As much as we’d all like to believe that one day we’ll get that letter from Hogwarts or that we too could join Frodo on his quest, we recognize that fantasy is just that: fantasy, but for Canadian actress Allie Bertram, the fantasy blends into reality as she takes on her role as Mimmi, one of the many mermaids in the show Mako Mermaids (also known as Mako: Island of Secrets in Australia, where the show first airs on Eleven).
As great as fantasy is for offering an escape from reality, when I sat down to talk with Bertram last week, she told me that what she loves most about being part of the show is how “real” it is. For Bertram, she feels good about being on the show because it shows strong, female characters solving problems on their own and it gives young girls good role models that are lacking from a lot of other shows on television right now.
As an example, Bertram plays Mimmi, a mermaid who is “by the book, honest and loyal” but as the show enters its fourth season (currently filming for release in 2016), Bertram says that fans of the show might see a different side of Mimmi. Mimmi will have to struggle with competing priorities (her pod of mermaids and her newly discovered merman brother Zac versus her new boyfriend) and will have to figure out who she can trust with the mermaids’ secrets.
When asked about the comparison between her and her character, Bertram says that “for one, I’m not a mermaid”, much to my own amusement. But in all seriousness, Bertram adds that she considers herself “nerdy, but quirky” like Mimmi and that she tries to be honest and true to herself like her character. Mimmi, she reveals, is a bit more stubborn and naïve than she considers herself to be though.
The show itself films in Australia and Bertram, as a self-proclaimed “travelholic”, says that she’s come to love the country, especially Sydney, Melbourne and the Great Barrier Reef. She also tells me a story about traveling to Africa and reaching the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, going on safari and hearing so many amazing stories from the locals. It’s a place she would love to bring her family, boyfriend or kids to in the future. Bertram also says she needs travel companions to help her eat her way through Italy and hike the Andes and surf in South America, but maybe different people – she says with a laugh.
Bertram wasn’t always an actress though. Her interest in the arts began through dance and at the age of 18, she competed on the first season of So You Think You Can Dance Canada, where she finished in second overall – the top girl of her year. In reminiscing about the whole process, Bertram says that “it all happened so fast” and because it was a live show, she didn’t fully embrace everything that had happened until after it was all over.
It was also a different time, she says, before instagram and twitter. Back in 2008, facebook was the primary method of self-promotion and how she interacted with her fans. Now, she says, her fans tag her in pictures on instagram and she gets to see amazing edits of pictures of her character. Back then, there was also no Netflix. Seasons 1 through 3 of Mako Mermaids are on Netflix and, as a result, Bertram says she’s gaining new fans all the time, which is a very awesome thing.
Bertram also reveals that she didn’t think about acting until she was on the reality show, saying that her favorite part of performing had always been the “storytelling” aspect and so the translation to acting was natural, in some sense. Dance gave her the discipline to prepare for a role in the same way and the awareness of how her body looks on film or one stage that doesn’t come naturally to some actors, but in another sense, she says that she had to learn to find her voice, which was something she rarely, if ever, used while dancing.
When asked where she draws inspiration from, Bertram lists some of her favorite television shows at the moment: Period pieces like The Tudors and Reign and shows with strong, but real female characters like The Mindy Project. Bertram says her ideal role would be to “time travel” and play a role in a period piece. As for actresses Bertram lists names like Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Carey Mulligan and Zooey Deschanel for her “quirk factor”. The former three women, Bertram says, are the kind of “real women telling real stories” that she herself strives to be. But Bertram, when asked what advice she would give young actors, says to “be yourself because there’s a role for everyone”. In Hollywood, roles get written for actors all the time because they’re undeniable and compelling in their own way. Bertram says that being true to yourself is the best way to come to terms with failure and embrace success.