Dear BMW.

Let this be a ballad of sorts dedicated to my beautiful, safe, powerful, sexy, sturdy little SUV. 

5 days ago a new driver drove right into the back of you. You & me & Gee were innocently sitting in traffic, waiting for it to start moving again when, in a slow motion moment, I looked in your gorgeous rearview mirror juuuust before a young man plowed into us. Gaffer was terrified. I was overly calm. But you….you stayed strong and protected us both…you took the crumpling of his entire front end up and under, therefore protecting the love of my life, who was shaking like a leaf in your back end. For this I thank you.

You also sent an emergency signal to a fuse up front, shutting down the entire system the moment we were smacked. For that I thank you.

Your headrest and seatbelt carressed me just so, and as a result, although I’m still pretty jammed up & goddamn delicate, I can move without pain. For this I thank you.

And through it all, though the young man’s car is very likely a write off, your entire cabin stayed intact. You protected the lives of me & Gee. I thank you.

I fucking love my BMW. My gratitude is infinite.

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Do Something

I saw a woman beating a younger woman on the street in front of UBCP today. I intervened when woman 1 started kicking woman 2 while ripping her phone, money & wallet away from her. Woman 1 then marched away, dragging her young daughter by the hand.
After ensuring the young woman was physically okay, albeit an emotional wreck, she told me woman 1 was her mother, and mom was angry because the young woman of 17 had made a mistake on her student visa application for attending University in the states (a repairable mistake, it turns out). So she beat her on the street and then abandoned her child.

I’m writing about it for a few reasons.
First, it was upsetting…and sharing sometimes helps (although I’m not writing in order to elicit any sort of pat on the back or rah-rah, to be clear).
Second, as soon as I stepped in, half a dozen other people who’d been watching, also stepped in…which is great, but when you see someone in physical danger, I encourage you to be the first. You don’t need to put yourself physically between two people, but letting your voice be heard loud and clear will make a difference.
Third, statistically I must know someone who beats their children….so the next time you feel yourself welling with rage or so frustrated that you consider beating your child as an option, I beg you to just pause for a few seconds and think about the potential consequences. I know that sounds new agey and hard to swallow in the moment of pure reaction, but I beg you, just take a breath and think.

After she refused any money or a ride home, I hugged this young woman close as she cried, and assured her that as she moves out into the world she will find people who greet her with kindness and are not as quick to anger as what she was currently experiencing. I promised her that one day she’d look back and feel relieved to no longer be subjected to such rage. She gave me a beautiful, wide smile through her tears. It was a pretty profound experience.

 

Her Name Was Nancy

Her name was Nancy. She owned a house in Kerrisdale. 17 years ago I moved into her garden suite. She was a 42 year old semi-retired dentist who worked because she enjoyed it, not because she had to. She began teaching at UBC for the same reason. She was an incredible gardener, creating an oasis that we both enjoyed tremendously in the summers. She had many friends whose laughter would drift in my windows. After I’d been living there a couple years, her partner Andrew moved in. A couple years after that, she gave birth to a baby girl, who they called Gemma. Nancy was 47 at the time. She was kind, really funny, incredibly smart….a joy to be around and share space with. Once, when I was starting a new work venture and was short of dough, she didn’t charge me rent. That’s just the sort of person she was. When Gemma was 2, Nancy decided to take up running, and she ran a marathon in her 50th year. I lived below her for 10 years. I only ever left that home because I was flooded out. Literally.

In January she was diagnosed with cancer. Fucking cancer.

She kept the many people her life had touched updated by writing about her struggles, triumphs, wellness, illness, spirit…her whole journey. It was beautiful to read. Her hope. Her pain. Her positive yet realistic outlook.

Yesterday she kept popping into my head over and over and over. I knew that meant she was very likely making her way out of this life with pure love. Today Andrew emailed that Nancy Johnson nee Scott passed away beautifully and consciously yesterday afternoon. She was a young 59.

So, I’m sitting in my new garden, surrounded by just the kind of beauty she loved, and raising a glass of chenin blanc to this wonderful woman who was a force in my life and the lives of so many others.

Go ahead and love your people today.

xox

How ‘Bout Don’t Touch My Lady Bits?

I hardly know where to begin with this…but I do know that something must be said.

Sexual harassment in this business is a dangerous subject. It feels like great courage is required to call it out and take on the lecherous among us. I recently worked with a man who….who…well, fuck…like I said, where do I even begin? Beyond his initial greetings with every woman on the crew being a comment on their looks, which is staggeringly sexist, objectifying and patronizing, he subsequently made the rounds grabbing women’s asses. Fortunately, my Mama raised me to call that shit out….so when he hugged me and grabbed my ass I called him on it and made it known that it wasn’t cool…thereby establishing that I was not a woman to be fucked with. But even more disturbingly, on multiple occasions, he took the hands of young women on our crew, pressed them up against his pants and rubbed his penis. With their hands.

Yeah. That.

Now, beyond the obvious, here’s the trouble: many young women don’t feel empowered to be able to say ‘No dude, not okay.’ In this case, the production was dependent upon this man delivering a performance in a short period of time. Having proven himself to be argumentative and problematic on multiple fronts already, the women who spoke to me didn’t feel like there was anything they could do about it…because they didn’t want to create waves, risking him not doing the job he was being paid to do.

This sickens me. It sickens me on a level I cannot adequately describe. That they would even think of such a thing makes me ashamed to be a part of this industry. Yet, I totally get why they felt powerless to do anything. It’s super important to point out that the producers in this case did EVERYTHING in their power to both protect the crew and limit this person’s access to the women on set. They tried to keep women away from him and had someone by his side 24/7. This isn’t about villainizing them. This is about the bigger picture of  sexual objectification and harassment that our culture is so deeply steeped in that women often don’t even recognize what is happening as not okay…that’s how normal it is. The list of things I have witnessed over the years is too long to recount….inappropriate conversations, homophobic slurs, men whispering their previous night’s sexual adventures while we’re rolling, cock jokes, producers bringing their young one night stands to set, shooting nude scenes without the required closed set being observed…someone once asked me on a date while I sat in a robe waiting for them to set up the next shot on a love scene. At this point in my career, although I could cease working tomorrow for all I know, I no longer feel I can sit by quietly and let this shit go. More accurately, I no longer feel like I have to. It is the responsibility of ALL OF US to ensure that no one, man or woman, feels that dark ball of shame in their stomach because of a situation they’re put in at work.

So, to the young women and men out there: if you ever feel like something is not okay, or that you’re put in a position where you feel violated and powerless, please find the closest ‘Chelah’ on set. Find someone assertive, older and less concerned about possible professional consequences. Or call your union. Or your agent. Please do not think it is your responsibility to ‘let it go’ or ‘forget about it.’ We will stand up for you and be the one to take the hit. Furthermore, should you witness an act such as this, and you’re unsure whether it’s okay, ask yourself this: If the very same thing were being done to your young son or daughter, would it be okay? No? Then put a goddamn stop to it and prove that you value human beings, dignity and respect more than the bottom line of your production.

I sort of hate Candiland…and love it.

I’ve been super conflicted all week. As per the standard in this business, I’ve been encouraged to promote Candiland, for which we go back to shoot our second block in 2 days, through social media. Now, the notion of promoting anything is already a struggle for me. I don’t do real well with pushing my product. Never have. But that’s not the part that’s conflicting. It’s the discussion about process for this film, and in particular, the 6 week weight loss we’ve been tasked with in service of the story. Publicly discussing, and thereby endorsing, either speedy weight loss or weight loss in general is a tricky one for me. I’ve taken a very clear position on the tyranny of our culture when it comes to women and their bodies. On top of which, 6 weeks is a very short period of time for dramatic weight loss…and I won’t ever encourage anyone else to set it as a goal. I’m incredibly cautious and sensitive to the risk of contributing to someone’s negative feelings towards their own body.

However, as the story requires it, I’ve gone on this journey in the healthiest was possible. One thing I knew from the outset is that I was going to be safe and smart about it. I’m not wiling to sacrifice my health or organs for storytelling. Matthew started losing his eye sight. Christian took up smoking & lived on a can of tuna & and apple a day. There is conflicting research about cleansing and detoxification. I choose not to state a position on the subjects as it is a very dangerous and provocative issue….people will hear what they want to and often use statements of others to justify their own neuroses. I will say this: I’ve been eating a lot of grilled white fish, leafy green vegetables & chick peas. No sugar, dairy, processed foods, simple carbs or oils. I’m sweating at the gym every day, as specifically directed by my fitness genius, Garfield Wilson. I’m getting lots of sleep & walking Gaffer as usual. These are all things I’m comfortable inspiring anyone to try. I’ve changed my body as significantly as I am able in a 6 week period. My organs are healthy (had them checked) and my vitamin, mineral & electrolyte intake are closely monitored. I have moments of doubt. Is it going to be enough? Have I met the challenge? But these are toxic thoughts…and I’m choosing to let them pass through without clinging to them. The bottom line: I am healthy.

Something that struck me: In researching this work-required-transformation, when I googled ‘transformation’ or ‘actress weight loss’ no women came up. It’s all men. The implication being that for women it is such a normal and expected standard that we be thin, that it doesn’t gain coverage. Conversely, if a man loses a significant amount of weight for a role, it’s celebrated as brave, impressive and outside the norm in this profession. Transformations for women are generally reported on when a beauty has been ‘brave’ enough to be made a wall flower…or even more revolutionary: put on weight! This contrast is shocking and, sadly, not at all surprising.

So, here we are, 2 days away from shooting the second block of Candiland, roughly the remaining 35 pages of the script. I’m scared. Which is one of the reasons I had to do this movie. When I first read the script, I said no. There are a few scenes and circumstances, having nothing to do with the weight loss, that I was, and am, incredibly uncomfortable with. Putting images of sexual violence out into the Zeitgeist remains something I’m struggling with. Though after sitting down with Rusty and Clayton and hearing out their vision for a heavily stylized film, I came around and got behind the vision. They also agreed to make me a producer, thus allowing me to feel a little safer in the creative control of what we’re putting out. But this process has been dark and messy and imperfect for me. I have moments of fearing I’ve made a mistake by agreeing to tell this story. I have great compassion for Tess, the woman I play…but I have a hard time respecting her. And this is, hands down, the darkest material I’ve ever worked on. Honestly, I’m kind of dreading parts of what we have to shoot this week. But if I’m not scared every now and then…well…I’m not artistically pushing myself.

To be continued…

Actors Pretend…That’s What We Do…

This is going to come as a shock to some: we actors are not the characters we play. In fact, usually, those characters are straight up make believe (I can hear the collective gasp). I have played a hooker, a murderer, a pilot, a mother, a bigot, a wife, a tarot card reader, a lesbian, a teacher, a surgeon, a gun-slinging land baroness, an asshole and a saint. People have never seemed to have a problem with me professionally pretending to be any of these things. Yet I find myself on the receiving end of some intense judgement because I play a woman who, among many other things, happens to be a Christian and I, Chelah, have the audacity to be my-potty-mouth-self on Twitter. Now, first of all, let me point out to the uninitiated that Twitter is a free service on which you can choose who to ‘follow’ and, important to note, who you do not ‘follow.’  Complaining about the content of someone’s tweets is akin to barging into a strangers house and complaining about what they are eating for dinner.

The more important issue this brings up is the choice to remain closed to an opinion with which I currently disagree. To only support artists who affirm your own beliefs is a very narrow way of being in the world. All art is an opportunity to open our eyes to differing view points WITHOUT it having any adverse affect. We can choose to let it change our minds or not. Simple as that. I choose to read, watch and listen to people with whom I may not agree on many issues….but I sacrifice the possibility of learning something that may even shift my perspective if I choose not to take in new information. I find the alternative asinine.

Tweeting has been a super fun creative outlet for me for years. Occasionally I tweet something work related, though generally I aim to entertain, provoke & basically brag about my dog. If you are a fan of a show I happen to be on, or even a fan of the work I do, I’m glad it brings you some joy. But don’t ever think that I’m going to censor my true self for your comfort. I will not. Ever. I say this with a deep, still and unapologetic confidence.

**Spoiler Alert** Johnny Depp is not a pirate.

Peace out, f***ers. (as I laugh off into the night…)

The Fame Game…barf…

Fame is a game. Straight up. A game with no true substance or worth. It doesn’t exist as a tangible thing….making the game all the more absurd.

We now live in a world where getting the part isn’t so much about your ability to tell a story, emote, struggle and communicate…no, no it’s about how many people follow you on Twitter. Or what your current rank is on IMDB.

Well….I don’t want to play. I really don’t.

Do I dream of a time when I can comfortably plan the next year of my life, knowing that I’ll be shooting Projects A, B & C  for these specific dates? Hell yes, I do. But if it means I have to buy into the current state of the industry by bullshitting through publicity junkets, selling my very private personal life or making a sex tape to generate press…well No. Just no.

I got into this gig of acting as my profession because I love to tell stories. I love the magic of collaboration. I love to entertain people. I love exploring the emotional journey of a character. And I don’t thrive in a mon-fri, 9-5 world. I’d much rather work 17 hours a day in the pouring rain huddled with people I love for months on end.

But the game? The please like my page/follow me on Twitter/click on my imdb..?..it’s not for me. And I suppose I hope that the people I want to work with and projects I want to work on aren’t interested in that game either. Damn I hope so.

Rant complete.

And you should totally follow me on Twitter.

All The Single Ladies

Loneliness.

Single.

Alone.

There seems to have been a lot of discussions on these words in the past few months. Studies, books & articles on “social media’s effect on loneliness…” There’s a lot of it out there…sometimes it’s in here…but loneliness, single and alone are not all the same thing. They are completely different states. Just because I’m single, doesn’t mean I’m alone. Just because I’m alone, doesn’t mean I’m lonely.

A strange shift happens at 40 when you’re single. I’ve become acutely aware of aging. My own mortality. The echo of a childfree life. The pitying glances from others. The constant conversation about being alone (“yes…yes thank you, i know…no, it’s still just me”). The burden of knowing I’ll be the solitary person providing for my parents and their spouses in the years to come. A surrender and a railing against all that being alone implies.

Then I look at a number of the relationships that surround me. The husbands and wives. The cohabitating couples. The parents. The truth is, I wouldn’t want the lives that many of them have. There is a weighty misery that exists in a number of them. Not all, of course. Some are really and truly happy with each other and their choices. But a lot have settled. They’ve settled for what I can only assume is what they figured may be the only thing to come along….or better than nothing….or the best that they could do.

That terrifies me. Way more than being alone. Settling for dissatisfaction. I’ve got to really fucking love you to want to cook for you every day, clean up after you, share the duvet with you. It’s a love that I choose to believe awaits me. With or without children…I don’t know. It struck me a few years back that if I wanted to have a child, wouldn’t I just have one by now? What I’ve desired is a partnership, a foundation, a place to belong…but really, all in the pursuit of happiness and satisfaction. And maybe that is what I have today. Maybe that’s what being on my own and having the freedom I do IS. Happiness & satisfaction.

For example, last night I decided I’m going to Costa Rica next week. And so it shall be. I don’t need to ask anyone. I don’t need to sort out any big huge details for my kids. I can just go.

So, Happy New Year from this single and gloriously happy & satisfied woman. May you welcome and demand greatness in the year to come. May you not settle, yet find delicious satisfaction in all that you encounter. May you be brave. May you be beautiful. May you love all that you have….and fight for something greater.

Happiness and satisfaction. In this moment, it is mine. It is achieved. It’ll change, to be sure. It’ll change shape and smell and style…but I’ve got it.

xo Che

Hey There 20-Year-Old Self

Now that I’m 40, I have a few choice bits of advice for those kids half my age. 
  1. Take an hour of your precious life and sit down with a financial planner now. Just one little hour. I promise it’s worth it.
  2. Have one credit card. Each time you use, pay it off  before bed. Make this a habit.
  3. Start a good things jar. Everytime something lovely happens, write it on a piece of paper and put it in your good things jar.
  4. Moisturize.
  5. Floss.
  6. Put cream on your feet and hands each night when you climb into bed.
  7. Sit in the shade.
  8. Learn to love smoothies.
  9. Put lemon in your water. It alkalines your system. Disease doesn’t like alkaline.
  10. Fuck diets. Eat what makes your body feel good, not your emotions.
  11. Start therapy. Now. Trust me. Not everyone needs it, but everyone can benefit from it.
  12. Dance. Whenever possible.
  13. Sing. Same applies.
  14. Dare to just experience a moment instead of take a picture of it.
  15. Put your phone away during meals. Or visits. Or walks. Actually, just put your phone away whenever possible.
  16. Cry if you need it. You’ll feel better.
  17. Generally, the same applies to throwing up. (also, see next)
  18. Never have another drink if it’s after midnight.
  19. If you have an opportunity to say something kind to someone, say it. Don’t worry about being embarrassed. Your kindness will have an effect.
  20. Ask for help when you need it.
  21. Play with your dog.
  22. Friends don’t make friends do shooters.
  23. You should never have to convince someone to love you. It also won’t work.
  24. Fuck high-heels.
  25. Do 5 minutes of stretching every morning.
  26. If you have the chance to be in the woods, go.
  27. Start to learn an instrument. Now.
  28. Always leave the party when you’re still having fun.
  29. Don’t drive after even one drink. Just make it a rule for yourself.
  30. Go for a bike ride.
  31. Do the dishes before going to bed.
  32. If you want to say ‘I love you,’ say it. Only truth will result.
  33. Always wait 2 days before sending an angry email.
  34. Know what your 5 favourite books are.
  35. Don’t text someone after 1:AM. Unless it’s a cab.
  36. Dive into the water whenever possible. Wading in is no way to live.
  37. Get your hair wet and let your mascara run. It’s worth it.
  38. Have the courage to be wrong. Even when you’re certain you’re right.
  39. Listen three times as much as you talk.
  40. Forget this list. Forget other lists. Make your own list.

 

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Please Believe Me

If you love someone, tell them.
If you want to be with someone, be with them.
If you do not want to be with someone, stop.
If you cherish someone’s freindship, make sure they know.
If you adore someone, hug them.
Take a risk with your heart.
If you want or need something, ask for it. The absolute worst thing that could happen is you don’t get it.
Be generous.
Let people help you.
Be kind. Be really kind. We all need more kindness in our lives. Both given & received.
Kiss. A lot. Kissing is medicine. No one in history has ever looked back and said ‘wow, we kissed too much, didn’t we?’
If you want to do it, do it.
There is no time.
I am telling you: THERE IS NO TIME.
People vanish.
Hearts break.
Time is finite.
You have no time to waste. I have no time to waste.
Use it. Love.
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