story exploring a fierce love-hate relationship between a couple running at Soulpepper Theatre Company from July 13 to August 11, 2019. Audiences may recognize her from The Expanse, an acclaimed sci-fi drama set in a future where humans have managed to colonize space. With Gee’s acting career on the uptick, she will soon star opposite of Harrison Ford and Karen Gillan in The Call of the Wild. MUSKRAT Magazine’s Erica Commanda caught up with Cara as she was preparing for Fool For Love to talk about the play; how it deals with toxic masculinity, and her responsibility as an Indigenous actress.

MM: Can you tell me about your role in Fool For Love?

CG: I play May in Fool for Love. The play opens in a pretty disgusting motel room on the edge of the Mojave Desert. May is with her lover Eddie and they are in the middle of an epic fight. That’s where we open. As the play goes on we learn more about the obstacles keeping them from being together in a healthy happy functioning relationship.

MM: Fool for Love is a classic Sam Shephard story, in what ways is the play different from other love stories/plays?

CG: I think this is definitely not a romance. It’s not a straight up love story. These are two characters that have a profound love for each other, but are struggling with how to express that love in a sustainable way, so it’s passionate, it’s violent, but it’s definitely not romantic. I think audiences should come see it because it is fast paced, and relentless. We are clocking in at just over an hour. I love a short fast, hot, intense play. I think people will hopefully walk away feeling really charged and really awake. It’s also a relevant examination of toxic masculinity and there is not a more relevant time and place to be really digging into that conversation than here at Soulpepper Theatre under their new administration.

MM: Can you expand on how the play deals with toxic masculinity?

CG: We are seeing a couple who are really struggling with violence. It’s not just Eddie. May is also perpetrating physical violence against Eddie – we are looking at how we break this cycle, and what actions they should take to treat each other with kindness and respect. We see a lot of them getting it wrong. We see a lot of a certain kind of entitlement to each other’s bodies. I’ll be very excited to see how the audience responds and what they take away from it. My hope is that we are looking at how to break cycles of violence.

Cara Gee and Eion Bailey in Fool for Love | Photo by Dahlia Katz

MM: You have several projects on the go from Red Rover, Fool for Love, and The Expanse. Where do you feel like your career is as an actress right now and where would you like to see it go?

CG: I just feel so lucky to be a part of The Expanse. I love that show. It’s just such a smart and relevant look at politics and imagining as the characters colonize space; and seeing how that might unfold. It’s certainly not something that’s inspirational, and it’s really complicated. I feel so grateful to be a part of something where the writing is so excellent and thrilling, so hopefully we get to that for many more seasons.

I am really grateful for the chance to do this play. I began my career in theatre and haven’t done a play in a really long time. There was this gap in the shooting schedule. The biggest reason I wanted to do this play is that I knew it would make me a better actor. It’s really challenging. I feel like I am growing and learning and hope I can take a better skill set as an actress from this play to every project here on out.

I have Call of The Wild coming out next year. It was a crazy big deal to shoot that film. It’s next level career stuff for me. I’m excited to see how that turns out and just take it from there and see what opportunities come around.

MM: How has portraying May challenged you and expanded your skill set as an Actress?

CG: I’ve been really lucky especially with The Expanse and with lots of theatre work where I play these fierce bad ass women. May has all of that, but she also has this incredible weakness to her; it’s a challenge for me to go there. There’s often moments where she is not getting what she wants, so to be able to lean into that vulnerability and turn it into a moment of ferocity and then to make that repeatable night after night. There’s a lot of quick turns and to fill all of those quick turns with all of the emotion that the script is demanding is a massive challenge. It’s been pretty intense.

I’m Ojibway and don’t know if Sam Shephard ever imagined that an Indigenous woman would be playing this role because there are so many references to Indigenous people and to even the Mayflower. This takes on a different perspective when you are saying that stuff to an Indigenous woman. It’s been a part of our process to really look at that because it is about breaking cycles. It’s a bit of a metaphor on some level for the process of decolonization and how we break cycles of violence- especially against Indigenous women. We can’t ignore that; it’s who I am.

Shephard also really questions the cowboy nostalgic. Eddie is clinging to these old cowboy tropes. He is not able to progress because he is trapped by this imagery. My read of it is that Shephard is being critical of that. It’s looking at these systems that don’t really work for any of us; it doesn’t allow any of us to proceed in a healthy and respectful way.

MM: Who are some of your favourite characters you have portrayed, either on screen or in theatre? Why?

CG: My favourite character is Drummer from The Expanse. She is just so smart and fierce. She is smarter than me, and tougher than me. I admire her very much. It’s hard to separate the experience of shooting with the whole company I get to work with on set, everyone is so kind and good. This is my favourite character ever. I love her and stepping into her skin.

MM: What makes a story compelling for yourself?

CG: I always ask, why this story now? I have to be able to ask myself that in order to commit to it. I feel very lucky to be in that position. It’s taken me a long time to get here. At first I’d say yes to everything, but now I’m able to be a bit more choosier – which is very fortunate and I recognize that. I do feel a sense of responsibility in how I portray Indigenous women. There is a lot of stuff out where we are portrayed as victims, or barefoot and talking with the trees in a very stereotypical way; I look at that; and just bear in mind that responsibility. It’s important that the story is relevant and that it contributes to something good to the world. That’s the biggest thing for me.

Fool for Love | Photo by Dahlia Katz

CARA GEE BIO: Born in Calgary, AB and raised in Bobcaygeon, ON, Cara Gee is a stage and screen actress with a BFA in acting from the University of Windsor. Cara is most well-known for her lead role in the film Empire of Dirt, for which she was nominated as Best Actress at the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards. Other film and television credits include roles on CBC’s Republic of Doyle, Showcase’s King and Darknet. A selection of Cara’s theatre credits include Arigato, Tokyo (Buddies in Bad Times) , the Dora-award winning remount of The Penelopiad, Settlers, The Rez Sisters, Stitch (SummerWorks—Spotlight Award) and Tout Comme Elle. In 2013, Cara was named one of the official Rising Stars at the Toronto International Film Festival and was named by the Toronto Star as one of the top 13 People to Watch in 2013.

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About The Author

Erica Commanda

Born in Toronto, Erica Commanda (Algonquin/Ojibwe) grew up in the small community of Pikwakanagan. From there she moved across Canada living in Ottawa, Vancouver and now Toronto, working in the bar/hospitality industry, mastering the art of listening to stories from her regulars while slinging and spilling drinks (at them or to them). And now through a series of random decisions and events in life she is on a journey discovering and mastering her own knack for storytelling as a Staff Writer for MUSKRAT Magazine.

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