Katherine Evans on Her Role in Disney+'s Hit Show 'The Mysterious Benedict Society' | Hype | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

Katherine Evans on Her Role in Disney+’s Hit Show ‘The Mysterious Benedict Society’

Interviewed by:
Francesca Escarraga
Interview date:
July 2022
Follow Katherine:

What inspired you to be an actor? Can you tell us your background and how you developed a passion for acting?

I started acting at a pretty young age, but I didn’t always know I wanted to be an actor. I actually began taking voice lessons when I was young because I was quite shy and my parents thought they might encourage me to come out of my shell a bit. I’ve never been much of a singer, but when I had to choose what to sing, I always gravitated toward musical theatre songs. When I was ten years old, my voice teacher suggested I audition for a musical theatre production. I joined a local company and was hooked!

Congratulations on your role on the show, The Mysterious Benedict Society! Why did you want to be involved in this project?

Thank you! So many factors made this project appealing to me. From the first audition, I was really intrigued by the tone of the show. I love how this show is quirky and whimsical; I find it refreshing both to watch and to be in. I hadn’t read the books as a child, but I was (and am) a big reader, so it has always been a dream of mine to be in a book adaptation. I studied English at university so I’m always wanting to do a deep dive into a text.

Can you walk us through the process of auditioning for the role? What were the challenges and breakthroughs you’ve encountered along the way, and how did you overcome it?

When I first auditioned for Jillson, they were keeping the description for the character quite open. I researched the book version of Jillson and quickly realized that I’m not a match for her on paper. So, I had to get creative. I played her how I instinctually wanted to—very offbeat and super weird—and they liked it!

Once Ben (Jackson) and I were both cast, we had to modify our performances so that we hit the same energy level and were completely in sync. Our first rehearsal was a virtual one, and it was challenging to sync up through Zoom lags, but once we were working together in person it quickly became second nature.

Can you tell us more about your character, Jillson? What do you love about this character? How did you bring the character to life? Were there particular circumstances or personal experiences that shaped the character?

In Season One, Jillson is a high-ranking Executive at the mysterious Learning Institute for Veritas and Enlightenment on Harbor Island. She is never seen without her partner in crime, Jackson. I love Jillson! I’ve never played a character so strange. I really get to play and be creative with her because she sees the world so differently than I do.

There is definitely a lot of my friendship with Ben in the on-screen partnership of Jackson and Jillson—a lot of art imitating life and life imitating art. Ben and I actually have a ton in common in our real lives, and because we spend so much time being in sync on set, we are known to be weirdly in sync off set, too. We have startled many poor crewmembers with twin shenanigans when they are expecting us to be regular Katherine and Ben.

What did you like about the story? How do you think this story will change and make an impact in today’s society?

I love the lightness—the optimistic, playful approach to telling a story that might otherwise be darker. The conflict revolves around a collective anxiety about something called “The Emergency”. The story feels so timely that I was actually startled when I read the book for the first time and realized that it was published in 2007.

I think this show has arrived at a great time. When I was looking for shows to watch during the pandemic, I felt like there was an oversaturation of very dark content, which I found harder than usual to watch with current events being what they are. I hope that this show can bring some lightness into the homes of viewers.

What was the dynamic like between you, your castmates, and film crew? How did they make you feel? Were there particular moments on set that were memorable?

Just wonderful! And I’m happy to report that it was just as wonderful filming this new season in LA as it was the first season in Vancouver. Great people all around.

One really magical moment from the first season stands out in my mind. There’s a scene with Jackson and Jillson in a wooded area using binoculars and watching a falcon fly through the night. As we were filming that scene, a local owl flew in to say hello! It perched not far from where we were supposed to be looking at the imaginary falcon. Life imitating art again.

Can you give us a sneak peek of what we can expect from this season? What did you love about filming this season?

The show moved to Los Angeles for Season Two. It was my first time filming in another country, and I was there for three months, so that was super exciting.

The second book in the series is called The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, so it was really fitting that we got to go on a journey of our own (though luckily it wasn’t perilous!). Filming in a place with very different geography was fascinating. There were some gorgeous locations.

What kind of films do you like watching? Which films and filmmakers have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

I grew up reading and watching fantasy, so it will always have a very special place in my heart. Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings were hugely influential for me. I deeply admire the work of Hayao Miyazaki. I love the idea of putting really human characters in fantastic worlds. We can escape and yet feel seen.

I also love a story that doesn’t take itself too seriously and yet moves you immensely. I just saw The Princess Bride in concert with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra playing the score. The audience’s reactions transitioned from riotous laughter to cheering to speaking along with the iconic lines to crying. There’s a reason that kind of storytelling reaches so many.

There couldn’t be a more perfect time to be a female filmmaker in the entertainment industry. What were the monumental life lessons, mistakes, and things you’ve learned that you would like to share with young aspiring or emerging actors, storytellers, and creatives in general?

I’m not a big believer in destiny or predetermined fates in general, but I find so much reassurance in the concept of “meant to be.” As creatives, it’s easy for us to fixate on certain markers of success, and then if those things don’t work out, we feel like we’ve failed. It feels like a loss. But if we reframe the failure and instead think of it as something that just wasn’t meant to be, then it isn’t a loss—it’s an opportunity for learning and growth en route to something that is right for us. I believe that if we are consistently working hard at our passions, things will work themselves out.

The pandemic has greatly affected the entertainment industry. How did it affect your side of things?

The pandemic had an interesting effect on the entertainment industry in Vancouver. Because there were fewer COVID cases in Vancouver than in other filming hubs, a lot of shows came here. This meant a lot of opportunities for Canadian actors.

All of the shows I’ve been on in the past few years have had different restrictions and safety measures in place. It was challenging learning how to communicate with people through masks and face shields and personal tents. But we managed it, and I’m so grateful that we could build work environments where people felt safe. It really felt like such a blessing to be able to go to work on these sets and communicate with people and have relationships during such an isolating time.

What kind of roles do you want to take on in the future?

I’m really enjoying playing idiosyncratic and self-possessed characters, so I’d love to play more of those. I have a martial arts background so anything where I can do a fight sequence would be awesome. I’m a big nerd, so I’d love to do any fantasy, period, or video game mocap roles.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind as an actor?

I’m less concerned with leaving behind a legacy and more concerned with the work at the moment and the stories I’m telling. I’ve always found immense value and comfort in stories, so if I can do my part to help tell a story that makes even one person feels something—whether it makes them laugh or cry, feel inspired or feel recognized—then I’m happy.

What’s your advice to young actors who want to break into the entertainment industry?

If you’re serious about it, start! We often think that we have little control in this industry, but there is so much a young actor can do to get started and build a career. Acting classes, plays, student and independent films, creating your own projects—these are all things you can do before you have an agent (and doing them helps you get an agent).

Do you have other upcoming projects you want to share with us?

Nothing I can talk about right now, but I am back in Canada and keeping busy. After being away with the show for a while, I’m looking forward to quality time with friends and family.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

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