THE BRIL­LIANCE OF BERRY

Lisa Berry dishes on her role in the hit se­ries Con­tin­uum, how Shake­speare & sci-fi have a lot in com­mon and why Rich­mond Hill will al­ways be home

Richmond Hill Post - - Front Page - by Ju­dith Muster

“MY MOM SAID TO ME, ‘I KNOW YOU EN­JOY WHAT YOU’RE DO­ING NOW, BUT I THINK YOU SHOULD BE AN AC­TOR.’ ”

If it weren’t for her mother, Lisa Berry would never have graced the small screen.

In fact, this ver­sa­tile ac­tor would likely never have stepped in front of a cam­era with­out the prod­ding and en­cour­age­ment of the per­son she calls, “the great­est woman I know.”

Fans of Berry’s work — in­clud­ing two pop­u­lar Show­case se­ries, Con­tin­uum and

Lost Girl, and a host of other TV shows and films — should be thank­ful both for her tal­ent and her mother’s in­sight.

Berry was quite shy as a child, in con­trast with her dy­namism to­day (which is quite ev­i­dent while she chats).

She’s cur­rently in Van­cou­ver wrap­ping up her work on Con­tin­uum and help­ing her ac­tor fi­ancé, Dion John­stone, with his own pro­ject, The Ties That Bind.

Grow­ing up in Rich­mond Hill, she was the kid who would cower be­hind her mom when a stranger ap­proached.

And need­less to say, Berry re­fused her mother’s en­treaties to en­ter a tal­ent show.

How­ever, there was some­thing about showbiz that stuck with Berry be­cause by the time she was 22 she had built a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as a makeup artist and stylist.

Ev­ery­thing was go­ing well, but Berry’s mother had other plans for her daugh­ter.

“My mom said to me, ‘I know you en­joy what you’re do­ing now, but I think you should be an ac­tor,’ which is very rare for par­ents to tell their kids,” Berry ac­knowl­edges.

It was a case of role re­ver­sal: Berry wanted to tread cau­tiously, and her mother was ready for risk.

“I had my own doubts,” says Berry. “I didn’t know how I was go­ing to pay rent, be­cause you hear so many hor­ror sto­ries about be­ing an ac­tor, but my mom said, ‘ I would never tell you to go into a busi­ness that chal­leng­ing if I didn’t think you were re­ally tal­ented.’”

With am­ple en­cour­age­ment, Berry headed into an open call au­di­tion for the on­stage pro­duc­tion of the Lion King.

She says she went in part just to prove her mother wrong, but we all know how that of­ten turns out.

“My mom was, like, ‘It doesn’t sound like I’m way off base — with no singing, act­ing or danc­ing lessons, the Lion King was in­ter­ested in you,’” re­calls Berry.

She made it to the fi­nal round of call­backs.

Sup­ported by her fam­ily and still liv­ing at her par­ents’ house in Rich­mond Hill, Berry en­rolled in the Ran­dolph Academy and dove head­long into “the great­est ex­pe­ri­ence of my life.”

“I al­ready had an agent be­fore I fin­ished the pro­gram,” Berry re­counts.

“I was help­ing at the front of house dur­ing a show and just goof­ing around, and a woman comes up to me and says, ‘Do you sing as well?’ I said, ‘Don’t mind if I do!’ And I just burst out in song then and there. She was like, ‘I’d like to sign you.’ ”

That woman was a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of New­ton Landry — one of the most suc­cess­ful tal­ent agen­cies in Canada.

Berry was soon get­ting com­mer­cial and TV of­fers, be­com­ing so busy that she wasn’t even cer­tain she could fin­ish her pro­gram.

But fin­ish she did, work­ing hard is a com­ple­ment to her nat­u­ral tal­ent.

Berry also set her sights high, to test her own act­ing chops: she wanted to be on­stage, and she wanted to be per­form­ing the Bard.

“It was al­ways eas­ier for me to get into film than theatre, so I worked ex­tra, ex­tra hard to keep the craft up,” ex­plains Berry.

“It was two or three years af­ter I grad­u­ated be­fore I fi­nally got to work at Shaw and then Stratford and then other ma­jor Cana­dian stages.”

To fur­ther build her Shake­speare reper­toire, she be­gan to take ex­tra classes on the side, and within four months she landed a lead role in the Chicago Shake­speare Theater’s pro­duc­tion of Per­i­cles.

It also didn’t hurt that Berry’s fi­ancé is, as she puts it, “a lit­tle bit of a Stratford star.”

John­stone is in his ninth sea­son at the fes­ti­val, and Berry cred­its him with keep­ing her on her toes when it comes to Shake­speare.

“Ev­ery now and again he’ll just whip out a son­net,” Berry says.

“He’s just so well versed in it … and I think it’s pretty ro­man­tic.”

Iron­i­cally, all her theatre ex­pe­ri­ence led Berry right back to the work she’s fo­cused on to­day — Con­tin­uum.

“Shake­speare and sci-fi both re­quire the same things of an ac­tor,” says Berry.

“Ian McKellen and all of those big­wigs have made that con­nec­tion. Shake­speare is great train­ing for sci-fi be­cause you have to work with long-winded sen­tences and words and jar­gon that you’ve never heard be­fore, but if you un­der­stand what you’re say­ing, the au­di­ence will too.”

To nail her role on Con­tin­uum as a time­trav­el­ling soldier, Berry draws on her per­sonal tem­plate of fe­male strength: her mother.

“When I get asked to play strong women char­ac­ters like on Con­tin­uum, it’s some­thing I can tap into rel­a­tively quickly be­cause my mother is just the strong­est per­son I know,” Berry says.

“I’m lucky to have a blood­line of strong, con­fi­dent women in my life.”

Berry is also cur­rently tack­ling one of the feisti­est fe­male char­ac­ters in ex­is­tence, Won­der Woman.

She and John­stone are work­ing on a sec­ond YouTube episode of a side pro­ject in which they give voice to is­sues of DC Comics’ new Su­per­man/Won­der Woman se­ries.

“It was just a lit­tle pro­ject that I started for my­self, but it got rave re­views, in­clud­ing a thumbs-up on Twit­ter from one of DC Comics’ top artists: Charles Soule, the cre­ator and writer of the se­ries,” says Berry ex­cit­edly.

De­spite all her act­ing suc­cess and jet­set­ting for film, tele­vi­sion and theatre projects, Berry still feels rooted in Rich­mond Hill.

Her fam­ily re­mains there, and when­ever she re­turns for a home-cooked meal, Berry mar­vels at the beauty of the area.

“At a look­out point on the east side of Bayview just past El­gin Mills, you can see the stars and look down on all of the beauty,” she says, be­fore proudly adding, “also, my mom loves land­scap­ing and is con­stantly win­ning Best Front Yard.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.