7 Questions: Liane Balaban
Actress. Born June 24, 1980, Toronto. Attended high school at Lawrence Park Collegiate. Majored in journalism at Ryerson University; BA in political science from Concordia. Made acting debut in 1999 as the charmingly awkward adolescent lead in the Cape Breton-set movie New Waterford Girl, for which she'd auditioned on the urging of the film's producer, a family friend; attracted a flurry of attention and promptly attained It Girl status.
Quirky, left-of-centre characters delivered in an Audrey Hepburn-pretty package: This formula has landed Liane Balaban leading roles opposite Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup (in World Traveler), Sam Shepard (in After the Harvest), and now Kevin Pollak, in the noirish caper 7 Times Lucky, which hits theatres today (and is reviewed on R7).
Balaban is a thinking girl's ingénue -- an actress who surfaced just six years ago without any formal training. Working hard to parlay her hometown success into a stable career south of the border, Balaban divides her time between Montreal, Toronto and Los Angeles, where she is currently ensconced in the 100-day-long boot camp known as pilot season.
What drew you to the part of Fiona?
It was a smart female role. That's the first thing that hit me. She was a sassy lass. Not some nymphet -- which you tend to find a lot of. She played an active part in unravelling the plot and moving it forward and seemed like a really cool chick.
Do you come across those cool-smart-chick scripts often?
No. Not during pilot season, anyway. The scripts are always about some aging patriarch who is the head of the company in the high-stakes world of -- whatever. He's divorced. Something bad is going on in his life. He's got a young bimbette girlfriend. There's a lot of that, actually, in the pilots I'm reading. It's almost a given.
What are you wearing to audition for those roles?
There's definitely a cookie-cutter look that you're supposed to adhere to. I have to look polished. I have to iron my shirts. I have to be sexy, unbuttoned. I wear makeup now. Mascara, lipstick -- which I normally don't do.
Have you seen a return
on investment in terms of cultivating that look?
Sure. When I had an audition for a WB pilot, one of their comments was that my hair was too frizzy. When I went back, I had straight, smooth hair. I thought frizz was supposed to be the hair department's problem. But apparently it's the actor's problem. You can be quirky on Canadian TV. You can just go in and be yourself. I don't think you have to go to a network test, or a studio test. You don't have 40 execs deciding if your look is right. . . . But you have to just recognize that that's the industry -- you're fitting a mould.
But your whole career seems to have been based on --
-- on not fitting the mould. I know! I know! And sometimes I wonder, "Am I supposed to be doing this? Am I right for television?" Because I don't fit in with all those other girls. I think I fit in more now that I've changed some basic things. But also you have to ask yourself -- is this really what I want with my career? Sometimes you have to stop and have a perspective check.
You've been called the next Natalie Portman. Thoughts?
I don't like being compared to a contemporary. I'd rather be compared to a legend, although she is a wonderful actress. It's very flattering, I can't deny that. But if I had my choice of actresses to be compared to, I'd like to be a young Meryl Streep. Or a young Natalie Wood. I was telling my agent, "I've gotta play [Portman's]sister. Why don't we package a movie. We'll get someone to write the script. She'll play the lead. It'll be perfect." But I was informed that Natalie Portman's people would probably never go for that idea, because they probably wouldn't want me crowding her space.
You were in journalism at Ryerson. You used to co-host an Internet radio show. Do you still entertain thoughts of becoming a journalist?
Not really journalism, but I have lots of other interests outside of acting. I'm in a band called We are Molecules. We're recording an album. I play keyboards and drums. And sing. We don't have a label, but we're recording some songs with the Unicorns. They're helping us. They're playing guest instruments. There's a lot of different things I want to do. I co-directed a music video this summer for the Stills [for the song Retour à Vega] It was in heavy rotation on Musique Plus and recently in a top-10 countdown type of thing. I'd like to do more directing. Those are my two areas of interest right now. Until now, I hadn't devoted myself fully and completely to acting. So this is really me doing it -- I figure I really gotta do it. I don't know what I'm doing here, but I think I'm supposed to be here right now.