I had the chance to chat with Victoria Dunsmore, who will be starring as Ashley in the Toronto International Film Festival features, The Last Porno Show. She has been acting from a young age and this project emphasizes all of the work she has done. Thank you to her for answer all of my questions and sharing a bit about herself in this virtual interview.
Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I’m a 26-year-old BC native who’s been living in Toronto for the last six years. Originally from Kamloops, BC, I moved here to attend theatre school, which I graduated from in December of 2014. I took some time off after school to really figure out what I wanted to do, because, as anyone fresh out of post-secondary will tell you, it can be a very confusing time. I started making short-films with some close friends of mine in 2016, one of which premiered at Toronto After Dark and the LA Crime and Horror Film Festival. After that, I made it my goal to get as much experience on-camera as possible. It was early 2018 that I began booking projects pretty consistently, one of which happened to be The Last Porno Show. It was my second feature film ever.
You are starring in the new feature, The Last Porno Show at the Toronto International Film Festival, could you describe this feature and your role in it?
The film follows aspiring method actor Wayne as he inherits a seedy old porn cinema from his estranged father. Initially wanting nothing to do with the rundown old building, he has a change of heart after booking a role in an art film where his character is based loosely on the father he has just lost. Wayne progressively dives deeper and deeper into the role, reliving childhood memories in the porno cinema he grew up in. Things get pretty crazy from there. My character Ashley is cast opposite Wayne in the film, where they are expected to perform unsimulated sex on camera. Initially overjoyed with the opportunity to be a leading lady, a young, naive Ashley jumps at the opportunity. She soon realizes that she’s in a bit over her head, and we watch her become progressively more conflicted and fearful as the story goes on.
What do you hope readers take away from this film?
Overall, I hope people take away a reinforced sense of family and community. Where we come from impacts us so heavily, sometimes in ways we don’t even realize, as Wayne discovers. As for Ashley’s part in the film, the character arc is very topical, falling under the #metoo umbrella. She is cast to serve the male protagonists, and to an extent director Chads, sexual and romantic gratification. Ashley grapples quite heavily with her fear to speak up, a realistic and honest portrayal of how difficult it is to fight for what you deserve. Women are still having to choose between opportunity and self-preservation and I truly believe Ashley’s story reflects that.
You had previously been involved in theatre, what was the transition onto camera work like for you?
It was quite a natural one, though I don’t presume to have the craft and technique nailed down in any respect. I have always been a believer in ‘less is more’ when it comes to performing, though a part of that is fear of being over-the-top, which can get in the way creatively sometimes. But overall, I enjoy the nuance and subtlety that a camera can pick up on, just by virtue of being so close to the actor. Theatre can make an actor great, however. There is a stamina and energy to performing live on stage that is unlike anything else in the world, and I cannot wait to do a play again soon.
Could you discuss your time with The Dirt Underneath, Pro Actors Lab, RAW Studio, and Unit 102 Actors’ Studio?
I jumped back in to acting on camera in a safe space, thankfully. Andrea Runge is a friend and accomplished actor in the city who, at the time, had recently started teaching evening sessions at Pro Actors Lab. I took her audition prep class, and it gave me so much more confidence for the auditions and self-tapes I was receiving. She is so warm and patient, and it helped to have rapport with her already established. I can be a wuss sometimes and need to ease in to things, so that was a helpful resources to have in her.
RAW Studio had been recommended to me by a few different acquaintances in the industry. Sophie Ann Rooney has been coaching in the city for many years, and the community of actors she has brought together is enormous! She is very hands-on, and her passion for what she does is infectious. The connections I’ve made in the periods I’ve studied with her have been invaluable as well.
The Dirt Underneath with John Gordon was a game-changer for me. He creates an environment with zero ego, where his encouragement and insight into scene work makes you feel as close to being on-set as possible. His M.O. is preparing you for when you book the role and are already on set, getting you to a place where your first take is camera ready. That is the goal. I don’t feel for one minute that John is teaching me how to act, but rather he’s taking what’s already there and nudging me towards one impulse or another, to flesh out what I’ve already got going on. I’ve also never been in a class where you are working more than talking. Expect to be up on your feet doing, rather than planning when you work with John.
Studying with Dave at Unit 102 is a more recent period of learning that has been so refreshing and enjoyable. Dave is another one that prioritizes getting up and working over sitting and discussing, and describes himself more as a director than a coach He provides yet another ego- free environment to get up and do some off-camera scene study, and offers very unbiased and creative direction. His choice in material is also fantastic! He’s read countless plays and knows what actors enjoy to sink their teeth into, also being a very talented actor himself (fyi.)
Are there any other projects you’d like to discuss?
My most recent bit of work is a proof-of-concept directed by Ray Xue (Extracurricular), written by Joshua Joel Bailey. The screenplay follows protagonist Miles as he returns home for the first time in years, now a famous writer. His novel has received much acclaim, and his return home is no coincidence. It falls on the ten-year anniversary of the incident on which his book is based: a school shooting where he was the sole survivor, and his best friend, the gunman. It is an incident to which he owes the success of his adult life, and from which he has never fully recovered. I was privileged to play Miles’ sister Grace in the small segment of the film we brought to camera early August. I’m very much looking forward to where the project goes next.
I saw you were a huge pop culture lover, what are some of you current favourite books and podcasts?
I love reading, though I find it so hard to concentrate on long narratives while in the city, as my attention is pulled in so many different directions. I’ve been indulging in short-story anthologies recently, which still give me a sense of accomplishment. Right now I’m reading a couple that I alternate back and fourth: Dear Life by Alice Munro (a Canadian Nobel Prize winner, everyone), and The Short Stories of Truman Capote.
My go-to podcast right now is What The F**k with Marc Maron. He talks primarily with actors, though every so often he throws in an writer, musician or other cultural figure that gives some variety. Anybody that’s seen Glow on Netflix, Marc plays coach Sam. That should give you an idea of the dry humour and sharp wit to expect from his podcast.
Where can our readers keep up with you online?
I am active on Instagram, @vdunsmore