Leslie Hope has a fascinating list of credits for her acting career. From starring in TV shows to being in feature films to doing voice-overs for Disney animations, Hope has done a little of everything in terms of being on screen. After 35 years in this industry, she claims that she’s more comfortable on set than at a dinner party. So it was only natural that her directing career then took off.
Her guest role on Syfy’s Aftermath this season was a memorable one indeed but she isn’t done with that show just yet. The next two episodes are directed by Hope and in this interview, we talk her role as a director and what scene she’s most excited for us to see!
First, what was it like to play Dr. Gloria Douglas on Aftermath? How did you take on such a layered, crazy role?
I had been approached to direct and then act on Aftermath and I really liked the idea of ‘meeting’ the show on the inside, which is to say acting. Frankly I didn’t care what the role may be, but I was delighted when I was given such a fun, crazy, layered role as Gloria. Both Larry Lalonde and Phil Bedard (e.p.’s and writers of my episode) knew me from when I directed Murdoch. They had already drawn out the character but I think she was ‘filled in’ a little when they knew it was going to be me. And for a part like that? My feeling is you just have to jump off the diving board and hope you don’t go kersplat. And even if you do hit the cement you’re going to have a good time on the way down.
Is it hard to go from being an actress on a show to then directing it?
I don’t find it hard to go from being an actor on a show to directing at all-I think sometimes that transition is harder for the bosses to integrate, but for me it’s a shift that makes sense. I have been an actor for 35 years. Which means I have been on sets my entire adult life and then some. I am very comfortable on a set. Probably more comfortable on set than at a dinner party. And I have been bossing people around my entire life…which means the impulse to be directing seems to come naturally to me. And, to answer you more seriously, I would say that my work experience as a director is reliant on preparation, collaboration, circumstance and some freaky bit of magic. It’s hard work that I love passionately. Acting may cost me less since I have been doing it so long, so it certainly doesn’t feel ‘hard’.
What were some of the challenges directing a show like Aftermath?
Aftermath shot in Langley, outside of Vancouver, during a very busy time of year. The challenges of doing a show like Aftermath were since our budgets weren’t the biggest we were scrambling to book locations before other bigger shows got them. Also, with a limited budget and an ambitious show, we were tight on time, daily-although I think ANY director on any size show would probably say the same thing. We had a high crew turnover, again because so many other shows (with more money to spend) were scooping up our peeps on a weekly basis-I felt like every day I was being introduced to a new crew member(s).
How does your relationship with the cast and crew change during that time?
I loved the crew on Aftermath from my first day of prep til the day I wrapped. I even loved some of them from the day I landed on set as an actor. In particular Tara Dafoe, the script supervisor and voice of reason and word master and logic policer and funny lady and now good friend. She’s a gal in a bow tie-what’s not to love? I also, in particular, loved working with the production designer and his art department. I didn’t get to really know them when I was on as an actor, but I loved creating and collaborating with them as a director in prep and throughout the shoot.
Is there a favorite scene that you shot in the next two episodes that you can tell us about?
I really liked working with the young actors Julia Stone and Taylor Hickson, who play the twin daughters. In EP 111, there is a scene early on that is relatively simple-the two girls discuss how they are worried about their dad. They just sat quite still, but performed so fully and beautifully and were so transparent and clear-I was proud of them. One of my other favourite scenes is between Joanne Gadecki (Jill Morrison) and Agents Coe and Jones. She is sitting in an empty parking lot with an enormous bird cage, grilling hot dogs on the hibachi and the two agent types pull up in a beat to shit car and start interrogating her. I loved the shots. I loved the look. And each of these actors were so refined, so good, so funny, so present, I didn’t want the scene to end. That being said, I haven’t seen the final cut so who knows maybe there’s more stuff I’ll sing about, but in terms of shooting, those were two of my faves. Oh, and I loved blowing up the grenades! That was cool.
We know you prefer directing so is this the field you’d like to be in now?
Most certainly I am interested and compelled to be directing and will continue to do so. That being said, every now and then stuff comes my way as an actor that is scary or funny or kind of crazy-enough to make me nervous-and I jump at those opportunities. I am presently wiring together a small film called Exposure by Jeff Kober. I am producing and NOT directing (Jerry Ciccoritti is directing), but I am acting. I love the part, which scares the shit out of me, so I am eager to see that come to life.
Anything else you can tease that is coming up for you?
Well, I just teased Exposure, so there’s that. I am back on Suits as an actor-keep an eye out. And I just finished directing two episodes of Murdoch Mysteries that I am excited to see come out. I delivered my cut on Friday 🙂 and they will air late January. And because it’s the end of the year, I am once again fundraising for my fave NGO, FRIENDS-INT’L.
If you could give advice to an aspiring director, what would it be? Would you suggest starting off acting?
To an aspiring director? I would say, DIRECT. Claw your way in, make your own stuff, don’t wait for an invite, just do it. I would also say, do every other job you can on a film ie edit, yes,act, grip, work wardrobe, and get in the office. It’s so important that a director have a true sense of what every department does and what you are asking of people when you are lucky enough to be in the director’s chair. Guillermo del Toro, who I have had the privilege of acting for twice, is a great example of this and why it matters. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest directors start off acting but man would it help a lot of directors to go to some acting classes-by which I mean to craft a language and develop an understanding of how to communicate with those pieces of breathing furniture called your cast. It would also help them to understand actors aren’t magic unicorns-they are workers and craftspeople as well as artists.
What books, TV shows, movies, etc. bring out the nerd in you?
Bring OUT the nerd? That train left the station along time ago. I AM a nerd. I am a fan of Guillermo del Toro, but I am like a stalker’y kind of fan. I admire and respect him so much and think he’s a true visionary and exceptional artist, that I find myself talking about him in a really goofy way-worse I sometime talk TO him in a goofy way…I hope he forgives me. I am currently reading Cutting For Stone. Superbad is the greatest movie ever made. I watched Making a Murderer three times and almost fainted when I got to hear Dean Strang and Jerry Buting speak-you’d have thought I was a 15 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.