An actor and an entrepreneur, Catherine Lough Haggquist is one force of nature that should never be reckoned with. With Motherland: Fort Salem coming to a close, it’s a sad moment for fans everywhere, but Catherine takes a great stride as she moves into her next role. We can’t talk about that, but we can talk about her experience on Motherland: Fort Salem, as it was truly a tremendous show with lots of women.
It stands as such a tremendous show as it’s not only about the amazing and interesting probability of witches getting involved with America’s military, but there are lots of lessons, about diversity, status, worth, and value. The show showed that origin stories don’t define a person, and many more take-aways. Catherine’s character of Petra Bellweather has been around for a long time alright, being a forceful mother to Abigail Bellweather as a lady who served in the US army for years, much like many other members of her family before her. You have to admit that’s a pretty tough and cool character to have on your IMDB credits list.
But that’s not all Catherine does, she also operates a couple of businesses. One of them is Bizbooks which sells books all about the biz, the film biz, that is!
I know somebody who could probably make use of what they offer. He just might become a frequent customer. Her other business is The Drama Class, where she operates workshops helping other actors get more into the acting business. Because when we’re not all fighting for the same role in an audition, sometimes we have to help each other out with the way things are rapidly changing in the industry. Whatever it takes to make us stand out during auditions.
Catherine had lots to share and we had a long, hearty conversation together via Zoom. Now read on for the chat with me and Catherine, a wonderful woman working well in the film industry.
HNMAG: So, I understand you’ve played Petra Bellweather on Motherland: Fort Salem for quite a while. What was that like?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: Fabulous. It was an amazing group of women. The collaborative nature of working with them as actors as well as the great array of directors that were brought in, was amazing.
HNMAG: And you mentioned lots of women. Was it mostly women as crew?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: Most of the main characters were women, we had some wonderful male collaborators who came on to work with us as well. It was just such a different experience having such a female heavy ensemble to play with. The diversity we had with age was so eccentric on screen.
HNMAG: Was there any values you took from working on the show and apply to in your daily life?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: I have the stance that the witch power comes from our voice, that our work is focused around what we intentionally let into the world with sound. I think that is meaningfully allegoric in these particular times. I think that it was interesting to see the many different ways that take shape in this fantastical world but it also is inspiring to think about using your voice in different ways when you are passionate about something you’re inspired to participate in. I think that is the biggest message I hope audiences receive from this show as it is what I have newfound appreciation for and connection to.
HNMAG: Now that the series has come to an end, how does it feel to move on from it?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: Bittersweet, because I really missed those faces, those people, those energies. But I also am so so grateful we got the opportunity to create a satisfying ending so that it becomes a very capsule experience for people who will hopefully be able to find it for years to come and embark on the world of Motherland: Fort Salem because the story goes somewhere. So many of our colleagues actually go off on creatives. You don’t know if they’re coming back, and we got such clarity about what the endpoint was. It allowed the writers to do an amazing job at crafting such an amazing conclusion. I am hoping that we find some way to return to this world. But for the time being, it’s worth people starting the series because it goes somewhere and we’re so grateful that freeform gave us this opportunity because our fans have been so passionate and supportive. We gave them a great third season.
HNMAG: So you feel there will be spinoffs of Motherland: Fort Salem in the future?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: I would love that to happen, I have no knowledge of it being in the works, but I DO know that there’s such a rich world that these creative stories are drawn from. I know that well runs deep, so given the chance, at some future opportunity where we were to revisit this world I would happily be a part of it. Even if it’s not about the bell weather line, even if it’s some other aspect, as a fan of this world, I would love to see more of it brought to life.
HNMAG: With all the ladies and men even on set, what kind of connections did you make within cost and crew?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: I know that there are some people who I will be entwined with for the rest of my life. Newfound sisters, and daughters. There are collaborators I can’t wait to find a new opportunity to create with. I feel so fortunate that that is such a wealth-spring of joy for me. These are some great people I have in my life and the fun I had working with them.
HNMAG: Will you be working with these collaborators on their projects or possibly getting them involved in your own projects?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: A combination, so one of my businesses is TheDramaClass.com. We do workshops over Zoom and other creative workshops for freelancers and provide a lot of information that I learned after talking to some of our collaborators and working in workshop form. I think those are the things we could create together but then there’s other situations where there were directors working with us who said “Could you just show up on set and say this ONE word for me?” and I would do that because their vision is so amazing. Amanda Tapping, Shannon Kohli, and Jeb Garrard, they are all just extremely good at what they do and create such an amazingly collaborative atmosphere. We also had a number of amazingly wonderful director.
HNMAG: What are some of your new upcoming roles in future productions or what do you hope to get in the future?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: I’m excited to see where it goes. I’m usually a guest star who roams from world to world, and sometimes there’s a longer arc with Continuum or Chesapeake Shores, but sometimes it’s something where you’re quick and done like Flash. It’s been wonderful to really have 3 seasons with Petra and see her evolution and challenges along the way. I’m currently working on a feature that I’m not allowed to discuss but it’s also nice in that way to have a change of pace and scenery with a different world and different story. The one I’m working on right now is set in the 90’s so it’s a bit of a shift in time, world, technology, and all of those things.
HNMAG: Are you able to transition so easily to a new role on a production?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: Oh, sure. It’s different people, and acting is listening and reacting so just having a new group of people to explore, encounter, and be curious about. It’s been really lovely and it’s interesting being on the ground level of a new floor as we all sort of figure it out and find our way around and learn to make each other better.
HNMAG: You also own a couple businesses to help actors and writers. What inspired you to start these businesses?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: The first one I started was called Bizbooks, and I was inspired to start that because when I was 18, I was elected to build a board of performers. Part of my role as an executive director on the board would be to attend meetings in different cities and I noticed that there were no film or theatre dedicated book stores in Los Angeles, or New York, or in Toronto but the one we had in Vancouver had to close. I was really inspired by the fact that you can’t grow an industry unless people have access to the information before they make a decision that they want to join it. People buy cookbooks before they open a restaurant, they learn about the craft, if it’s right for them, and it’s such a challenging industry. You need to have those fundamental resources to decide if it’s right for you. So I highly motivated my husband to open this business and we had these Bricks and Mortars stores in 2 different locations consecutively on Cordova St. Then in 2010, we transitioned to our online and on-location formula so we ship online all over the world and then we do local pop up stores in Vancouver. I collaborated with Railtown studio this past weekend to do a pop-up store for writers, actors, and directors which is really fun. What I miss about the Bricks and Mortar store is that it became a clubhouse where all these creative minds and people would come and look for the thing that would help them advance that next project that they were doing.
Catherine went on about how it was great to feel like a community was coming together in the store when she had it, but unfortunately buildings are hard to maintain but she was lucky when it transitioned to an online store. Catherine and her workers now get the best of both worlds because they can go pursue their own creative projects while helping other people pursue theirs with the flexibility of an online store. The pop-ups are also fun in helping reconnect with old colleagues and associates.
HNMAG: And how does bizbooks select what kind of books are suitable for sales?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: We know how the top industry publishers are, we do some deep diving into who the best authors are. We look into the types of things. We used to cover all the aspects of the film industry and now we’ve really been narrowing our focus online just to things that are filmmaker, writer, director, and actor focused. We do everything from books on plays to technique and craft of acting to producing manuals on how to get your short film made, and taken to festivals. How to direct commercials, we’re trying to find the creative freelance spaces. We used to a lot more history theory criticism, we moved more into the practical skill space. That’s more than a creative evolution because we’re really curating things to help people bring their creative projects to the floor. There’s so much information everywhere, we want people to know of the industry and for the industry so the things we have to offer have that value.
HNMAG: You also mentor actors via Zoom. How has that helped them? Are the testimonials very positive?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: Yeah, it was very interesting. When everything sort of shut down in March of 2020, a lot of us just transitioned our in-person classes to the Zoom space. I have found that space really quite amazing because it gives you the opportunity to present material in a very different way. Aspects of this move to the tech are staying in place. I can’t remember the last time I did an audition in person. All of my auditions lately were either done in a self-tape or later as a Zoom callback with producers and directors over a live feed. I think I’ve had one in-room audition for the last 3 years so it’s become the space of the industry and so when I’m coaching clients for auditions and things, we’re in the room where it will happen because that’s where they’re going to be putting together their pitch for the character. It has become very technical and effective in getting a lot of people who are getting into the industry and getting established the opportunity to be seen. The in-person room has limitations of time and space.
HNMAG: Will you be transitioning back to in-person soon? Do you feel that will be easy or hard?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: I will be definitely doing some of it as a hybrid, we will not ever abandon the online because some things we do lend to that space so well, like our workshops for auditions or voiceover. We can surface a greater geographical area obviously and have students from Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba joining us so it’s lovely having that mix of community as well. But there are sometimes I enjoy doing in-person and I do classes for film school as well as my own operations. I do a class on acting for writers in the full time program at In-focus Film School. That’s interesting as well, because writers often have this idea of how their story will come to life when enhanced with actors and once they experience what the process is, they begin to understand where they have to give more or less detail or trust the actor to make a choice or make sure where the choice is supposed to result.
HNMAG: Besides going hybrid, do you plan to expand these two businesses and do even bigger things to help actors and writers?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: The thing about the Internet is it goes everywhere, and so we ship all across the country. We’re always trying to evolve, so there’s lots of different ways. With the drama class, we definitely are collaborating with more and more folks, so many untapped educational opportunities for folks so I’m really excited about finding ways to add value to what my colleagues do in studio in terms to scene study and audition technique. Once you understand how the industry works and how many choices you’re making whether you’re conscious of them or not, it allows you more chances to progress and make choices in what you’re doing. So many actors feel their holed into how their agent or the casting directors view them.
HNMAG: Are there other ways you help out people in the industry?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: I’ve definitely been an advocate for expanding representation, diversity, and inclusion. I think my work for UBCP when I was a board member as well as an active member helped the entire industry. I also am very conscious of actors having an impact on the energy and the working environment for crew members and so I’m very conscious of managing that and bring positivity to collaborative effort.
Catherine says she wants the crew to be happy when they see actors coming and she feels a lot of actors don’t realize the impact that they have on that workspace. So she does her part in helping make actors aware of how they can help or hinder in terms of workflow and management of energy when they’re on a film set.
HNMAG: Since you also coach writers, do you write stories yourself?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: I do some writing myself, my service to writers at this point has been about insights to the actor process. The lovely quid pro quo is that those conversations and discussions have them sharing with me a lot of their insights. Some of the workshops we’ve offered to the drama class, we did one on writing the TV movie with Rosalyn Muir, and we did one on screenplay structure with Kat Montagu. We offered them on the information we based on so information that was crucial to writers, but it had a double whammy effect: It reminded me of how important it is for actors to really understand the blueprint of operating those formats. But it also got me really aware of how much I actually knew and understood from the acting side of it but it inspired me to write in the screenplay format, so I’ve been doing a lot of blog writing and course material writing, but I am inspired to sort of keep developing the screenplays I have made and get back to them.
HNMAG: Do you plan to make some of your stories into movies?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: I would like that! I’m definitely moving in that direction. I’ve been having such a great time with Petra that she’s been my focus for the past three years, so that will be one of the things with shifting away from that job for the time when I explore some of the other creative ways of working.
HNMAG: I hear you also got the Lorena Gale Woman of Distinction Award in 2020. How did it feel to earn it?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: It was a huge honour. Lorena was a force of nature, and a creative beacon in our city, our industry, and I was fortunate to encounter her in auditions a number of times. I left each of my encounters with her rich and inspired. To be given an honour named for her, its very meaningful because I had the gift of getting to know her. Sometimes when we get awards, they’re from someone who is so far removed from our present experience that it is an honour to know about a lot about that person.
HNMAG: Besides acting and teaching, are there other things you like to do?
Catherine Lough Haggquist: I really like walking. It sounds so strange, I play this game called Step It, where I have to get my steps in and that’s caused me to go exploring and walking and so I enjoy that. I have a really awesome husband and so I love spending time with him. I read a fair amount so I enjoy that. I’ve actually got into the sort of binge watching things during the downtime, but that’s really opened me up to a whole bunch of other stories that I haven’t been aware of, so that’s been fun. I really enjoy watching TV, and feature films. I really find the medium changing and expanding, and it’s just so creative. So I really enjoy seeing other actors work.
Catherine also mentioned how she enjoys watching her husband cook and sometimes helps him out while learning new techniques. It’s amazing what she is capable of. While I am disheartened at the end of Motherland: Fort Salem, I am excited to see just what her next project could be, and every other role after that. There’s no telling what she could do next, all we know is that it will impress us beyond belief.