Tatiana Maslany: forged by Sask’s “culture of creation”

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Halfway through the marathon that is the Toronto International Film Festival, I finally met Tatiana Maslany. It’s lame that Planet S’ film critic had never met Saskatchewan’s most recognizable actress, and I was glad to correct the situation.

I talked to Maslany at a roundtable for her latest film, Stronger, where she was paired up with British acting royalty Miranda Richardson. That two-time Oscar nominee is a larger-than-life figure and — fairly, if not conveniently for me — tends to dominate panel interviews. Maslany deferred to Richardson most of the time until I told her who I wrote for. Her already big hazel eyes became even larger. “You do?” “Yes.” “Nice!”

It was an epic moment. Probably more for me than her.

When you play a character based on a real individual as in Stronger, is it helpful to get to know this person? Or would you rather build the character from the ground up?

I met Erin quite early on in the process. I didn’t have as much contact as Jake [co-star Gyllenhall] had with Jeff [Bauman, the film’s subject], but that’s also who she is. Erin was an incredible source of support, and very generous for giving me this story, her answers, energy and time. That said, John [Pollono, the scriptwriter] sat with the family for hours, collected information and broke down dynamics, so it was all in the script.

Did you discuss with Erin the role of guilt in her relationship with Jeff in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack?

I don’t remember her answer to that, but it was a big motivation for Erin in the script. In her mind, this happened because of her and she wanted to repair it. It’s an interesting push-and-pull: wanting to leave, to not have this burden but needing desperately to be Jeff’s caregiver at the same time. It’s a very human conflict.

How has being from Saskatchewan affected your career?

Because I come from a small town with very few prospects, I’m very grateful for every opportunity I get. Also, Saskatchewan has this immense space to it, a wide openness that your imagination has to fill up. Otherwise you would go nuts. A lot of my friends are very creative; they are actors, improvisers, comedians, visual artists… there is a culture of creation in this place. ❧