Love and loss fuel rising star’s craft
Toronto actress Tommie-Amber Pirie shines in new film Pretend We’re Kissing by Kristina Virro
Romantic comedies today tend to follow a certain formula: cute boy meets cute girl, cute boy likes cute girl, and after making it through a (somewhat predictable) conflict three-quarters in, cute boy and cute girl end up together, reminding the viewer that, yes, true love does exist!
The upcoming indie film Pretend We’re Kissing may deliver a similar message, but describing it as a romantic comedy is a bit misleading. After all, one can’t help but notice its complete defiance of the usual romantic comedy stereotypes, starting with one of the leading characters played by Toronto actress Tommie-Amber Pirie.
Pirie portrays Jordan, an outgoing, creative, everyday girl — attributes that certainly weren’t difficult for Pirie to relate to. After taking acting classes for two years, the Ottawa-born actress decided it was time to step out of her comfort zone.
“There was only so much Ottawa could offer in terms of, like, what I wanted to do as an actress, so I decided that my best bet was to move to Toronto,” she says. “In high school and stuff, you’re taught that you must go to a post-secondary school to learn, and so innately, my response was, well, obviously to apply to theatre school.”
So, at 19, the aspiring actress began applying to theatre schools — and got accepted. But her reaction to the acceptances proved to be quite revealing.
“It just kind of sat wrong with me,” says Pirie, on the time and money that a four-year program would take. “I was able to find an agent and start auditioning right away, and I felt like my answers were kind of, like, in the world and in the people I connected with.”
Her outgoing attitude isn’t the only common quality between Pirie and her Pretend We’re Kissing character. Like Jordan, Pirie lost her mother to cancer when she was just 13.
But like a true actress, the 28-year-old saw it as fuel for her craft.
“Everything that I encounter — every heartbreak, every high, every low — is something that is information for me that I can bring to a character,” she says. “Despite the fact that it’s a tragic circumstance, you know, it’s beneficial in situations like this that I can pull on those emotions so easily.”
Pirie’s mother is one of the people who inspired her to become an actress in the first place. A “dramatic, art-inspired person” herself, Pirie’s mother would often bring out the video camera and give six-year-old Pirie a scene to act out.
“There was a huge part of my mother that wanted to be an actress,” says Pirie. “She never had the opportunity, so I feel like there’s a part of me that’s kind of living out her dream, as well, because it’s also something that I am so passionate about.”
Once her dream of becoming an actress became a reality, there was no turning back. Pirie has appeared in TV series such as The Listener and Lost Girl and garnered a Canadian Screen Award nomination for her work on CBC’s Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays. She also recently appeared in The F Word (released in some countries as What If) alongside Daniel Radcliffe.
But snagging the role of Jordan in Pretend We’re Kissing wasn’t just due to her acting abilities. It was also a case of being in the right place at the right time.
The film’s director, Matt Sadowski, had actually intended for another actress to play the role of Jordan, and it wasn’t until said actress didn’t attend a read through that Sadowski met Pirie.
“A friend that was making the read through suggested Tommie.… I was desperate, so I thought, ‘OK, she’ll at least do,’” says Sadowski with a laugh. “As soon as I met her, I knew I needed to make [the movie] with her. And we started to rewrite the script due to the time I spent with her.”
Sadowski’s enthusiasm to cast Pirie is certainly a compliment. After all, the 36year-old director and writer had spent 10 years writing and editing the script for the film. And not once did Sadowski regret his choice. With her openness to direction and lines consistently memorized, Pirie’s dedication to her craft did not go unnoticed on set, Sadowski says.
But perhaps the most intriguing part of Pirie is that she has that very quality that so many protagonists in romantic comedies lack: She’s relatable.
“I felt like a lot of romantic comedies really make the main two actors who fall in love a kind of unattainable image,” he says. “I wanted people to walk away that, like, love can exist for everybody no matter what they look like and no matter what they think about love.”
Although Pirie herself is in a relationship at the moment (since, in her words, “what’s not to love about love?”), she has learned important lessons about love along her dating path.
“I would say just jump the f**k in,” she says. “Even if it feels like sh*t, sit in that place. And if it feels amazing, sit in that place. Don’t run away if it’s not motivated by something justifiable.”
Pirie, whose current goal is to “always be inspired and motivated to create,” can be found sipping coffee at Bud’s Coffee in the Beach neighbourhood or at Insomnia near Bloor and Bathurst.
Pretend We’re Kissing closes the Canadian Film Festival, April 1 and 3.
“If it feels amazing, sit in that place.”
Tommie-Amber Pirie, in a scene from the new movie ‘Pretend We’re Kissing’