(Photo credit Sabrina Lantos.)
I first became aware of Montreal actress Anna Hopkins when she scored the break out role as Barney’s daughter in Barney’s Version starring Paul Giamatti in 2010. Their memorable relationship felt genuine. In 2013 she got the part of Berlin on the SyFy channel hit Defiance. Originally her part was written for only a few episodes but they liked her character so much, that they evolved her further and she is now filming Season 3 which airs on June 12th. In 2014 she attained her first french-speaking role in Les Maîtres du suspense. She currently divides her time between Toronto and Los Angeles.
I had the opportunity to speak with the very cool Anna Hopkins this past weekend about Defiance, her experiences with her incredible co-stars, and her many ongoing projects. She has a fantastic sense of humour. She sings, dances, writes and has recently produced a short film. This impressive young woman is defying fear and making it happen.
Angelique: What type of child were you?
Anna: Well, both of my parents were artists. My dad was a painter so I spent most of my time hanging around in the studio painting and making things, drawing and dancing. I was allowed to do a lot of creative stuff.
How did you get into hip-hop?
That started when I was around 12 or 13. There was a teacher that I took to at school and I tried one of the classes and I was so bad. They brought in some of the dancers and I saw how good they were and I decided right there that I had to get better. I started training with that teacher, and eventually joined that troupe competing with them until I started acting. I then had to choose one over the other because of how much time was involved, so I ended up stopping dance.
Were your parents supportive of your choice to be an actor?
Definitely. I have a lot of friends whose parents question that path, but if I were to go into Finance, they would question what was going on! Everyone in my family is artistic, so it’s very natural for them to want me to do well at acting.
You mentioned a fun story about the Barney’s Version cast party in a radio interview I heard. Do tell…
I started to get a few call backs for the adaptation of the novel, but I didn’t really think about it that much because there have been so many adaptations of Mordechai Richler’s work. But then I remember right before my first call back I saw the announcement on the cover of The Gazette that Paul Giamatti would be playing Barney, and the stakes got much much higher.
I was working as a waitress at Taverne on the Square when I had been cast. It was raining that night, and I was working on the terrace, a word I don’t use anymore! My shift got cut, so I sat down to listen to my voicemail. I had a message that there was a cast dinner at Mylos and I was welcome to join. I was still wearing my waitress outfit and took a taxi there. When I arrived, the restaurant was empty and the hostess told me that only a few people had arrived and were seated at the bar. When I got there, it was Dustin Hoffman and Paul Giamatti having martinis. I think my cell phone had died and everyone I knew thought I was still at my shift, and this was before Instagram so I couldn’t even tell everyone where I was! When I got to the bar I instantly got this dry mouth, and when Dustin Hoffman saw my face, he said “I think you need a martini”. At dinner, they sat us together and we had such a great conversation and then he told me about Tootsie, and how hard it was to walk in heels. At the end of dinner he started playing the piano and I was singing. It was the best evening, and nobody knew that I was there! I think the next day I told everybody.
What song did you sing?
It’s a jazz song that he actually wrote the piano music for, and Bette Midler wrote the lyrics. They ended up using that song in his movie Last Chance Harvey. Have you seen it? It’s a beautiful song.
Did you enjoy working with Paul Giamatti?
Yes, he’s wonderful. He’s just a real regular dude. Then all of a sudden when the camera rolls he is just unbelievable. He is really warm and grateful. He was really happy to be in Montreal. I witnessed him eating his first poutine which was really exciting for me! Actually, where we shot that coffee shop scene we were right next to Café Cherrier on St. Denis, and across from it is Lafleur’s, and I remember bringing over the poutine. Yeah, he’s great. I’ve seen him a few times since filming, and he is just one of the really good people that I have been lucky to work with. I hope to work with him again.
Tell me about Rosemund Pike.
I worked with her quite a bit and I got to know her really well. At the time she was with her now husband, and he threw her a big party. At the New York City premiere we spent a lot of time with her. She is wonderful. She is also this warm, super brilliant, and beautiful person. Being in her presence is pretty amazing. She is really special and she is a beautiful actress too. You can ask her a question about anything and she has a very unique complex way of thinking about things. It’s actually a joy to listen to her. She’s quite incredible. I am so happy to see all the success she is having.
Did you work with Minnie Driver?
We didn’t have any scenes together but I saw her on set. She is hilarious in real life. She’s got this quick wit. She’s amazing.
Tell me about your experiance filming Les Maîtres du suspense.
It was one of the best experiences I have had, Michel, Antoine and Robin are the most down to earth and hilarious actors I’ve worked with. The most challenging aspect of working on this film was trying to keep a straight face. They welcomed me in and they felt like brothers to me. Working down in New Orleans all together is one of my favorite memories.
Then you got the role of Berlin on Defiance and you are kicking butt! I watched a few episodes yesterday and it’s a really interesting show. You are really in the moment and quite fierce. Tell me about the show.
We are currently shooting Season 3. It’s been really great. I started it 2 years ago. I got the job a year after moving to Toronto from Montreal. My character was supposed to be a reoccurring part for a few episodes, but they ended up really liking my character and working me into the third season. She has a really different role now in the show, and this character really gets to evolve. It’s the first long form show that I’ve worked on, and it’s a true gift to play a character that keeps changing so much. She’s tough. I get to shoot guns all the time. It’s really fun. It’s so different from the other work that I’ve done. It’s a thrill.
Have you worked with Mia Kirshner?
She is not on the show anymore. I worked with her once. Her character dies at the end of the first season, but she comes back as a clone. I really really liked her. We just did a short film together too.
Yes, tell me about that.
It was written by a Montreal writer/director named Mark Slutsky. It’s called Never Happened and it’s me, Mia Kirshner and Aaron Abrams, he’s a wonderful actor from Hannibal. It’s a Sci-Fi romance about a couple. That’s all I can really say right now!
You worked with Chris Noth in After the Ball, what was he like to work with?
He’s hilarious. He was really easy to work with and was always kidding around. I had a lot of scenes with him and Nathalie Krill. We played really idiotic sisters and the three of us would have these scenes together and be encouraged to improvise. I had so much fun filming that movie because of Nat who played my sister. She is so funny.
I watched the preview of Girl Couch yesterday and laughed out loud. You are very funny. The scene where you are opening the containers mystified was hilarious! I have to ask you, is that your apartment? I love the décor.
No, it’s a friend of ours. She leant us her apartment for the shot. Yeah, its beautiful.
You can watch the preview of Girl Couch here.
What made you decide to write this short?
I wrote Girl Couch with my very close friend, and now we call each other writing partners, Clara Altimas. We share a love of a very specific sense of humour and live together here in Toronto. We studied acting together. I said to her that we have to start writing, everyone is telling us we should, so we need to write! We wrote a short script for a competition that was organized by TAWC via ACTRA Toronto and we won. The theme was “Women in History”. We decided to take the theme and turn it into a parody or satire. So we wrote the script and it got chosen! We actually just watched a cut yesterday and we are going to be screening it on Monday at an ACTRA gala here in Toronto. So yeah, it’s been fantastic! Her and I are writing a pilot right now. We love writing together and this is definitely something I am going to keep working on for the rest of my career.
How can we see Girl Couch?
That’s a good question. We are screening it Monday and we will submit it to some comedy festivals. That will take a couple of months. We are hoping to have it on an on-line platform. I am not sure yet where, but we will definitely be updating people via the internet. You can follow me on twitter or check IMDB for updates.
Tell me more about the pilot you two are working on.
It’s comedy about a twirling pageant star who spirals out of control and ends up having to leave town and go to rehab. The series starts when they are having to come back to her hometown. So it’s about a pageant star trying to deal with her past. We had originally created it as a short, but we believe that the most exciting format would actually be as a a half-hour comedy.
Would you play the pageant star?
We are playing with that idea. Even when we were doing Girl Couch we didn’t originally plan for me to play the part and we wanted to hold auditions, but then I ended up just doing it, so that could happen.
I heard that one of your dreams is to be on SNL.
We had 4 VHS tapes growing up. One of them was E.T., one was Homeward Bound, and two of them were old SNL tapes of Steve Martin and Bill Murray. So I grew up wanting to be on SNL. Maybe one day I’ll host! (laughs). I have started studying improve in LA at Improve Olympics West which is a whole new world, and I am very excited about it. You realize that all of the people from SNL studied at these amazing schools in Chicago and LA. It’s a pretty cool world. Everybody who has ever been on SNL has studied there.
Have you read Amy Poeler’s book?
No, I have read Mindy Kaling’s which I love. Have you read it?
No, but I will!
So, what keeps you going?
Being scared of being unemployed! I’m kidding! (Sorta). I’ve been building and building and I get a joy out of working. It’s always exciting to have new opportunities to work creatively. It’s an exhilarating feeling once you can work in this industry. It’s hard to get work, but that’s what keeps me going. When you do get that role, and you do get to sink your teeth into something. It feels great.
What’s your favorite thing about acting?
For me it’s just the one thing that just feels right. It’s that I’m expressing something that’s inside of me and putting it to good use.
What would you say to teenagers and young women who want to be actors?
From what I’ve learned, if you can be really consistant and continually work really hard at making yourself a better actor, and you can continually do great auditions, and keep the bar really high for yourself, then the jobs end up coming. Getting discouraged is not an option. Think of rejection as a type of fuel.
How do you prepare for an audition? Do you always get the full script or just a few pages?
You can usually get a full script, I usually ask for it. Sometimes its a very confidential script, which happens, but most of the time you can get a full script. It really helps. I remember when I was younger I wouldn’t, and I would sometimes do the audition and then read the full script later, and realize afterwards how important it was. I work with a coach for almost every audition because it’s easier to have a sounding board and work through ideas. If I’m out of town, I’ll text with my coach. I make sure I know my lines very well so that when I get into the audition, I can take direction. I make sure to know the character and the story really well.
Role she wished she’s had
Ryan Gosling’s part in Drive
Like water for chocolate
One of my acting coaches Larry Moss always says “If you avoid what scares you, you avoid life”. I say that to myself a lot.
La Belle Province
Be sure to watch Season 3 of Defiance. It should be a crazy crazy season!
Thank you Anna for the pictures and for your time. I look forward to seeing you on SNL. I know you can make that happen.