Chelah Horsdal is best known for her roles as Maggie Palmer in “Hell on Wheels,” Helen Smith on “The Man in the High Castle,” and as Cat Montgomery in “When Calls the Heart.” Chelah chats about her award-winning film “CANDiLAND” that is out Feb. 7, 2017 as well as her long list of amazing projects that she has in the works. She grew up in the Vancouver community of Kitsilano, and found her way to acting after exploring other careers such as modeling, interior design and creative director of a magazine.
Colleen Bement: You play the character of Tess or “The Queen” in the upcoming thriller film “CANDiLAND.” It looks completely intense! What can you share about making this movie?
Chelah Horsdal: It certainly was intense. We shot mostly chronologically three years ago in two stages. We began with two weeks to shoot the first half of the script, then took six weeks off, allowing James (Clayton) & myself time to lose as much weight as possible, at which point we went back to shoot the second half of the film. It was fairly rigorous; mostly because of the environment. The set was built in a warehouse that sat over the Fraser River, so this massive building was as cold as a meat locker. There were many scenes written with the intention of us being far more scantily clad, however it was simply too cold, so we ended up wearing fleece for most of the story.
The days weren’t as long as standard film days, but the intensity of the material paired with the fact that “CANDiLAND” is essentially a two-hander, meant James (Clayton) and I were worked over at the end of each day. I struggled some with relaxation (acting term) throughout, as the cold environment and the themes of isolation both create tension in the body; but ultimately I feel that served the storytelling.
CB: Tell your fans about your latest projects “When We Rise,” “Boundaries,” and any other projects that you have in the works.
CH: “When We Rise” is an incredibly important story to be told, specifically in the current political and social climate. I have a very small role. Although, quite frankly, I would have done anything to just be a part of it. Dustin Lance Black wrote a story that chronicles the fight for LGBTQ rights and freedoms going back to Stonewall. It’s beautifully done.
“Boundaries” was another quick in and out for me, but so much fun to work opposite Vera Farmiga. She’s freakishly talented.
“You Me Her” is another show I work on, which has its second season premier later this month. It’s a polyamorous love story that is as much comedy as it is heartfelt. We have a great group of actors who play beautifully off one another. And I got to work with one of my best pals, Priscilla Faia, who is brilliant in one of the lead roles.
And, of course, “The Man In The High Castle” season two, for which I’m incredibly proud, is expected to finally have its Canadian premier on Amazon Prime in March.
CB: “The Man in the High Castle” is one of the hottest shows on TV right now. What’s it like playing the role of Helen Smith?
CH: A dream come true. I work opposite Rufus Sewell most days, and the man is a genius. As much as the circumstances are broad and dramatic, I believe the show to be an intricate character study into how people behave in the extreme circumstances. We’re also accidentally timely, as who could’ve imagined that a show about living under fascist rule in the Americas would be relevant; but here we are, in a world of Executive Orders stripping people of their basic rights and freedoms.
I just spent a week in London with some of my producers and cast mates, and we’re all extremely excited to get back to filming season three in a couple of months. Our ensemble cast and core crew has a deep affection for one another, so it’s a bit like returning to family.
CB: You played Lt. Womack on five episodes of “Stargate SG-1.” What can you share?
CH: Oh lordy, that’s going back awhile; hard to remember much. I do recall it was the first time I worked with Peter Deluise as a director, and he’s such a ball of energy that it was a joy. He also came with immense experience as an actor, so I learned much from him about self-preservation as an actor (although come think of it, that may have been when we were together on “Level Up”). I remember Amanda Tapping, whom I had never met before, being incredibly welcoming and lovely. It was a very male-centric set, and she was like a glowing queen of maternal energy. Oh! I also remember being the only woman in the waiting room for the Womack audition, as it was intended to be a male character, and they threw me in there as a wild card. I also vaguely recall that I started as Womack and became Catherine Ambrose, at some point.
CB: What do you do in your spare time?
CH: I spend a great deal of time with my extraordinary tribe of friends. I have amazing people in my life, and we keep each other sane(ish). I write a lot, obsess over my dog, who is the most perfect being alive, cook for friends and read voraciously.