With a résumé that would be the envy of any of her peers, Kristin Lehman is definitely one of the hardest working actors in the business today. She has had roles in hit series such as The Killing, Judging Amy, Felicity, Poltergeist: The Legacy, Killer Instinct, and Drive. She has made guest appearances on hit shows like Castle, The X-Files, Prison Break, The Firm, and Andromeda. And now, starting May 23 at 9PM EST, American audiences will be able to watch the Canadian-born actress on the new ABC series Motive. The show has already had a successful first season in Canada and has been renewed for a second year.
Kristin was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to talk about Motive, her career, the business, and two passion projects of hers: Truth Heart and This Fair Land.
PCP – What sets Motive apart from other procedurals on television today?
KL – A lot of the questions we get about are about the hook of the show. The “why” aspect as opposed to the “who-did-it” aspect. When you make television, you hope you are doing something that is entertaining as opposed to reinventing the wheel. What matters to me is whether or not the characters are compelling, and that the audience wants to know more. People tuned into Columbo because they were invested in that character. I feel like our “A” stories are really interesting and surprising, and I hope that people want to get invested in our characters as well.
PCP – What drew you to the character of Detective Angie Flynn?
KL – Well, I have to tell you it was a little different. The source material was a bit different from what we have now. Angie is kind of a lovely, happy hybrid of a script that was a little darker, much more character driven and was less network-friendly—not that anything is wrong with network-friendly. The character Angie turned everything on its ear. It wasn’t a woman who was pretending to maintain a standard of beauty that was common. She was described as this no-nonsense woman who was from the working class. A single mom who wasn’t afraid of her sexuality, and she wasn’t apologetic about her age and who she is. She was also very funny, and good at her job. It’s a female driven script, and I felt lucky to be able to play this character.
PCP – You’ve played a cop before in the past; did you do any preparation for this role?
KL – Yeah, Louie and Francis and I were lucky to meet with the Vancouver P.D.. We met with a male and female detective team, and they were fantastic. We did our tactical training where you got to know your gun safety, but the stuff that was more interesting to me was to see the workplace of this detective team. How often does that happen? We saw firsthand the junk food they ate, the way they communicated, what they wore. I tell you, I have been totally poisoned by every cop show out there, because these detectives were warm and friendly: family oriented, dressed really well, and took pride in being detectives. They had a really strong sense of honor, and they were warm and open. I am forever grateful, because it gave me so much freedom to play a cop just as a person. You know what I mean? They obviously see horrible things and they have coping mechanisms, but those coping mechanisms are a result of seeing those horrible things. It’s not like they are trained in them or anything like that.
PCP – What was it like working with Louis Ferrega? Was the chemistry immediate?
KL – Oh, yes, it was immediate. Some of it is because we’ve both been around the block together. We aren’t spring chickens! We hadn’t worked together before. We sat down and talked about why we were doing the show, why we were proud to be in Canada doing the show. At our very first audition together, I didn’t get all the sides I was supposed to audition with, but luckily our producer just put me in a room with Louie, and very quickly I was able to textualize what I was supposed to have had for a long time—the sides. We connected in a way that actors are honest and we just spoke to each other. Right from the very beginning, we really worked well together, plus we are also good buddies on the set. I think that it really does shine through in our work.
PCP – The banter between your two characters is fantastic.
KL – I’m so glad. That is what we want. That’s the time when we are really pleased to not to have to push a storyline along. When we get to actually show humans conversing or communicating is when it is really fun, and he’s always game for that.
PCP – Do you consider Louis’ character as somewhat of a father figure to your son on the show?
KL –I don’t think so. I think they are friends, first and foremost. He respects both of those people as people, and, if they connect, then they connect. Otherwise I don’t think she thinks Manny needs a father figure. She observes people around her, and is willing to accept people for who they are and what they are, and if that happens to be an element of the relationship that both of them seem to gravitate towards, she wouldn’t stand in the way. But, honestly, I don’t think that is something she’s trying to create.
KL – We will not! Ever! Here’s why: a) it’s boring to play as an actor, and b) I feel like most of these people know they suck at relationships. They just wouldn’t jeopardize what they have with each other. It is a much deeper intimacy, and there’s a trust that they don’t have to question or be afraid of, which I think they both have in the romantic aspects of their lives. So they just keep it apart.
PCP – There are times when you feel sympathy towards the killers in the episodes. Would you agree?
KL – For sure. I think that it’s necessary, because human beings are fragile and sometimes really messed up, but they are really just fragile. Bad decisions get made all the time—some more serious than others. They are not always pre-meditated, and there is a real sadness to that. I think that’s the one thing that Angie feels. You made a bad decision, so let’s talk about your bad decision.
PCP – Another fantastic show you worked on was AMC’s The Killing. How did you get involved with that show?
KL – That was a great show. I was really lucky, they just called me up. I had taken three years off to have my little boy, and was deciding what I was going to do when I got back into acting. Soon this amazing, beautiful script fell into my lap, and I moved back to Vancouver to do it. I was really lucky, and feel forever grateful for being on that show.
PCP – The world of politics is an interesting one. Any special preparations for this role?
KL – I didn’t do any real preparation for that role. I did read some campaign books, and I formed good relations with my fellow actors, Billy Campbell and Eric Laten. We became great friends, and even carpooled to work! The reason why I didn’t do a lot of preparation for the role is because we weren’t ever really showcased doing our jobs. We were an interpersonal story. It would have been different if I was an astronaut or a surgeon, needing to know technical skills or being shown doing my job. This show was more about hiding emotional pain under the guise of a job description. The show really was a gift, and I am really grateful.
PCP – It seemed as if AMC was promoting the idea that we would find out who the killer was at the end of the season. Was that indeed the case?
KL – No, they didn’t promote it that way. Everyone just assumed that. They basically said just keep watching. I think people are so use to finding out who the killer is after thirteen episodes. If you go back and you watch that first season again, I don’t know how anyone would think they would find out who the killer was. There was no resolution near the end of the episodes. I’d rather work on a show that just dares to do what it wants to do regardless of what the network says you should do. So if people don’t like it then that’s okay, but I’d rather work on a show that would try to do something new and different.
PCP – You worked on another series called Drive with Nathan Fillion, and also guest starred on an episode of his show Castle. What was it like working with Nathan?
KL –He’s such a dear friend of mine. He basically asked me, “Do you want to do this?” and I said, “Er… yeah!” Again, I was really lucky. Nathan was the best co-star ever. When we did Drive I was in a car with him every episode. It was mostly green screen, so I basically sat in a car with Nathan, and we had a great time. He’s just the funniest, most wonderful co-star. He’s such a great leader. In fact, when I got Motive I called him immediately, and asked him to share with me some things that are important when you are the number one on the show, what makes for a positive working environment for everyone. I really value the way he approaches work, and the respect he has for colleagues, the crew, and everyone. People should be so lucky to get to work with him.
PCP – You’ve worked on both American and Canadian television series. What are the differences between the two?
KL – Well, I’ve lived in L.A. for twelve years so the majority of my network experience is different. In the States there are three major networks and cable companies. In Canada there are a couple of networks that have now become neck-and-neck in their importance but for a long time there were only one or two networks. We only have a tenth of the population of the States, so a lot of our work—television and movies—is partially funded by the government. It’s really a whole different structure. Since you have fewer people in your population, advertising dollars are high and the stakes are high, but it’s not our number one export. For the States, I think movies and television are in the top ten as far as exports go. So, for me, I felt a great deal more freedom to create a character that wasn’t as dependent on what the advertisers needed, and the network wasn’t breathing down my neck to deliver a certain amount of numbers because they promised an advertiser who needs to make their quota. It’s not to say that dollars and cents don’t matter; I’m not saying that at all. It’s just that you are dealing with an entirely different infrastructure.
PCP – Do you have any advice for someone thinking about entering the business?
KL –I think if you can make your living as a journeyman actor, then you have success. If you are hoping to get notoriety or fame, then that is something different, and that is not the same as being an actor. To that person I don’t have any advice, because I don’t know. To the person who loves acting, appreciates and respects the work and hopes to make a living at it, I would say take care of yourself, eat properly, get enough sleep, and learn how to audition, because ninety percent of what you are going to do is auditioning. It’s not spending time on set. It’s going in the room and making sure you can deliver. I would say take as many classes as you can. Read a lot of plays, be realistic, and develop a thick skin. I would constantly assess: “Is this the career for me?” It’s one thing to be doing something when you are in your twenties, thirties, and forties. Once you get into your fifties and sixties, you will understand that you have a skill set that is limited, and, if it’s what you are relying on for the rest of your life, you have to know how to make it your business as opposed to hoping that someone likes you.
KL – Heart Truth is basically the Canadian facsimile of the Red Dress campaign that is done in the States. It’s a campaign for women’s heart health awareness and there is this version in Canada. I have the pleasure of being involved with it. I saw a Ted Talk about three years ago by cardiologist Dr. Noel Bairey- Mertz, who runs the Barbara Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars Sinai. She was giving statistics on dramatic differences in women’s health versus men’s health. She was showing that there really needs to be a different kind of awareness for women’s heart health research. So the Red Dress Campaign and Heart Truth are about raising funds to broaden the spectrum of research towards women’s heart health. I learned things about my own health, and jumped at the chance to learn more and to be part of this campaign as it grows.
PCP – Finally, did you want to talk about your online magazine “This Fair Land?”
KL – “This Fair Land” is my online magazine. Thank you for asking, because I love it! My husband is a filmmaker, and obviously we make our life in Canada by choice after travelling the world, and being inspired by everything that is out there. We wanted to present a place where we could explore creative living in Canada, and have that online magazine take a place in the international world where people could go there. Canadians and international people alike could come to the site to find a place to become inspired by what Canada can offer in terms of its culture and creativity. So we do that through film, journalism, and photography. It’s lifestyle, art and music-oriented, and we are growing. We had our inaugural launch at the end of April. We have six films lined up that explore what it is to live an artful life, breaking down what creativity is to its simplest building blocks, and encouraging everybody to look in their own lives in that way.
Again, we would like to thank Kristin for chatting with us and make sure you tune in to the series Motive on Thursday nights on ABC! Take a moment and check out some of the links below.
Follow Kristen on Twitter here
The Hearth Truth website click here
This Fair Land online magazine click here