Vancouver actor Em Haine is the star of the heartfelt contemporary family drama Hailey Rose. Written and directed by Sandi Somers, the film is a tragic yet heartwarming story of family ties, grief, identity, and healing.

Hailey is at a crossroads in her life, and in her relationship with her partner Syd. When a frantic call sends her back home to the coast of Nova Scotia, she reconnects with her mother and sister after spending years apart. As Hailey revisits the places and people from her youth, she works through deep pain around her family dynamics and the death of her father.

“What this film does really well is it shows each of us as the joker, as the villain, and as the hero, roles we all interchangeably fill in the play of our lives,” Haine says.

The film has screened at several festivals across Canada, including Canadian Film Fest

Despite acting for more than 10 years, with roles in Fargo, Deadpool, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Hailey is the first queer character Haine has played. Hailey Rose was a deeply personal project for her, and we wanted to hear more about Haine’s journey in this film.

What were your first impressions when you read the script for Hailey Rose?

I actually auditioned for Syd (Hailey’s partner) first to which I told my agents “not being femme feels good.” It’s only been in the last few years I’ve started seeing more breakdowns where characters aren’t just super straight, super femme, or just some guy’s girlfriend. So immediately I’m stoked.

Production saw my tape, asked me to read for Hailey and forwarded the script. I remember crying while reading it and walking away with that fuzzy body feeling special films can give you. I thought if we can capture the essence of that, this will be a beautiful project. 

What does it mean to you to be playing your first queer character?

It feels free. It feels like my heart’s been cracked open and I’m able to access these chasms within me. It also feels hot—because Riley Reign (Syd). Riley brings their queer experience, presence, wit, and a safety to their work allowing for a deeper connection, which is respectfully hot IMO. 

How did you approach Hailey’s character and portraying her coping with complex family trauma and mixed emotions?

Sandi Somers masterfully created the stage for these complex characters to play out relationships with a worn history. That allowed for the cast to discover something real between us. Kari Matchett (Olga aka Ma) and Caitlynne Medrek (Rose, my sister) are seasoned performers that are so generous with what they offer, in every take, in all conditions. They gave this world breath and sharp edges. We really had each other’s backs & let the heavy shit land. Moments so f-ed up you have to laugh. 

What was the first film you saw that really made an impact on you?

Oh there are so many! For thematic purposes, I’m gonna say the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was my first introduction to queer culture that I can remember. Growing up in a “normal suburb” I didn’t know any (out) queer people and kids definitely bullied each other for just being perceived as gay.  I remember being closeted yet very passionate about LGBTQIA+ issues for “some reason.” Lol. I think universally every queer kid feels like we don’t belong or that there’s something wrong with us for not being like everybody else. Enter Frank-N-Furter and his merry band of freaks. I definitely did the time warp alone in my bedroom. 

What was something you learned from your role in this film?

I learned to believe in myself and my ability as an artist more than I ever have. I let myself be seen in this film in a way that felt so personal and vulnerable to me. I opened with Hailey in a way I didn’t know I could in front of a camera. The writing called for it and I see so much of myself in her. I’m so proud to put this film on the metaphorical DVD shelf in my heart. Millennials will get that, maybe. 

Photo by Farrah Aviva

We love that the film is set in Canada and showcases Canadian talent- what are you most excited about in Canadian film right now?

Nova Scotia is beautiful. I’d never been until we started shooting. The drone shots in the film showcase that. What joy working with such badass Canadian talent. We have stories to tell! Canada’s indie film scene is stuffed and brimming with fresh voices. I think our biggest hurdle nowadays is having small films compete with the big ones in getting seen, or getting funded to begin with. But as viewers we get to vote with our attention/money. I know people want to see diverse, complex, funny, untold underdog stories- and guess what baby we’ve got ‘em, homegrown.  

What is a genre or role you’re interested in exploring in a future project?

Some weird gender-ambiguous surrealist creature, someone like Ripley from Alien, and comedy comedy comedy! Those are likely 3 different roles, but imagine if not? Sign me up!

How would you describe what viewers can expect from Hailey Rose?

Perhaps some reflection of their own messed up family system, perhaps an objective look at their role in that system, some gay stuff. I laugh every time.