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Évelyne Brochu chooses her own adventure with CBC's X Company (MG Interview)

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[dropcap]É[/dropcap]velyne Brochu’s career knows no borders, linguistic or otherwise. After a rapid ascent through the Quebec film industry, via Denis Villeneuve (Polytechnique), Jean-Marc Vallée (Café de Flore) and Xavier Dolan (Tom à la ferme), she nabbed roles in the Canadian sci-fi series Orphan Black and CBC’s Second World War spy drama X Company, the second season of which kicks off next week.

David Cronenberg cast her as the lone on-screen character in his haunting 2014 short The Nest. Last year she showed up in Pawn Sacrifice, the American biopic of chess champ Bobby Fischer. And in 2016 she will make appearances in the Swiss-Québécois co-production Miséricorde, about an aboriginal man who is killed in a car accident, and the Belgian film Tonic Immobility, as a prostitute who must take care of her estranged son.

Brochu was aglow when she met up with the Montreal Gazette this month. Fresh off an extended stint abroad, and looking forward to spending some quality time at home in la belle province, the actress shared her thoughts on art, travel, language and life.

Montreal Gazette: How are you?

Évelyne Brochu: I’m really good. I feel really happy. I was away for six months. I’ve been back two weeks. I was in Budapest shooting X Company for four months, then I did a movie in Belgium for two months, Tonic Immobility. They were both lovely, inspiring, really cool projects. I didn’t lack for any form of energy or drive, but it’s hard to be away for six months from the city you love, the people you love. Just being back now, it’s like when you fall in love again. I like everything.

MG: When did you get back?

EB: On (December) 24th. We were shooting until 9 p.m. on the 23rd. I literally came back, dropped my luggage, put on a Christmas dress and just rolled with Christmas stuff for six days. It really feels like I’ve only been back a week. It’s been good. I’ve seen some movies; next week I’m going to a couple of plays. I’ve been seeing friends and reading. I think at some point there’s only so much you can draw from within, without getting inspired from what’s around you and what other people are doing. It’s very joyful to be in a productive, creative mood, but I find a lot of joy in learning and being told stories. I’m on the jury for (the short-film festival) Prends ça court!, so I’ve been watching a bunch of court métrages. It’s a really energizing time of year. I can feel my roots going straight into the Montreal soil, drawing everything they can.

MG: It’s interesting — you seem to, in your career, have a lot of freedom of movement. You were just in Europe, you’re working in English now, you’ve shot in the Middle East before. Is that something you seek out?

EB: I’ve been thinking about that — the whole travelling, multi-language thing. In a weird way, it makes a lot of sense if I think about my past. I’m in my 30s, and you see patterns, eventually — moving from Mom to Dad’s house, growing up in the West Island, where both languages were really present. I think in Quebec, we have, also — l’influence de la France, l’influence des États-Unis, le Canada qui se mêle là-dedans — a very multi-ethnic high school (Dorval-Jean XXIII) where we didn’t really know where we were from because we were all from somewhere different. There’s a parallel to be made — you don’t know how formative those high school years are until you see them reflected in your adult life. All those things I cherished back then and am really happy to be able to explore in my career.

MG: How much choice do you have in the projects you take on? Are these things you gravitate toward for specific reasons?

EB: My criteria is always: Would I go see this movie? Is this character something I’ve never done? Who is the director? Do they inspire me? For example, Tonic Immobility is by a Flemish director, Nathalie Teirlinck. She’s my age, and she’s the most inspiring, visionary, cool, enthusiastic, lovely girl in the world. I had a blast. Everybody would have not slept for three weeks for this girl. We would have gone to the moon and back.

It was also my first film in French-from-France. I’ve realized in the past few years that language just changes you, automatically. In (the new season of) X Company, I’m speaking German, because I go undercover. I play a spy, so she’s basically an actress, impersonating someone; but I really didn’t have to make cerebral, conscious choices (to get into character). I just had to speak the language and everything in me changed. My voice, the placement of where it resonated — my body was moving differently; the sounds coming out of me were different.

The way you structure your expression is linked to the way language is structured, so your thought process comes out of that structure and is completely transformed.

(Affecting a Parisian accent) Quand tu parles comme ça, il y a un truc, c’est pas le même personnage, déjà c’est pas la même fille.

MG: What drew you to X Company? What inspires you and kept you inspired to return for a second season?

EB: There are always two levels. There’s the actual acting experience, which is a huge challenge for me. I had done Orphan Black, but I was playing a French character for that. This was my first English-language character, so that was exciting. Also working abroad for four months, with people from all over the world — British actors, German actors.

And doing adventure-drama, with action scenes. I really think truth comes from the body. When you’re running for your life, you breathe differently, you talk differently. A lot of the physicality in that show brings you toward states of being or emotions that you don’t get in a sit-down drama. Those levels of emotion — it’s war, right? — when you fear for your life, you’re constantly debating if you’re making the right moral choices. Everything is high stakes: love is high stakes, friendship is high stakes, life is high stakes. Who do you trust? Who do you love? What’s going on? It’s high intensity, which is really inspiring.

I think also that (my character) is a hero, in the true sense — a person who had a normal life and chose to put it on the line for what she thinks is right, fair and just, and she fights for that. And the fight gets complicated; lines get blurred. I have a lot of admiration for people who did that.

MG: It’s pretty cool — a privilege and a responsibility, perhaps — to be the lone female member of this team. This show gives you that platform, but there are still four other guys on the team — it’s still weighted toward men. How does that feel?

EB: I think of it in a very healthy, good way: I don’t have to think about it, because we’ve come far enough. I’ve worked with three different film directors who are women — Sophie Deraspe (Les Loups), Anaïs Barbeau Lavalette (Inch’Allah) and now Nathalie Teirlinck — and Amanda Tapping, who did two episodes of X Company. … We’ve hit that next level, and the more that we do, the healthier the situation will be for all of us.

Je pense à ça souvent. … I’m not saying we’re all the same and there are no genders. There are. But when you have an equal amount of space, when what you say can be equally funny, when you’re equally free to be silly or opinionated or angry and when your point of view on a creative decision is as appreciated as it is for me on that show, with that group of people — then you feel like society has achieved something quite cool. Because it’s not like that in all milieus, not for everyone, not all the time.

I’ve been lucky, because Orphan Black was like that as well. If I think, “This is my life, I’ve been on two really cool projects where I really didn’t feel like I had to fight for any form of space, or any form of freedom,” then f— yeah, you know? That’s pretty cool.

MG: What’s your hope when you think of your career and where you’d like it to go in the future?

EB: (Pause) I’d like to keep being able to work anywhere. I remember when I started working on Orphan Black, nobody (in the rest of Canada) had seen the movies I had done in Quebec. Now, coming back to Quebec, not many people have seen Orphan Black. I realize not all the blocks go on top of one another. I feel like I’m working on three constructions, next to each other — Europe; English-language projects, wherever they might be; and the Quebec sphere. Eventually, I’d like them to be connected.

That, and collaborating with people you admire, on projects that make your heart pump. There’s nothing else, really.


The Season 2 première of X Company airs Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 9 p.m. on CBC.

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