Even during early childhood performing was second nature for actress Cecilia Deacon, and although, like many of us, she considered other career paths before choosing one, the call of the stage was to strong to ignore.
By the time she finished high school Deacon was ready to jump full force into the acting world and so she set out to perfect her craft at one of New York’s most prestigious acting conservatories, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where international stars such as Grace Kelly, Robert Redford, Anne Hathaway and Danny DeVito also honed their skills.
No stranger to taking on challenging roles, Deacon has taken to the stage starring in a plethora of high profile productions in New York including the Lester Martin Theatre’s presentation of “Trojan Women” where she took on the starring role of Helen, “No Exit” directed by Derek Ahonen, “Learned Ladies” from director Jonathan Bolt and Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women” where she took on the starring role of ‘C.’
Starring alongside Mexican soap star Regina Blandon from “Mi Corazon es Tuyo” and “Verano de Amor” and Christopher Wharton from “Project X” and “Z Nation,” Deacon gave a knockout performance as the infamous baby killer Estelle in Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialist drama “No Exit.” While her theatrical performances to date have undoubtedly proven her ability to captivate live audiences, not to mention her flair for taking on a diverse range of characters, her on screen magnetism has also made her a huge asset for film and television programs.
Over the years Deacon has amassed an impressive repertoire of work in film and television with starring roles including Stormy on the Investigation Discovery series “Deadly Sins,” Sandra in the comedy series “Catch-30,” and most recently Cecilia in Derek Ahonen film “The Transcendents,” where she starred alongside Kathy Valentine from The Go-Go’s.
At 5’9 with long brunette hair and piercing blue eyes, Deacon is a proverbial ‘tall drink of water,’ and her natural good looks have definitely not gone unnoticed by the entertainment industry. Early on in her career Deacon solidified her place as a successful model being featured in international campaigns for L’Oreal, Truvivity, Ouidad and Matrix.
To find out more about Cecilia Deacon and how she got to where she is today, make sure to check out our interview below, as well as through her website: http://www.ceciliadeacon.com/
Hi Cecilia thanks for joining us. Can you start off by telling our audience where you are from?
CD: I was born in Markham, Ontario, but I mostly grew up in Toronto, Ontario.
You’ve managed to create a pretty impressive and diverse career for yourself from modeling in massive beauty campaigns to taking to the stages of New York, and of course acting for film– can you tell us about how you first entered the world of performing arts?
CD: I loved to perform when I was little; you know, forcing whatever adult was nearby to watch a slapdash make believe scenario, usually with some singing. The first play I ever did was “The Tempest” when I was in 4th grade. I was this little nine year old memorizing soliloquies while the rest of the class, logically, read from the script – because it was Shakespeare and we were nine. I did the gamut of community theatre right up until I moved to New York at 17. I didn’t seriously consider it as a career until the end of high school. I was looking through all sorts of university programs, considering if I should pursue arts or academia… and I realized that I couldn’t really picture myself doing anything but acting. I didn’t even finish any of my university applications once I found out that I was accepted into AADA.
When did you land your first modeling job and what was it for?
CD: My first modeling job was for L’Oreal, back in 2012.
Were you nervous?
CD: I didn’t sleep at all the night before. The call time was something like 7:00 am, and by the time 4:30 am rolled around I figured I’d just get up and go. I got enough coffee in me to take down the puffiness in my eyes by the time I went to makeup, but I remember the crew being really surprised at how early I was. The producer asked me, ‘you do know that you don’t need to be here for a couple of hours’.
Can you tell us about some of your most memorable jobs as a model?
CD: Redken and L’Oreal are the first ones that come to mind, but the most fun I’ve ever had on a modeling job was for Amways Truvivity product. It was all the team; I’m pretty sure that is what makes or breaks any production. It was a very supportive playful environment.
How long had you been modeling before you decided to start your acting career?
CD: I sort of stumbled into modeling while pursuing acting, actually. I trained classically at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and when I graduated my first agent out of the conservatory sent me on a lot of commercial stuff; some of it being for beauty campaigns.
How did your career unfold– was acting something that you always knew you would do and modeling was a stepping stone to get there, or did you kind of just stumble into the craft, how’d it happen?
CD: I’ve always been an artistically minded person. My mum thought I would become a visual artist; I paint and sketch. I particularly like working with charcoal and ink, but all my art is very personal. I don’t know if I could ever sell any of it, assuming someone actually wanted to buy it! My dad was the first to really see something in the way I spoke about acting.
What was your first professional role as an actress on screen?
CD: I played a lead, Sandra, in an ensemble cast on a series called Catch-30.
Can you tell us what “Catch-30” was about and how your character fit into the story?
CD: “Catch-30” was pretty much a version of “Friends” that focused more on the intimacy of relationships; mainly open relationships. I played Sandra; she was the privileged one of her group of friends. Yet, she was very vulnerable, really wanted love and approval. She hid it behind the mask of what everyone expected her to be. For all of her overt confidence, she reminded me of my teenage self, looking for approval. The means of finding it were just different from the ways I found it growing up. She clicked into place very quickly.
What about some of the other film and television projects you’ve done as an actor?
CD: To name a few, I was featured in the film “Delivery Man” starring Vince Vaughn, Cobie Smulders and Chris Pratt. I also I played Stormy on the crime series “Deadly Sins,” she was the only woman who didn’t get killed after being in a relationship with this one guy who turns out to be married, and having other affairs. I’m the only girl that gets away, so yay me! It showed on the Investigation Discovery Channel. The show essentially discusses investigated crimes in terms of the 7 Deadly sins.
I wrapped production on “The Transcendents” in May. It is the first feature film by NY playwright Derek Ahonen. “The Transcendents” is essentially a Rock n Roll, PTSD, film noir. There are so many different elements to it. I played Cecilia. When I was introduced to people on set, they were very confused initially. ‘Your name is actually Cecilia, or you’re a really method actor?” The character herself didn’t have her journey on screen; it was all in her back story. All off camera. She needed to be a presence; radiant, despite tragic circumstances.
For the majority of the film, my character was disabled, and yet she was the happiest, and most balanced of any character seen in the film. My sister in the film, Jan, was played by Kathy Valentine, of The Go-Go’s, and I had the pleasure of staying with her and her daughter while we were shooting. The story, at its core, is essentially people trying to overcome, to transcend the painful experiences that have shaped them. The journey is played out via a rock ‘n roll detective story. Essentially, Roger, the man I love, returns after ten years of having been missing, and proceeds to hunt down his former band mates who stole his music. I fell in love with the script immediately, and we had such an amazing crew and cast. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!
They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?
CD: There are so many reasons to work on a project. Sometimes it’s the group of people, sometimes it’s the character… sometimes the story just feels incredibly important. I have to be excited about at least one of these things before I work on something.
You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?
CD: It’s just about going with my gut. I usually know what to do based on one of two things. If I either can’t stop thinking about a project, or I’m absolutely terrified of it, then that’s the one to pick.
You’ve also had quite a lot of success as an actress on stage– can you tell our readers about some of the theatrical productions you’ve been in over the years?
CD: “No Exit” comes immediately to mind whenever someone asks me about the theatre I’ve done. I’ve done a lot of projects that I have enjoyed immensely; Moliere’s “Learned Ladies” at the Mary MacArthur Theatre, and an adaptation of Euripides’ “Trojan Women” directed by Shoni Currier, to name a couple. But the first one that comes to mind for me is “No Exit,” which was directed by Derek Ahonen, and ran at the Mannie Greenfield Theatre in New York.
It challenged me as an actor in a way no role has since. It was the first time I had worked with Derek Ahonen. I knew and admired his work, which is unrepentingly brazen; tragic and often farcical simultaneously. I expected that working the material with him was going to be an incredibly visceral experience. We opened late fall 2012 and I played Estelle; my cast mates were Christopher Wharton and the amazing Regina Blandon. I’ve enjoyed existentialist literature, but living and exploring it is another animal entirely. It was an exercise in despair; discovering what was each our own personal hell. But the most difficult thing about playing Estelle was not even that we were in hell; it was that the character herself found safety in all the places that I myself do not. To be her, to live in her skin properly, I had to make myself do things that I found uncomfortable, yes, but more than that, find a way to make them feel good and safe for me. To overcome my own personal boundaries in order to fully access her. I remember distinctly, about a week or to before we opened, everything just clicked. And all of a sudden, I had this moment where everything locked into place and I felt so invincible.
I also played C in “Three Tall Women” directed by Jonathan Bolt at the Mary MacArthur Theatre. Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women” was challenging and thrilling in a very different way than “No Exit.” The language is so lush and precise, it was very much like the work I’ve done on some period pieces. It’s incredibly important to be fully warmed up, you need to use all of your training. The play has long stretches with monologues, and if you lose focus for one it for one second, you just begin to recite words. No one wants to see that. And, of course, it was a three person play, so I was with the same two actresses and our director in a room for weeks. You can start to get on each others nerves, especially with the dynamic between the characters.
I remember finding out about a week before we opened that Jordan Baker, who originated the role of C in 1994, was going to attend our opening night. No pressure… She was so lovely though, and I ended up getting the chance to work with her on a reading of “Technicolor Life” by Jami Brandli, which was directed by Pam Berlin.
What is it about acting that you love so much? How has this career impacted the way you experience your everyday life?
CD: It’s hard to put it into words. I can’t describe the joy I feel when I’m working on a project; even brutal ones. There is something very liberating about acting. Actors can explore any experience the human imagination can create. I can live and breathe the world as one being in one place, then go to a completely different one. I get to create a person, become a person, or find a person. It’s discovery and adventure on so many levels. It makes the mundane just a little more magical. When we’re children we have these grand imaginary lives, and they slowly start to fade with maturity. As an actor, I get to keep that part of myself active and alive.
What’s your favorite genre to act in?
CD: That’s a really tricky question. I get very different things from different genres… There is something incredibly satisfying about dramatic pieces; really getting gritty and bloody and churning through the mush. But, on the other hand, who doesn’t love to laugh? And I cannot wait for the day I can participate in an action movie where I get to walk away from explosions, with some awesome AC/DC song in the background.
What would you say your strongest qualities as an actor are, and what do you think separates you from other actors?
CD: My strongest qualities… I don’t know. I’ve had a few people remark on my ‘eyebrow acrobatics’ over the years. They are very mobile.
It’s hard to say objectively… I guess, ultimately, I’m not afraid of the dark stuff. I really revel in it, to be honest.
What projects do you have coming up?
CD: I will be working on “The Americans” directed by Sean McEwen and written by Craig Pinkston.
What are your career plans for the future?
CD: I’m working closely with a producer and dear friend of mine to develop projects that honestly and respectfully explore the challenges of people affected by mental health issues. Specifically, I have a film called “Waiting Room” that I am developing with Lauren Avinoam. Mental health is a social issue that I am very passionate about. In the last few years there has been such progress in the way people discuss gender identity, sexual identity, and ethnicity. There is still much more to accomplish, of course, but I think it’s also about time that mental health got added to the topic list. It’s something that is misused terribly. There is a lot of misrepresentation in the industry, and so much stigma to work through. There are some amazing efforts out there, I really admire Glen Close’ work with her Bring Change to Mind Campaign.