Elisabeth Harnois – My Baby is Gone
By: Lisa Steinberg
Q) What are the recent projects that you are working on?
A) I completed an independent film that they are going to shop to film festivals. Then, I just completed a film called Infatuation which may be another Lifetime film.
Q) We have seen you in a variety of TV roles and now you are in a TV film. Are you gravitating more towards film or TV?
A) The goal is to always find something that you would be excited to do. I am somewhat selective on that level. When I get an offer, it’s really generous and you want to take it seriously. With this, I thought the film was fun. Drama can be sort of fun to do. When it comes to the future, I’m very open. I’m really interested in finding something more comedic and light because I think for the last several years…I used to do comedy for a long time, but once I did “Point Pleasant” it kind of put me in the box of very serious and dramatic. I do it decently so I get cast a lot in that. I’d like to exercise my improv muscles and try to get more into the comedy vein. I did “Strangers With Candy” some years ago and it was so much fun. It would just be fun to get back into that. I will always love drama though and if a really good drama came up I would go for it.
Q) You’ve played a lot of strong, resilient characters over the years. What have you carried with you from your portrayals?
A) That’s a good question. I think at the time when you start out as a young actor you have the vim and vigor of it that you just dive in. There is that strength and that independence innate in you. As you get a little bit older, you almost have to find that more. It’s weird. Even with more experience, you have to find that more. Even with playing those roles, you have to find it more. The industry can be difficult and you just sort of have to work a little harder to find that. I think I’ve actually been supported by those characters in a lot of ways. On days where I didn’t feel that strong, I was able to be those characters and it helped me to find that strength again and remember who I was. It’s a constant process and you constantly evolve and I think what I’ve taken is how to remember to be that way. Although, as of now, it would be really interesting to play someone a bit more vulnerable and different. In this movie coming up, I’m definitely a more broken person. I’m a person who is worn by a lot of loss and not emotionally stable. That was an attractive thing for me because it was different from all those previous roles.
Q) Lifetime movies are kind of these guilty pleasure films. How does My Baby Is Gone fit in with that?
A) I think it’s just that. Whatever I do I bring as much real to it as I can. There is definitely an element where the conversations are a bit shorter and the emotional turns are a bit quicker than they would be on a TV series. The real fun comes with the villains, of course. I think that our villain is really fun. My character is really the grounding force. It would have been fun to be the villain, but as I said I was happy to have this more vulnerable turn. For me, career wise, Lifetime has grown to have this reputation of people. The viewership of these movies is so huge. People really love them. It was like a no-brainer to do one. This was my first one.
Q) Where do you connect with character and tap into for these layers in the character?
A) Without sounding cliché, I’m not method, but you definitely go to your own places of loss in your life. We’ve all had it and I’ve definitely had mine. This character, specifically, (without giving too much away) is that she has had several miscarriages. So, now she hasn’t even embraced the fact that she is pregnant. She doesn’t think it is real or going to happen. She thinks she could still lose the baby. I’ve not experienced a miscarriage, but I’ve watched very close friends of mine go through this at various stages of pregnancy. It’s really devastating when a baby is lost. Just being that close to it was really easy to tap into it because of how much I cared about my friends who have gone through this. I think this movie a lot of women will be able to relate to it since a lot of women have been so quiet about it as it is so painful. When you carry a child, you know that child and to lose it is the same for a child that you have already given birth to in a lot of ways or to lose anyone in your life. That wasn’t hard to find at all. The other part that was kind of interesting was the psychosis part because they try to play up this thought that I kind of have a mental break after my second or third miscarriage and that maybe this is happening again with my current pregnancy. I’ve never had a mental breakdown. I am sure I have been a little bit crazy in my day, but that was a vulnerable spot that I had to really explore and learn more about. That was interesting and fun and different for me.
Q) You get to wear a baby bump in the movie. Did you feel any maternal instincts take hold?
A) Absolutely! I’m at an age where I would maybe like to have one. While the first week I felt that way, after a while just like a pregnant woman – they just want to get it out. I felt the same way! I just wanted to get it off. I will say that I look like I am having a large baby in this because we had to go through several bellies in this to find the right fit. It wasn’t easy, but we found one that fit my body so I wouldn’t be uncomfortable throughout the film. The only problem was it was a little bit big on me. So, I think we did a good job with wardrobe to disguise that it was a little too big on me. I look like someone who is actually pregnant and I like that reality is there. It’s a good contrast to the other woman in the movie who is faking it. The fact that she is faking it plays well that I look like a little bit like a chubbo and she doesn’t. [laughs] I may have decided to eat more to Bridget Jones it and it was a good excuse to allow myself to just do it. And, of course, I love all the food in Vancouver. When I go to Vancouver it is like an eating fest for me so I probably did do that subconsciously.
Q) What are the underlying themes of the film?
A) I think it is different for the different character. I think ultimately for me it is overcoming and trust. It’s trust and trusting myself, trusting life and that things can be better again. It’s overcoming the fear of the next shoe dropping again and really trusting that things will be okay. I think it’s the same for my husband. For the villain, it’s about loss for her. I guess it is about loss for all of us, but ultimately she is trying to fill a void of her own. For her, it’s not trust at all. It’s a selfish drive, but you learn where she is coming from and why she is doing what she is doing. It’s a bit extreme, but sometimes people do really extreme things. But I think hers is about loss and trying to fill a void. And without sounding cliché, the underlying theme is love. [laughs]
Q) One of the characteristics of Lifetime movies is how the cinematography plays a role in the movie. How does that factor into this My Baby is Gone?
A) Throughout the film there are different subjectivities really. What the audience knows vs what the characters know. When we are in my subjectivity, it is very much a little bit of paranoia and you can feel that way with the camera and when they are shifting it. With the villain, you can feel when they are introduced. There is an innocence to the way they frame things and then it becomes very haunting and creepy and done with low angles and the way the colors look. It’s very statement and dramatic. You’re right. I tis a defining quality of lifetime movies. I think this DP did a good job because I got to see the movie early. Our director was a first time director and I think he did a good job.
Q) Is there anything else you want to be sure fans know about the film?
A) On the theme of trust, with my character feeling that the world is ready to crumble around her even though she’s about to…Her actual reality is not the same as to what she thinks her reality is for a while. She has a best friend who is at her side usually and she even begins to distrust her and there are elements of possible infidelity. That’s a whole other level that drives this train of me being perceived as losing it since I am perceiving that everyone is against me. So, that was kind of fun to play. One of my favorite scenes was me comforting my husband who has been nothing but loyal with my best friend there. It’s really awkward and really hammers home how much I’ve completely devolved into this victim of my own mind and circumstance. I would say that’s an extra layer to the movie.
Q) In this unbalanced current political climate, what can actors and entertainers do to share and support in support of resistance?
A) I’m actually really proud of my community right now. I feel like they have been doing a lot. I couldn’t be more frightened or scared about where we are right now. The other day I pulled out the Democratic list of “what’s important to you on the campaign trail.” They list every category and I was actually really grateful I still had that (even though the election didn’t go the way I wanted to) so I could revisit all those things and see where I wanted to put money, effort or time. My fiancé and I have decided that we are going to become physically active. We’re not just going to do all the verbal lobbying and we’re going to become much more involved in an active way. In the next election, we will be out there fighting. I believe if you can’t spend the money, give your time and self to something to help all the inequities and prejudices that are happening. The list is so long that I couldn’t be more ashamed. I think it’s interesting because I have a lot of family members who have a differing opinion and it’s a very challenging time personally and politically for that reason. It’s such a polarizing time. Also, what I think is really important is to not pile on with the hate. Because there are stupid responses coming out that are not well thought out and are angry, come back with something smart, peaceful and elevated just like our previous President does and did. If we continue to do that, I think enough people will see. People will make their own beds…