Up and coming actress Chantal Thuy has been the talk of her hometown for sometime now; but after some stellar performances, in recent short films and on stage, New York, and the rest of the world, are starting to take notice. We recently met over tea to talk about her flourishing career.
Tamy: Hi Chantal, how does it feel to be back in Montreal this weekend?
Chantal Thuy: It feels great. I think Montreal will always be my home. You know I grew up here. This is where I got the acting bug and began training with some really great teachers at ASM (Actor’s Studio of Montreal). I will always be grateful to the theatre community here for giving me my break.
T: I remember watching you in Lysistrata. Even then I knew you were going far!
CT: (Laughs) I remember. That was such a long time ago! Was it in 2003 or 2004? And we did our first interview afterwards, didn’t we?
T: Yes. Even back then I knew your career would be worth following. So what's changed in the last 5 years?
CT: Well, nearly everything but some things stay the same. Back then, I was still struggling to figure out what I wanted from my life, I was an actress with lots of ambition and drive. Now, the hard work is paying off and I'm getting to work everyday
in my dream job. I feel very blessed. But some things haven't changed as well - I still love coming home to Montreal and being with my friends and family, going to the Tamtams on Mount Royal and Jazz fest every summer.
T: Well things have certainly changed! Your film was off to London in March and now you're doing a play that is going to Germany in December!
CT: I know, it’s all very exciting. Having work shown in Europe and America is wonderful, especially as London is such a global artistic center. It was a real honor to be accepted there. And I can't wait to got to Germany with the Galli Theatre.
T: In London you had the premier 'Of Anna and Dreams' of course, where you played legendary Asian American film star Anna May Wong. Tell us a little about the project.
CT: It was a film piece commissioned for the Chinatown Art Space in London, and has been shown all over the world. I got to work with O (Zhang - multi award winning artist), and she's amazing. I just found out it is going to the Hong Kong Art festival
in the spring of 2011. The project was a real labour of love. It's great to work with someone with such passion.
T: Apparently she delayed shooting till she found the correct Anna. It's like she was waiting for you. What a compliment.
CT: Yes, I actually auditioned for the part very late in the process, a few weeks before she began shooting because she had not found the right actress. I felt like I had a very good audition, but you never know with these things sometimes, so I was thrilled to get her phone call! I felt very lucky to have been chosen to portray Anna May Wong, it was a real privilege. She was an exceptional woman. So full of grace and generosity, but such a fighter. I love her spirit.
T: How do you prepare to play a character like that, especially one from a different era?
CT: I watched all her films and read all her letters. To begin with, I did a lot of research and then made it my job to be a keen observer of her speech patterns, mannerisms and persona. To really let her being sink into me. Once I felt I had enough information, I let all the homework go and I found her essence in my own heart. Then I could just let it all flow in the moment as we filmed. O (Zhang) asked me to reinterpret her, not just copy her; this allowed me to channel her soul whilst creating something fresh.
And it’s funny, because in the end, the era doesn't really make a difference. She faced the same struggle that is going on snow, though in a higher degree, but in different costumes. She was struggling to give the Asian American women a presence on the big screen, and we're still struggling right now. There's not many of us who are working regularly. I'm very lucky. Anna's story is still hugely relevant.
T: What do you think of people who say you're the new Anna May Wong?
CT: Haha, that’s flattering, but I couldn’t believe it--Anna is my idol! I would love to carve my path as she has, working in the United States, Canada and Europe. Being an international actress is the way of the future, especially as we are becoming more
and more in tune with other cultures and countries through the internet, as we know from your blog. But it's an honor to follow in her footsteps. And I'm having fun just finding my way in this new landscape of entertainment!
You can see Chantal as part of the Interpretations film competition giving another wonderful performance, in the piece “Penny Royal”. You can also catch her Off Broadway in New York City, playing the a female lead for the Galli Theatre in New York City before they leave for Germany in December. I hear she has many other exciting (undisclosed) film projects in the pipeline; and I know I'm not alone when I say that I can't wait to see a lot more of her.