Monday, January 26, 2015

Actress Katie Boland: What Happened After 'the Summer She Lost Her Mind'

For everyone, heartbreak is a painful and unwelcomed emotion, but for actress Katie Boland (The Master, Gerontophilia, CW’s Reign), it would also be her serendipitous source of inspiration. Her web-series, Long Story, Short, boldly recounts every sad and humiliating detail of what she calls ‘the summer I lost my mind’, and has quickly gained a huge internet following.

Boland’s relationship sorrows also strongly influence her first novel, Eat Your Heart Out, a collection of dark and evocative short stories, and most recently her Huffington Post article about breaking the cycle of abuse.

Indeed, much has happened to the Toronto-native since she was recognized by Elle Canada and the Toronto International Film Festival for her impressive film work. TorontoVerve sat down with the multi-faceted artist to talk about her career success and her relationship woes.

TorontoVerve: You’re a hard working actor. You’ve worked in so many mediums: movies, television, print and digital. Have I missed anything? 

Katie Boland: No (laughs).

TV: Can you sing? 

KB: No, I can’t sing. I’m actually a terrible singer.

TV: So no future albums coming out for you. 

KB: No, no album (laughs).

TV: It’s 2015. How did you ring in the new year? 

KB: I was at a house party with my brother and my closest friends. I rang in the New Year in a wonderful way. I was really happy.

TV: What’s your New Year’s resolution? 

KB: I have a couple. First, I’d like to be more focussed on self-acceptance and less focussed on self-improvement. Also, this past year was amazing and I’ve had an abundance of experiences, but I definitely feel a little burnt out so I’d like to rest more in 2015.

TV: 2014 has certainly been good to you. Long Story, Short launched and you won a Canadian Screen Award for Best Performance in a Digital Series. The show is being compared to HBO’s “Girls.” What was your vision for the series when you began writing it?  

KB: I wrote it because I wanted to explore that period in my life, which I call “the summer I lost my mind,” but to be honest, I didn’t necessarily have a clear vision. I’ve never written anything for the screen before and I’ve never been a showrunner. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that I wanted to make something with my friends. So I think my vision was to work hard and try to have a collaborative space. My mom directed it. She’s an incredibly hard worker so I knew that it would look good, but I did not think that it would have the life that it’s had. It’s been a wonderful surprise. 

TV: What kind of response have you been getting from people on the street and social media? 

KB: Well, it’s been really interesting with its most recent launch on VervegirlTV. I’ve gotten so many tweets from many people who would say, “This feels like a transcript of my life” or “Wow! I really relate to this” or “These drunken mishaps are hilarious and sad.” I think I felt very alone during that time, but I shouldn’t have because I think that many people have gone through similar experiences in trying to find themselves in destructive and hilarious ways.

TV: The women in the series offer each other much advice when it comes to texting men. For those who haven’t seen the series yet, what are some of the important rules to know about texting and dating? 

KB: (Laughs) OK, I always screw it up! I always say I’m going to play it cool and then I can’t -- especially if I like the guy. So I don’t know if I should be giving this kind of advice, but I think hopefully you meet somebody and it clicks, and you don’t have to worry about all of that stuff. You can text them whenever you want to and vice-versa. I think what’s important to work on before you fall in love or start dating someone you like is to have self-esteem and know your self-worth so when you’re texting someone and they don’t text you back, it won’t be a major heartbreak. You can say, “OK, this person isn’t ready. I’m not going to take it personally and let it ruin my day.” For me, it used to be when a guy didn’t text me back, I was like, “Oh my God! Why?!” I’d be consumed by it. So my rules are: try to date someone kind because life is hard. It should be fun at the beginning.

TV: You’ve worked with your mother, director Gail Harvey, on film projects before, but what does it mean to you to collaborate with her on such a personal project? 

KB: She’s very supportive and nonjudgmental. It was really the first time we collaborated. She is more experienced than I am as far as filmmaking goes so she didn’t have to be as supportive as she was. It was amazing. I felt really grateful.

TV: Did she ever have to tell you, “Let’s dial it back a little. This is too crazy.” 

KB: Well, I directed the sex scenes, not my mom. That would be awkward for the guys (laughs). No, she never asked to dial it back. If anything, I felt like we both wanted to push it farther than we did.

TV: Long Story, Short is partly based on your own personal heartbreaks and in your book (“Eat Your Heart Out”) dedication, you credit Peter for your heartbreak, which led to writing the book. What have you learned about yourself through your heartbreaks? 

KB: I learned a library worth of knowledge. I would say that I had two really major heartbreaks: my first and last breakups. I felt almost reinvented through each experience. It sounds cheesy, but I felt like a whole new person in a way. I’ve learned that you have to love yourself and deal with whatever’s screwed up inside of you because another relationship is not going to fix it. I learnt to be strong and to be OK with being alone. I learned to make art out of bad things that happen to me. Sometimes the worst things that happen to you are actually the greatest gifts in the world.

TV: So what do your heartbreakers think of your art? 

KB: Peter is great. He told me that he was touched by the book dedication and that he really liked Long Story, Short. He and I are still very good friends. I think the response has mainly been positive. That’s the weird thing about relationships. You can be so close and then you never see each other again (laughs).

TV: That can also be a good thing. 

KB: Sometimes that has to happen (laughs).

TV: Alcoholism plays a big part in your web series and in your book. Since both draw heavily on your life, is it safe to say that you’ve been personally confronted with the hardships of alcoholism? 

KB: Yeah, definitely people close to me have struggled with alcoholism and addiction. It also runs in my family for sure, but my mom and dad both don’t drink, which is amazing. I’m reading an interesting book now called “Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol” and it’s about the drinking culture amongst young women. I think the way most young people drink today isn’t healthy. I think often times when I was binge drinking, it was to deal with something inside me.

TV: I enjoyed reading “Eat Your Heart Out.” 

KB: Thank you!

TV: I was particularly intrigued with the lead character in your short story “Monster.” Unknown to her finance, she’s a sociopath who has little regard for life. I found it very interesting that you chose her to deliver a very insightful anti- alcohol abuse message (“escaping through alcohol allows people to remain stuck in the lives they hate. I believe that if you are unhappy, you might as well know it, and know it always”). Why select her instead of one of your benevolent characters to give that message in the book? 

KB: Well, I think that that character is wired wrong. Her point of view is very black and white. She lacks empathy. I think that’s a rather harsh way of looking at alcoholism and the people who drink to escape their lives. There’s not much tenderness in her view; however, I don’t think that she’s necessarily wrong. That’s how I felt at that point in my life about drinking. If you need to get drunk every weekend to be fulfilled, maybe you need to stop drinking so you can deal with some of the bigger issues or problems in your life.

TV: Was that a personal lesson you’ve learned about drinking? 

KB: It’s definitely something that I spent much time thinking about. If I’m drinking a lot or if the people around me are drinking a lot, I always wonder why and what other motivating factors there are. Drinking is such an accepted behaviour in society and I don’t think necessarily that you’re getting any closer to knowing yourself or the people that you’re getting drunk with.

TV: So will your character, Kristen, in Long Story, Short learn that lesson? 

KB: I don’t know. I have to see where season two will go. I would hope so because you want to see a character progress. I think that alcoholism is something that you always struggle with. Kristen is in real denial about her drinking. I would like to see her hit rock bottom before she comes up.

TV: On the show, your friend Dave tells Kristen: “You will care about anyone so long as they don’t care about you.” This is also a similar theme in your novel. Is there any truth to that in your real life? 

KB: In Long Story, Short, Kristen’s self-esteem is all f@%ked up and for a long time, that’s how I really was. There were many really wonderful men who wanted to date me, but I really didn’t like myself enough to let them like me in a respectful and fulfilling way. Much of what I explore in my book and Long Story, Short are people who don’t love themselves and have low self-esteem. Thanks to my art, I’m in a different place now and I’ve learned to love myself, which is the cornerstone to every good thing in life.

TV: Is there anyone special in your life right now?

KB: No, I’m not dating anyone; however, there are MULTIPLE special people in my life: my friends and family.

TV: You’ve recently revealed in your Huffington Post column that you had a pattern of being in emotionally abusive relationships. What made you want to share something so personal with your readers? 

KB: It’s hard not to look at anything like that as a mistake or regret. I now look at everything as lessons. I hope that maybe there’s one girl in the world who would read that and feel less alone or have some sort of clarity on what is a very emotionally confusing situation. I’m really a believer in women telling their stories and men owning what’s happened to them. I felt like if I owned it and put it out there, then it wouldn’t define me. It would be something that I can finally put in the past. I was far enough along in my recovery to talk about it with clarity. Also, writing things like that helps me. It reminds me of where I don’t want to go again. And what’s the point in going through all of that and not help somebody too? It makes it less about me and more about helping someone in need.

TV: Did your abusive relationships serve as inspiration for your short story “Tragic Hero”? Rich, your lead character, had a tendency to subtly control his young female friend, Maggie. 

KB: What’s interesting is when I wrote that book, I didn’t know that I was in emotionally abusive relationships. That’s the craziest part about it. You don’t realize what’s happening is wrong or that you’re a part of a sick cycle. I think I knew subconsciously and expressed it through my art, but I didn’t have any concrete awareness about it. I find characters like Rich interesting. I like writing about people who are a bit screwed up or bent. I think I’m drawn to those types of relationships in my art, but not in my real life anymore.

TV: What would you recommend to anyone who wants to break away from that painful cycle? 

KB: It’s a difficult thing because it has to happen when they’re ready. You can talk to somebody about it until you’re blue in the face, but if they’re not ready, it’s not going to end. If you’re friends with someone who’s in a situation like that, just be there for them, listen, don’t get frustrated with them and don’t make them feel stupid because they’re already frustrated with themselves and feel stupid enough. I would also say that there is a lot of free help that you can get. Seeing a therapist can be very helpful. Trying to find people in the same situation can help too. My advice would be to get out. It’s really hard at first, but after you do, your life gets exponentially better.

TV: Both you and your mother have a production company called “Straight Shooters” and are currently developing other television projects. What can we expect from both of you next? 

KB: We have three different television projects in development. We are also working on a documentary about Rickie Lee Jones who is a very famous American singer. My mom is directing it and I’m producing it. And we’re doing some more mini- episodes of Long Story, Short, which I’m really excited about. I also have five different films coming out this year.

TV: What are you looking forward to the most in 2015? 

KB: I think all the cool projects that I’m going to get to do with my friends. That’s what I’m really looking forward to. And hopefully continuing to be happy and healthy.

TV: Care to close with a little word association? 

KB: Sure. 

TV: Toronto. 

KB: Drake.

TV: Beauty. 

KB: Mark. 

TV: Fashion. 

KB: Cabaret Vintage.

TV: Mom. 

KB: Best friend.

TV: Art. 

KB: Important.

TV: Pain. 

KB: Necessary.

TV: Love. 

KB: Nice. 

TV: Hate. 

KB: Needless.

TV: Future. 

KB: Hopeful.

TV: Happiness. 

KB: Today.

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Check out Katie's website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Watch the first episode of Long Story, Short below:

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