The Birks Diamond Tribute to the Year’s Women in Film is coming up on September 12, and we’re featuring interviews with this year’s powerhouse honourees in the days leading up to the event. 

Mylène Mackay is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada. She garnered a Canadian Screen Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress at the fourth Canadian Screen Awards for her performance in Endorphine. She was named one of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Rising Stars of 2016 alongside Grace Glowicki, Jared Abrahamson and Sophie Nélisse. In 2017, she won the Prix Iris for Best Actress for Nelly.

SDTC: What does it mean for you personally to be receiving this honour?

MM: I am really honoured to be here with all these wonderful and powerful women of the Canadian cinema industry, but I know that if we have to have special ceremonies for women means that there is still some work to do. I hope that the spotlight this event puts on actresses and females screenwriters and directors will inspire young girls and women, showing them that it is completely possible to not only have access to this industry but also to succeed in it.

I have been very proud to see that this year the Sodec in Québec had a plan of action to achieve gender parity by 2020. One of these, called “1 + 1,” will allow producers seeking funding to submit two projects, provided that a woman writes the script or completes one.

When did you realize you wanted to be an actor for a living? What has been your favourite project to date?

I fell in love with acting at the age of ten when I did my first play. When I realized later that I could also do it for a living, there were no other options. I have to admit, I never made a plan B.

My favourite project until now has been Nelly by Anne Émond. I had the chance to play four characters in the same film…of course, a real challenge for an actress. But ultimately, what I loved was the subject of the film. Nelly Arcan has been a very controversial writer. She had the guts to say out loud what we don’t want to talk about: beauty obsession, prostitution, sexism, the culture of youth, the tyranny of the gaze of others. Those subjects moved me a lot and reinforced my interest in feminism.

What should we be paying more attention to?

Others. I think we should take care of our neighbours and treat all human beings with more respect and kindness. That starts by being open-minded and interested everyone’s differences before judging.

You’re working in film and doing projects in this “golden era” of television. Which medium do you prefer, and why?

I am in love with cinema for many reasons but one of them comparing to TV is time! In cinema, we have more time to research, create and try things in every artistic department. It is true that some TV series are shot like films now, but the television I did in Québec so far has been challenging for me because we do a lot in a very short amount of time. I like to have the occasion to go deeper and deeper in a scene and in the universe of a director.

What are you most excited to see at this year’s TIFF?

Lady Bird from Greta Gerwig. I am a huge fan of hers as an actress and writer. I really liked Frances Ha and Mistress America. Noah Baumback and her make a wonderful team, but I am very curious to see her first feature. Also, I like to see how actors direct other actors.

Advice to other young women starting out in film? 

Stay yourself, trust your gut and never give up if you feel it from inside. I know now that if a role is for me it will come. I let go a lot more easily after an audition. I wish I would have been like that earlier, but I think I had to experience being rejected to feel more detached about the casting process.

And if you have a break in your career: create, write and realize your own projects. Write the roles you want to play; don’t wait for the approval of others to realize your own dreams. Make things happen. Be a rebel, be active and break all the doors!