When we meet Canadian actress Liane Balaban at the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto, it feels more like catching up with a friend than getting to know a star who’s worked with the likes of Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman. Much as we'd do with our friends, we asked about love, life and work – and the Toronto native, 33, was happy to oblige.
Read more: Canada's Most Beautiful stars of 2014
Audiences will see her next opposite Gordon Pinsent in the Newfoundland-set comedy The Grand Seduction, in which she plays a strong-willed woman who isn’t keen to help convince a big-city doctor (Taylor Kitsch) to move to their seaside town. Here, the newlywed actress opens up about being mistaken for a certain star, telling little white lies and what it's like to play Taylor’s love interest.
By: Erica Cupido
What was it like to shoot The Grand Seduction on location in Newfoundland?
I feel like I’m going back to my roots by doing this film because it’s a similar setting to [her big screen debut] New Waterford Girl. In that sense, I feel that I’m revisiting certain terrain.
Does the East Coast hold a special place in your heart?
Definitely, and East Coasters!
Had you met your co-star Taylor Kitsch before?
No. I didn’t watch Friday Night Lights. But when I told my friends a few of them exclaimed, “Riggins!” with this dreamy look on their face.
What was it like to watch your scenes together?
During filming, it made perfect sense to me [that she should resist his advances]. I was in character and understood her motivation for not wanting to be a part of the town’s lie. She didn’t want to be used as a prop and forced to flirt with this doctor. But watching the film as an audience member, I’m thinking, “He’s so cute. He’s so charming. What are you doing?”
Outside of auditioning, when was the last time you tried to convince someone of something?
I have a website called Cranky Town, and we have an offshoot, which is an online film fest called Cranky Fest for short films. One of the goals is to get young women to be more confident in their bodies and to make films. When I am most persuasive or seductive, I want journalists to write about it because I believe that they’re so important, socially and culturally for girls.
Do you think anyone who knew you growing up would be surprised to learn that you’re an actor?
I don’t know – I always loved drama in high school and I was always in the school play and speech competitions so there must’ve been something in my personality. I think I’m the most surprised out of anybody that I’m an actor because I never planned to pursue this as a career and here I am. But maybe it’s not so surprising to someone who knows me from high school.
What were you like in high school?
As a teenager, I was a bit of a misfit. I was very curious. I didn’t really associate with one social group because I was always kind of a floater, but I was very much into reading and writing. I did feel kind of above it all, in that teenage kind of way when you feel like you invented the universe. [ Laughs]
You studied journalism at Ryerson University for a year before pursuing acting. What question do you wish you were asked more often?
I’m very sensitive about the women and film issue. Just the lack of parity between men telling stories and women telling stories, that kind of stuff is really close to my heart, being a woman in this industry. I like talking about that, but I also think that taking action to change it is really important.
Which of your co-stars has had the greatest influence on you personally?
Kathy Baker. She played my mother in Last Chance Harvey. Being friends with a veteran like that showed me that my neuroses as an artist are normal. Those insecurities never go away, that’s part of what you do. The pressure on women to be and look a certain way is huge. But you can grow into having compassion for yourself, and then grow as an artist.
Congratulations on being a newlywed! Is there anything that’s surprised you about married life?
Whenever people would say that it feels different onceyou’re married, I always thought, “How different can it feel?” But now I understand what they mean. Something’s different. Something’s a little deeper, but it’s hard to explain.
Is it true that you’ve been mistaken for Natalie Portman?
A while ago that did happen, and I didn’t want to burst the stranger’s bubble so I just went along with it. I signed an autograph for him. And if we’re talking about white lies in The Grand Seduction, I think that’s one of the biggest lies that I’ve told.