The word “gumption” comes to mind when one meets Canadian actress, Cara Gee.
Born in Calgary and raised in Bobcaygeon, Ontario, Gee has been steadily moving towards the spotlight since graduating from the University of Waterloo in 2007, where she studied acting. Not long after receiving her degree, did the actress begin generating buzz in the theatre community, impressing audiences and critics alike with her performances in plays, including the Nightwood Theatre’s production of Margret Atwood’s The Penelopiad in Toronto, which saw its cast take home a 2012 Dora Award for Best Ensemble.
By the following year, Gee had not only earned herself a coveted spot amongst the list of 2013 TIFF Rising Stars, a program initiated to help develop Canadian cinema and talent, but she had also landed a part in her first feature film, Empire of Dirt directed by Peter Stebbings (Defendor). An Official Selection of the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, the film delves into the lives of three generations of Canadian Aboriginal women, boldly unfurling each character’s humanity.
One nomination for Best Actress at the Canadian Screen Awards later, and the glow from Gee’s breakout performance as the film’s Lena Mahikan—a former addict and model, who finds herself a single mother, struggling to ward off poverty—segues into a starring role on CBC’s new Fall drama Strange Empire, airing Mondays at 9 PM.
A definite turn away from the broadcaster’s usual lineup, Strange Empire is a Wild West genre-bender with Hannie Caulder appeal. Already a critical success, since it’s premiere last month, the show has transplanted CBC over to the dark side of drama, where the likes of Boardwalk Empire and True Detective reside.
(above) top and jacket, lovers + friends :: pants, doma :: heels, Brian Atwood :: earrings, Biko
(this image, left) top, lovers + friends :: coat, Forever 21 :: jeans, Genetic :: Booties, Guess :: necklace, Biko :: bracelet, Kenneth Cole
“I think the show represents CBC’s desire to move in a new direction with drama in the golden age of television,” says Gee. “They are taking a risk on us, and we’re excited about that.
Set in 1869 Alberta, the show is an addictive combination of original and uncompromising writing, paired with evocative performances by a female-led cast. In her turn as Loving, Gee creates a seamless portrait of a woman born from the land and limited by no one and nothing, including societal expectations of women.
Herself a woman with deliberate opinions, Gee is not one to shy away from hot-button issues; a personality trait that translates brilliantly into her role on Strange Empire. Take for example, the incisive response our discussion about Chanel’s interpretation of this season’s Western trend elicits from the actress, “The one Chanel look I’m not eager to try at home is the headdress that was appropriated, but other than that, I love the collection.” Like we said, gumption.
Below, Gee takes a moment to talk about her character, the passionate gun-slinger, Kat Loving, and how her own personal style (which, admittedly leans towards “girly”), veers away from the head-to-toe leather ensemble the rough and tumble Loving sports on Strange Empire.
Tell us a bit about your character Kat Loving. We have a feeling that her name is a misnomer.
She’s a gun-slinging, horse riding badass, who is infinitely stronger than me. The characters names are interesting—they become allegorical in the reality of the Strange Empire.
For readers who haven’t checked out the show yet, what would you say about it to entice audiences to watch? In other word’s what’s the show main attraction?
Sex and violence.
While the show is set in the Wild West, do you think some of the central issues the story deals with are relatable to modern life?
1869 is really only a few generations ago, and the ripple effect of the genocide of First Nations people is still very much felt today.
dress, Style Stalker :: earrings and ring, Biko
The show definitely looks at serious subject matter, and from a unique stance. We love that Strange Empire is described as a “Western whose heroes are women.” Was the strength and confidence of both your character and the show’s other female characters one of the elements that attracted you to the script initially?
Each female character has her own struggles and her own unique experience and perspective. I don’t think you can love them all together, as they are not always allies.
Fashion-wise, Western is ‘in’ this season, are you tempted at all to try that cowboy hat of yours off set at all?
My personal style is quite girly and I can’t wait to not wear leather every day!
Without giving away any spoilers, what aspect of Kat’s storyline are you most looking forward to developing as the show progresses?
I’m excited for viewers to watch her come into her own and expose some of her darkness along with the light. Laurie Finstad, the creator of the show is fascinated with the grey area in her characters, and consistently plays with the concept that people are either heroes or villains.
Your character is definitely not someone we would describe as “girly.” But what are you like in your everyday life? Does your personal style leans more towards the casual/practical side of things, or do you follow fashion and beauty trends.
In real-life I would describe myself as girly. I gravitate towards things I feel comfortable and myself in, and less towards trends.
In terms of beauty, what’s your daily routine include, especially when busy on set, but still in need of looking camera ready?
Often people take care of my makeup for me—and for this show, that has involved getting my teeth yellowed and putting mud in my hair! I wouldn’t say I have a ‘typical’ personal beauty routine though. It all depends on how I’m feeling. Sometimes I’ll wear no makeup, other times I’ll be out wearing sparkly red lipstick.
Have you stolen any beauty secrets from the hair and makeup artists you’ve worked with in the past?
Not really, everyone has such a different take on it, but one thing I have found very useful is to fill in or darken your eyebrows. An easy way to amplify your look and define your features is to apply an eyebrow pencil to your brows, in a slightly darker hue than your natural colour. Eyebrow gel also works to define them and keep ’em in check. I’ve become an expert at this one since I’ve had to completely grow in my eyebrows for Strange Empire— way worse than growing out bangs, I assure you.
top, lovers + friends :: skirt, Ann Taylor :: jacket, Doma :: body chain, Biko
In your opinion, what’s the single beauty product every woman should invest in?
Not every woman wants or needs to invest in a beauty product. If I had to choose one thing to brighten my look when I was feeling tired, it would be to wear a new bold lipstick shade. I find that if you wear a brand new bold lipstick shade, it sort of works to shift your entire look, and often, even your energy. Try a matte, dark plum, such as Revlon Super Lustrous Creme Lipstick in Raisin Rage.
What’s an easy way to transition from your usual daytime beauty look to the perfect evening look?
Simply applying bright red lipstick!
What’s your go-to red carpet beauty look?
Dramatic eyes and bright lips.
What beauty items can we find in your purse on an average day?
1) A bright red lipstick to take my look from day to night in a pinch. (I love M.A.C.‘s Retro Matte Lipstick in Relentlessly Red)
2) An illuminator such as Benefit‘s Watt’s Up
3) Eyebrow pencil
4) The Body Shop‘s All-In-One BB Cream
What’s one thing we will never see you do beauty-wise?
Never say never—I’ll try anything once!
What new beauty trend are you planning to test out this fall?
Bronze lipstick. I have heard the NARS holiday collection is one to try.
Who is your beauty idol and what about her beauty looks inspires your own look?
My close friend, Aurora Stewart de Pena, Artistic Director of Birdtown & Swanville Theatre Company.
Styling by Matthew Chow at P1M | Hair and Makeup by Sandra Yang at Judy Inc.