The Horror Honeys: Sci-Fi Honey Interview: Sarah Booth ~ HELIX

Sci-Fi Honey Interview: Sarah Booth ~ HELIX

From stage to television and film, working both in front of the camera and behind the scenes, actress Sarah Booth is more than a triple-threat; she's killing it (literally and metaphorically) in the entertainment world. For her latest role - appearing in Season 2 of SyFy's Helix, Fridays at 10/9c - she plays Sister Olivia, a member of a mysterious cult at the center of a deadly outbreak being investigated by the CDC. In today's Sci-Friday interview, Sarah gives us an inside scoop on what to expect this season, and chats with us about juggling various projects, going to the dark side, and how she will never, ever hug a clown.

1. Fans of SyFy’s Helix are still freaking out about the Season One finale, which raised just as many questions as the whole season answered, with cliffhangers and even a time jump. Season Two bounced back this month with a game-changing premiere – a new setting and new cast members, including Steven Weber – and your first appearance on the series aired last week! Can you tell us anything about your character and what kinds of things you’ll be doing on the show this season?

Last season left me sitting there with my jaw open repeating... but.. but.. but!  So, jumping into season two and only having certain clues being slowly revealed can definitely be shocking and head scratching for an audience but I think thats what makes great television, the audience is engaged and hanging onto every word for clues. 

This season picks up 15 months after the catastrophic events from the end of Season One, our CDC team discovers a deadly new pathogen at a mysterious monastery, where a cult harbours a dark secret with life-and-death consequences. I play Sister Olivia who is a part of this mysterious cult. She has a son, Soren, who has been affected by this strange disease. At the end of episode two we discover that Soren is recovering but soon finds himself outside of the walls of the monastery and meets a not so charming creature. All I can tell you without spoiling too much is that Olivia's main focus is her son.  The CDC is also extremely concerned with the boy because of his swift recovery from the pathogen.  This is where Olivia's 'true path' and the CDC's path will collide. 

2. How did you get involved with the show? Were you a fan of Season One before you auditioned?

I was a fan! The series is shot in my hometown therefore I knew so many of the actors. One of my best friends, Amber Goldfarb played Jaye and so many others that I have known from the acting community in Montreal were also on the show. So I initially tuned in to support them but found myself binge watching because I wanted to know what happened! When I got the call to audition for the second season I was psyched. What was really interesting with audition though is when you go in for the initial reading you don't know anything about whats going on plot wise. They are very secretive until you get to audition for the actually directors and producers. My first audition was totally off. I thought from my character name "Sister Olivia" that I was going in for a nun. Which for me is not my 'typical casting.’ When I found out what kind of "Sister" I was auditioning for I had my Oprah 'AH-HA moment' and it made a lot more sense to me.

Booth as 'Sister Olivia'

3. You’ve done quite a bit of work in the horror/thriller genre, and now with this leap to sci-fi, I have to ask – is there something about working with darker material that you find especially intriguing? What draws you to a particular project?

Working behind the scenes on The Scarehouse
I am extremely attracted to dark material. I think what turns me on about it is the extreme drama you get put in. In my life I am definitely a zero or one hundred type of person so getting to set and being soaked in blood, or being told to fight for my life is like a regular Monday morning, and I love it. But I am also really attracted to material that is really depressing. There are certain parts of human beings we don't get to see very often in everyday day life and I am curious about that mindset. I love watching a film /play/TV series where characters admit terrible/shocking things about themselves and you as an audience member can relate. [Material like that] makes us realize we all have some crazy stuff inside of us. Some people just act on certain impulses and some don't… It feels dangerous. Maybe it's my way of getting that side out ‘safely.’ Anyone reading that who has seen me in The Scarehouse might not want to be my friend any longer! 

4. How did you get involved in acting? Who are some of your acting heroes?

I was also involved in dance and equestrian competition, so performing in front of people was always something I loved. Acting was something that came into my life when I was in high school. An arts program started when I was in my second last year. My drama, music and dance teachers are the ones to blame, they got me into a play and that was the moment in my life where I know I would never go back. I found an acting program in Montreal at Dawson College and completed their three year program and then I was off to the real world. I started auditioning and found myself a waitressing job- bet you have never heard that one before! I signed with an amazing agent, Kim Vaincourt and she really started my career going. 

There are so many heroes in this business. I would have to say that being in this profession makes me realize how hard you have to work for what you really want - there is zero substitute for pushing yourself full force. I was having a lot of trouble booking parts at one point a few years back and started creating my own work. Some of my favourite actors have done the same. They do not take no for an answer. I doubt Lena Dunham would have ever been considered for a lead in a series called Girls.  She did it herself, and boy did she ever. I feel like some of the most powerful people in this industry lack imagination. The ballsy actors /producers that take a chance and break those barriers on their own dime and time are definitely my heroes. I refuse to rely on someone else to control my career, or as Sister Olivia would say… "my true path.”

5. Between theatre, film, and television, your career thus far seems like you’ve done a little bit of everything. How does one medium differ from another in terms of how you prepare and for and experience these roles?
With director/producer husband, Gavin Michael Booth

I love being to bounce between diffract genres and mediums. It satisfies my actor ADHD. There are so many pros and cons to each however. Film is such a giant magical experience. There is a lot of trust with the director / team because you are not seeing what they are seeing on the monitor.  When you do, its awesome. There is however a lot of wait time with film.  It's a much slower process.  Sometimes I feel it gives me way too much time to overthink things. 

Theatre makes me such a better actor. The rehearsal is my favourite thing EVER. I get to show up everyday and try new things, explore and play. If you have a good director for a theatre project its like being a kid on Christmas. So much trial and error to be had, but such a safe place to do it.  However, running a show can be tough. Three weeks is doable but I don't know how actors do the same show for years… I know you have to keep it fresh every time. I don't know if I could do that and keep my sanity. I once did a show eighty-four times and I was starting to question myself…

Television moves quite quickly which I really like. They don't have time to waste and have to keep on track because episodes must get delivered by certain dates and they don't have the crazy budgets films do. I have been really lucky and have gotten to work with great directors in television that challenged me. I feel like it's the happy medium between film and theatre. If I had to chose one place to be, it would be in a television series. Although the one down side with TV is most of the time you have no idea where you character is going. Sometimes you will play a scene in an episode a certain way and five episodes later you will realize that you character is going in a completely different direction.  It can be frustrating but it is the nature of the beast! 

6. You co-founded a production company with your husband, writer/director Gavin Michael Booth, and you’ve taken on writing and producing for both film and stage. Can you tell us a little bit about current and upcoming ventures you’re working on behind the camera?

Technically there are [several] companies our projects are with and props should be given where deserved.  Gavin owns Mimetic Entertainment with producer Brendan Byrne. Any music videos I collaborate on with Gavin are typically through Mimetic. With the film we just released, The Scarehouse, that is A Named Viking Entertainment which is Gavin and producer Mike Carriere.  Gavin and I have Film Booth we use to brand projects that we are collaborating on that don’t fit the model either of those two companies are striving for.

Gavin and I currently are working on a few other projects. Gavin is also always writing and having projects brought to him. It is very exciting having The Scarehouse off our plate.  [That film] ate up so much of his time - he wore so many hats in production, post-production and even with the marketing and the release of the film. We are beginning the process of pitching and taking meetings to get new projects rolling. We are also heading down to Los Angeles in a few weeks. Two hundred pitches and who knows, we might get some interest. I have faith.  It is such an unpredictable industry.
I would love to do more theatre in between film and TV projects if my schedule allows.

7. What do you see yourself accomplishing in the industry in the coming years? What kinds of projects would you like to tackle, and in what capacity?

I want to do more action and stunt roles.  I did background stunt work on Pompeii. Being chased by fireballs and floods - it was amazing. On The Scarehouse I did all my own fighting and stunts. That is a huge thrill and I would love to do more of it. I mean, I have to put all these Shaun T Insanity workouts to good use! I would like to produce and act in a super low budget dramedy. Gavin is always itching to do something low-budget without any strings attached between projects. I think that could happen sooner than later, and I want to direct something eventually. Lots more producing. I truly feel that by creating my own work and opportunities will be my way to bigger things. The short answer would be: everything I am doing now only picking up the pace and having fewer gaps between projects.

8. February is Women in Horror month, where we work to bring recognition and exposure to female artists working in the horror genre. Can you talk a little bit about your experience as a female professional in an industry and genre still striving for gender equality?

The Scarehouse and our short film before that, To Hell, With Love are my first films the horror genre. On both those projects I co-wrote the story, was a producer, and a lead actor. I wore so many hats on production and definitely had my voice heard.  I had an amazing team that also listened.  I have so many amazing women in my life that are doing the same and I think that is really creating the change. Women who are taking the reins and creating their own work are the ones creating the paths for the next generation. Like I said before, no on is going to do it for you. If you want to create then do it. If you really want something nothing will stand in your way. People will pay attention if you shove it in their faces. 

9. Do you have a favorite film in the horror/sci-fi genre? Are there any contemporary filmmakers or actors in the genre that excite or inspire you?

Scream really got me into horror films. I was 10 when it came out. It scared the shit out of me.  Although I do remember watching IT when I was five or six and I will never ever hug a clown.  
The filmmaker that get me most excited about the genre are the ones who create a fresh take on the genre, think outside the box, go where no one has gone before. Blumhouse has created a high concept low budget model that is doing extremely well. The Blair Witch Project blurred the lines between reality and fiction. Camping either dropped or hit an all time high that year. I have worked on Eli Roth's show Hemlock Grove but I would like to work with him [on a feature]. I once had my worst audition of all time in front of Mary Harron so hopefully I can make it up to her one day. American Psycho was fantastic. Cronenberg is on that list too. 

I have not seen The Babadook but that is supposed to be fucking terrifying! 

10. Can you tell us anything else about what to expect on Helix this season?

All I can tell you is that some really crazy shit is gonna happen this season. When I was reading the episodes I said said and I quote " NO THEY DID NOT!" "IS THIS ALLOWED ON TV!?" So yeah… hang on. Questions will be answered and morals will be questioned, but as they say in the promos: "Play God. Pay The Price."