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Elizabeth is a Vancouver-based writer, editor, and author. Her first book “Beyond Black and White” is available now. She is an old soul who's young at heart, a human jukebox, and a corgi lady in training. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @ElizabethThe.

Full of Grace: Interview with Gracepoint’s Alisen Down

Alisen Down

Image Credit: Pennant Media Group

Award-winning Canadian actress Alisen Down stars the new crime drama television series, Gracepoint (an adaptation of the hit British series, Broadchurch) as Kathy Eaton, the Editor of the Gracepoint Journal. The story centers around the murder of a twelve-year old boy in a small seaside town in California, and the mystery behind the homicide places everyone in Gracepoint under the spotlight as potential suspects. As the voice of the town, Kathy is in the middle of the media frenzy and must balance her compassion with her journalistic integrity in her search for the truth.

In an exclusive interview with The Hudsucker, Alisen spills the scoop on her acting background, her audition for Kathy, and what viewers should anticipate during the inaugural season of Gracepoint.

The Hudsucker: When and how did you discover your passion for acting?

Alisen Down: When I was quite young. I used to write plays and perform them for my elementary school class. I always loved movies, loved actors…then in high school I was in every play I could possibly do and spent most of my time in the drama room. It’s where I have always felt the most comfortable.

The Hudsucker: In what ways did your studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the British American Academy in Oxford prepare you for your career?

Down: I wouldn’t be the actor I am today without that training. It gave me a base to draw from and a foundation to stand on. I believe every actor should train at some point.

The Hudsucker: How did you come across Gracepoint and what intrigued you about the show?

Down: My agent sent me the audition. I thought it was really well written and loved the character of Kathy. I jumped at the chance to be involved.

The Hudsucker: Tell us about your unique audition experience for the role of Kathy Eaton. The character was meant to be older, but the character was aged closer to your age. What made you stand out to the casting team?

Down: Yes, she was meant to be much older. The producers, Anya Epstein and Daniel Futterman, loved my audition. They called me and said I was the best actor they saw for it but I was too young and too pretty. They asked if I would cut my hair and have grey put in it to age me up for the role and I said yes. I was on a plane a couple of days later getting my hair cut! We all decided to make Kathy early 40s, which was a more believable age for me than late 40s.

The Hudsucker: Tell us about Kathy Eaton. What do you like about your character?

Down: Kathy is an amazing woman in my opinion. She is strong, smart, funny, and compassionate. I like the moral compass by which she dictates her life and her job. And I believe she is a very savvy reporter. She goes after the truth by telling the truth. And that is rare.

The Hudsucker: As the editor of the local newspaper, Kathy represents an example of strong and vocal female leadership in a small town community. Did you draw inspiration from other women in media when developing your character?

Down: Yes, she is kind of the voice of Gracepoint, as the editor of the paper. I actually drew Kathy completely from Kathy. She is so well written by Anya and Daniel that I didn’t feel any need to look outside the scripts for inspiration. If there was a comparison to be drawn, I might say Diane Sawyer, because she seems to be a woman of integrity, much like Kathy.

The Hudsucker: What have you learned about media and journalism in relation to the coverage of sensitive topics like homicide?

Down: Well, these topics are not always covered sensitively and are often twisted, even just a little, to benefit the news outlet they are covered by. I believe the difference with Kathy is she covers stories compassionately while still able to tell a compelling truth.

The Hudsucker: Did you watch the original UK version, Broadchurch in preparation for your role in the series? What are the differences between Broadchurch and Gracepoint?

Down: I watched it after I was cast. Obviously other than David Tennant the cast is different! As for the rest, I am going to choose to be coy and say you will have to watch because there will be differences!

The Hudsucker: What was it like to work with David Tennant, Anna Gunn, fellow Canadian actor Kevin Zegers, and the rest of the cast?

Down: All were amazing. And watching the show now, I can see how absolutely wonderful everyone’s performances are. Such a solid cast.

Image Credit: Gracepoint/FOX

The Hudsucker: Glancing at your extensive filmography (Battlestar Galactica, DaVinci’s Inquest, Stargate SG-1, Smallville, Flashpoint, Supernatural, Haven, it appears you are drawn to television series with an air of mystery and/or supernatural/sci-fi elements. What is it that compels you to these genres?

Down: I like the challenge of finding the everyday in the extraordinary. I like the challenge of making these worlds seem real and believable. There is so much imagination to these genres and I like being a part of that.

The Hudsucker: You were born and raised in British Columbia and now live in Toronto. What do you like about Vancouver and Toronto?

Down: I love both cities! Vancouver will always be a part of my heart, it is such a breathtaking city. And Toronto has so many communities and activities and culture and history. I feel blessed to have lived in both places.

The Hudsucker: Gracepoint is set in a beachside community on the coast of California, but is filmed in Victoria, BC. How has that filming experience been like?

Down: I love Victoria! It is a wonderful place, fantastic people, amazing scenery. If you have never been, go in the summer and just…enjoy.

The Hudsucker: Who are your acting inspirations?

Down: Lauren Bacall was a huge one for me. And I love women like Kate Winslet, Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench…

The Hudsucker: What drives you to act?

Down: It’s the way I understand the world. And I know no other way.

The Hudsucker: What advice do you have for aspiring actors?

Down: As Kevin Spacey once said “learn to love the struggle.”

The Hudsucker: What can we expect next on Gracepoint?

Down: I can’t say much without giving away the plot but I will say the mystery deepens and the story becomes much more exciting!

* * * * *

Alisen’s ardent attitude, dedication to her acting craft, and willingness to transform into her character are just three of the many qualities ensuring that the actress’s presence will grace our television screens for years to come.

To keep up with Alisen, follow her on Facebook and Twitter. For more information and updates on Gracepoint, be sure to follow the show on Facebook and Twitter. Gracepoint airs on Thursdays at 9PM EST/PST on FOX and Global.

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  1. Interview with Gracepoint’s Alisen Down | Elizabeth Rosalyn - October 16, 2014

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