Actress and Director Shailene Garnett

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Actress and Director Shailene Garnett Opens Up About Her Work and Why She’s Excited to Be a Canadian Performer

The laughs started before the interview. We were seated in the corner of a Starbucks just chatting about who knows what and having a great time doing it. There’s something about Canadian actress Shailene Garnett. I’m sure it’s that same something that connects with audiences while she’s on screen.

It’s almost impossible to describe, but when you’re in her presence you feel it. Confidence, yes, but with an appreciation and genuine gratitude for what she’s been able to accomplish. So it wasn’t surprising that when I asked her about what excites her about the being an actress in Toronto, she points to the success of others.

“I see Streetcars, I see Second Gen, I see Kim’s Convenience, I see The Messenger and I tell you … When I was at my parents house watching everything, I was literally jumping for joy. Because I’m like, ‘Oh my God that’s my one friend here, Oh my God, that’s my other friend here. This is such a good year for Canadian content.”

Garnett is definitely right in her assessment of popular Canadian content. But if she doesn’t want to brag about her resume, we’ll go ahead and do it for her. While she’s been in a ton of different roles — Including Teenagers and Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments — she’s likely most popular for her roles in The Best Man Holiday and The Dirties.

“I’m a really big fan of Terrance Howard and there was no other situation where I would meet him except on the set of this movie.”

As excited as Shailene was to work with someone she’s admired, you can tell she is much more proud of the work she did on The Dirties. That role changed her life and the direction of her career in more ways than one.

“If I have a breakout role that would have been it. And that’s when I realized I want to do things that have meaning. I want to do things that are thought provoking.”

If you’ve ever seen The Dirties, you’ll understand precisely what Shailene is talking about. It tells the story of a high school shooting from the perspective of the shooter. The movie was controversial upon its release and criticized for showing sympathy to the shooter.

“The best thing that came from that is this little girl that was in grade eight at the time reached reached out to me because she was getting bullied. I didn’t think at first that it would affect people that directly. But to hear it from her that she was getting made fun of … and we had a nice talk about it. The fact that the movie touched her so much … if I can help in any way I definitely want to.”

In her own life and speaking about her own ambitions, Garnett has an interesting perspective. She says she really doesn’t feel like there are any obstacles in her way of reaching her goals as an actor.

“This business is 80% mentality,” she says. Garnett then goes on to say that she knows she’ll book the gigs she’s supposed to book and doesn’t get discouraged at any missed opportunities.

“I was lucky enough to sit on the other side of casting for a brief time. You see all different girls with different experience and realize only a few girls are perfect for that role.”

Speaking on roles, Garnett has also caught the director bug, so much so that she sees her future in the industry being filled with just as much directing as she does with acting. Her first film as a director is called 77 Days. It’s about a mother dealing with the aftermath of addiction.  

“Every show on TV deals with the addiction, I wanted to focus on the aftermath. [77 Days] is basically about a young mother dealing with addiction. So here she comes out of rehab, she’s putting her life together, she comes to get her kid and doesn’t realize the mess she made until she sees it flat out.”

Garnett says there are two more films she is directing, God’s Speed — a film about two roommates dealing with mental health — and one film she says is still too new to speak about.
It’s safe to say Garnett has a full plate on her table. As we end our interview, she’s just as lively as when we started. Her passion for her art is clear, her confidence is contagious, and her future is as bright as her smile.