TIFF Rising Stars series
By Katherine Ellis
Photography by Anouk Lessard
A familiar face in Quebec cinema and stage, Evelyne Brochu has hit the ground running in her career since appearing on the big screen in a breakthrough role in Polytechnique. The heart-wrenching film by Denis Villeneuve depicted the infamous massacre of 14 women at a college campus in Montréal in 1989.
Her roles in Café de Flore and Inch’Allah, the latter for which she was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award, have garnered critical acclaim for Brochu, and she has honed her craft on television and on stage.
The actress’ most recent venture is her first in English. Portraying Delphine Cormier in the new series Orphan Black, her native French comes in handy playing a Parisian attending university in the U.S. who falls in love with one of the many clones portrayed by fellow Canadian Tatiana Maslany.
Brochu was chosen as one of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival’s Rising Stars, and she will be present at the Toronto premiere of her latest film, Tom à la ferme, a collaboration with famed director and Cannes Film Festival darling Xavier Dolan. FAJO Magazine catches up with Brochu about how she selects her films, what draws her to a character and her favourite designers du jour.
Your current gig Orphan Black is on English television. How has that transition been between French and English industries?
I think it went pretty smoothly. I’m lucky to have been raised in a part of Montréal [Pointe-Claire] where the majority of people do speak English, so I picked it up quickly while working. I can work in both languages.
My whole plan is to broaden my horizons in terms of who I can work with, the stories I can tell and the characters I can explore; and different things that can be made in this craft.
Since graduating from Montréal’s Conservatoire d’art dramatique in 2005, you have appeared in many television series and plays. Is there a particular medium that you like best?
For me, it’s like playing the same instrument but in a different context. TV work – it’s really about getting it just right. You have a chance to try again if it’s not. Theatre is like playing a rock show. It doesn’t really matter if you make a tiny mistake. It’s the whole vibe and getting people to feel you. It’s about carrying the moment through all the way with you in an hour and 20 minutes of the narrative.
For each medium, the [instruments] are different but kind of the same. I have this goal of really having your lines down to the point where [you can] blurt them out, skipping rope on acid – but I am not on acid. You need to know them in your body almost, it makes spontaneity kind of easier. In terms of character, I think everybody [approaches it differently]. I just absorb life.
How do you go about selecting your roles? Some of your previous films have quite heavy subject matter. Case in point Inch’Allah, where you play a Canadian doctor working in the West Bank, and Polytechnique.
My biggest thing when I see a [script], is [whether] I would like to watch the movie. If I read the script and even if I don’t get it or they don’t offer it or whatever, I want to go see this story on screen. I want to be a part of that story.
Out of all the roles you’ve done so far, what are some of the most important pieces to you when creating/influencing a character?
Jewelry and costumes are really important to me. They are so [integral] to a character in terms of how they are perceived and how the [characters] perceive themselves. I think clothing, in terms of the human interaction, is major.
Hands are the one thing of your body that you see the most from within, when you are in the character. In Inch‘Allah, I was working with this amazing make-up artist, and she was making my fingers look as if I was biting my nails, and made me understand my character’s state of mind. And it made me think, ‘Holy s**t, I am going through a rough patch right now.’
Were there any movies where you had a favourite outfit?
In Café de Flore, the tattoos were beautiful, created by this Montréal artist. They made me feel badass and I would wear them sometimes when we would go to bars and say: ‘Check out my badass tattoos.’ Jean-Marc Vallée [the director] is really into costumes. He would tell me the story of each one: ‘That one you got in Thailand and it’s your first. And that one you got because of a guy.’ Each tattoo showed my checkered background [and made the character].
But my favourite piece of that shoot was the wedding dress. It was a lace white wedding dress and I had no make-up, my hair was messed up and I thought it was a really cool wedding look. I was, like: ‘God, too bad we already shot it, I could wear this at my own wedding if I have one!’
Do you have any favourite designers?
I’ve been working with Montréal-based designers who are really truly exciting. Unttld make really beautiful effortless pieces that feel amazing and look spot on, it’s forward without being costumy. It’s just perfect. They made my dress for the Canadian Screen Awards last winter.
How would you describe your own personal style?
I wouldn’t say I’m daring, [but] I like a little bit of an edge. There should always be something that shines through with a woman, and it’s her soul. And I think that sounds super cheesy, but if you wear a backless dress and show a lot of skin, some people need to really focus on your eyes, and they can’t focus on your eyes if you are outfitted in something too overwhelming. I like simple-ish, but smart, elegant and just a little bit sexy clothing.
Do you have a favourite outfit or favourite look?
I just bought a silk bomber and I can’t wait to wear it! I like when your clothing kind of contradicts itself. The bomber is kind of soft and tough, it has more than one message.
How does it feel to be one of TIFF’s Rising Stars?
I think it’s really amazing for many different reasons. [The festival] is really well-respected, well-loved and I think it’s known for what will make the year in film. Their programmers are really amazing, so knowing that those groups of people [chose you to be a part] of this spotlight is an honour.
How do you think being part of this program will help build your career in the future?
The wonderful thing about TIFF is that it creates a future for film and makes sure that Canadians are a part of it, through TIFF’s Rising Stars and other programs. Life is about connections, and that’s also true about our craft and our industry, connecting and sharing something in common and wanting to work together. I can’t predict the future, but if I look at the schedule at all the wonderful people who will be at TIFF, I am excited to see the bonds we will create and the connections!