SC: What do you most enjoy about being able to tell a story through your work as an actor?
LD: It’s a universal language. When I was little, it was a big deal that on Friday nights the whole family came together and we got to go pick two movies, one that was a parent’s movie and one that was ours. It was very communal and something that I looked forward to every week. I think when I started to figure out that those were real people and not like we were watching somebody’s actual life, I started to take a lot of interest into the idea of how do they get to do that. Then, especially with Hallmark or Heart and Home, the fact that everybody can watch it together. There’s so few times, especially now in the days of texting and social media, that we sit down as a group and have something that we can all talk about together. So, I feel proud of it. I love the amount of content that’s out there now too. The industry has opened up so much to everybody and especially with everything going on with inclusivity and diversity. I am Indigenous and have my Metis card and you wouldn’t know by looking at me. It’s a really exciting time to be a part of all of it. I feel proud of it and I like that other people get to have that same experience that I did when I was a kid, which was it brings you all together and it’s something to talk about.
SC: Having been in a number of Hallmark movies, what is the draw to this family-friendly genre?
LD: I didn’t appreciate it as much initially. It was just you were excited to get work. We film so many different things here [Vancouver], that when I jumped to do a couple other things that weren’t family-friendly, and weren’t as light and upbeat, you realize how unfun that can be on set, because the overall vibe is different. I remember there was one job and my only job was to come in and bawl my eyes out because my husband was brutally murdered. Your entire day from the time you get there until the time you’re done, you’re waiting for at some point in that day to bawl your eyes out on cue. Whereas, if you’re on a family-friendly or a comedy set, or something that’s a little bit more PG, everybody is in a good mood all of the time.
SC: What do the fans of these shows, especially ones with an established fan base like Heartland or Hallmark, mean to you as an actor?
LD: They’re fantastic. They go out of your way to ask you questions on social media and that’s definitely where social media comes in as a big part of the industry. I came on to Heartland in season eleven and based on Gabe Hogan’s and my schedule we’re not there very often. The fact that the fans have been so good about paying attention and caring about the character, even though she’s kind of dropped in every now and again, is amazing. It’s kind of overwhelming when you think of it; that people are that kind and care that much that they’ll stick around for you. And the Hallmark people, I’ve never met fans like Hallmark fans, ever! They have got your back. It’s pretty cool.
SC: Heartland has found a home on Heart & Home too. We are a few seasons away from meeting your character, Jen McMurtry. How would you describe Jen to a viewer who has yet to meet her?
LD: Well initially Jen was an extended family member of another character on the show whose husband unfortunately passed away, so she moves to town. She started off by taking over or helping Lou (who is one of the main characters) run the dude ranch and the restaurant Maggie’s, and then she kind of became the other woman at some point. She was brought in specifically to be the opposite temperament of Lou so they’re a bit of oil and water, which at times they can help each other but at other times it does not go well. She’s fun though. She says exactly what she wants to say. That’s her in a bit of a nutshell.
SC: Is there a different feeling or expectation when joining a series that has been on the air for years?
LD: It’s always a bit intimidating, for sure. I heard about Heartland and had known through the Canadian industry for years about this show and the reaction from the fans was great. When I found out that I was going to be joining it, it was almost surreal. It just didn’t seem realistic that I was suddenly going to be part of this thing that I’ve heard about for ten years. But at the same time, I thought it was pretty cool that they were willing to open it up to somebody from Vancouver because a lot of the cast is out of Toronto. I love Calgary; I love Alberta; I’m a prairies girl. But the minute I realized that Gabe was on it, it felt comfortable because I’ve known him for a while, we’ve worked together, and I’ve just had so much fun with that guy. I think he’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met so it put me at ease. It was awesome.
SC: What are your interests or favourite activities to enjoy when you have a break in your schedule?
LD: Business-wise, I opened up my own film training studio two years ago. It’s been extremely busy these past few years, so that’s a huge part if I’m not on a film set, then I’m definitely at the studio.
In terms of hobbies, my husband and I play co-ed hockey, not right now obviously, so when the world is in a normal state, we play co-ed hockey together every Friday night. We’re big outdoors people. Since we moved out to Vancouver we’ve learned how to downhill ski, we’re big hikers, and we just started running again this year. We’re very active people, but also quite artistic. I love to draw, I love to paint, and then I also sing. I’ve been trying desperately to teach myself ukulele for the last year, because my daughter loves it.
SC: What drew you to becoming an acting instructor and opening your own studio?
LD: I was really resistant to doing it for quite a long time, but always felt drawn to it. I came by it naturally, as my mom is a schoolteacher. I used to teach musical theatre in Winnipeg and coached hockey for little kids. I was really wanting to make sure that I had enough film experience and had a long enough resume, so that I knew what I was talking about. I love it, and especially when you get that phone call like the person who was brand new and just booked their first job, or somebody who is more experienced booking a bigger job, it makes you proud. The fact that you’re helping make other people’s dreams come true is pretty awesome. I tell everyone you’re going to have your ups and downs, but at the end of the day, as long as you enjoy it, it’s worth it. As soon as you don’t like it anymore, get out. Go do something else you love.
SC: Who is someone that you would like to work with or have more time together with on-screen?
LD: Where do I start? Billy Crudup. Someone like him or Stanley Tucci if we’re talking dudes. If we’re talking girls, I would just die to do anything with Bette Midler. I just so badly want to do a one-woman stage show like she’s done. But right now, I think someone that I would just be over the moon to work with is Kathryn Hahn. People might not know her by name, but she’s in everything and she can do anything. So, the two dream guys, Stanley Tucci and Billy Crudup or the two ladies, Bette Midler and Kathryn Hahn. Or, just put them all in one show and I’d sit there, drink coffee and watch them.
SC: Where would your dream filming location be? Do you have a favourite in Canada?
LD: I’m a big fan of Alberta and I’ve been a big advocate for trying to get more filming there. I’m from Winnipeg so I’m always game to go home. I think the crews in Winnipeg are really sweet and they get it, it’s minus forty and they don’t complain. They just put these massive hoods that the camera can fit right into. They’re fantastic. Vancouver’s great, it’s just so saturated now. There’s so much filming going on. So, in Canada I’d think it’d be amazing to bring more to the prairies. In terms of anywhere in the world, Italy for sure. My husband’s Italian and we want to go as a family because he’s never been himself and his parents and his grandparents were born there, and his big extended family is there.
SC: Any special talents that fans might not know about you and that you’d like to use in future roles?
LD: I speak French and my family is French. I am also ambidextrous. I taught myself to write with my left hand. Years ago, I was sitting in a waiting room and my mom made a comment about me being too fidgety and said to figure something else out to do. I remember grabbing a pen and just started practicing and so, over the years whenever I’m sitting and waiting for anything, I’ll just take out a pen and practice. Now I can write almost better than with my right hand because we don’t really do handwriting anymore.
SC: Have you done any roles where you have spoken French in them?
LD: No, I haven’t. I’ve never spoken French in a role, whether it’d be voiceover or nothing. So weird. Maybe I will now.
SC: Do you feel that growing up in Manitoba impacted your craft differently than if you had grown up in a major film hub?
LD: For sure. It was far more supportive as a community with the arts career. I think I got access to very talented people who if I was in a bigger city, I probably wouldn’t have had access to. I could get coaching and learn from some really fantastic artists that probably if I was out in Vancouver or Toronto that a) wouldn’t be able to afford as a university student, or b) wouldn’t even have the access to. As supportive as they have been there, definitely helped me to develop this naivete where I went “why can’t I?” or “why can’t it be me?” because I could pick up the phone and call the casting director. So, you can’t do that in a big city. I can’t call the casting director and be like “hey guys, pick me,” they’d have you in handcuffs in an hour. Haha.
SC: Is there a character that you’ve portrayed over the years that taught you the most about yourself, or was the one to help you grow the most as an actor?
LD: For sure Shandra from Less than Kind. The showrunner was Mark McKinney, who is epic in terms of comedy. So, it was four seasons of me learning directly from people who had been out there, who’d been on SNL [Saturday Night Live]. This character was brought in, as very much the villain on some level, because she was a passionate girlfriend of one of the main characters. Nobody liked her, she always said what nobody else wanted to hear, but she just kept showing up and was hilarious. I think for me personally, I learned a lot of my behavioural patterns that I thought nobody else was aware of, my neuroses and stuff like that. Therefore, by learning them, could then completely exploit them and blow them out of the water for the sake of comedy. Also, I think it really made me aware of the fact that I came from this very funny family and I was really lucky that I came from a funny family, because that idea of being witty and understanding timing for comedy, I had just learnt along the way. So that was something that I learnt about myself and therefore wasn’t sheepish about it anymore. I think as a person it really calmed me down to have that outlet, and I learnt all that just through the experience of being on a set and being able to kind of be like a kid and let your energy out. Shandra was the best.
SC: Christmas Lost & Found is currently available on Super Channel Heart & Home On Demand. What did you enjoy about playing Gloria Hayes? Any favourite moments from these sets or characters that you can share with our viewers?
LD: I have two favourite moments. We did a night shoot because we had to close down Nordstrom’s so that my character who owned the department store could own it while nobody was there. You get to wear these fantastic clothes and you look out at this amazing store, and you’re the boss of it. You own it. I was like “whaaaaat?! I get to own Nordstrom’s for the next 8 hours.” That was a pretty epic moment.
And then the other one was working with Tiya Sircar who is on The Good Place with Kristen Bell. Everybody brings up “you remind me of Kristen Bell,” which is great, but the world already has one. Tiya said to me “do you know who you remind me of?” and I went “yeah, Kristen Bell” and she said “no.” She was the first person who actually knew Kristen Bell that affirmed, “well you kinda look like her but you guys are very different.” She also shared some stores about The Good Place, so that was cool.
SC: Did you have a favourite family Christmas tradition that you wanted to ensure you shared with your daughter?
LD: Definitely. On Christmas Eve we would go to my mom’s side of the family and spend time with them and then on Christmas day we’d go to my dad’s side of the family. That was something I looked forward to every year because you would see people you don’t normally see throughout the year. Being away from family, we really wanted to make sure that we’d get home to Winnipeg so that she would also have that experience. I think for Christmas or whatever you celebrate, I think it’s so important to at least touch base with people that you don’t normally get to communicate with or express how you feel throughout the year. That little bit of spending time with people I think is so valuable. In this year it’ll be all over Zoom, obviously. We’ll always try to go back home because you also need snow at Christmas. It was the weirdest thing the first time we stayed out here at Christmas without snow.
SC: Christmas with a Crown found you as a lead actor as well as Executive Producer. What was it like to experience these dual roles?
LD: It was cool and a lot of fun. It was a challenge because we were filming at the beginning of Covid and just snuck it out before the world shut down. Little things started happening like we were only allowed to have 50 people including the crew, so suddenly the crew had to become background. It was definitely a challenge but it also kind of made it really special. And then you add that even though we were newer in these positions as executive producers, Dylan [Pearce, the director] was so good about checking in and making sure that everybody was on the same page.
And for a lead, it didn’t really feel like it was that big of a jump, you just have more lines. You’re working every day as opposed to coming in and out. I think having worked with some really strong women in this genre before, between Ali Sweeney and Nicki DeLoach, I feel like it wasn’t that big of a shock as to what to expect. I’ve kind of held off doing leads as long as possible. The Hallmark fans ask all of the time, and the truth is, once you step into that position, you kind of lose the ability to just be the best friend or the sidekick. Those have been some of my favourite relationships and some of my favourite jobs on certain shows. It was not easy based on the circumstances [Covid], but I’m proud of what we did and I’m proud that it all came together, especially in Edmonton because what a gorgeous little city.
SC: Your character Cassie in Christmas with a Crown brings back the winter festival in the form of a fundraiser for the town. Can you share more about this character?
LD: Yeah, she’s someone who left her small town for bigger opportunity and then through the magic of Christmas realizes that what she thought she needed elsewhere, she didn’t, it was always in front of her. Along the way she stumbles across this person she never have in a million years thought would be the right person for her. And by way of moms being moms, regardless of whether they’re still in your lives or not, somehow they always find a way to connect you with the right people, so that was kind of the theme of the whole show.
It was really fun to play this idea, because having been somebody that moved away on my own years ago, I knew that feeling. Then to put yourself in that position, what if I did move back? Did you really need to move away? All of that. So, I think a lot of people will relate to her in that sense, that she’s going after what she believes, but in the end what she really needed was always back home.
SC: Without giving away any spoilers, which was your favourite scene to film?
LD: Actually, my favourite scenes to film, that’s two-fold. My favourite scenes that came out in the movie were the little montage clips because they were very much fly by the seat of our pants, in terms of fitting them in scheduling wise when we could. And Marcus is very funny.
And then I think probably the most memorable scene to shoot was the ice skating scene. It looks beautiful but what people may or may not know is that it was minus thirty that night. I don’t think Marcus wore anything on his head. I wore earmuffs because I knew how cold it was going to be. It was so cold that by the end of the night my mouth was freezing so there’s a couple lines I’m interested to see what they did in terms of how they cut it, because I almost couldn’t talk anymore. It was so cold, but it looked beautiful. There were all of these people that had come out to be extras and my heart was breaking for them because they were such troopers, so that was the most memorable scene to shoot.
SC: Can you share more about filming this movie at the start of Covid?
LD: We squeaked it out. The day we were done shooting was the day they came down with only having 15 people. We JUST made it, so it was rough. And we took a little bit of flack for it because the rest of the country had shut down a little bit earlier, but Alberta still had guidelines in place that allowed us to film. It was an intense and interesting time. I was really proud of the guys because they put a lot of hard work and own money into it and were really passionate about it.
It was definitely a big heart project, in terms of the entire community coming together to make it, because with Covid we had to be so careful with guidelines, and we had to be communicative with everybody to make sure everyone was comfortable. We’d check in every morning, and said if anybody wants to leave, you’re more than welcome to, and they were like nope we’re in. It was just really cool.
SC: Is there anything else about Christmas with a Crown that you would like the audience to know?
LD: I think the fact that it was a project, a labour of love, at a time when the entire world was in chaos and we were able to finish it just in time. I hope that people will appreciate the amount of heart that went into it. And also, you know, it’s a feel good Christmas story, so grab your bottle of wine and enjoy.
SC: During this pandemic, were there any special projects or interests that you focused on especially when staying at home?
LD: My studio with social distancing restrictions was able to open end of May/beginning of June, so that got really busy over the summer. I was able to hold online classes all year, but probably the most special project that my husband and I say all of the time, is that we were gifted time. Those first three months we were able to have our daughter home with us. We actually went to our cabin up in Osoyoos for 5 or 6 weeks, and it was just the three of us. During those six weeks she learned to walk, cut her first tooth, and she started to speak really clearly. All of her firsts, her big milestones, happened during that time. Essentially our special project was Everly and was the most amazing thing. People keep saying 2020 has been awful, but for us it started fantastic. We got 5 or 6 weeks, where we could spend all of the time in the world with her, in a time when she is so impressionable, and we’ll never get that time back. That was huge for us. So essentially, dealing with a one year old was our special project.
SC: Any other projects that viewers can keep an eye out for?
LD: Check out the next season of Heartland because I’ll definitely be on that. I’m also in Wind Song but watch for more on my social media because the name could change and I’m not sure when it will be released.
SC: Lisa Durupt is sweet, bubbly and a ton of fun. Her diverse interests and talents are all assets to the projects she is a part of, whether portraying the supportive sidekick or her recent role as the leading lady. Lisa’s passion for her craft always shines, from making audiences smile with her impeccable comedic timing or sharing her knowledge and experience while coaching her students. With more projects sure to come, follow Lisa on social media to see which films she will put her heart into next.