I recently had the pleasure of putting some questions to Canadian actress Ali Liebert, who I (and my long-time Boomtron followers) know best as “Nikki the bartender” from Harper’s Island. We talk about what her current projects are–hint: she has a lot!–and what it’s like working with people who have household name recognition. Read on to find out what she had to say!
Elena Nola: Since I know you from Harper’s Island, I want to start off with a few questions about that. First, simply, what was your favorite part about that series?
My favorite part was forming a friendship with the kind and lovely Elaine Cassidy (Abby Mills). We still hang out whenever I’m in LA. Also working with my old friend Ben Cotton was fabulous. Friendships are always the best part of any show. In terms of the actual filming process, shooting my death scene with Callum Keith Renne was kinda epic. Gotta admit, thought I looked pretty badass handling that short barrelled shot gun 🙂 Too bad Nikki wasn’t quick enough for Wakefield 🙁
What do you think about The Killing on AMC, since it’s kind of following a precedent set by Harper’s to follow one specific storyline for one season, and everyone knows going in that’s the entirety of the story…is that a trend you see getting more popular? How do you feel about shows that have a finite length?
The Killing is fantastic. I think the concept is very exciting and one with great potential for popularity. I think this formula can be very successful because the audience can get involved and join in immediately because there aren’t 700 story lines to follow from the previous season. Maybe you could tell the producers I’d love to be a part of Season 2? As a side note, like Harper’s Island, The Killing is filmed in Vancouver, so it’s wonderful to see many of my friends (like Brandon McLaren and Kacey Rohl) on the show.
Speaking of popular shows, you recently made an appearance on Hellcats. Did you get to do any singing?
No singing on Hellcats for me, only whining, stressing and whining! I played a Bridezilla! I actually was played the wife to Matt Barr’s (Sully on Harper’s) brother on Hellcats. Harper’s fans loved that that particular episode of Hellcats had 3 Harper’s cast in it: Matt, Ben Cotton, and myself. They freaked out! I do get to sing in a feature film coming out this year called Afghan Luke starring Nick Stahl. I play the sweet and simple Miss Freedom, a cheerleader type USO entertainer for the troops in Afghanistan. I do a mean rendition of “Going to a Go-Go” complete with a Mick Jagger impression.
You just wrapped Sisters and Brothers with Cory Monteith from Glee, right? Can you tell us anything about the film, and your character? Is there singing there?
My character in Sisters and Brothers is a wanna-be actress named Traci Coach. The director Carl Bessai and I created her together. She is my tribute to all those girls who think they deserve to be famous, just because they think they should be. She is very much of the People magazine, US Weekly world. Cory and I have been pals forever, so it was a blast improv-ing with him. It’s a thrilling way to shoot, but I did lots of improv at theatre school, so I was ready for it.
You also recently finished filming a movie called The Discarded Boys with Michael Clarke Duncan and Vivica A. Fox. What can you tell us about that movie and your character?
The Discarded Boys is based on the real experiences of the people who attend and teach at a special school in North Carolina called “The Hive.” The Hive was created to provide a safe place for troubled boys to get a second chance at an education, learn about technology and also about breaking the cycle of living life on the streets, in gangs, and in jail. I play Parker Whitmore, a newbie teacher from NYC who arrives at the Hive to teach the boys English. She goes on quite a journey in this film as she learns what it takes to really be a good teacher.
This role is an important one for me as it marks my first lead in a dramatic feature. The film stars an impressive list of Hollywood heavy hitters, including Academy Award nominee Michael Clarke Duncan, Loretta Devine and Vivica A. Fox. Rounding out the cast is the film’s lead Jonathan ‘Lil J’ McDaniel (That’s So Raven), who plays Xtra, one of the Hive’s top students and a former gangbanger. The extraordinary woman who started The Hive, Vivian Saunders, who is portrayed as Miss Inez (played by Loretta Devine in the film), still serves as the Executive Director of the organization. Directed by Robert Townsend, the film is set to premiere on July 6th, 2011 in Miami at the American Black Film Festival, of which Townsend is a founding board member.
So this movie is obviously an emotionally charged drama. How was it switching tracks from lighter/more genre-oriented projects to something serious?
I don’t find it difficult switching genres because usually you have enough time to really figure out what you are doing for each individual project.
That being said, I have had a few days in my career where I have shot two projects on the same day! That was a challenge – but a welcomed one!
What kinds of roles do you see yourself gravitating to more in the future (and what would you LIKE to do more of, if it’s not the same thing)?
I’d love to do a period piece, set in the 40’s or 50’s. Maybe a struggling housewife of some kind. Maybe she has a problem with pills or men – or both.
I’m also really obsessed with playing a cop. And a villain.
Assuming you’re ever intimidated by or nervous about working with particular co-stars : ), would you say it’s harder to work with someone who is currently very popular (such as Cory, being one of the heartthrobs on Glee) or someone who has gotten nominated for awards (such as Michael Clarke Duncan, who was nominated for an Academy Award for The Green Mile)?
Cory is a good buddy, we are both from Vancouver Island and studied with the same acting teacher, Andrew McIlroy for years, so nope, definitely no nerves there. As for MCD, it truly was an honour working with him and also Loretta Devine. When we first met, I was a little nervous, but then once I slipped into the magic bubble of the scene, the nerves disappeared because I was focused on my character’s needs, not “oh my God! I’m acting with Michael Clarke Duncan and Loretta Devine!” No matter what situation I’m in, I find my character always takes care of me.
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure type of show or movie to watch?
OK, don’t judge me, but I love watching the reality show Til Debt Do Us Part. The host Gail Vaz-Oxlade is so brutally honest with these married couples who are absolutely clueless about money. It’s kinda boring and kinda fabulous at the same time. And Millionaire Matchmaker. Wow, I can’t believe I admitted that to you.
I won’t tell…er… : ). Let me close out by asking what is up next for you?
A Stage show! I can hardly turn my neck right now because of my dance rehearsal yesterday.
The True Heroines “Live” Show is a classic, fast paced Cabaret Style show that was created as a companion to support the upcoming original web-series…wait for it…The True Heroines. The “Live” component helps fill in the back-story of the titular heroines & villains…and in this particular installment, the audience will learn all about the formation of the “evil corporation” and how my oddball character, the unmarried and socially awkward Ethel Worthington, comes to discover Paradise Hill. The show also stars the fabulous Leah Gibson (Planet of the Apes, Twilight) and 7 other wildly talented performers including one of the show’s creators, Joel Sturrock. I haven’t had the opportunity to sing and dance on stage for what seems like forever, so I’m pretty darn pumped to croon and shake my tail feathers!
As for film and television…I’m up for 2 exciting projects right now…but it’s too soon to tell! I will post all announcements on my blog on my website (http://www.aliliebert.com/).
Thanks for chatting!
Elena Nola is the imperial movie critic and the colder half of the Ladies of Ice and Fire.