Britne Oldford grew up in Toronto, Ontario. She attended Earl Haig Secondary School as a part of the Claude Watson Arts programs as a drama major. In 2008, she starred as Lady Macbeth in a production of “Macbeth” that advanced to the final showcase of the Sears Drama Festival. She is best known for portraying Cadie Campbell on “Skins,” Alma Walker on “American Horror Story: Asylum,” Remy Beaumont on “Ravenswood,” Regan on “Hunters,” and as Fei Hargreeves/Sparrow Number Three in “The Umbrella Academy.”
Tara Karajica talked to Britne Oldford about her role as Genevieve in Amazon’s series, Dead Ringers, feminism and film and what she is up to next.
What made you want to become an actress?
Britne Oldford: What made me want to become an actor? I didn’t think I would be for a very long time. I guess, long is relative because I started fairly young. But I thought I was going to be a chef. I thought I was going to cook for a living and maybe be in a band and be covered in tattoos at this point. I don’t have any! But I went to two Art Schools. From fourth to eighth grade and then a high school that had an arts program in it in Toronto. In fourth grade, when they tested you or when you auditioned, my highest marks were Dance and Visual Arts. So, the quiet ones… And then, I left Vocal and Theater. And so, I think, in retrospect, it was just meant to be, really. I’ve been training for this for a long time. Not only with my theater background, but also strange things that I used to do as a kid that now kind of translate to being an actor. So, it just was, I guess, a calling in a way.
What drew you to Dead Ringers, to the character of Genevieve?
B.O.: I had just come off of doing something a bit absurd with The Umbrella Academy. Heightened. And, which was so much fun and very fulfilling in the sort of physical acting sense or character acting sense. And, when I got the material, first of all, I saw Rachel Weisz, Sean Durkin, Alice Birch, whose writing is impeccable and it was cast by Susan Shopmaker who was my first champion in the industry. She got me my first agency, really shepherded me when I was first moving to New York. And, Genevieve, she was such a grounded character, which I thought was really nice going off of what I had just been filming. And, so romantic and lovely. I just thought it was so nice for my next bigger thing to be a very adult character, because it had been quite a few years since the public had seen anything substantial that I’ve done and it seemed like an amazing opportunity.
The show explores the themes of fertility, female bodies and female sexuality, which is very timely today. Can you comment on that?
B.O.: It’s funny because as a biologically female person who exists on this earth at the moment, but really at any point in time, or in written History, there have been issues that are seemingly forever being addressed, tackled, fought against, fought for and that’s incredibly important. It’s also just so normal and natural to exist in these spaces, and it’s nothing new to me. So, I find it funny when people ask those questions simply because it’s just so natural. Love is natural. Birth is natural. And, what I mean by funny is just ironic. It’s like: “What could be more true to existence than these things? And, why are we still fighting for basic human rights?” I’ll say about that part – that’s a deep dive that I’m not gonna get into at the moment, because we have a finite amount of time.
I agree with you completely!
B.O.: Of course, it’s an incredibly important question!
Can talk about your character, Genevieve? How do you see her how? How was it to play her and be her for a while?
B.O.: Oh, it was such a delight to be her. She really lives in a big way. I’ve brought a lot of myself to the character. I’ve been in relationships with people where the rose-colored glasses are a little bit too thick and although there is love there, there are certain things that are – to the audience anyway – I mean, even to me, Britne, watching and experiencing Genevieve go through these things, I’m like: “Lady, get the f*ck out! What are you doing!?” Because, in the long run, when there’s something inherently toxic, regardless of how good something is and that continues not to fully be addressed – although she doesn’t know that, of course – she’s in the darker part of what I recommend. It’s easier said than done! Yeah. And, I have experience with that. So, it was so wonderful playing a deeply romantic character, a character in love. I love being able to access warmth, access grace and access that heart-centered place and that protective place and because it was mostly women on set as well, it just felt nice to live in that very intimate space of female joy, vulnerability, friendship and love. And, I got to work with Rachel Weisz, which I’m still pinching myself about!
In that sense, from an acting point of view, can you talk about playing opposite Rachel Weisz, who is playing two different characters at the same time?
B.O.: It was so much fun watching her. She’s a beast! I mean, the way that she handled that massive amount of work, memorizing basically half a play a day, depending on how many pages we were going through. She played completely different characters and it just was mind-blowing. And, it was like being in the presence of a god. I was like: “Wow! So, that’s the work ethic I aspire to!” Being able to take that on is so badass to me and something that I aspire to be able to do, not necessarily play twins, but just to be able to manage that amount of work so impeccably, like she did. I am a very “more is more” person. I’m kind of like Elliot in that way. I’m not only indulgent, but when I’m plugged into something, when I’m acting and I’m in the flow, give me more. Give me more technical cues. Can I help with camera? Can I move slightly? It makes it so much more fun for me because of my wiring and chaos. I just love it! And, those aspects were baked into this project because of the twinning, because it was so technical.
How did you prepare for this role?
B.O.: Because there is so much of me in Genovieve, I always come to a project with music and I ground into the body, mind and spirit of the character through music. It’s always a sonic experience. I used to dance and I do have a music background, but there’s just something about the way that sound and vibration and certain songs can tap into different emotional aspects and I think everyone can relate to that. All hearing-able people, but I do know that deaf people can also experience vibration and sound in a very different way. And so, I made a playlist that I still listen to a lot. It has a lot of Hozier and Rosalia in it. Very expansive, sort of haunting, romantic, beautiful, deeply complex music because I felt that specifically for the relationship between Genevieve and Beverly that it called for a lot of that. So, I would listen to it and just think about her. It’s a very internal process for me. And then, the hair and makeup and wardrobe pop it even further and then, once you’re there on the day and they call: “Action!” she pops in.
How do you pick a role? Which role that you have played so far is your favorite?
B.O.: How do I pick a role? I wish I could! It would be amazing to be at that point where I am just getting all of the offers. Now, it’d be so much fun! Maybe we get there at some point in the future. But I’m pretty discerning about the roles that I audition for. I’m happy to exist in the space of pain, but it has to be for a purpose. And, I learned a little while ago that there were certain things that I just don’t need to touch. But first is character and writing. So, for this, I devoured the first two episodes that we received for an audition, and the character was lovely. For me, it’s always about character. Is this a character – not even that I could see myself playing because the role of the actor is to pop up – you can do or not? You’re going to be this thing. But is the character exciting? Is there something that moves me or some aspect about it that I’m curious about? And, my favorite character that I’ve played – I don’t know! There have been so many fun ones. It’s almost like all my characters have sort of tracked where I’ve been at at that point in time in my life, which is really interesting. And, I only realized that a month and a half ago and I thought that was very strange. And so, I would say right now Genevieve, because she seems so present in my life. But then, Fei was so much fun to play. An absolute badass weirdo! Any weird strange character that I get to play, I’m thrilled! Very difficult question. I’d have to get back to you on that point!
Do you manage to dissociate yourself from your own persona in order to become someone else? Or, there’s always some part of you still in there?
B.O.: I’ve never been asked that question before. It’s a really good question. I think that because I am the vessel for the character, that even if it’s just a shred, or an ounce of something because I’ve played some characters that I pulled from myself even if it’s something really “bad or evil,” you just figure out what aspect of yourself to access or what aspect of yourself you’ve never been allowed to, so you allow yourself the curiosity to dive into that. I think that this comes from a theater background – as much as I can, when they call cut, I’m out. I’ve never been a method actor. It’s really difficult to bring some stuff home with you. And so, for me, I learned early on that it’s important to leave as much as possible on the job and it’s sort of similar to whatever is happening in your personal life that isn’t helpful to the work, you don’t bring into work. There, too, I’ve tried to separate them as much as possible while also living in the person, which is, I’m realizing, very confusing, and I don’t think I’ve articulated that process well, but it really does feel like I’m channeling when I’m there on the day and I’m working and I’m being those people. It’s so hard to describe, but in the moments where I am being another person, something else is coming in, but Britne is holding it and being able to stay grounded to be able to do it. And then, it leaves when I don’t need it anymore.
Has any role completely changed you or your worldview?
B.O.: I don’t think any role has completely changed me per se. But I think that every role that I’ve played has informed my growth. They’ve all helped me process things that were going on at the time. They’ve all been my friends in a way of showing me different aspects of myself and helping me integrate more into me and figure out more and more who I am. I am grateful for all of them. I love them all very much.
How do you see the situation of women in film today?
B.O.: I think we have a long way to go. I think it’s gotten better. I think we have a lot more to say. And, I think that female creators need more seats at the table because we’re 53% of the population.
Do you have a favorite female filmmaker and a favorite film by a female filmmaker?
B.O.: I am so bad at favorites. I Love Greta Gerwig. She’s definitely an incredible director. I love how grounded her stories feel, and how expansive and true they are. There’s something so joyful about them. So, I guess I would have to say Greta is one of them. I also just love Sofia Coppola’s work. I did a director session with her back in 2014. She was attached to do a version of The Little Mermaid and so, I got to meet her, which was amazing! Her films are just so beautiful. I was obsessed with Marie Antoinette as a kid. Lost in Translation is, I think, one of my favorite films. I watched it again recently with my spouse.
What are your next projects?
B.O.: We will see! I have a few things up in the air right now that I’m curious about.
Photo credits: Amazon Studios.