Katharine Isabelle Talks Life, Career And “How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town”

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For more than three decades, the undeniably cool Katharine Isabelle delivered superb performances in numerous respected films and television shows, and starred alongside seasoned veterans such as Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Halle Berry, Katie Holmes, Rachael Leigh Cook and Hilary Swank. She first made an impact with her leading role in the horror trilogy, “Ginger Snaps.” It was a powerful and dynamic role that showcased her skill-set and removed any doubt on the high caliber performances she was capable of bringing to the screen. Following the success of the franchise, she nabbed some great supporting roles, one being in the Wes Craven feature “Freddy vs. Jason” and the other acting alongside Al Pacino in “Insomnia.” Her work wasn’t limited to the big screen as she shined on television as well, nabbing high profile recurring roles on hit series such as NBC’s “Hannibal” and Syfy’s “Being Human.” Her portrayal of the titular character, Mary, in the award-winning film “American Mary,” solidified her status as a horror icon. Her latest project, “How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town”’ is the perfect film to showcase her depth, comedic timing and amazing delivery.

In the film, wholesome Beaver’s Ridge is a tight-knit community known for its fervent emphasis on family values … until town slut turned sex columnist Cassie Cranston (Jewel Staite, “Firefly”) returns for her mother’s funeral. When Cassie was shunned from the community years before due to a sex scandal at a house party, she ran away to the big city and became a sex columnist, publicly labeling the town prudish and thus widening the gap between her and her former life. But when she’s forced to return home, a group of eclectic town folk are inspired to plan an orgy and beg Cassie to serve as their mentor. Things spice up in Beaver’s Ridge when each person’s ulterior motive is revealed and the orgy – which is awkward on its own – takes on a surprise new meaning.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Katharine Isabelle to discuss her career, creative evolution and role in “How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town.” In addition, Katharine teases on some future projects behind the camera!

Katharine Isabelle

Katharine Isabelle

What excited you about acting early on and ultimately made you pursue it as a career?

I was sold into it as a child! [laughs] My whole family are below the line filmies. I was sort of raised by teamsters, grips, electrics, wardrobe people and art deco guys. I literally grew up on set with all of those people. It was sort of the family business. If your family grows potatoes, you’re a potato farmer, so that is what I thought people did. One of my first movies I did was “Cousins” with Ted Danson and Isabella Rosellini. It was this huge budget wedding movie where we were shooting in mansions, there was cake everywhere, pretty dresses and I didn’t have to go to school. I thought, “This is great! I will just do this!” Cut to being raped and drug through the forest in sub-zero temperatures for a movie. What was I thinking?! [laughs] It sort of built from there. I was good on set technically. I knew the ins and the outs of the job because I grew up with it. It all just sorta happened, ya know! [laughs]

Who were some of your biggest influences along the way? Did anyone give you a push?

I don’t know. I always really relied on the crew. I relied on grips, electrics and camera assistants to keep me going, keep me alive and make me feel like I was doing good work or had a purpose. I love old movies. Leslie Howard is one of my favorite actors of all time, along with Bette Davis and wonderful people like that but, at the end of the day, it is the people on set who are keeping you alive.

Did starting so young in the industry impact you in a way you still draw from today?

I think I am very much a chameleon for a lot of reasons that have to do with film and not only being an actor and auditioning for different characters all of the time. I went to different schools a lot when I was young because I couldn’t find one that could accommodate my schedule back then. Every time I went to a different school, I would chameleon in with a new group of people. It was the skaters, the stoners, the popular girls or whatever else. I guess I am sort of a shapeshifter in that way.

Where do you look for inspiration these days?

I don’t know where to look for it or where the magical hole in the ground is that it is in. I just have to find it. There is no treasure map. I don’t know. I also don’t think of it in terms of, “I am looking for this type of character, this genre or this type of film.” I don’t know what I like until I see it! In the past, I have sworn many times to never do horror again but then some horror movie comes across my lap, I think it is the greatest thing ever and I will kill people to be involved! [laughs] It all depends. It depends on the characters, the people and the adventure that surrounds shooting that, so everything is a case by case decision.

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One of your latest projects is “How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town.” What drew you to this project?

First of all, the title is just funny and explains everything! You laugh and think, “Yeah, I would watch that!” It was one of those things where someone called me and said, “Do you want to read this script and meet with the director?” We had coffee and I liked him and thought he was funny. He liked me as well, so I was like, “Sure I will get naked, mostly, for your weird movie with my friends!” I have known Jewel Staite forever, since we were tiny, tiny children. It sounded like a really fun adventure. We shot in an actual small town where we had to lie about what our movie was about! [laughs] Otherwise, we would have had our permits pulled. [laughs] I read it, it was funny and I wanted to do it. There wasn’t any super deep analysis that goes on! It was as simple as, “This is good. It’s funny. I like this and we are doing it! Let’s get naked!” [laughs]

'How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town'

‘How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town’

What did you bring to this character that wasn’t on the written page?

Yeah, of course. There is so much of yourself, little bits of yourself, that you didn’t know you had in you until, all of a sudden, you are Alice and you are being like that! [laughs] In everything that you do, you find little parts of yourself that you weren’t totally aware of before. I don’t know what that is or how to describe it because it is not quite tangible but I think everyone brings their personality, depth, attitude and experience to every character they take on. Even knowing people like Ennis [Esmer], Jewel and everyone else from before, I was still totally shocked, surprised, awed and amazed by what comes out of them on camera.

I want to ask you about working with director Jeremy LaLonde. What did he bring to the table for this kind of project and what did he bring out of everyone on set?

I think the level of comfort and humor that he made us feel was something he brought to the table because it is an awkward, weird thing that we are doing. I think he wasn’t getting crazy with character. He literally set the tone to have a fun, light, humorous, in all its awkward glory, set. He really set the tone, not only because he is the writer and director but because he is the guy on set who was making us laugh and encouraging our ideas. If at the last minute I decided I wanted to try something, he was like, “OK, let’s try it! If it sucks, I will tell you it sucks!” [laughs] I think he is invaluable in that way. In a situation like that, you want someone who is encouraging, positive and knows what he wants the end product to be. He doesn’t just let eight, out of control, idiot actors get completely out of hand and lose the point, ya know? He is like the best kindergarten teacher ever for a group of half-naked adults! [laughs]

Just another day on set of 'How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town'

Just another day on set of ‘How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town’

Did you encounter challenges on this project?

Yeah. Lying to the community about what the film was about was a challenge. It was a very sleepy, sort of older town called Unionville, Ontario. [Fun Fact: This is the same town “Gilmore Girls” calls home.] We would have these lovely seniors come by and say, “Oh, it is so great to see you shooting a movie here. What’s it about?” We would be like, “Oh, it’s about a group of friends reconnecting after a long time.” They would go, “What is the title?” We would pause and say, “Well, we don’t have a working title yet but we will let you know.” Suprise! Like I said, movies like this are fun challenges. It’s not like, “Oh my god, this is the hardest thing I have ever done.”

Did you do much improvisation while shooting the film?

Yeah, definitely. It is not 100% improv but there was definitely a good amount of wiggle room. Because all of the actors are so great, if someone starts riffing on something, everyone just jams on it. It takes it to great new levels. If it doesn’t, then you tell them to shut up and it cuts it out! [laughs] It’s perfect! We definitely got to be sort of creative. We all brought a lot of our own clothes, so we could create our characters in a more hands on way then we often get to do.

I enjoyed the film because we got to see you in a different light. It seems you are constantly taking on more challenging roles. How do you feel you have most evolved as an actor through the years?

I have no idea! That is a vastly harder question than I am prepared for! [laughs] I don’t know. I don’t really look at it like that. I am just a working actor. I have been a working actor since I was a kid and I do whatever comes along. It’s like pouring water off a cliff, you don’t really know where it’s going. It creates a little channel for itself and eventually it ends up in a lake or something! Who knows! [laughs] I am but a leaf in the stream of existence! I have no idea what I am doing!

Maybe this is a different way to look at it. What projects from your past had the biggest impact on you?

I think things like “Ginger Snaps” and “American Mary” have had a big impact on me, just in terms of the scripts and what the characters meant to me, along with how it was received the same way I received it, with such open arms. These films really connected to people. Those characters are definitely very influential for me. There are also things I have done, like a zombie movie I did in Saskatchewan that was one of the most fun experiences I have ever had. I was working with two of my best friends and we were working in a small town. We made friends with the guy who owned the restaurant and would go jam in his basement! There are adventures to be had! The film might not be one of the most memorable but the experience and adventure was so much fun. I have be lucky to have had several experiences like that. When it comes to things like “Hannibal,” “American Mary” and “Ginger Snaps” the characters are very close to my heart.

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We have seen you shine in front of the camera for years. Do you see yourself exploring new territory in the future within the industry?

Yeah, definitely. I have a project in the early stages of development right now that I am pretty excited about. I will be hopefully getting to it late this summer. There are definitely other aspects, outside of acting, that I am interested in exploring inside the world of film and television for sure.

Any actor can look to you for inspiration. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?

I think sticking to your guns has been important for me. I have been very adamant about where I want to live, the types of things I want to be involved in and the amount of control that I have over my own life. As a young, attractive female in this business, you can easily get sucked down all sorts of horrible paths and become wrapped up in all sorts of different types of weirdness. I think that being very honest with yourself about what you want and adamant to the people around you has been very important for me and I think for anyone who decides to enter this business.

Are you involved with any causes or organizations we can help shine a light on?

Well, I rescue too many animals! I love them all so I just keep rescuing them! [laughs] Bichons and Buddies (www.bichonsandbuddies.com) is a really great organization out of Los Angeles. That is where I got one of my dogs. They go around and rescue the neediest dogs from the high kill shelters in LA. Without my Spaghetti, my life wouldn’t be the same!

We will definitely be spreading the word! Thanks for your time, Katharine! Keep up the great work and we will talk again soon!

Definitely! Thanks again, man!

“How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town” is coming to select theaters and VOD on May 13th. 2016! Follow the continuing adventures of Katharine Isabelle on Instagram and Twitter!

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