Q & A with Canadian Star Sidney Leeder

Actress Sidney Leeder
Actress Sidney Leeder

If you’re under the age of 45 and you haven’t seen Canadian actress Sidney Leeder on TV yet then chances are you live under a rock or don’t have a television because this young star has been on practically every hit show over the last few years.

From the multi-award winning teen dramas Degrassi: The Next Generation, Beauty and the Beast, Reign, Debra and The L.A. Complex to comedies like Life With Boys and those targeted towards a more middle-aged audience like Satisfaction, as well as the sci-fi and supernatural dramas Alphas and Lost Girl, Leeder has done it all.

Besides the glitz and glamour that comes along with working on such well-known shows, what’s impressive about this actress is the fact that mostly every role she has taken on is starkly different from the others. Leeder is definitely not an actress in danger of being pigeonholed into playing one role over and over—her versatility across the board is just too strong for typecasting.

Aside from playing countless pivotal roles on highly-rated television shows, Leeder has also made an indelible mark on the international film industry where she has not only further revealed her versatility, but displayed the kind of rare magnetism that is required to keep viewers engaged for an hour and a half or more.

For Leeder, drama is her favorite performance genre as an actress, at least for now. And her dramatic performances in films like the Lifetime Originals Salem Falls and The Hazing Secret as well as David Hewlett’s sci-fi feature film Debug take the cake. From being murdered and coming back to haunt her sorority sister’s dream in search of restitution in The Hazing Secret to starting rumors about having an affair with her high school teacher in Salem Falls and playing the spunky lead character Lara who is virtually raped to death in the film Debug, Sidney Leeder has a knack for taking on diverse characters.

Leeder was born to perform and her track record of success to date proves it. Anyone can see that she is beautiful; in fact, prior to becoming an actress she spent several years as a model signed to Elite Model Management as well as Ford Models. But, captivating an audience takes a whole lot more than beauty, and Leeder has proven that she has the emotional depth and the remarkable ability to bring characters to life on screen so seamlessly that being beautiful becomes almost secondary to her sheer talent.

To find out more about this insanely skilled young actress make sure to check out our interview below! You can also find out more about her through her website: http://www.sidneyleeder.com/

As well as through her IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4564202/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

Where are you from? 

SL: Toronto

When and how did you get into acting?

SL: I was first introduced to the art of performance through dance. I began dance training at the age of three and by age eight was traveling across Canada with a competitive team. After graduating high school I was accepted into Ryerson University’s BFA Performance Dance Program. During my freshman year I signed with Elite Model Management and began working as a professional model. Through Elite I had the opportunity audition for my first commercial, a dance spot for Joe Fresh, which I booked! It was during this experience that I realized my love for the camera and immediately took action enrolling in acting classes. After just a few months of training I was referred to agent David Ritchie at Ambition Talent and began working as a professional actor at the age of 18, and I booked my first role as a guest star in the family channel TV series What’s Up Warthogs.

Sidney Leeder
Sidney Leeder as Catherine in “Salem Falls”

 

Can you tell us a little bit about the film Salem Falls?

SL: In the movie adaptation of Jodi Picoult’s novel Salem Falls for Lifetime I played the role of Catherine, a high school student who creates a rumor that she had an affair with her professor/soccer coach that ends up sending him to prison. In the film I acted alongside Sarah Carter (The Vow) who plays the lead Annie Peabody and she makes it her mission to get to the bottom of the false accusations. I also acted alongside James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek) in the film.

How did taking on the role of Catherine in the film Salem Falls character challenge you as an actress?

SL: I booked this role during my first year of acting so I still had much to learn about the technicalities of working on camera. In one of the most pivotal scenes of the film I confess to lying about my alleged affair with professor Jack Mcbradden. The scene takes place while walking down a long passageway. It was lengthy and revealing dialogue that required serious mental concentration. In addition, continuity required specific parts of the scene to be said as I hit specific marks. Slowing and speeding my speech, monitoring my steps and delivering a convincing performance was quite a multi-tasking challenge! It was an eye-opening experience for a newbie like myself and taught me a lot about the discipline and control required to work as an actor on set. I left that day with an entirely new respect for actors on shows like The West Wing! This character was also a challenge to play, as she needed to have just the right balance of maturity and naivety. Prior to shooting I talked a lot with director Bradley Walsh about the characters motivation and significance. Having the opportunity to delve into such a complex character so early on in my career was an amazing challenge.

Canadian actress Sidney Leeder
Sidney Leeder as Melissa in “The Hazing Secret”

You were also in Lifetime’s film The Hazing Secret—what happened in this film and why was your character important to the story?

SL: In The Hazing Secret Megan, played by Shenae Grimes-Beech, loses her long-term memory in an accident she had five years ago as a sorority girl. Every night, she has the same dream of a party and the death of a sister. When she’s invited to a Greek reunion, she realizes it wasn’t just a dream. I played the role of Melissa, the sorority sister that haunts Megan’s dreams. I was a college freshman who accidently made out with the boyfriend of her sorority leader, and as punishment/sorority hazing my character is locked in a coffin where she suffocates to death due to claustrophobia. During the hazing Megan tries to protect me but has little power over queen B, Nancy. After witnessing a kiss between her sorority sister’s boyfriend Mike and I, Nancy makes it her mission to ensure that I’m punished, and throughout the film Megan attempts to unveil the secret behind my death.

Can you tell us about your role in the sci-fi film Debug?

SL: I played the lead role of Lara in the intergalactic sci-fi thriller feature film Debug. The film revolves around six computer hackers, including my character, as they try to prevent Iam, an artificial intelligence that will stop at nothing to defend his right to exist, even if it means killing the humans that get in his way. My character Lara is a free-spirited joker and party girl who’s engaged in a clandestine relationship with Mel, another young offender aboard the ship. I’m serving time in a work release program for eco-terrorism, but I can’t resist playing pranks during our mission. In my more serious moments though I admit to having a really bad feeling about the ship. When Mel, who typically wishes I’d be more discreet about our interactions, suggests a simulated sex romp, I jump at the chance — but it’s just a set-up by Iam played by Jason Mamoa.

Canadian actress Sidney Leeder
Sidney Leeder as Lara in “Debug”

Does Lara face any major transformations over the course of the film’s story?

SL: Lara is very intuitive right from the get go. She warns the others that something about this mission feels wrong and explains that she is sensitive to the energy of her surroundings but is ignored. She has a good heart and is a smart girl but her fun loving, adventurous nature often gets her into trouble. While she is timid at first about their mission she decides to make the most of the situation and use this time as an opportunity to fool around with Mel. When he suggests ‘virtual fraternization’ Lara is slightly hesitant but intrigued by the concept. She decides to follow the ships orders and enter a sensory system where she is asked to remove her clothing and enter a pool of crystal clear liquid. As she does this she is transported virtually to a blood stained prison cell where Iam awaits her. It is there that he, and every other man who has set foot on the ship rape and beat her to death.

While mentally she in this virtual reality, Lara’s physical body is actually drowning in the sensory system pool she entered. By the time Mel finds her it is too late and she is already dead. During the conclusion of the film all members of the deceased crew (including Lara) come back to life virtually and help Kaida played by Jeananne Goosen, to destroy the ships artificial intelligence for good.

How was Debug different than some of your past work?

SL: Playing Lara was tricky because she could easily be perceived as an irresponsible, foolish girl who ultimately gets what she deserves simply for having promiscuous inclinations. Refusing to settle for playing a forgettable damsel in distress I did my best to give Lara a quiet strength and a wholesome, grounded personality.

What was your favorite part of working on that project?

SL: While working on Debug I met so many amazing people. The cast and crew were incredible. I learned so much during this project simply from listening and observing others. Being on a spaceship everyday was also pretty awesome!

Can you tell us about some of your other film projects?

SL: During my first year acting I booked a role acting alongside Seann William Scott in the feature film Goon where I had the privilege of working with award winning director Michael Dowse. I played the role of an underage, inebriated young woman who projectile vomits onto Seann William Scott as he forces her to leave the bar.

In the feature film Bang Bang Baby directed by Jeffrey St. Jules I played the principal role of Eleanor, the typical mean girl from high school that makes her peers lives hell. She especially has it out for Stepphy, one of the other leads in the film, and she goes to great lengths to crush her dreams.

I was a principle dancer and actor as well as choreographer and producer on Jungle, which revolves around singer/songwriter/producer Drake as he contemplates the price of fame and the point of life. On the production I worked closely with Drake, director Karim Huu Do (Adidas), director Kristof Brandl (Converse) and award winning producer Jason Aita. In the film I played the role of a struggling dancer, a stranger Drake sees in passing and wonders what her life is like. In a quick montage you catch a glimpse of my daily routine and emotional struggles. I was also the 2nd unit producer and coordinated much of the film.

I was the lead actress Lily in the 3D film The Killer. My character Lily is a quiet killer who works at a remote gas station and feasts on her customers’ blood. In the film a serial killer enters the store with plans to kill me but I transform into a vampire and kill him instead. I also co-produced the film and while on set I had the pleasure of working with actor Jeff Pangman (Man Seeking Woman).

How about television projects?

SL: I had a guest star role in season two of The CW/Showcase television series Beauty and the Beast where I worked alongside series leads Jay Ryan and Kristin Kreuk. I played Gina, the daughter of a member of the mob, who is used to lure a beast/creature in “Kidnapped,” the second episode of season two, and I am saved by Vincent Keller, the lead character played by Jay Ryan.

I had a recurring role in season three of the TV series Lost Girl as Kasey, a Kitsune (Japanese word for fox), who is disguised as a sorority sister but is actually a magical creature with the ability to transform into a fox. I help the leads Anna Silk and Rachel Skarsten solve mysteries in multiple episodes.

I landed the role of Raquel in the 13th season of the hit TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation. My character is the new college friend of lead Biannca DeSousa played by Alicia Josipovic, and I discourage and disapprove of her engagement to her high school boyfriend Drew Torres played by Luke Bilyk.

I’ve danced in multiple episodes of the CW TV series Reign where I worked with choreographer Jennifer Nichols and performed alongside series leads Adelaide Kane, Megan Follows and Toby Regbo.

I had a guest star role in season one of the TV series Satisfaction where I played the role of Sarah, a new bartender at the bar where lead Leah Renee works. I play dumb and schmooze customers for large tips often making up elaborate dramatized stories about my grandma and aunt dying. I manage to make lead Pat Thornton fall in love with me and propose with his grandma’s heirloom ring. At this point Leah confronts me and I admit to lying at work to get what I want. I confess that I’m saving up to go on a Barenaked ladies cruise in Phuket. I had the privilege of working with Canadian comedy icon, director Mike Clattenburg. Clattenburg is best known for creating and directing the hit TV series/movie saga The Trailer Park Boys.

I acted in season one of the television series Alphas as a high school girl having a romantic evening at the high school football field with my quarterback boyfriend Marshall Williams. While making out on the bleachers I’m attacked by a zombie who ends up being a teacher from school.

I guest starred as Maggie in the TV series Life With Boys and in the show, the lead Allie Brooks played by Madison Pettis, is annoyed with the girls her brother perpetually dates so she tries to set him up with me thinking it will make him a better person. I guest starred as Cindy in the television series What’s Up Warthogs!, the new girlfriend of lead character Eric Ortiz played by Tiago Abreu. All of his friends and co-workers at the high school radio show end up loving me and he feels his position at the radio show and in his social circle is compromised. I grow more popular than him, and this ultimately this ends our relationship.

In the TV series Debra I guest starred as Helen Tibbles, the evil, controlling girlfriend of lead Auzzie played by Austin Macdonald. His friends are horrified at the thought of a future with me as his wife and bring the relationship to an end. I was also in season one of the TV series The LA Complex, which aired in the USA and Canada on the CW channel and MuchMusic.

They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?

SL: I love exploring all kinds of characters. No matter how big or small the role, each experience offers tremendous opportunity to grow as an actor and as a person.

You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?

SL: Reading the script always gives me an accurate indication of whether or not I’d like to partake in a project. Quality of writing is so important in filmmaking. To me it’s the bare bones. Without believing that you have a strong foundation, it’s challenging to execute a project with confidence. When presented with a character that is written with depth and purpose I’m instantly intrigued. Resilient, complex characters always inspire me.

Do you feel that you get cast to play a certain type of character more than others?

SL: I find that there are two main categories I typically fall into. One is innocent and vulnerable and the other is a snooty mean girl.

Out of all your productions on screen, what has been your favorite project, or projects, so far and why?

SL: I’ve enjoyed all of the productions I’ve had the pleasure of working on. Each one is special to me in its own way. Salem Falls stands out as one of my most memorable. Playing Catherine allowed me to explore the internal struggles of a young girl finding her voice as a woman. I loved the character’s dark yet innocent complexity. Being taken seriously as a young actress with something important to contribute felt like a great accomplishment. Shooting in the fall on the gorgeous campus grounds of the University of Toronto also made the experience super enjoyable. I have a soft spot for collegiate, fall films.

What has been your most challenging role?

SL: Playing Lara in Debug was my most challenging role. Physically it was demanding, as it required a drowning death scene and tons of screaming! Having to enter the headspace of a rape victim was also an emotionally exhausting experience. In addition, I was faced with the topic of nudity in film. It pushed me to be honest with myself. I learned the importance of expressing my limits and developing strong trust and respect with cast and crew. It was a big learning curve and an arduous project but I loved every second. All of the challenges I faced were huge life lessons.

What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?

SL: My favorite genre to work in is drama.

What do you feel your strongest qualities are as an actor?

SL: My scream and my boobs. Joking. My adventurous spirit and determination.

What projects do you have coming up?

SL: Bang Bang Baby is currently available to rent or buy on iTunes. Debug is now available on DVD and you can catch it on Xfinity TV. I also just wrapped a film entitled Lunch, which will screen at the Beverly Hills Playhouse Film Festival; and I’m currently writing a web series with director Brian Lee Hughes. More details to come!

What are your plans for the future?

SL: I plan on expanding my horizons to the states! I hope to continue working in the film/TV industry as an actor and look forward to landing larger, more challenging roles. This past year I had the opportunity to work behind the scenes as a production coordinator and producer on many commercial, music video and short film projects. In the future I plan on combining my knowledge of production with my passion for acting and creating my own original content.

What do you hope to achieve in your career as an actor?

SL: Creative fulfillment. Reach my full potential.

Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?

SL: Being on a film set is one of my favorite places. It’s like stepping directly into a storybook.

Acting gives me a natural high and allows me to explore myself, connect with others and imagine endless possibilities. I act because not acting simply isn’t an option. The need to perform and create has lived inherently in me for as long as I can remember. Growing up my favorite pastimes included writing and performing plays, choreographing elaborate dance routines, shooting films and starting bands. I’m happiest when performing and creating.

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