Sarah Gadon talks ‘Alias Grace’ and milk­ing a cow

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - VIC­TO­RIA AHEARN

TORONTO — Sarah Gadon is div­ing into what she calls “pioneer boot camp” as she pre­pares to play the lead in a much-an­tic­i­pated adap­ta­tion of Mar­garet At­wood’s “Alias Grace.”

The Toronto ac­tor is in pre-pro­duc­tion for the six-hour minis­eries, which is in­spired by the true story of Grace Marks, an Irish im­mi­grant and maid who was con­victed of mur­der in Up­per Canada in 1843 but ex­on­er­ated decades later.

Sarah Pol­ley wrote and pro­duced the pro­ject, which will screen on CBC and Net­flix.

“Oh, you know, I’m just learn­ing how to milk a cow and sew and churn but­ter,” Gadon, 29, said Thurs­day in a phone in­ter­view to dis­cuss her role as a jury mem­ber for this year’s Air Canada en­Route Film Fes­ti­val.

“I’ve been work­ing on my Belfast ac­cent. I’m do­ing all sorts of things. I’m read­ing some in­ter­est­ing books, watch­ing some great films, just kind of im­mers­ing my­self in that world and in that time pe­riod.”

The Air Canada en­Route Film Fes­ti­val, which is cel­e­brat­ing its 10th an­niver­sary, will show­case 20 short films on its flights around the world from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31. The shorts will also be avail­able at en­Route­, where view­ers can vote for their favourite. Other jury mem­bers in­clude ac­tors Ja­son Pri­est­ley and Karine Vanasse.

Gadon is so busy jug­gling mul­ti­ple projects, she ex­pects she’ll have to watch the fi­nal­ists on her lap­top while in the air over the next few months. It’s a labour of love, though.

“I love film and I love short films,” said Gadon, who was also a jury mem­ber in 2013 and has been in many short films.

“I think it’s the most ex­per­i­men­tal way you can make a film.”

Gadon is cur­rently shoot­ing “The Death and Life of John F. Dono­van,” which marks the English-lan­guage de­but of Montreal film­maker Xavier Dolan. She’s also pro­mot­ing her up­com­ing films “In­dig­na­tion” (out Aug. 5) and “The 9th Life of Louis Drax” (out Sept. 2), among oth­ers.

Mean­while, “Alias Grace” is set to be­gin shoot­ing in On­tario next month. Gadon calls it “a mas­sive un­der­tak­ing.”

“It’s a re­ally im­por­tant pro­ject to (Pol­ley),” she said. “She said to me that it’s the kind of piece of lit­er­a­ture that has af­fected ev­ery­thing she’s ever done in some way — so no pres­sure there.

“But she’s also very open. Our direc­tor, Mary Har­ron, is an in­cred­i­ble woman as well and the three of us are still in those early dis­cus­sions of how we’re go­ing to tell her story.”

Marks, along with sta­ble hand James McDer­mott, were con­victed of the mur­ders of their em­ployer, Thomas Kin­n­ear, and his house­keeper, Nancy Mont­gomery.

McDer­mott was hanged while Marks was sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment. After 30 years in jail, she was freed.

Gadon said she’s try­ing to find ways to hu­man­ize an enig­matic char­ac­ter who “has be­come this kind of icon or archetype.”

She hopes to get di­rec­tion from At­wood her­self when the two meet for din­ner next week.

“It’s so great to be able to work with two women at the top of their game, us­ing source ma­te­rial of one of our great­est writ­ers — who hap­pens to be a woman as well,” she said.

“I think it is kind of im­por­tant that they’re both women (at the helm), be­cause for me ‘Alias Grace’ is very much a piece about fe­male iden­tity, fe­male iden­ti­ties as they’re recorded through­out his­tory, and get­ting into the fem­i­nine psy­che.”


Sarah Gadon is do­ing “pioneer boot camp” to pre­pare for “Alias Grace.”


Sarah Pol­ley wrote and pro­duced the minis­eries for CBC and Net­flix.

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