“You can take the girl out of Canada…”
by Jennifer Charlebois
It is a warm and sunny afternoon when I meet Montreal native Rachelle Lefevre in the courtyard garden of Old Montreal hotel Le Saint-Sulpice amidst a bevy of well-dressed patrons who crane their necks to get a glimpse of this fiery-haired mystery woman.
Chatty, warm, and full of contagious enthusiasm, Lefevre is so self-deprecating and down-to-earth; it’s easy to forget exactly why we are here. She laughs when we notice the hushed whispers and curious glances from our fellow diners. It’s clear that Lefevre still enjoys her relative anonymity. “They’re like, ‘Who is that?’, and then they can’t figure it out….its kind of funny, but I really kind of like it” she says as her blue eyes light up excitedly.
However, Lefevre is not necessarily new to the scene. Named in 2004 as one of Playback Magazine’s 10 to Watch – a profile on “Canada’s hottest up-and-coming directors, actors and writers”- Lefevre’s official acting career began with a breakthrough role on Big Wolf on Campus, and her successes have escalated from there. She has a diverse list of television and film credits to her name, including roles on CSI:NY, How I Met Your Mother, What About Brian?, Boston Legal and Bones, to name a few. In addition, Lefevre most recently appeared in the big-screen adaptation of Fugitive Pieces, as well as in indie Canadian hits such as Prom Wars and Hatley High.
How did she get here? It was always a long-term goal for Lefevre who, from a young age, was involved in children’s theatre, and enjoyed attending performances at Montreal’s Place des Arts. In addition, she pursued a theatre program in high school, and attended several acting workshops with her mentor Jacqueline McClintock. The story, as it goes, is that while studying creative arts at Dawson College, she picked up a waitressing position at Montreal sushi restaurant Kaizen. One night Lefevre was approached by a client who overheard her discussing her career aspirations with a co-worker. “I remember where I was standing when someone came up to me and said ‘I heard you wanted to be an actress, I know a casting director, I think maybe I could help you’” she recalls, “and that moment changed my life”
Lefevre managed to juggle her burgeoning acting career while finishing her literature and education degree at McGill and finally made the decision to move to Los Angeles in 2004. “It was a huge shift, and actually for the first year I cried everyday” she says, remembering “I was so isolated”. Coming from Montreal, she explains, while trying to get to know the city, “…my mistake was that I was looking for ‘a’ vibe”, but in reality, LA was such vast expanse Lefevre soon learned that each neighbourhood was like a city in itself. “The best way I heard Los Angeles described is, ‘it’s not a city, it’s a lifestyle’” she explains, “Once I had a notion of that, then it just opened up”.
So how does she manage stay so grounded and unaffected amidst the LA scenesters? Lefevre maintains a group of loyal and supportive friends that she has had since they days of elementary and high school. “They’re pretty good at saying things to me like, ‘Oh Rach, I loved the magazine, it looked really great! And, you’re still a loser just so you know’” she says jokingly. On a more serious note she asserts, “I definitely have to work as hard as possible to hold onto them my whole life”.
The atmosphere is so relaxed on this lazy summer afternoon, I feel as though I could order a round of drinks and spend all day sipping cosmos and chatting with Lefevre. However, we have much to talk about, including her newest project – highly anticipated feature film Twilight – adapted from Stephanie Meyer’s best selling young adult vampire novel of the same name.
Twilight tells the story of 17-year-old Bella Swan – the new kid in school – and her mysterious, pale-skinned classmate Edward Cullen. Edward, we soon learn, is a 90-year-old trapped in the un-dead body of a 17-year-old, however his story is unique to the vampires we are familiar with. Although he still feels the urge to feast on human blood, he and his family have made an alternative lifestyle choice to exist on the blood of animals only.
Like a pair of star-crossed lovers, mortal and immortal, Bella and Edward fall deeply and madly in love.
This modern fantasy is reincarnated on the big screen by director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown), someone Lefevre says was on her “wish list of directors”. The novel has already received critical acclaim, and Meyer’s Twilight Saga has been #1 on the New York Times best seller list for young adults for 49 weeks – and counting. Meyer’s series has become a cultural phenomenon, and contemplation and discussion about Hardwicke’s film adaptation has caused near hysteria in the online world
Lefevre plays the role of Victoria, the hungry female member of a vengeful blood-sucking vampire trio. Victoria, I discerned, represents one person’s idea of what might happen if we were totally ruled by our ID. She is “menacing chaos”, completely ruled by instinct, impulse and raw urges. Lefevre describes Victoria as a manifestation of what Lord Action was referring to when he said “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” and the notion that with no set of moral consequences “there is a chance for humanity to disappear, and for something really, really ugly to take over – and it was REALLY, really fun to access” Lefevre says with a mischievous smile.
To prepare for the role, she practiced catlike behaviours in the comfort of her own apartment, “I’m not even joking, I went straight to YouTube and I watched lion attacks” she says somewhat sheepishly, “Lion attacks and cat…movements”
What’s next for Lefevre? She is happy to announce her role as the Prime Minister’s daughter on CBC’s The Summit, a television series due out this fall. But in the meantime, she is catching up on a bit of reading this summer, namely Susanna Sonnenberg’s heavy memoir Her Last Death and discovering the poetry of A.E. Housman. In addition, “I’m obsessed with So You Think You Can Dance” she says “That’s my summer guilty pleasure”. How about right here in Montreal? On Lefevre’s to-do list is grabbing a coffee and taking a casual stroll up and down St. Denis and St. Laurent to check out her favourite boutiques, as well as enjoying a meal at Vieux Montreal hotspot Garde Manger, “The food is incredible! Plus they have deep-fried Mars bars, and I am a sugar junky.”
As we wrap up the interview, I ask Lefevre if she has any career or life advice to offer. Her answer? Good things come to those who wait. “I think any career should be approached with the same general approach that you apply to happiness and life, whatever works for you. Mine is, don’t wish for it to happen too fast” she explains, reflecting on the tendency in modern society towards instant gratification, and to wanting “to achieve it all”. “I think” she posits, “that if you slow down and you appreciate things as they are happening to you, then you get a lot more out of it….so, careful not to wish for it to happen too fast.”
Finally, I can’t help but ask about the small but prominent tattoo on the inside of her left wrist. Invictus, it says. Invictus – the title of her favourite poem, a well-known verse by William Ernest Henly about taking responsibility for one’s own destiny. “It is Latin for ‘unconquerable’” she explains, “The entire poem just really inspired me. The final two lines – I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul”. When going through a rough patch Lefevre says she “stuck it on like a note to self”.
It’s clear that this well spoken, thoughtful, intelligent actress is destined for great things. Although she may be living a jet-set LA lifestyle, Rachelle Lefevre still flawlessly maintains a level of polite, modest, normalcy that we’ve come to hope for with our fellow Canucks in the entertainment biz.
With one foot poised modestly on the cusp of a Hollywood career, and the other firmly planted back in Canada, back in Montreal, deeply rooted in a strong value system, a loyal set of friends and a supportive family, its clear Lefevre has a handle on the balance she needs to achieve great success.