Genie and Gemini award-winning Canadian actress Kristin Booth, known for her work in film, television, and stage, shares her insight on being a working mom, the lost art of letter writing, and raising a daughter.
Kristin returns to television screens across North America in 2016 and 2017 with starring roles in two highly-anticipated series. She is reprising her role as Ethel Kennedy in the Emmy Award-winning miniseries The Kennedys-After Camelot (which just wrapped shooting in Toronto with Matthew Perry and Katie Holmes) which will air sometime in 2017. She also stars in the latest installment of the fan-favourite series Signed, Sealed, Delivered (titled Lost Letter Mysteries here in Canada) which will air in Canada on Bravo later this year.
You’re an actor and a mom…we all want to know what a day in a life is like juggling an acting career with family in tow?
Kristin: It can certainly be tricky! The biggest challenge of being an actor with a family is that more often than not, your work requires you to relocate for periods of time while shooting. For the past three years, my family and I have been traveling back and forth between LA, Toronto, and Vancouver. It has required good time management skills, a lot of juggling, a lot of packing, and a very supportive husband. Our daughter is embarking on JK this fall, and I know that as she gets older, travelling will become more complicated. I suspect I will have to spend longer periods away from home, not seeing her every day, which is what I’ve been trying to avoid. I hate being apart from her and somehow, being a working Mom isn’t as hard when I can come home to her every night. Even if it’s just getting to kiss her goodnight while she sleeps.
Has becoming a mom made any impact on what roles you take on?
Kristin: It has certainly made me think twice about particular types of roles. With the media being what it is today, if and when the day comes when my daughter wants to see my work, it’s inevitable that she will have access to it. That being said, my choice in roles is not dictated by whether or not my daughter might see it some day, but more by what will satisfy my drive and desire to play strong, interesting roles that challenge me as an actor. In the end, as my daughter reaches an appropriate age, I hope to have a solid enough relationship with her that we can have an open dialogue about any and all of the choices in my career.
In the TV series Lost Letter Mysteries, you play a postal sleuth alongside three others following the stories of undeliverable mail. Are there really dead letter offices and did you get to visit any?
Kristin: The dead letter office does indeed exist. It’s not quite the same as our DLO in Lost Letter Mysteries (aka Signed, Sealed, Delivered). We’ve taken some liberties, of course. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit a dead letter office yet, but would welcome the invitation any time.
Was there any particular letter or story-line that really touched your heart? Tell us about it.
Kristin: I have to admit, there have been quite a few storylines that have brought me to tears. There’s a bit of a joke amongst our cast and creators regarding my breakdowns during our table reads. A giant box of kleenex is usually set in front of me, and Martha (our creator/exec producer) has an assistant who is ready to take over for me when I can no longer speak…..it has happened. ‘The Impossible Dream’ is about a soldier who went missing in action and became a prisoner of war. After several years she is reunited with her young daughter. I remember shooting the reunion scene—we hadn’t even really started and I was already sobbing. The poor make up artist had her work cut out for her that day.
Your character is tech savvy, so how does that work with the dynamics within the group of detectives and in the show?
Kristin: One of the things I love about the show is the dynamic between Shane and Oliver. Shane (whom I play) is modern, tech savvy, and impulsive. Oliver is the opposite. He still lives in the “letter writing” age. No cell phone, no email, no texting. He is methodical, pensive, and a bit of an antique. Yet….there is an undeniable chemistry between them. Their differences tend to keep them at odds with one another despite the growing attraction. I absolutely love watching their relationship unfold.
Writing letters seem to be a lost art in itself. When was the last time you sent (or received) a handwritten letter?
Kristin: I honestly can’t remember the last time I wrote a handwritten letter. I often write in cards and end up writing all over it as there’s never enough room for the sentiments. It’s really a shame how letter writing has faded away because there is truly something special about seeing a loved one’s handwriting. I have kept several cards from my late Grandmother and will often just stare at her words. My husband and I have exchanged cards for just under 20 years now and I have kept nearly every one. Seeing someone’s handwriting in a way makes you feel closer to them.
If you could write a letter to someone, famous or not, who would that be and what would you want to say?
Kristin: I would write a letter to my fourteen-year-old self. I agonized over whether I was liked, what size my pants were, if that boy thought I was pretty, if I should eat that dessert or have those chips. I would tell that fourteen-year-old girl that there is so much more to life. That yes, high school is important, but not nearly as important as the world that awaits you once you graduate. Stop worrying about whether you’re liked—you’ll never be liked by everyone and nor would you want to be. Stop obsessing over your weight and the foods you allow yourself to eat or not eat. Love your body; it’s the only one you have. Read more. Learn to love being alone with your own thoughts. The list goes on…but really, would my fourteen-year-old self have listened? Probably not. Teenagers already know everything, right?
That’s amazing advice! And agreed. As teens, we thought we knew everything!
Martha Williamson was also the creator of Touched by an Angel, can you tell us about what drew you to this new venture with her?
Kristin: Martha has a sense of storytelling like no one else. I think her ability to walk the tightrope of comedy and drama is what attracted me to the project more than anything else. I love nothing more than to help a character navigate through hardship by utilizing comedy. I feel like I get to do that with Shane and that’s only possible because Martha is so skilled at writing these fantastic emotional transitions. Laughter and tears are far closer to one another than we often realize.
You’re also working on another starring role playing Ethel Kennedy in the Emmy Award-winning miniseries The Kennedys – After Camelot. After the death of her husband, Ethel was left to raise 11 children pretty much on her own. What have you learned about Ethel?
Kristin: First and foremost, Ethel is a fighter. Her husband was assassinated steps away from her while she was pregnant with her eleventh child. Following his death she carried on his legacy, becoming an activist in her own right and establishing the Robert Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights as well as supporting many other political and environmental causes. She has suffered the loss of two of her 11 children, and at 88 years old is one of the only “Camelot” Kennedy’s left alive.
It was a true honour portraying such a strong woman.
She apparently had a wicked sense of humour. Did you learn any funny stories about her that have stuck with you?
Kristin: She did indeed. Ethel was a bit of a rebel and a trickster, and often found herself getting in trouble for one thing or another. She hosted a party at Hickory Hill while JFK was president and proceeded to push his entire cabinet into the pool. She was charged with rustling horses. When she discovered that a neighbour was mistreating their horses, she promptly removed them from the property without asking. I read that over their years together, Bobby and Ethel had several pets, tons of dogs, horses, and even a pet seal! I loved Ethel’s sense of adventure and zest for life.
If you could chat with Ethel today what would you ask her?
Kristin: This is such a hard question to answer. There are so many things that I’d ask Ethel, but knowing what a private woman she is, I wouldn’t feel right asking 90% of them! I’d love to talk to her about the challenges of raising 11 children. I have one and am often overwhelmed!
Thanks so much Kristin!