The creative mind of Meg Tilly

March 14, 2013

By Hannah Yakobi

Photography by Tara West

She is quiet and polite, with a warm smile. Meg Tilly came to our interview with her husband, writer Don Calame. She wanted to take a cab, but the weather was terrible and Calame decided to drive her. He sat on the other end of the venue and did some writing on his laptop, while we chatted loudly, laughed and talked about various forms of art.

Calame and Tilly strongly support each other – be it in a form of advice or criticism. Tilly is no stranger to fame: an Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe winner, she is modest and dismissive of her accomplishments. And this only makes her more personable.

Meg Tilly graces the cover of FAJO’s March issue. Photography: Tara West. Graphic design: Kalynn Friesen.

HANNAH YAKOBI: You’ve done so many things: acting, dancing, writing. What do you think is your real true love?

MEG TILLY: I was going to say food [laughs]. I think that it’s like deciding who is your favourite person in the whole world. You can have someone who you really, really love, but there are different people who fill different parts of you. So how it is with your husband is different than the kind of belly-laugh guffaws you have with your best female friends. It’s like that for me. I think all the arts that I am fortunate enough to do enhance each other.

Over the years, how do you think all of these different experiences contributed to you becoming a true artist?

I think all of your experiences go into who you are. Everything you’ve done up to this point, has led you to create this wonderful magazine. My experiences to be an artist started as a child, because I think that sometimes out of a challenge, comes understanding, hard work ethic, an ability to appreciate the moments of great beauty that arise. I think art is around everybody. And it’s just a matter of opening your heart, opening your eyes and allowing this drama in.

You’ve been working on Bomb Girls series, and also doing a lot of writing lately. Are you splitting your time between the two?

Acting is taking up more of my time, just because when you’re doing the show it is five-and-half months of solid long days. When you are working with a script, you shoot two shows at once, so you’ve got those two memorized. And you have to memorize the next two as well, so you’re constantly working, working, working. There is not much room for anything else.

That being said, I did have to copy edit A Taste of Heaven, my new book, right in the middle of shooting. I had to go to the printers so that was crazy! I was burning the candle on both ends. It’s sort of like, you know, if you are a mother bird who has a worm in her mouth, and all the little beaks open really wide and say, ‘Paw, paw, paw!’ And you just put food in whichever one seems to be open the most. That’s how it feels right now! [laughs]

But I also now have a nice chunk of time put aside to await my grandchild, so I am very excited about that.

What is your favourite part about your character in Bomb Girls?

What I love about Lorna is her humanness. I love the way Michael MacLellan and his team of writers have created such whole women, where nobody is good, nobody is bad. Sometimes people are heroic, and sometimes they fall down and make mistakes. They’re flawed and they’re human, and there is a beauty in that. I think that the more we allow glorious, heroic, damaged women to be represented, the healthier our society is going to be.

Tilly: “Sometimes people are heroic and sometimes they fall down and make mistakes. They’re flawed and they’re human, and there is a beauty in that.”

How do you prepare for a new role?

I think there are some things I just do. It’s sort of like when you first start cooking: I am making something and, you know, it needs a bit of this and a bit of that, and you’re just pouring stuff in. I remember when I first started, I had to hit my mark. Whereas now, that’s all natural: it just gets to be more and more about what is going on with the character, and who she’s seeing, and what’s the breath like in her body. And I’m just living the character. Some people get grumpy [laughs], but I think because I went away for so long and came back that I….Yeah, I didn’t realize how much I missed it!

You’ve been nominated for an Oscar in the past. When you found out, who was the first person you called or talked to?

I don’t know if I told anybody. When I was nominated for an Oscar and won the Golden Globe, I was young and just figured – this is what happens. And there will be many, many years of Oscars or Golden Globes, and I wasn’t even like: ‘Oh, I want to win.’

Anjelica Houston was nominated too, she studied at the Loft Studio at the same place I did, we had the same acting coach. It was the first film that she had done – she was in her thirties, which seemed so old to me then, whereas now I feel like she was a baby. Her father was very famous, her boyfriend Jack Nicholson was very famous and she was a beautiful woman. I was seated by her at the Oscars, and Jack was there, and her dad was behind me on oxygen mask, and I wanted her to win. I didn’t know it was my only chance! [laughs] It was really special, I remember, Audrey Hepburn was presenting, and I grew up just worshipping her.

So now, it was weird when I heard that I was nominated for Canadian awards. It’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I remember how do to that!’

So you were nominated for a Canadian Screen Award this year and you are also presenting an award in a different category. What are your thoughts on that?

I am presenting something, but I don’t know what. I hope it’s not a complicated name to say [laughs]. I have a little bit of dyslexia, so sometimes I’ll reverse letters, and I just don’t want to mess up anybody’s name; that would be terrible! [Editor’s note: Meg Tilly won the Best Actress in a Drama award at the CSAs earlier this month.]

Is your husband coming with you?

Yeah, he’s coming!

It’s an interesting time of life. I didn’t expect this to happen at all.

There has been a lot of changes and a lot of growth for Canadian film industry in the last decade. What are your thoughts on that?

I think it’s wonderful that the government is aware of Canadian film, and having filmmakers come to Canada is good business sense. They are doing tax benefits to companies that shoot here, because it brings a lot of work here. And there are companies like Global TV, which has strongly supported Bomb Girls, even though this is a Canadian show. If the co-creators had made it somewhere in generic North America, they would have sold it to a much bigger company perhaps in the States. I am really proud of it.

Apart from acting, you write a lot and so does your husband. Do you ever bounce ideas off each other?

Oh yes! We met at a writing workshop. He is a wonderful writer, but I do remember his first book – he was doing screenplays before, but decided to try a novel – and it was not good. I didn’t know what to do. I thought, ‘No, you respect his writing enough, you have to tell him the truth.’ So I did.

This was pretty new in our relationship and for several days – maybe a week – I felt so bad, but the gift of that was when he wrote something really good, I said: ‘Honey, this is really, really good.’ And the same for me with him. Sometimes, we’ll argue about it, sometimes we fight. He also really helps me proofread because I’m a terrible speller, and I’m very bad at punctuation.

I didn’t notice any typos on your website.

Oh well, the website you know is just for the manuscripts to go out, and he always gives it a go over. It’s really good that we are honest with each other; he knows if I think it’s really good, and vice versa.

How do you normally work on a new project? Do you tend to plan it ahead or are you spontaneous?

Sometimes, a piece comes to me, like an image. It’s sort of like when you wake up from a dream, it’s all vivid, you grab a hold of that but as you start to write, it starts to fade. You have to grab it the moment it comes to you, and start to unwrap it. Otherwise, it’ll be gone.

So a character might start talking to me, or I’ll just write a short piece or just a scribble. And then, all of a sudden, you mull it over and you never know where the idea is going to come from. I think everybody’s process is different – that’s what I’ve learned being on writing panels, and going to conferences with other writers. There is no right or wrong way; you find a way that you sing your song the clearest.

So if someone is picking out your book out of the many, and they start reading it without knowing that it’s yours, is there a distinguishing feature that says: ‘This is Meg Tilly’s book’?

With all my previous books, yes. A Taste of Heaven has just been released last month. This is my fifth book and this one is very different. When I started writing, I needed to write about things that I needed to say. Whereas when I hit 50, I wanted to write something cozy. So, this book is still my voice, but there is no pedophile lurking under the bed. The challenges are challenges for them, but it’s not potential for such devastation.

Tilly says that she enjoys borrowing clothes from her sister, Jennifer Tilly.

Is there still one thing you really want to accomplish?

I don’t know. I feel like I’ve had such a lucky life. When I was younger I thought, ‘I’d love to do this or I’d like to that.’ It’s not like I’m old, but I’m 53, and I think now it’s sort of an internal shift. It’s not a, ‘I’ll be happy when this happens’ or ‘I want that,’ it’s more of a “Wow, look what I have.’

It’s about valuing the blessings in my life, and savouring this because it isn’t going to last forever. I just got lucky again. So, instead of deciding what else I am going to eat while I have what I have in my mouth, I am tasting what I’m eating now.

So you love food clearly?

Yeah I do, I love food, life, the way the light comes through the branches.

Do you love cooking at home?

I do, but I don’t cook as much as I used to. When my children were home, I cooked all the time. I guess cooking for me is kind of like love. Now, it’s just me and my husband – the children are all gone. He is being healthy, which I totally applaud, but I can’t do all my big cooking because he wants the salad and protein shakes, and very specific stuff. But it’ll be nice when I have my grandchild – I’ll be cooking for my son and daughter-in-law, and for my other son when he comes home.

When is your daughter-in-law due?

The 23rd of March.

Is it your first grandchild?

Oh yeah.

So you must be really excited.

I am. I think I’ll be a good grandma.

A photoshoot with Meg Tilly

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About Meg Tilly’s latest book

Meg Tilly is out with A Taste of Heaven, a cozy new novel for children eight to 12. Madison Stokes leads a pretty average life: average mom and dad, average looks, average grades—well, maybe her little sister is much brattier than average—but nothing out of the ordinary. All that changes when quiet, secretive Alyssa Hawkins moves to town. When Madison takes Alyssa under her wing, the two girls quickly bond over chocolate-chip cookies and become best friends. But there are some things Alyssa still won’t share. Why won’t she talk about her family? And why is she so reluctant to have Madison over to her house?

A special thank you to Stirling Room for providing location for this photoshoot.
Nestled in the heart of The Historic Distillery District, Stirling Room is an elegant and upscale lounge with a sophisticated atmosphere, catering to the city’s elite and young professional crowd. The décor features rich leather banquettes, grand lounge furniture and illuminated onyx bars. Stirling Room is open weekday evenings for guests to unwind with a cocktail, as well as on the weekends, showcasing the best DJs, style and service in the city. The lounge also offers an ideal setting to host a range of corporate and social events. For more information please contact our Events Team at info@stirlingroom.com or 416-364-3900.


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