Spotlight on Alumni: Kristen Hager
Since completing York's Acting Program in 2005, I have been working as an actor in both Canada and the US. Very hard to believe that it's already been eight years since I left! Over the years there have been many ups and downs, all of which have been crucial in leading me to where I am today.
Since graduating, I have found myself on some pretty surreal sets, from Todd Haynes' I'm Not There opposite Cate Blanchett(!!!), to FOX Studio's Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem, to Universal Studio's Wanted opposite James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie. (Needless to say I've literally had to “pinch myself” on more than one occasion). Here in Canada, I've worked on such films as You Might As Well Live, Textuality, Servitude, and last year's A Little Bit Zombie. I also got the opportunity to get into the psyche of Leslie Van Houten, one of the women in Charles Manson's cult, in Leslie, My Name is Evil, which premiered at TIFF in 2009. In television I've worked on such shows as CSI: Miami, NCIS: LA, as well as CTV's The Listener, and CBC's Wild Roses here in Canada, to name a few. For the last three years I have played a Werewolf on the SyFy show Being Human. The third season is currently airing (Monday nights at 9/8c on SyFy and SPACE in Canada).
At the moment I am down in Los Angeles filming an independent thriller, Trigger. I recently wrapped another independent film, In Embryo, and wrapped a romantic comedy, The Right Kind of Wrong, last fall, which will hopefully premier at TIFF in September.
Do you have any advice or tips for York Students just entering the department?
My advice to anyone entering the program is to dream big. Set goals for yourself, and don't be afraid to fall flat on your face in the process of trying to reach them. Take risks. It's very true that you will “never know if you don't try”. Now is the time to play, to find your voice, and hone your craft. And always remember to have fun in the process! Find the joy. Find what excites you. Find what terrifies you. But more than anything, find what you love about it, and why you can't live without it.
Can you tell us a moment in which your training at York was clearly useful?
My training at York comes into play on every job that I get. What I appreciated most about York's Acting Program was that it was very much based on finding what “works best for you as an individual”. We were taught many different techniques and explored many different acting styles, but we were never told that any of these specific styles was the RIGHT one. I developed a work ethic, and script/character breakdown that really worked for me personally. I use the same writing and personalization techniques that I started doing then in the breakdown of each character I play.
Additionally, a course that I took which I have found to be very beneficial now as an actor, was Psychology. Understanding the psychology behind the character you are playing is a crucial part of getting into character.
What was your fondest memory of studying Theatre at York?
I have so many fond memories of the countless hours spent locked away in the studios of the CFT Building! More than anything I am thankful for getting to know such an amazing group of talented and dynamic people who I got to spend so much time with. We were literally together from 8:30am-10:30pm everyday of the week (except Sundays)! So by then end of our four years together, we were more like family than friends. It's crazy to think that I haven't seen some of them since we graduated. In fact, that's one of the difficult parts of this business, losing touch with people who you get to know so well. I learned a lot from each and everyone in that class, and made friends for life. Being in University is such a special time in your life – such an exciting time, so take the time to enjoy it!
If you had the chance to go back and visit your younger self as you were beginning at York, what advice would you give yourself?
If I could go back and visit my younger self, more than anything else, I would tell myself to “just stop, stand still, and take it all in”. Try your best to live in the moment. Because you are going to have so many unbelievable experiences along the way, from the people you will meet, to the cities you will see. And time will go by quickly, so don't wish it away. Appreciate where you are right now, in this moment. And know that there is something to be learned from each experience that you have. Don't take anything for granted.
Do you have advice or tips for York Students just about to graduate? About to join the job Market?
To the students about to graduate I want to tell them to have a concrete game plan. I am a big advocate of literally sitting down with a pen and paper and making a “five year plan”. Know what you want, and be willing to work harder than everyone else around you to make it happen. Don't be complacent. Because it is no joke that this is an extremely competitive field, and I'm going to be very honest when I say that at times, it's going to be tough. Be resilient. You have to be able to pick yourself up and dust yourself off. For all the jobs I've gotten over the years, there have been hundreds that I didn't get. But it is those jobs that you don't get that make you appreciate the ones you do get that much more. “Onto the next” has become a motto. Be confidant. Try not to be too hard on yourself. Be your biggest supporter. And never, ever forget what it is you love about this business, and why you're doing it in the first place. It can be scary at times, and lonely at times – having to spend so much time away from the people you love — so you have to love it. But it can also feel like the most wonderful job on the planet. So more than anything else, know that you are about to embark on an exciting ride!