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Born to Perform with Teryl Rothery

Born to Perform with Teryl Rothery

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Desiree D

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Children are often asked what they want to be when they grow up. It is a question that offers a chance to dream of all of the opportunities of the future, and to believe that anything and everything is possible, where creativity knows no end. From an early age of dreaming up scenes with Barbies, or entertaining her family with solo performances, Teryl Rothery knew the path to which she was called.

Years of dancing on stage and directing dolls at home turned into a prominent career. Her sense of humour, delivery of lines, and ability to show the strength and depth of a character without detracting from those in the scene with her, are all assets that Teryl brings to the screen. In this latest interview, Teryl shares more about storytelling, the impact motherhood has had on her craft, and how much it has meant to be part of the upcoming film Christmas with a Crown.

SC: Knowing that you have always wanted to be an actor, what aspects do you think drew you to this career from the time you were small?

TR: This is one I will answer over and over again, as it still kind of surprises me. It was innate. It was always something I wanted to do. From the age of 3 or 4, I remember distinctly people asking me “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and there was no question, it was “movie star.” That’s all I ever wanted to do. I was raised as an only child so I would create my own scenarios and I was always storytelling and acting out stories.

Even with Barbies. I would have scenes. I would give a synopsis to my friends. They hated playing with me, because I would say that this is what’s happening: This is mine and I’m going to meet him. And we’re going to meet in front of this store. He’s going to look at me and know totally he’s in love with me. But then you, (I would direct), you can bring your Barbie in. So, then you’re going to try and look at… I had scenes. Then I would get into costume design. I remember my cousin had this doll and overtop of the pajamas on her Barbie she had this leather suit, and I went “you cannot go out like that. You are not wearing that! That’s it, I’m not playing. How can you put a suit over top of her pajamas? That’s so wrong!” I remember that scene.

SC: Did you have any connections to film that inspired you as you went along?

TR: None whatsoever. In fact, I was one of those really crazy shy kids. My grandmother was concerned because I was so shy, so she took me to this dance studio where my one of my cousins was being enrolled. That’s what she did to bring me out of my shell, she got me into dance. I would hit the stage to perform and it was like I was a different person. I had all of this stuff to perform and as soon as I would go off stage, I was shy again. It got better obviously. I think years later she was probably cursing herself forever for trying to pull me out of my shell.

SC: Having an acting career since you were young, how did motherhood impact your craft?

TR: It was HUGE and it’s hard for me to put into words. There’s just a deeper place and I don’t know how to explain it. It brought me to a deeper place of understanding in reading the dialogue. I could always bring in certain emotions, but it made me more present and aware, even more present than being in the moment when you’re performing. Personally, it made me a better performer, better at interpreting words, and better at being able to bring life into to the words.

SC: With a number of recurring roles on your resume, what do you enjoy most about having the opportunity to grow with or from your characters?

TR: The very word opportunity. Coming in and guesting on a show is fabulous. I love to work; I love what I do. I love playing different characters, but when you have a recurring or series regular role, you do grow with the character. It just becomes a different skin; I remember in the Sci-Fi genre being on Stargate for seven seasons, and that was the big thing that I remember. Developing this character and then feeling it grow and watching it grow on screen, it is a different skin. You get into that character and you become her. Obviously, there’s a lot more time and as things go along, it’s also a gift for the writer because they get to shed more layers and go deeper. I believe, and I know I’ve been told that by other writers, they’ll sometimes take certain things from the actual person, from the actor, and marry it to the character and carry that along.

SC: Joining the cast of Chesapeake Shores in Season 3, what did you enjoy most about playing Robin O’Brien?

TR: The fact that I got to be Gregory Harrison’s wife. Really? Do I need to say more? It was absolute heaven and I’ll tell you why: Not just because he’s truly such a yummy man, let’s call it what it is, but that yumminess only comes from the yumminess that’s in his person. He’s such a genuinely kind, caring, wonderful human being. A family man which I adore, lovely wife of 30+ years. He’s just this amazing human being. And funny. I really enjoyed my time spent with him and getting to play at things. We would both sort of feed off of each other. There’d be certain things I’d watch him, and things he’d then watch me. We’d have fun.

I remember this scene while we were eating pie with Treat [Williams] and Barbara [Niven] at Sally’s. The pie came and I took a bite and said to Greg, “oh wow, is that ever good” and he’s like “yeah, that’s really good” and Treat and Barbara were hardly eating it. Cameras are rolling and then we’d go, “I think I’m going to need some more” because they’d go, “you’re eating all of your props.” And the two of us were just like “isn’t that great?” “I know.” It made me laugh. Isn’t that a fabulous moment that these two were just chowing down on their cherry pie.

SC: Did the lights from the scene where Robin & Thomas renew their vows seem as magical in person?

TR: Absolutely! So many of the shows like Chesapeake Shores and Cedar Cove have been blessed with such beauty and great cinematographers to point that out to the viewers. And set dec [set decorators], oh my gosh. I remember walking on to set to take a look and just going “ahhhhhhh.” It took my breath away. I thought, how lucky am I to be here in this beauty and to be celebrating the characters’ 30 year anniversary in such beauty? It was absolutely remarkable. Sometimes you walk on to these sets and what they can do, what the construction and set dec people do is truly magic.

SC: After hearing Olivia Lockhart (Cedar Cove) ask “how was Sedona?” in the first scene with your character Grace Sherman, and then your character Robin brings up the hike in Sedona with Megan O’Brien in your first scene on Chesapeake Shores, it would seem like a missed opportunity if we didn’t ask you if you have ever been to Sedona.

TR: Absolutely I have, and I loved it. I mean it was everything I expected it to be, the dirt and the formations. There’s this one rock formation that I bought a picture of, called the Madonna. It is the Virgin Mary and the baby, the mother and child. If you were to google it, you’ll see it. It was just mind blowing. Then there’s one that looks like this big bell, it’s hard to describe. And just the energy there, the energy is so different. I loved it; I loved every second of it. I only spent a day there and I would like to go back, and I want to do a little retreat. I’d love to go with a bunch of girlfriends, just leave the kids at home and go. It’s pretty cool.

SC: There are many qualities or stories that could be asked about Grace Sherman. What stands out most to you about portraying her?

TR: Her fire. I fell in love with Grace when I read her on the page, I just fell in love with her. She was one of those gift roles for me. It was like I put on her shoes and I got in there and it just came. That’s the gift from the writing and being able to marry that with who you are and the choices you make as an actor. I found her and it was absolutely easy. The more I got to be her, the more I fell in love with her, and the more I fell in love with her wackiness and joy, her compassion, and her fire. All of the above. What a gift role to play.

SC: One of the earliest memories of Grace was watching her ride horses with Olivia. Did you have riding experience prior to your work on Cedar Cove?

TR: I did. I had ridden for a while. I used to be afraid of horses. I was always in love with them, but I was afraid to get on them. My cousin was an amazing horsewoman and so she would call me, and I’d be the first one in facedown with a newborn foal. I loved them. Then for a role I had to learn to ride so I started taking lessons and learned English. It was battling fear and a newfound love. I leased my own horse and when I had free time I was always down at the barn, mucking stalls. I was in heaven. I was hoping to do more on the show as I loved it.

SC: Santa’s Boots is currently available on Super Channel Heart & Home On Demand and A Bramble House Christmas will be airing on December 27th and then available On Demand. Any favourite moments from these sets or characters that you can share with our viewers?

TR: They were really great fun and great to be on. Both characters are different. Elaine [Santa’s Boots] was fun because she was that kind of mom that gets in your face, saying “you should be married by now and have babies. What is wrong with you?” She was in her own little space. I loved that arc of being crotchety and then you see the warmth in her and where it all comes from. Megan Hilty played my daughter. I love Megan, she is amazing and what a voice that woman has, oh my gosh. I just remember Santa’s Boots being a lot fun.

A Bramble House Christmas was probably one of my favourite movies to be in. I have so many favorites, but it was one of my favourites because I got to be crotchety, standoffish, private, and not so nice at the beginning. All of these things. I loved those moments. I remember my daughter seeing that one, and she was so upset because she said “mom, they’re making you look so old” because I had a cane. There was a kitchen scene where I think I ate more of the props than I actually decorated. I’m noted for doing that. They were great movies to play and a great cast. Andrew Airlie got to play my lovely husband. Autumn Reeser, love her with all my heart and soul. I’ve worked with her a couple of times and when we get together at events in L.A. I gravitate to her because she is just a gem of a human being.

SC: You play Queen Mary in Christmas with a Crown and she has an accent. Did you find this challenging or enjoyable? Have you had an opportunity to do many roles with accents?

TR: Enjoyable, enjoyable, enjoyable.

Not a lot. I was on a series called Hellcats and she was southern, but she was more from the Carolinas. She was a fun character to play. I’ve done English but not as proper as the Queen’s English. I love accents and I love getting the opportunity to work on them. We had a dialect coach on Christmas with a Crown, David LeReany, a lovely man who coached us on Zoom and would help us with them. I loved it and loved doing it. It was enjoyable, not a chore, and I couldn’t wait to do it. I’d practice all the time; it was just fun.

SC: Can you share more about this role and any stories from the set of Christmas with a Crown that you would like the audience to know?

TR: The project is very dear and personal to our director, Dylan Pearce. It meant a lot to him; it was kind of a paid homage to his mom. It was one of those things you were vested in. Emotionally, all of us were vested in. Dylan is probably one of the kindest, most sweet human beings I have ever met, and just a joy. They had started filming prior to when everything shut down for Covid.

I was to shoot the last week and things were changing rapidly. We never knew from one minute to the next what was happening during that time, so it was really scary. I didn’t know if I’d be going, so it also involved having to sort out family, like dealing with my daughter being pulled out of school. All of us have our own personal Covid stories, of where you’re just flying by the seat of your pants. Even though I wasn’t leaving Canada, there was also a concern because it was a different province. I knew that I was going to self-quarantine because I chose to and wanted to when I came back. I remember being on the way to the airport to leave and my agent calling, saying “pull over I don’t think it’s happening.” Just crazy. And finally getting another call “you’re going.” Then getting on the plane, looking at the people, all of us afraid; the masks, just not knowing. Arriving in Edmonton, being driven to a hotel. My suite was the only one on that floor. Things were happening and it was a ghost town. Everything was different. Then when you were supposed to be doing something like shooting, things are stopping because then we started to lose crew members. What was phenomenal was that the crew that was left, the producers, the cast, our amazing director and his family, really came together on this project because of the circumstance. Everybody has a life beyond what we’re doing and to have everybody band together to make this happen, has made this movie so special. I could not be happier for Dylan; this is his baby, and it really means a lot. It was a complete and utter honour to do this movie. It was done with absolute love. I really hope that everybody is going to enjoy the final product because it was absolutely filmed with love and tears.

SC: The roles that you are in on Super Channel Heart & Home tend to be of a mother and/or friend. If you could write a character specifically for you, what type of character would you want to portray?

TR: A sexy goddess, haha. I’ve had such an amazing career and there isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not grateful and appreciative of my work. Being a mom or playing a grandma is actually fine by me. It does happen and is nice to see a woman of age where life and love is not over. It has happened, look at Cliff and Grace. We can still have love interests and feel like we’re 16 again. That’s really important.

I was pregnant on a series and the producer and creator wrote it in. What he didn’t do was put my character in big smocky dresses and hidden. You can watch me grow and it was an amazing gift that I had. This man had the foresight to show that a woman who was pregnant is still ravishingly beautiful. She’s at a yoga class with a crop top, beautiful belly, and her tight Lulu Lemon pants, and you see the beauty that it doesn’t have to be hidden. It’s honoring what a woman is. Yes, we can be love interests and there’s some really great stuff that women of our age are going to enjoy.

SC: During this pandemic, were there any special projects or interests that you focused on especially when staying at home?

TR: What a tie into the previous answer. Knitting. This little old biddy took up some knitting, haha. My grandmother would knit, and she would say “do you want to learn how to knit?” My answer was always “no.” During this pandemic, my love turned to Miss Vickie’s potato chips and my night was “what date will I have tonight? The Jalapeno Cheese or Salt & Vinegar, and Netflix?” I thought this has got to stop. I’m going to learn how to knit and I’m going to teach myself. I phoned my grandmother and said, “you’re not going to believe this, but I googled online for a very, very, very basic beginner doggy sweater.” She was like “who are you?” So, I have this sweater and it’s a little lop-sided. It’s my first project. I’ve accidentally gone from the knit to the purl. I look at it and go, I meant to do that. So that’s what I did. My little dog has a crazy little sweater. I’ll call it the coat of many stitches.

SC: Any special projects that viewers can keep an eye out for?

TR: I do. Projects that I’m really happy about but can’t say just yet. I will share on my Twitter and Instagram so follow on there for the latest news.

SC: With having a longer career in this industry, how has the addition of social media impacted you or your work as an actor?

TR: With the Sci-Fi fans it was my first look into what it is to be a fan of a show. Over these amazing years, it doesn’t matter what genre of work that I will go to, they still follow. They are the most loyal phenomenal fans. We’ve had the privilege with Sci-Fi, getting out and doing conventions and getting to meet them. I love it. I love being able to give back because they give us so much. And what I’ve discovered on top of that, is through the Hallmark shows, we had the Covers for Cedar Cove, the Chessies, the Hearties, it’s another gift because they are so loyal and they have such a vested interest in it. The beauty of social media is that there can be instant contact. It is a way for us to be in contact with them and hear what they have to say and be able to have a voice to give back to them. I’ve never been a really big social media person, even when Facebook first came out, but I think it is a gift to all of us, to fans, to performers, to writers, to whatever, to have that outlet to be able to talk about these things. I think it’s great. I have to admit I’m not as good as I should be about getting on it regularly, but when I can I do, and I certainly look forward to everything people have to say. Yeah, we’re pretty lucky. Thank you to Hallmark and all of our channels for that.

SC: Drawing an audience to a character has been a gift that Teryl Rothery has brought to numerous roles, across different genres and decades. With a successful career inspiring people around the world, Teryl continues to show that life experience can only add more depth to the story. She brings so much joy, talent, and heart to every project. Teryl truly appreciates her fans, the characters that she portrays, and the opportunity to have a career that she loves. With upcoming projects in the works, ensure you’re following Teryl on Instagram and Twitter, so you don’t miss out on what performance comes next.

Social Media:
Twitter: @terylrothery
Instagram: @terylrothery
Website: www.terylrothery.com