You would have to have been living in a cave on a remote island to have managed to avoid the media coverage of the life and times of Mehgan Markle recently. It seems our fascination and, at times, fear of strong, beautiful, independent women, particularly actresses from across the pond, knows no end. This constant drip of unsolicited reverie and paranoia can quietly permeate even the hardest of liberal shells forming an invisible barrier between stars and their typically misinformed but adoring public, understandably making interviews awkward or guarded.
No such walls exist with Cindy Sampson. From the very first moment of our, chat Cindy puts us all at ease. Her self image is one of jobbing actor and kindred artist. Her million dollar smile rarely leaves her face and never leaves her eyes. Quick to apologise for a technology failure that isn’t her own and align herself with most of us in being no experts on handling Zoom. We all find ourselves in unchartered territory, one we must navigate as an equally bemused team.
As our chat continues, it is clear that Cindys approachable and likeable demeanour has factored in her progress up the slippery slope. One that has been constant for the more significant part of 20 years. She laughs heartily when I suggest, looking at the reams of roles noted in her CV, that accomplishment was run away.”I’m pleased you think that’!
I am somewhat gratified to learn it was a gentler ascension.
“I was from such a small town in Nova Scotia that it seemed out of reach. It was slow. I kept building and building and building. I am so grateful, though, as I know I have worked a lot and pretty consistently. Lots of my friends have spent long periods out of work. “
Actors always imagine everyone else is working whilst they are the only one at home, waiting for the phone to ring, a symptom of a very tough industry increasingly oversaturated.
“That fear never leaves you, but as I’ve got older, especially I’ve tried to embrace the downtime. It’s just as important.”
I ask her then about her downtime. Her cv would say that she’s had very little. Even sometimes working on more than one project at a time. The downside to the career that most actors aspire to is time to enjoy it, friends or family or the ability to plan anything concrete.
“ I think that’s true, and I do find it hard to plan anything, ask my Mom! But growing up, I never actually wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be everything! Acting has allowed me to live several lives. I don’t know how to say no; I Love what I do!”
Talking of not harbouring dreams to be an actor despite starting in her first professional role at the tender age of 14 on the popular teen Show Street Cents, Cindy had to be coerced into auditioning. Her mother was only wanting to encourage her introverted daughter to be more confident and outgoing. After booking the job, she fell in love with this whole new world.
Cindys’ ‘ Can do ’ attitude has certainly afforded her some varied and exceptional experiences, including “flipping houses” with her contractor husband, a passion they share, trying her hand at hosting and travelling to the remotest island on earth to scale a mountain! A love of life and squeezing it for all she can get is at play here, just recently making her directorial debut.
It gives Cindy an energy that’s nice to be around, endearing and infectious. I wonder if that is something that has contributed to keeping her path so steady. They say you’re only as good as your last job, and your reputation; being enjoyable to work alongside and be around can’t have hurt. Sets can be claustrophobic environments, especially when the schedule is gruelling.
On her snatched moments of rest, Cindy is an avid reader having to come down the gears reasonably quickly. Something she attributes to feeding her love of acting as a “live embodiment of storytelling.”
Rest and relaxation, I get the impression is not a natural state for Cindy, illustrated by her habit of rewarding herself with an equal amount of time travelling or being outdoors to the amounts of time she spends consumed by 18 hour days on set.
“I like to immerse myself in nature, camping perhaps, really recharging myself before I return to the chaos.”
Whilst Cindy agrees, she can’t complain about her career trajectory, and she admits that it hasn’t been as smooth as it looks on paper.
One of her stumbling blocks may, surprisingly, have been her good looks and amiable nature.
I have never really had this issue, I tell her, being very firmly placed in the small and squat and broad beam character actress section. I always imagined the statuesque beauty that the big stars possess would be the passport to a Damehood!
Cindy is typically candid in her reply. “I think that has sometimes worked against me; I’ve on occasion been typecast into the girl next door roles” A frustrating bracket for the devoted actor and one Cindy has worked hard to prove she can break away from. Breakaway she has.
Counting many diverse and challenging roles amongst her achievements, including a noted stint in the cult series, Supernatural, and 2010 Horror movie, The Shrine, and bringing something authentic and sincere to her long-running roles.
One of the most enduring and loved is in Canadas No1 show Private Eyes, in which she stars with the heartthrob of a generation, Jason Priestley. I resist the temptation to ask about their on-screen chemistry, though my editor doesn’t. Cindy graciously laughs it off, talking of Jason( and his impressively solid marriage, one similar to her own secure and loving relationship ). Their time on set, with the respect and friendship its so clear they share on-screen. I tell her that I enjoy their wit and whimsy together and the moments when she illustrates to the audience the reality of womanhood rather than the perfect and unattainable versions we are trained to expect. Cindy is, however, effortlessly glamorous though it doesn’t define her. She tells me that it’s important to her to show a fair and broad view of femininity and that if she feels any pressure to represent anything on the screen, it’s feeling comfortable in her skin. The things that took up headspace in her twenties about her self image are certainly less significant now in her forties and reflect that is important and valuable. “That’s one of the gifts of being in a long-running show”, she tells me, getting to bring her truth to the part that relates to her growth as a woman and a human so that that character can grow with her. Something lots of the viewers will undoubtedly align with. She credits that luxury to feeling supported and comfortable at work, and in turn, it has come full circle to strengthen and deepen the character Angie. The writers now organically work more in unison with her, and there is a palpable cohesion. “At the same time, I love that Angie is not overwritten. It’s much more interesting to play the subtext. Our audiences are intelligent enough not to need everything spelt out”.
There is a warmth and humour, and honesty that keeps viewers hooked season after season. It’s on the 5th.
“That was always the problem I had with Hollywood. The overly glossed version of reality. Something I always admired about British TV is its sense of grounded realism and clarity.”
Many actors from the UK regularly migrate to LA for pilot season. It can be a lucrative time, monetarily and opportunity wise for unknown actors and ones with bumper careers.
I went once on holiday and was possibly the least glamorous person in the whole town. It was too hot for me, and my translucent, mosquito ravaged South London skin, that I had self consciously covered in too many clothes. Everyone was working out and hanging out, and by the time I’d done those two things, against my will, I was physically crawling along Rodeo Drive trying to get to Sprinkles (a Cup Cake Bakery). I never made it. My husband had to remove me to the comfort of the car’s air-con to revive me.
I’ve never been back as my biggest take away from that experience was the surprising lack of theatres in a town FULL of out of work actors!
Was Cindy ever tempted? I ask. She definitely wouldn’t look as out of place as I.
“ I did go, but I agree, no theatres, it’s bizarre! We have loads of theatres here in Vancouver, it’s essential!… that’s really why I left LA as I’d rather be working on the smallest thing than sitting around waiting for a big break ” I am familiar with the earning of a career, as are hundreds of actors worldwide. We all understand the soul-destroying frustration of standing still for too long when you have a passion. Cindy adds, “There are so many theatres across Canada, were storytellers”. Theatres are the most creative space employing countless incredible creatives. I don’t blame her for heading back home. I rather admire it. It would’ve been easy to stay.
I don’t know much about the Canadian Theatre and Film industry, but it sounds much more aligned with the British version. Cindy talks about her love of Theatre and the healthy Theatre scene in Vancouver. Theatre is often the first love for British actors, and to hear Cindy couldn’t abide to be too far from one either fits perfectly with my image of her. Despite her expanding success, she very definitely ‘One Of Us’. A jobbing actor. I can imagine myself sitting in a Winnie ( usually, in the UK, distinctly unglamorous caravan actors are corralled in onset) hiding from the cold, cracking jokes and running lines or even touring on no money, round the remotest parts of the UK, charged by nothing but the thrill of a great play and a live audience.
“Directing changed me from feeling like a cog in the wheel to wanting to be collaborative and create more ambitious things with others”, Cindy reflects. I hope that means she will manage to get over here and grace our theatres, I imagine the west end will beckon, and so it should.
I find I’m delighted by her delight and look forward to seeing this exciting career flourish more. I expect it will. Cindy, I decide, is one of the lucky few destined for that holiest and rare human conditions being content! I don’t doubt she will embrace everything that comes her way; she is carrying handfuls of new opportunities and planting and nurturing every single one. How refreshing.