Some kids grow up playing dress up with their Barbie dolls. Actress Kristen Hager was born with a mega-sized theater costume collection in her basement, which she escaped to from the age of three to an undisclosed, way past kosher date. Naturally, she never grew out of it. After graduating from Toronto’s York University Acting Conservatory, Hager quickly transitioned into a career in film and television with roles in I’m Not There and Wanted. Today, she plays Nora—friend, lover, werewolf, nurse—in Being Human, Syfy’s scary-funny addition to the supernatural TV genre. We caught up with the freshly-turned 30-year-old to talk Being Human, the emotional challenges of playing a werewolf, and her upcoming film opposite True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten.
With Being Human you get elements of action, fantasy, mystery, drama. What’s your favorite aspect of the show?
I just love how unique it is, in the sense that yes, it’s a supernatural show, but it’s far more a show about human beings and very human afflictions than it is about these monsters. They’re just metaphors for these dark human problems, so I think that’s really my favorite thing. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is what I find sets it apart form other shows in that genre—for example True Blood. It’s very much like True Blood, but we don’t take ourselves as seriously. That’s why they’re will be these horrible graphic violent moments and then the next thing you know, you’re laughing because the situation has turned into a joke somehow.
What changes did you have to make to the character since Nora was turned into a werewolf?
There have been so many ups and downs in this journey for Nora, because obviously life was one way. It’s essentially a metaphor for finding out you’re infected with a horrible virus, to put it simply. She had to learn to live with this new problem and all the consequences that came with that. And at first, she obviously wasn’t happy about it, but suddenly found herself embracing it far more than she ever thought she would because of this new found strength. This new sense of empowerment really wasn’t something she was expecting to feel. There’s always this constant journey of: Do I love this? Do I hate this?
Tell me about your process and how you take the characters you play from script to screen.
I was always very scholastic. I was very serious about school. I made the decision that I really wanted to get a degree before I started working professionally, and so I think, as a result, my process is very disciplined. I read scripts and make notes while I’m reading. Honestly, I could fill an entire room full of notebooks because my process is very much about writing. I’ll read the script and write down what anyone says about the character or what I say about myself and then just whatever words inspire in me. Every element of this job is about writing out my feelings towards it, and then suddenly when I open my mouth, I’ve done all the work, and I forget all the work and I put myself there in the moment and it’s come to life already inside of me.
Acting, by nature, is an exciting profession. What’s the best part about your profession for you?
Never doing the same thing. I love really not knowing what city I’m going to be in in the next couple of months, or what I’m going to be working on, or who I’m going to be meeting. I just think it’s such an exciting job because of all that, because of all the people I meet, and the places I get to go to, and the experiences I get to have. I don’t know. I’m someone that overthinks things, clearly. I’m honestly a very anxious person in my own skin, and I think that when I’m working and being someone else, I’m suddenly far more relaxed. It’s weird. I find I’m grounded in a way.
When did you realize that that was the case?
From a very early age. As soon as I knew that acting was a profession that one could have, I wanted to do it. My mom was the drama teacher in the only high school in the town I grew up in. She was always doing theater, and she writes and directs, and so, for as long as I can remember, I was around that world, and doing plays and back stage, and she would be making all the costumes.
We had a room in my basement that, never mind a trunk of costumes, we had a whole room that was full of clothes she had made or had been given to us because she was so involved in the theater community. So I would just play dress up and literally live in a world of imagination, and I started doing that from age three on and did it until I was probably too old to be doing it. I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t performing and wanting to entertain people.
Tell me about your upcoming film The Right Kind of Wrong?
It’s a Canadian independent film that we shot up in the mountains. It stars Ryan Kwanten from True Blood, and is the story of one man coming into his own and learning from his past mistakes and becoming a better person. I play his first wife and obviously everything is amazing when they first get married. Then she quickly sees that he’s a very stubborn guy and she’s not happy in the relationship, so she starts writing a blog about all the reason that he sucks, and it’s more of a joke than anything. It’s more for their friends, but it’s really funny and their friends love it, and she makes it open to the public, and, suddenly, it’s an internet sensation and they split. she ends up getting a book deal and becoming super famous and basically she’s the catalyst for the film. It’s through his mistakes with her that he’s able to then fall in love with someone else.
Did you and Ryan swap vampire show stories?
It’s actually funny, because the other girl in the film that he ends up falling for in the end, is Sara Canning who is in The Vampire Diares. She played the aunt in the first two seasons. So between the three of us, we have the vampire shows covered. Obviously, we made some jokes about that on set. It just goes to show you how that genre is so popular at the moment.
What’s next for you?
I have no idea at the moment! I’m in LA. I’m waiting to hear if we are having a season 4 of Being Human. We won’t know until February, because obviously we have to wait for the numbers to come in for the first few episodes. Basically, I’m waiting to see if we have a season 4, then I’ll be heading up to Montreal in June to film, but in the meantime I’m here auditioning. I’m up for a couple films at the moment. My goal is to get a film or two in the off season.
Being Human airs Mondays at 9/8c on Syfy. For more on the show see here.