Interview: Camille Sullivan Talks “The Birdwatcher”


There is never an easy choice to make, especially when that choice is the most important one in your life. And why should it not be, if that choice can be the last one ever made? Saffron must go though the most challenging time of her life. But instead of concentrating on herself and ease the pain that’s caused by cancer, she leaves everything aside to take care of the future of her children while she can.

Saffron is an interesting character played by Camille Sullivan (THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE), who is fearless before death and energetic enough to look forward to it. During my phone interview with Camille Sullivan who took the lead role in Siobhan Devine’s THE BIRDWATCHER, it amazed me the way she accepted Saffron and interpreted her in the best way possible.

Of course, you would certainly say every actor who agrees to embark on the journey of their new character must be dedicated and convinced enough in order to convince you or me to believe in anyone they portray. But that’s not necessarily true. And that does not mean everyone follows the same rule. But Camille Sullivan certainly does, which could not make me happier.

MOVIEMOVESME: What did you see about your character in THE BIRDWATCHER we may have missed and you want to tell us about?

Camille Sullivan: One of the things I really enjoyed about the character is that as soon as she finds out her diagnosis she immediately starts to think who’s gonna care for her children. She becomes very proactive and she’s very goal focused. She just figures out what has to happen and what do I need to do. I thought that was very endearing.

MOVIEMOVESME: What adjustments did you make to get into the psyche of a character who was suffering from cancer and was yet so focused?

Camille Sullivan: The cancer diagnosis is not very dwelled on in the script. It’s just sort of something that sets things in motion. It was an obstacle for her throughout but it really becomes a journey about her reconnecting with her past and with her birth mother, coming to terms with herself, her choices and her life.

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about the scene where her daughter says, “I hate you” in spite of knowing that her mother is suffering from cancer?

Camille Sullivan: I think it is a sort of tumultuous relationship between a mother and a teenaged daughter that can emerge. Because she’s essentially a single mother, that makes that tension more and I think she can also be a bit overbearing, trying to be over-caring and her daughter reacting to that, wanting some space. Also because of the cancer diagnosis there’s a lot of pressure in the whole family.

MOVIEMOVESME: Was there something you learned from the character you played?

Camille Sullivan: Yeah, I think there are a lot of things. I think she is a very brave character and I think that bravery is worth emulating. Also, ways to move forward when there seems none.

MOVIEMOVESME: As an actress, how do you change and adjust your mindset when switching from TV to films or short films?

Camille Sullivan: I think a lot of that comes pretty naturally. They all start with a script obviously. A short film should have a satisfying story within 5-20 minutes, whatever its length. The same goes for a film for an hour and a half. The character must go through a journey in a TV series and obviously, it’s much longer. A lot of the challenges come from shooting actually. In TV you’re going through a lot very quickly. Same with independent films and short films where usually budget is a challenge. You’re still trying to move quickly but it’s a different environment. It’s really vain actually and a lot of it is really done for you by the writer and the director.

MOVIEMOVESME: What do you do to inspire the young actors you work with in your films?

Camille Sullivan: First of all, both these young actors in this film are very good and pretty well accomplished in their own right; they’re pros. But what was nice about shooting this one was that because it was low budget we all shared a trailer. So, we would lunch together every day and we would hang out between scenes and enjoy each other’s company. So, the relationship became very natural as we already felt really comfortable with each other.

MOVIEMOVESME: You play Karen in Amazon’s ‘The Man in the High Castle’. How would compare the world of ‘The Man in the High Castle’ and the world we live in?

Camille Sullivan: The world in ‘The Man in the High Castle’ is so well presented and is so interesting that I think it’s relevant to now because it’s sort of the dystopian future where men say nothing and evil reigns. I think we are at an interesting time period right now where we need people to stand up to wrong ideas, wrong beliefs and wrong moves by people in power.

MOVIEMOVESME: How does it feel like belonging to Canadian cinema compared to American actors who seem like they have more choice and opportunities? What do you want to say to young aspiring Canadian actors?

Camille Sullivan: I think this latest decision by the CRTC has hurt Canadian actor because they’ve made it easier for “Canadian Shows” to bring over American actors for their lead roles and that really does rob Canadians of the chance to get that here; It almost makes it impossible, it means you have to go to the States to come back and work in Canada; not always but it is a huge stumbling block and a big mistake by the CRTC. I suggest young actors and actresses write their MPs and say how unhappy they are with the decision and that Canadian government should protect Canadian TV and Film industry.

MOVIEMOVESME: Coming back to The Bird Watcher, what do you want the viewer to get from the film, especially someone who may be in a similar situation?

Camille Sullivan: There are a lot things but I think the idea of the rekindling of the relationship; it’s never too late. You can always take a second chance and change what you’ve been doing.

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