Take Five with… Tricia Helfer: How Modelling Prepared Me for Hollywood

By: Erica Cupido

Canadian actress Tricia Helfer is no shrinking violet, and neither is her small-screen alter-ego. On the sci-fi drama Ascension (premieres Feb. 9, CBC), she plays the headstrong wife of a captain piloting a spaceship carrying 600 people on a century-long journey into space. “She’s definitely the steel in her husband’s spine,” Tricia tells Hello! Canada.

The Battlestar Galactica alum admits that the surprising story is what drew her to the six-part series. “I can’t fully tell you [my reasons] without giving it away,” she says. “I just found it fascinating.” Before sinking her teeth into juicy acting roles, Tricia made a name for herself as a model. Here, the Alberta native reveals what she learned from successfully making the leap to TV.

Photo: © CBC

I didn’t set out to model or act. When I was in school, I was planning on going to university and studying psychology. I got discovered, as they say, by a scout and started modelling. Toward the end of my modelling career, I started going to acting class and fell in love with it. I like being in front of the camera. Acting involves getting into the psychology of the character and figuring out what makes them tick.

After I had been studying for a while, I started contemplating a move to Los Angeles to try my hand at acting. It was my friend, Michael, who said, “You’ve got to do it.” I was thinking of renting a place there and keeping my apartment in New York and he said, “No, you’ve just got to make the move.” I realized he was right. I moved there not knowing anybody, and a year later I had Battlestar Galactica, so I guess he knew I needed that push. You know, a change and a challenge is quite often a good thing.

Modelling and acting are definitely different. As a model, you’re used to working with eclectic groups of people from all over the world. I enjoyed the travel and getting to meet interesting people. You get to know how to work well with others. You also get used to being in front of the camera, and having people watch. There are usually 10 people on the set of a photo shoot, as opposed to the hundreds on a TV or film set. You can’t be shy!

Photo: Russell Baer

Being a team player is incredibly important and realizing that the job is a collaboration. I’ve been on some sets where [the director] doesn’t mind you making the part your own. It always depends on the individual job, and if you’re doing a comedy or drama. But I think being open to others and being professional is important. That means being on time too – which I always try to do!

Modelling does give you a thick skin. In modelling, it was easy to distinguish when you didn’t get a job because they wanted a brunette, or someone with brown eyes. It was a separate look. With acting, especially if you really connect with a character and love the story, you might not get the part. It’s harder to separate yourself from that because it’s like you’ve given a piece of yourself [in the audition process]. I had a great time modelling and wouldn’t change anything if I had to do it over again. I haven’t modelled for 12 years now, but I do press shoots and still have fun with it.

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