Sometimes a small role in a big budget movie can be enough to boost an actor’s career and showcase their talent. Many actors do not get such chances easily and wait in shadow – or maybe behind the curtain – remaining unknown to the viewer and hoping for that right moment to arrive for them to take the stage. Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” starring Matt Damon as a lead, brought one name to us. And I am sure, we as viewers will have many chances from now on to hear the name Kathryn Aboya.
It was my great pleasure to meet and interview Kathryn Aboya during Toronto International Film Festival. As you will see, it was absolutely not a coincident that Kathryn got casted for this role, playing such a pivotal part for Matt Damon’s character. Her story, that I came to know during the interview, was truly remarkable. And I hope you will enjoy it as well.
MOVIEMOVESME: Kathryn, can you please talk about the character you portray in “Downsizing”?
Kathryn Aboya: I play the woman who gives Paul – the lead character played by Matt Damon – the drugs at the party. That gets him to go and live a different life.
MOVIEMOVESME: It is quite an important moment and a turning point for the main character. How did you actually end up playing that role in the film?
Kathryn Aboya: I auditioned for Duson’s (Christopher Waltz) French-speaking girlfriend. I’m fluent in French, so I auditioned for her role. Afterward, I didn’t hear anything from them for three weeks, so I thought it was done and dusted. Then, my agent calls me, saying that they have a role but it’s not the French character. The director seemed to want me in the film either way. And the role was to kiss Matt Damon. There were no lines, just kissing Matt Damon and passing a pill to him. My agent asked if I was interested and I said no. Because if I did that for my first character ever in Hollywood, everyone was going to think I could not act. So, I asked my agent what she would advise and she said: “You’ll do whatever Alexander Payne and Matt Damon tell you to do.”
MOVIEMOVESME: Could you tell a bit about the auditions? I know that it didn’t happen in Toronto, right? It was in LA?
Kathryn Aboya: No, the audition was here. I auditioned for the French girl’s character. The casting director – John Jackson asked if I had any questions before we started. I said no. He was surprised and asked: “Really? You’ve no questions? I want you to ask questions if you have any.” And I did have a million questions, so I started asking them. Then, he suggested to try the character one way.
We did that, then he said: “Okay, try it this way now.” So we tried another way, and then the third time we just did a freestyle. Then he asked me to make sure I left my headshot. He was happy with my audition, and in the end, Alexander wanted me in the film. He said: “We just need someone who’s going to be comfortable kissing Matt. They can’t be nervous kissing him.” And I thought that was fine. I could do that!
MOVIEMOVESME: Do you think that during the audition it’s helpful when the casting director allows you to improvise?
Kathryn Aboya: Oh yeah. John was amazing. He was so open and he wanted me to ask questions. He wanted me to feel comfortable. And he obviously has been doing it for a long time, so he really knows what he’s doing. We didn’t necessarily improvise, but he made me feel very free and open. The second time, obviously, when we were discussing the scene with Matt, there was no audition process, it was just me sitting down with John and Alexander having a conversation. That was it. Because, obviously, how are they going to audition me for a kiss, right?
MOVIEMOVESME: “Downsizing” is about overpopulation, and downsizing of people, making them smaller. What do you think about the concept of the film? And how do you think it’s relevant nowadays?
Kathryn Aboya: I think it’s a really cool concept. I’d love to do it. I’d have a great life. That would be amazing. Everything lasts so much longer. At the press conference here in Toronto, Matt Damon was asked whether he would do it. He said he wouldn’t. Because Alexander had not thought it through and considered the cats, insects and birds. And you can’t go back, right?
MOVIEMOVESME: You’re a Toronto-based actor and you have a full-time job. How do you manage your time?
Kathryn Aboya: I sacrifice a lot. People go out for dinners and they go out for parties and I don’t do any of that. Except the events at Tiff. I do it specifically for marketing and PR. It’s not for leisure. It’s something that you give up because of your dreams. It’s like how you do your work and what you’re doing? You just are in love with what you do, right? You just make it happen.
MOVIEMOVESME: I’m sure there are many actors that really dream to be on the red carpet. And you have had your first one. Could share that experience? How was it for you to feel that you were a part of a significant project and that now people will actually know there’s an actress Kathryn Aboya?
Kathryn Aboya: It’s funny because the first night, which was the TIFF soiree, I walked the carpet and everyone goes: “Rooney Mara, over here. Over here.” I said, “I’m not Rooney Mara.” They go: “Oh, you’re Jessica something.” I said: “My name’s not Jessica.” They go: “Who are you?” I said, “Kathryn Aboya.” And their reaction was: “Huh?”
Then I said: “Oh, just forget about it. I’m in a film with Matt Damon.” And the answer reactions were: “Oh my God. You’re in the film with Matt Damon! Oh my God! Let me take your picture.” Then they wanted autographs and everything else. Then when I went to do my red carpet premiere, people who had met me that first night were waiting with my headshot. They printed out my headshot and they were waiting for me to sign autographs. That was interesting. That has never happened to me before.
I went to sign it and I didn’t realize that the permanent marker was already open, so I got it on my dress – a very beautiful dress that they had made for me. It was really interesting being on that red carpet, getting out, having pictures taken, because now getting images, they have pictures and doing interviews, so it’s a very unique experience. My boyfriend was there as we were doing it and I saw him crying a little bit. I asked what was wrong, and he said that if my mom were still alive, what would it be like if she could be there and watch me at that moment. She’d be so proud.
You do all that work – you go to all those classes, you do all the work, and put it in, then for about three minutes you’re on the red carpet. It’s just that little sweetness that you get.
MOVIEMOVESME: Are you going to concentrate more on your acting career now?
Kathryn Aboya: I’ve been cast as a lead in a feature film now. I’m going to be focusing purely on that. I think that once you make a decision and say to the universe: “I’m ready. I’m actually really, really ready. I don’t need anything else, I don’t need a plan B. Not necessarily a plan B, but I’m just ready and make me really full of work all the time.” I think then the pathways open up for you and that’s sort of what’s happened. It’s been magical. Every single second has been… Everything’s fallen into its place very serendipitously.