Karyn Mott: a detective in “Gracepoint”

MOTT (7)

Imagine a small town in the United States, where everyone knows each other, quiet, with no crime. But suddenly, everything changes: a young boy is found dead on the beach.

Who has murdered the boy? Someone outside the community? Some neighbor? So, who can you trust now?

Karyn Mott portrays Angela Schulz in “Gracepoint”, this TV show based on the UK television series “Broadchurch”. She is one of Detective Miller’s main team and she helps sift through the information and investigation of the young boy’s murder.

The actress has made a lot of research to portray Angela, learning about the detective lifestyle and about her personal life in “Gracepoint”.

In a conversation with The Outsider Argentina, Karyn spoke about her recent movie “Happy Face”, the opportunity of being on “Gracepoint” and her experience on stage.

How did you start acting?

I was always performing as a young child. It started with putting on shows with my friends for our parents, progressing to my first play when I was six years old with a company called Stage Polaris. My first pivotal memory is of performing in a show called “How to Eat Like a Child” where I got to wear a big pink frilly dress and eat McDonald’s french fries on stage and I thought “this is the job for me”. I have never looked back. As I continued to perform it became about a lot more than the fun costumes and free food, it grew into an immense passion. I was blessed with parents who encouraged their children to follow their dreams, so I never questioned my passion and desire to be an actor. I received my Bachelor in Fine Arts in Acting from the University of Alberta and worked steadily in theatre until I moved to Vancouver and was given the opportunity to work in film and television after numerous years of hard work and experiences.

What can you tell us about your recently movie “The Happy Face Killer”?

Happy Face Killer is a film inspired by the real-life events of the serial killer Keith Jesperson. Over the course of two years, Jesperson, played by David Arquette, kills at least 8 women. Keith is an aspiring Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer (Mountie) who now earns his living as a long haul truck driver. After learning that he failed to become a Mountie coupled with a failed marriage, Jesperson kills his first victim after an argument and for the next five years would kill at least 7 other women. Upset after a woman confesses that she and her boyfriend are responsible for one of his murders, he begins to taunt the authorities and local newspapers through a series of disturbing letters always signing the letters and marking his victims with a happy face. This earned him the nickname “The Happy Face Killer”. I play one of Keith’s victims, a girl of questionable morals who frequents truck stops. I meet my end in a grisly manner, involving rope, the underside of a truck, and the signature duct tape smile of the Happy Face Killer. This was my first opportunity to be on a film set in my life and I couldn’t have asked for a cooler scene to start on. Through this experience I was bitten by the film bug and am looking forward to many more roles in film.

How did you get the opportunity of being on “Gracepoint”?

Everything fell into place in just the right way for me to be prepared to audition for Gracepoint. I had just finished my first film intensive at the Actor’s Foundry with Matthew Harrison, where I was able to developed my film skills and learn the subtle differences between stage acting and film acting. One of the other participants in the intensive mentioned the British TV show Broadchurch and how they were going to begin filming an American adaptation called Gracepoint. I began watching Broadchurch and was hooked. The next day I received a call from my agent about an audition for a detective on Gracepoint. Having studied Broadchurch I was able to have a strong emotional analysis of the people living in the town and the arc of the characters. When I got the audition script I used my own process for developing the character, while integrating the style I had gathered from watching the show. I went to Clarke and Page Casting on a Friday and was called soon after for a callback the next day. At the callback I did a second scene and met Tom Butler in the waiting area. As he was leaving we said to each other “see you on set” and low and behold he went on to play Chief Morgan and I Angela Schulz. I am forever grateful that Clark and Page had faith in me and sent my audition onto the production team for Gracepoint. Long story short, hard work and small talk connected all the dots to my role on Gracepoint.

What is “Gracepoint” about?

Gracepoint is based on the widely popular and critically acclaimed UK television series Broadchurch and is about a small seaside town in the United States that has no history of crime or foul play. When a young boy is found dead on the beach, a major police investigation gets underway. Quickly deemed a homicide investigation, the case turns the whole community upside down and sparks a media and social frenzy in this usually quiet and serene town. When anyone could be the killer, who can you trust?

Detective Emmett Carver (David Tennant) has just recently arrived in Gracepoint as the police department’s head investigator; a position previously promised to Detective Ellie Miller (Anna Gunn). The entire town of Gracepoint is pulled into the chaos and rumours that surround the investigation. You can catch my pretty face as a keen detective on Anna Gunn’s team.

Without spilling any secrets I can definitely say that each episode will leave you in suspense.

How can you describe your character Angela Schulz?

How to describe Ms. Angela Schulz? She is a detective at the Gracepoint Police Department and is one of Detective Miller’s main team. Along with Detective Luis Sanchez and Detective Frank Bryant she helps sift through the information and investigation of the young boy’s murder. She is a very passionate and driven investigator whose loyalty lies with Detective Miller and the people of the town.

How did you prepare yourself to portray your role?

As soon as I found out that I was cast I began doing as much research as I could into the lifestyle and job description of a police investigator. I asked my best friend who watches all the crime shows. I read articles and books and asked other people I knew who had experience in this type of work. I also studied different shows on murder investigations and learned as much of the language as I could. I went to set on the first day with a strong idea of the type of person Detective Angela Schulz was, but also with an openness to change and develop whatever Dan Fullerman, the writer of the show, may suggest.

In building the character of Angela Schulz, I began with everything that the script explained about her. I had a good idea of the character foundation that was presented for Angela from the drafts of the episodes I read and then I fleshed out a persona for her. I took in to context how long she had been in the Gracepoint, how long she had been a detective, her relationship to the community and to the Solano family, her relationships with her fellow detectives and then allowed myself to build a back story that fit her description. I also had a lot of fun sitting in the make-up chair chatting with the makeup artists and creating life events Angela had experienced, good old fashioned girl talk as if I was Angela. This led to an ongoing development of her character.

What can people expect from the show that is coming up soon?

I definitely think people can expect to be immersed into the investigation of this 10 episode mystery series. It is a ‘whodunit’ with a twist, where everyone is not only a friend but a potential suspect. The plot is compelling and each episode leaves you talking around the water cooler about who you think ‘did it’.

The cast is a line-up of amazingly talented actors who truly bring life and depth to the tragedy affecting this once sleepy and serene small town.

You’ve been in many plays, which one was the most challenging one? Why?

I think each play I have worked on had its own individual set of challenges specific to different aspects. Obstacles can be present relating to the script, the character, the plot or the music. I can think of many different stories but there is one that stands out prominently as presenting an opportunity to grow as a performer and human being. It was a production of “A Christmas Carol” at the Citadel Theatre, in Edmonton, a show I had performed in previously and one that I had also watched for several years. Having known the script so well, and having heard the dialogue of the character from the voices of woman I looked up to, I was challenged to find my interpretation of the character that still aligned with the writer’s vision of the character. I admired this woman so much and found myself on autopilot with the words. It was a lack of trust in myself and my ability to do the character justice. The director, Bob Baker was adamant about me finding my voice and truly performing the lines, he pushed me to be noticed and memorable. Through this I found a greater trust in my work and in my ability to develop my own character. It was my first production after graduating from university and so I also feel like I placed too much emphasis on how I could impress others and my desire to prove my ability, instead of trusting my process and my work.

You are a stage, screen and television actress, what do you like to do the most?

I think my heart will always have a fondness and first love of theatre. It is where I first discovered my passion and where I spent and continue to spend a lot of my time. Film and television is definitely a brand new adventure for me and one that I am really enjoying exploring as I becoming more familiar with the film industry. Of course all three are avenues of performing that I would love to keep working in. It’s hard to pick a favorite with all mediums being so different. I found that so much of what I learn from live theatre translates and deepens my skills as a film and television actress and vice versa. So I like all of them best and am eager to continue doing what I love.

Samantha Schuster