They say that possession is 9/10th’s of the law… but what if that possession is your soul? This is the premise of The Corruption of Divine Providence, making it’s premiere at the Whistler International Film Festival. Elyse Levesque plays the role of a mother, whose daughter has become possessed and the news has spread fast. Her husband stands to make money off the spectacle, rather than trying to help and an over-the-top preacher has arrived in town for an exclusive. With mom at the end of her rope and her daughters fascinating stigmata on the world stage, where is the silver lining?
This film will have you on the edge of your seat with an incredible cast that includes Elyse Levesque (Orphan Black, Ready or Not), Corey Sevier (Immortals), Tantoo Cardinal (Wind River, Dances With Wolves), Ali Skovbye (Breakthrough, You, Me, Her), David La Haye (Bad Blood) and Award winning directing phenom Jeremy Torrie.
I had the amazing pleasure of speaking with Elyse Levesque from her home in LA through the power of Zoom. Having lived there for 9 years now, Elyse originally moved out to LA for more work but found that she’s been invited up to Canada for the bulk of her work. She started acting in Saskatchewan at the age of 11 when there was a thriving film industry there. Sask. had built an amazing sound stage but it’s all shut down, closed, dismantled now with no tax incentives to draw production companies in.
HNM “How do you find the vibe in LA when it comes to Canadians competing for work?”
ELYSE “I think there’s a myriad of different experiences depending on the timing of when you arrive. If you’re coming off of a film that’s garnered a lot of talk/heat/attention… I think you will have a very different experience – but the more ‘common experience’ entails putting in the time, but once you do – everybody knows everybody and all things considered, it’s still a small community.”
HNM “Have you been able to form some good relationships out there?”
ELYSE “Yeah I think so. It’s funny – most of my friendships are with Canadians that live here. I’ve worked several times with Julie Plec (creator of Vampire Diaries). She’s a very loyal person that likes to work with a lot of the same people, so she’ll bring you back on other projects… which is really nice, like a family.”
HNM “Can you tell me about this new film, The Corruption of Divine Providence and the character you play?”
ELYSE “I play a lady named Danielle and she is a mother living in a small town in Manitoba. When we meet her, she’s a deeply unhappy person that’s trying to make the most of her current situation. She had bigger aspirations for herself and we find her in a loveless marriage with two teenage kids. She finds herself in an extreme situation when her child begins to experience a supernatural phenomenon, stigmata and is forced to protect her kid from the onslaught of media attention… as well as the ambitions of her husband – who is very happy to make some extra money and attention off their child. She’s in a very tough situation but she’s incredibly strong. There’s something about her that’s very earthy about her, which was a fun thing for me to connect with in the process of working on this character.”
HNM “As a former resident of Saskatchewan, were there any traits that you were able to borrow from and apply to the character?”
ELYSE “Although I grew up in Regina, I had many relatives that lived in small towns outside of Regina where I’d spend the summers on uncle Claude’s farm. It was one of my favourite things to do growing up – being dirty, sneaking kittens into the house under my shirt… just being a farm kid; I loved it so much and I think that’s why this role appealed to me so much. Living in a small town and the simplicity of it all and experiencing something so overwhelming and how to negotiate that.”
HNM “When you auditioned for the part, did you hear back immediately?”
ELYSE “This is one of the rare instances where I didn’t have to audition. I met the director Jeremy Torrie at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016. He may have known my manager – but we got to talking and he told me about this role in a project he was developing. He sent me the script but I don’t think it was until a full year later that he reached out to my manager to ask if I was still interested. It was one of those rare opportunities, to have a part offered to you, but at the same time – there’s a level of uncertainty/wanting to earn the part, going through the ringer, doing the call-back, the chemistry test… to say, I proved that I am the right person for the part.”
HNM “When you play an emotional role, there must be a lot of crying during the filming. Is it difficult to bring on the tears?”
ELYSE “I actually think that’s the easier part of acting. I think it’s honestly harder to show other parts of humanity. Showing anger would be scarier… because it’s less familiar territory for me. Subtle manipulation is actually more difficult than being… ‘emotional’. The tears can be emotionally draining and you do have an emotional hangover… but they’ve got tricks… where the tears won’t come and I need to ask for the menthol to blow in your eye (laughing).”
HNM “How long did it take to shoot this film?”
ELYSE “It was just over a month, including a week of rehearsal.”
HNM “This was shot in a small town outside of Winnipeg?”
ELYSE “It was shot outside of Winnipeg but we were staying in Winnipeg. I can’t remember the name of the town, it was in Oct/Nov of 2017.”
HNM “When you play a role with a wide range of emotional scenes – does it take more time to shed that residual range of emotions?”
ELYSE “I tend to feel like I leave a lot of it on set. Once and awhile, something will linger… and stay with you, but for the most part I feel like I can leave a character there, unless I start missing her and don’t want to let go quite yet. If you can leave the character there, I think it’s the healthiest thing to do – so you’re not torturing your family (laughing).”
HNM “What has been your biggest takeaway from being in this film?”
ELYSE “I’d have to say, how collaborative it was, which is rare and part of the reason I wanted to do the film. We used the first week to go through the entire script and work through the scenes and establish the characters, what is logical and out of character to eventually create something together. In that regard, it was a beautiful challenge and opportunity that lended itself to all of us giving better performances. We felt more connected to our characters because we created it together. There’s a permission that you give yourself when you’re in rehearsal that you don’t necessarily give yourself when you’re performing.”
Elyse continued to expand, that it’s actually a gift when something goes wrong in a performance – it can be golden and a gift when something goes wrong… because it snaps you out of ‘whatever idea’ you had of what was going to happen and if you can lean into it, it can work beautifully.
HNM “What is in the rise for you Elyse?”
ELYSE “Trying to survive the pandemic and trying to stay productive. I’m also very happy to be part of the festival – it’s been great to connect with people and talk about this film. I’m glad the film has made it into the festival and is getting the attention it deserves. During this shutdown though, I’ve also been developing and writing. My friend and I wrote a ten-part web series based on our experiences as Canadian actresses living in LA. We’ve got a ton of stories that will seem absurd and completely unrealistic, but I promise you that they are 100% grounded in truth (laughing). We made a fun little web-series. I’ve also got another great idea that’s based on a story about my family tree that’s pretty incredible. They were pretty extraordinary and many people don’t know about them, so I’m going to write something around that.”
Every cast member brings it in this film and it deserves every award it’s nominated for at Whistler this year!