I had the chance to chat with actor Tennille Read about her broad portfolio of work that stems both stage and screen. She has appeared in some fan favorites, Schitt’s Creek and Shadowhunters, and Canadian readers will definitely recognize her from even more. We discussed her television, film, and theater work, which includes a very interesting production of Dorian Gray.
Can you introduce yourself a bit to our readers?
Let’s see, I’m an actor living in Toronto along Queen Street West, with my partner Andy and Boston Terrier puppy named Barrington. I moved to Toronto ten years ago to enroll in a three year acting conservatory and it’s been home ever since. I love this city and all it has to offer with its vibrant arts community, diversity, and increasing film and TV opportunities. I think because I’m a mix between Trinidadian and Canadian I feel incredibly at home in a city where ethnic diversity is so visible.
What led you to pursue acting?
Lots of people and different experiences led me to pursue acting professionally, but mainly I’ve just always loved good storytelling and been curious about the human experience. Acting is a place I can explore both. As a kid I’d make up stories for friends on the walks home from school, or I’d recreate something that happened in a class for my Mum – which usually included impersonations of my teachers. I was a pretty shy person for a long time, but sharing things that I created from my imagination was something I found I could share easily.
You’ve appeared in some shows with great fan bases, what can you share about your time on Schitt’s Creek?
Working on Schitt’s Creek was a dream come true. I was a huge fan of the show before working on it, then when I did get cast and found out my scenes were with Eugene Levy, I was thrilled – even if my appearance on the show was a brief one. I regret never getting a photo with him on set. I was too star-struck.
You’ve also been on Shadowhunters and The Good Witch, what were those experiences like?
Both of those shows live in the realm of magic and fantasy and I love that kind of scope. I have so much respect for the amount of detail that goes into creating those kinds of worlds. In The Good Witch, my character appeared in flashbacks from the 1800’s. At one point during the shoot I was dashing through the woods, with fog cascading along the forest floor, and I’m wrapped in a velvet hooded cape in awkward period shoes while the camera is doing an elaborate dolly shot through the woods. It was a pinnacle moment where all these elements from every department had to come together smoothly. There is so much precision that goes on in order to execute any scene, and for that shoot, I felt like I was following an intricate choreography with everyone else behind the scenes. As a result, it upped the urgency I felt as the character and made it easier to immerse myself into the stakes of the scene and my character’s reality.
You received Best Supporting Actress for I Lost My Mind, can you tell me a bit about the short film and your character?
Director and writer Michael Tobin cast me in I Lost My Mind after we had met for the first time. It was easy to say yes to the project because of the character Penelope that he had created. She’s this strong, aspirational woman teaching young adults about the film while one of her students objectifies her in exactly the way she has had to face and resist throughout her career. Michael addresses this dynamic with humour and wit and I liked the relevance it had to issues we face in the real world when it comes to strong, intelligent and career driven women.
You also received nominations for an all female production of A Picture of Dorian Gray, could you share some about this production?
I played Dorian Gray in a modern day adaptation called Gray. It was a challenging role because Dorian’s character goes down a very dark and destructive path and relating to that isn’t always easy or advisable. But it was also fascinating to explore the ideas of eternal beauty, hedonism and power that are in the story. The cast was a very talented group of people and we became good friends resulting in a rehearsal process that felt safe to take risks in.
You co-founded Theatre Inamorte, which produced Dorian Gray, can you share what this organization does and what inspired you to found it?
Theatre Inamorata was developed by four of us who had just graduated out of the same theatre conservatory. We all loved classical texts with heightened language and interesting female characters, and we were determined to find a classical play that we could produce. But our search always fell short when we realized that the classic heroines almost always had no agency and didn’t actually drive the plot in the ways we felt were satisfying. Kris Van Soelen came on board to help us create Gray and he did an extraordinary job adapting the original novel into a play. He switched the genders of most of the male characters to female or transgender female. He incorporated the heightened text we loved so much. He also did an excellent job making complex relatable characters in this fantastical and dark story. As a collective we have also helped workshop scripts, co-produce plays, facilitate discussions about gender in theatre, and adapt mini scenes from some of our favourite classical playwrights in order to explore female characterization in the classics. Oh, and we’ve also had annual fundraisers to raise money for our projects which takes the form of an evening variety show. We’ve done it four years in a row now and aside from bringing together musicians, comedians, aerialists and professional burlesquers, we also have three people who have never done burlesque before create a number and pop their burlesque cherry. That’s why it’s called Virgin Burlesque: You never forget your first time.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can share?
I’ll be doing two shows in repertoire this summer at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott Ontario. I’ll be playing Roxane in Cyrano De Bergerac and Camilla in A Winter’s Tale (they’ve made the original character Camillo female). I also have a little part in Atom Egoyan’s upcoming film Guest of Honour starring David Thewlis which comes out later this year.
Where can our readers keep up with you and your work online?
You can find me on IMDB for all my film and TV work. You can also follow me on Instagram @tennilleread and on twitter @tennilleread.
*Photo courtesy of Dane Clark*