She’s the best kind of brazen woman there is. She’s not only a multi-award-winning actress but somehow, we feel like we know her personally in every role she plays. Maybe it’s the dimples, or the texture she brings to every character, or maybe she’s just born with stage presence we trust. We know this for sure: Christine Lahti reminds us of our favourite teacher, our sister, and our long lost friend—all in one. Whether she’s Annie Pope in the sleeper hit Running On Empty, Dr. Kate Austin in Chicago Hope, or most recently, the loveable Stepmom Sherry in the new Canadian comedy The Steps, we are sold.
What is it exactly that makes Christine Lahti—movie and TV star, stage actor, director, feminist—so believable anyway? After a nice, long chat with Christine, we think we’ve found the answer. It’s her unwavering faith in herself. Her confidence, all too rare among women these days, just radiates off her.
We’ll take some of that, please. And we’ll take Christine as our brazen role model any day.
THE BRAZEN INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTINE LAHTI
Randi Chapnik Myers: So, Christine, tell us when you first caught the acting bug.
Christine Lahti: I was born wanting to be an actress. I never had any other dream, except maybe to be a translator for the UN, which lasted for about a semester in college. When I was little, I’d put on plays in the backyard with a sheet and a curtain and I was entrepreneurial enough to charge 10 cents.
RCM: In your early days in NYC, you were waiting tables and working as a mime in Central Park. Did you ever worry you wouldn’t make it as an actor?
CL: In the back of some organ in me, there was confidence that lived and lurked and grew. I had a professor in college say, If you don’t need to do this, if you don’t need to be an artist, you should leave this acting class. I looked up and thought, Wow, of course I need this. There is no question that this is what I must do.
I didn’t have a Plan B because that’s like not putting all the bet on yourself, which you need to do in order to reach your goals. My parents taught me the sky is the limit if you’re willing to work hard enough and I really own that. It doesn’t feel like work if you’re doing what you love.
RCM: You’ve been cast as a strong female lead so many times. Why do you think that is? What makes you brazen—not just as a character but as a woman?
CL: I tend to be cast as a strong woman and I’m drawn to playing the fucked up, broken dysfunctional woman, too. I’m interested in the underbelly of a person. I ask myself where has she gone wrong, where has she made mistakes, what are her main goals and frustrations? I like playing characters who aren’t always likeable because real people aren’t always likeable.
In my mind, everything is filtered through the lens of being a feminist. I always think of my mom as if I’m living her unlived career life. She was a 1950s housewife, and although she became an amazing painter and pilot later in life, she wasn’t able to work while raising six kids. Being a stay at home mom wasn’t valued back then and yet she had this gift to love unconditionally. Every part I play goes through that filter and it gives my characters more complexity, more humanity and more strength.
RCM: What did you love most about playing Sherry in The Steps?
CL: What was fun about The Steps besides everything? I’ve never been asked to play a character like Sherry, someone who’s not educated beyond high school, someone who has very little confidence yet is funny and means so well. It was the lack of belief in herself that was really different for me to play.
And Oh my God, we had so much fun shooting in northern Ontario. It was so remote and beautiful and it snowed nonstop. We were basically trapped in cabins and we had nothing to do but hang out. It was a really magical couple of weeks.
RCM: Do you prefer acting in movies, on stage or on TV? What’s the difference?
CL: I honestly prefer good material, good writing and a complex character. It doesn’t matter where because the techniques are the same. Jimmy Cagney used to say you stand there and tell the truth and that’s it. When I’m acting, I’m just being as honest as I can.
RCM: Now tell us about that moment you won a Golden Globe when you were in the bathroom! You actually had toilet paper stuck to your shoe when you rushed onstage! What happened?
CL: My category was at the end of a tremendously long evening and what I failed to look at was an asterisk in the program that said *Order subject to change. So there I was in the bathroom when my name was called. Luckily, Robin Williams save the day. He jumped up onstage and improvised an incredible monologue and I dashed back in and grabbed the trophy.
In the moment, I was mortified. Then I thought, Gee, this is the most fun I’ve ever had at an awards show, and it allowed me never to take these ceremonies so seriously again. Before it happened, I was an approval junkie and after, I realized, Hey, approval doesn’t really matter.
RCM: What’s next on the horizon for Christine? Ever thought of writing your memoir? If so, what would you call it?
CL: Wow, great question. Actually, tomorrow, my book agent is submitting a collection of stories I’ve written about my life. It chronicles my dysfunctional childhood and my work in a very sexist business. It’s very funny and very personal. I can’t give away the title just yet!
THE BRAZEN FAST FIVE
1. What’s your favourite movie of all time?
Gone With the Wind. Talk about a feisty brazen woman. Scarlett O’Hara so inspired me as a kid. Just look at that tenacity and power and determination against all odds.
My friend Gloria Steinem. I’d love to be in her shoes. She has taught me just how much women need to support each other. Oh, and Hilary Clinton, too.
3. Your dream vacation?
I’d love to go back to Africa but as a feminist activist this time. It’s hard to go as a tourist to any nation where women are suffering. At this stage of my life, I’d combine a vacation with service.
4. Your best beauty secret? The secret to feeling sexy?
Spin class! The endorphins after an intense spin are incredible. I feel so healthy and happy after I work out hard and sweat.
5. Your advice for a relationship that lasts?
I’ve been married to the same man for almost 35 years. Part of our secret is not seeing each other all that much. We’re both passionate about our careers and when we come back together, we are equals. The best marriage is a true partnership. That’s the most important thing. That your partner supports and respects you as much as you do him.
Don’t miss Christine as Sherry in the hilarious new comedy The Steps! Here’s where it’s playing across Canada, or read our review and enter to win a pair of tickets.
- Halifax (Park Lane Cinema)
- Toronto (Cineplex Yonge and Dundas)
- Calgary (Plaza Theatre)
- Edmonton (Princess Theatre)
- Vancouver (The Rio)
Join our Twitter party tonight where we’re going to chat with the cast about family, life, and fresh starts. NO RSVP, just jump in and tweet with #BrazenLovesTheSteps.
You could win one of 5 nights out at the movies or a pair of tickets to the movie!