Interview with Tammy Gillis, star of “Menorca”: “It wasn’t really safe”

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“It’s all about changing the look,” Tammy Gillis explained. “You just have to show them, you’re not afraid. ‘I want this part. What’s it going to take? You want me to shave my head? I’ll do that.'”

Tammy is fearless. She tackles each and every role with nothing less than everything she has to offer. And her dedication has paid off. After last week’s highly-anticipated appearance as Jill — from Jack and Jill — on ABC’s hit series, “Once Upon a Time,” Tammy will be starring in John Barnard’s riveting “Menorca” (Farpoint Films). “Menorca” has been selected as an entrant in the Borsos Film Competition for “Best Canadian Feature” and it will be screening at the Whistler Film Festival on Saturday, December 3 at 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday, December 4 at 3:30 p.m. in the Village 8 Cinemas in Whistler, before having a wider theatrical release across Canada… and possibly beyond.

In “Menorca,” Tammy plays Claire, a woman addicted to the pleasure of the moment. Early in the movie, one of her many escapades goes awry and while she is left stranded with no credit or vehicle, she receives a crushing phone call from the one person she cares about more than herself. Devastated, she comes up with a plan for redemption, but it is not anything you might expect.

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“Menorca” successfully employees a number of strategies and utilizes devices such as voice-over and, in a key part, subtitles to pull the viewer deep into Claire’s chaotic whirlwind of a life. There are elements of humor which keep the story from becoming too dark, but what ultimately makes this movie work is Tammy Gillis. Frequently, the camera lingers on a close-up of the actor and the story only moves forward because of the subtle shades of emotion she so deftly reveals in the slightest change in her expression. A defiant, faraway gaze, betrayed by a single tear. Tammy’s masterful work makes the intensely intimate “Menorca” a powerful film that is wholly absorbing. You might not care for Claire’s actions, but Gillis gives you just enough to make you care about the character.

“It’s interesting because when I was shooting it, it felt a lot darker and more dramatic to me,” Tammy told Entertaining Options. “But I’ve seen the screener and it definitely has some darker comedic elements to it. That shouldn’t have surprised me because I know the director and I know his sense of humor – ‘Menorca’ is very much a John Bernard film.”

In her day-to-day life, Tammy needs to be “super organized,” detail-oriented, and focused. She takes meticulous notes about the characters she portrays, especially on television, because she needs to be consistent from episode to episode. Interestingly, that’s pretty much the antitheses of her character in this film — Claire is a woman who is appealing because of her outrageous sense of adventure and her rather enviable carefree nature concerning most details.

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“That’s very true! She’s definitely very, very different than me,” Tammy laughed. “She would go and take these little adventures because she needed something in her life in order to keep going. Yes, she had her family and she had her son, but I believe that if she didn’t go on these adventures, she would probably kill herself.”

So where and how does Tammy connect so deeply to Claire?

“As you said, I work really hard,” Tammy explained. “But if I don’t keep really busy doing things, I can fall into a dark place. So it wasn’t that hard to imagine what it would be like for her. We shot the movie in Winnipeg and I’m actually from Manitoba. That could have been my life. It’s sort of crazy to think about, but it’s true. I always wanted more, so the day after I graduated from high school, I left my hometown. I just had to get out of there because I wanted more.”

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And more is exactly what she is getting. Because of her aforementioned fearlessness and dedication, Tammy keeps extremely busy with her acting. Besides “Once Upon a Time” and “Menorca,” Tammy has appeared in Hallmark’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Truth Be Told” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Impossible Dream,” UP TV’s “Ties That Bind,” Syfy’s “Continuum,” The CW’s “Supernatural,” and Mark Sawers’ comedy “No Men Beyond This Point” to name but a few of her many roles. Additionally, Gillis has a role in the new E! Network series, “The Arrangement” and she will be in the feature film “Thirty-Seventeen,” which is debuting in December.

In the span of just six months, Tammy played several very different roles, something most actors could only dream of doing.

“After last year, I really thought that I wouldn’t have to work so hard to get people to see me in different roles,” she noted. “But then I booked ‘Unleashing Mr. Darcy’ and ‘Wedding Bells’ with Hallmark and found that I was being pushed into this ‘best friend’ category and I wasn’t really getting an opportunity to play anything outside of that.”

So Tammy took a variety of headshots, all showing different looks, to try and get the industry to realize that playing a ‘best friend’ wasn’t the only place where she fit in.

“It took a little while, but then I got ‘The Arrangement,’ which is a very different kind of role for me. And then I got ‘Once Upon a Time.’ They are both pretty dark. In ‘The Arrangement,’ I’m sort of the shy loaner girl who is kind of messed up, so that was very different for me. But also very fun. They were both really challenging rolls for me and it kind of scared me as an actor because it wasn’t something I was used to doing. It wasn’t really safe.”

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Then, she did a complete 180 for “Thirty-Seventeen.”

“I played a mean girl who is kind of funny… but still really mean,” she informed.

“You know what’s funny?” she asked. “For the first time in my career, I’ve started saying no to roles. I’m at the point where I want to either be challenged by a role or excited by it. I’ve also started trying to create my own projects and I’ve started directing. Now, when it’s quiet with acting, instead of getting frantic that I might never work again, I just do something different that is still in that world and is really fun and super challenging.”

You can see Tammy’s captivating performance in “Menorca” at the Whistler Film Festival on Saturday, December 3 at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 4 at 3:30 p.m. Then watch for the film’s upcoming theatrical release across Canada.

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