TIFF Rising Stars series
By Hannah Yakobi
Photography by Tara West and George Pimentel Photography
Charlotte Sullivan laughs excitedly. We are on the phone, and she is telling me about her experience working alongside Academy Award-winner Kathy Bates in the sci-fi mini-series Alice.
“I have goose bumps just thinking about it,” she says. “In our first scene together, Kathy was screaming at me. I was really petrified.
“But she was a dream to work with. She was so candid. I get a lot of anxiety and I worry a lot, especially right before I am about to start shooting, and Kathy apparently experiences the same.”
As we continue the interview, Charlotte confesses that she gets a bit nervous about talking to the media. Despite this, her honesty about her work and career makes her very down-to-earth.
Sullivan can be easily recognized on any Red Carpet for her ultra feminine looks, charismatic smile and memorable outfits. Born and raised in Toronto, she has been nominated for a Genie Award, and many will remember her role as Marilyn Monroe in the controversial, Emmy Award-winning series, The Kennedys, in which she starred alongside Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes.
Sullivan’s other film credits include Iron Road, Defendor, Smallville and Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster, which won Best Canadian First Feature award at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. She is currently playing police officer Gail Peck in the third season of the ABC hit series Rookie Blue.
This year, Sullivan was also selected for the Rising Stars Program at TIFF. This program features four stars who are about to break onto the international stage. It creates opportunities for these candidates to meet with the industry and filmmakers during the festival, expand their portfolio and gain wider access to the media.
“As Canadians, we may get a little bit lost in the shuffle with American audiences,” says Sullivan. “So TIFF Rising Stars is an amazing opportunity. I went into this program with an appreciation for being chosen; I was excited for the adventure of meeting people, and getting this wild opportunity to be able to talk to people who I like and respect madly. Honestly, I am floored – I can’t believe I got to do it.”
While at TIFF’s VIP events and Red Carpet, Sullivan continued to present her signature style that can be characterized as Old Hollywood glamour. She says that her fashion choices reflected her new approach towards clothing.
“I spent a lot of my youth just accumulating pieces, and then I got to the point where these things were falling apart and I didn’t love them,” she says. “So I thought: why not buy one piece that, perhaps, is a bit more expensive but will last me forever? I also listened to an interview with Valentino that changed the way I shopped from that day onward. He said: ‘no matter what you buy, no matter what it is, no matter if it’s a pyjama or a sock, you have to be head-over-heels in love with it.’ So I don’t buy disposable stuff anymore, I am looking for quality.”
“In terms of fashion, I think I live two alter lives,” she adds. “In my everyday life, I wear my husband’s clothes, which I steal all the time, much to his dismay. [laughs] And when I have events, I get a chance to express myself creatively through fashion.”
Sullivan enjoys finding out more about style and art icons on a regular basis – she says their work greatly interests her. “I have an obsession with Daphne Guinness and Isabella Blow at the moment. They just make me so excited about clothes, fashion and art. I was reading about their lives too – they are fascinating women, who are so extraordinary.”
Apart from her interest in fashion, Sullivan is also addicted to red lipstick. “When I am sick, even when no one is around, I have red lipstick on. I love it! For me, it’s a chance to play; it’s a chance to transform even if I am not feeling good. I adore make-up.”
Of course, one of the roles in which she got to wear red lipstick was when she played Marylin Monroe. This role was one of the highlights of Sullivan’s career.
“That was in Los Angeles. It was one of those experiences where I am standing in front of this man’s piano, singing and practicing gestures and movements, and it was the first time that I felt like a real actress. I had never had an opportunity to research someone so extensively and work with the artists that I got to work with, it was kind of mind-blowing.”
She was nervous, but adds that it is during moments like this when her husband comes to the rescue.
“He is amazing. He helps me so much. Whenever I feel like I’m not good enough or not capable of doing something, he has the ability to bring me up and make me feel like a beautiful woman.”