From the prairies to the podium



Tammy Gillis with her award for best actress at the UBCP/ACTRA ceremony in November. (Photo courtesy of UBCP/ACTRA




McCreary actress becoming an award ceremony regular

By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

To be a consistently working actor in the film industry can be extremely difficult, but Tammy Gillis has found a way. Of course, the growing list of awards and accolades upon her shelf may be helping to ensure that the Dauphin born and McCreary raised performer stays in demand.

Sixteen months ago, the Neepawa Banner & Press interviewed Gillis, as she prepared for her first feature length lead role, in the independent film, Menorca (From rural girl to Hollywood star, Aug. 4, 2016). The dramatic feature was about a hedonistic soccer mom, who embarks on a journey of self-discovery and seeks to reconnect with her estranged son.  And now, almost a year and a half later, the results of that work are being seen and perhaps more importantly, recognized. 

Last month, Gillis’s performance won her the best actress award at the UBCP/ACTRA Awards in Vancouver. Aside from her win in Canada, Gillis’ performance has also been deemed award worthy at the Noida International Film Festival, the Black Sea Film Festival in Romania and the Solaris Film Festival in France. She noted that the reaction to the film and her part of it, has been incredible and completely unexpected. 

“Some of the places where I won an award, we were surprised that they had even screened the movie, so that was just really amazing,” remarked Gillis. “For this film, which was made completely with Canadian filmmakers, to break through like it has, has been pretty amazing.”


An interesting character arc

What might be even more amazing is Gillis’ portrayal of Claire, a lead character who most people would not likely find a sympathetic protagonist. Claire is a wife and mother who is not enthralled with her lot in life. After temporarily escaping from the suburban life one time too many, she finds her family no longer wish to be what she settles for. The film’s arc then sees Claire travel to Spain, and more specifically, the island of Menorca in the Mediterranean Sea. A character like that could very easily be disliked by the audience, but the majority of reviews have commended Gillis for making Claire more than just a bad mom archetype. She said that the complexity she discovered within this role was a real challenge.

“It’s interesting, because this could have gone one of two ways. You don’t know how it’s going to end up and how people are going to receive it. Before I even started shooting, I had received some negative feedback from people I had spoken with about the character. They just felt, you know ‘This woman, how could this woman leave her family and especially her child?’ I thought that it was an interesting story to tell. And, personally, the role was a challenging one and a bit scary to shoot, because of the character and some of the decisions she’d make. But now that it’s completed and is receiving the attention that it has, people really came along with the story and started to understand this woman. I knew this was going to be a big challenge and that I needed to show many layers with the performance and what Claire is going through. It’s one of the best roles I’ve played and completely terrified me and excited me at the same time.”

Once the filming was done, the real work began in the form of getting a Canadian independent movie noticed in an extremely crowded film distribution market. Gillis noted that has been an interesting endeavour.


The little film that could

“We sort of talk about it as the little film that could and still does. It just keeps going and going, which has been so great, because when you make an independent film, you have no idea if anyone will ultimately see the end result. So, we’ve been really lucky,” Gillis remarked. “This past summer, when we were screening it in Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver. That was a little bit of a whirlwind for me, because I was flying from screening to screening and city to city. Doing press and getting the film out there. So, it was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.”

There has been very little down time for Gillis, as she has jumped right into several projects. She recently finished shooting a four episode arc on the Sy Fy Network show Ghost Wars. As well, she is currently filming a new show called Sirens, which will appear on the American channel named Freeform. If that weren’t enough, she also is committed to a feature film called A Dog’s Way Home, slated to hit theatres in 2018. 

Tammy Gillis - George Lawson Photography -IMG 1637 edit 1 blur crop1 copy

Photo property of George Lawson Photography

Fascinating journey from McCreary to Hollywood

The journey from being a child fascinated with the Manitoba Theatre Centre’s annual travelling theatre show; to a young amateur thespian involved in the McCreary Drama Club and finally an acclaimed professional actress with a varied resume of roles, has been an incredible one for Gillis. Through it all however, she is mindful of remembering her Manitoba roots.

“I’m just so grateful to be working. I’m thankful to my management team, my agent, who is actually from Winnipeg, her name is Samantha Jewell. She’s been incredible in handling my scheduling. As well, my family just instilled in me such a strong work ethic,” Gillis said. “Thank you to everyone in Manitoba for their continued support. It’s been so wonderful and I am very grateful for it. What’s so great about being from a smaller community like McCreary, is how supportive everyone has been. It’s something I truly value.”