How many of you lucky ones have the rarity of growing up with an accomplished actor/actress? If you live in Vancouver, Toronto or LA, you might say ‘Yep, I’m her brother and I’m extremely proud of her, Paloma Kwiatkowski is the next Meryl Streep!’ Unfortunately I’m not her brother, nor do I have any relatives in the industry that I’m able to brag about/promote/celebrate but I do dedication, I do know discipline and I do recognize tremendous talent when I see it. Although I’ve only seen a trailer of Riot Girls with Paloma Kwiatkowski as the lead, I was absolutely impressed at her ability to own her lead character Scratch. Paloma has earned her stripes and is the real reason we watch films. We’re captivated by the journey, the story, the characters, because they are convincing. Much like a tour guide, the characters lead you to the end of the story… but sometimes they shake/rattle you up a little before the end of the trip.
Riot Girls is the cream of the crop for powerful female driven stories. When you think of strength, friendship and vengeance you might want to remember that women actually do it best. Paloma Kwiatkowski might be better known for The Christmas Calendar ( 2018 Leo Award Winner) or Sitting on the Edge of Marlene (Leo Nominated) but when she portrayed her character Scratch on Riot Girls – she not only had to get a Mohawk but she had to step outside herself and become… Scratch. Skateboarding, shooting Dirty Harry size handguns and falling in love with another woman truly shows prowess and multi-layered absorption into story and character. Like I said – I’ve only been able to watch the trailer… but Paloma truly brings this story to life much like a lightning rod to an apple tree!
I had the very unique and privileged opportunity to chat with her through a video conference to ask her all about The Leo Awards VS the Covid virus.
“You had to get a mohawk haircut for your role on Riot Girls, was that a difficult decision or did you already know that going in?”
“I did – in the negotiations for the role they told me I’d have to shave my head. Initially they wanted me to shave it all off, Furioso style but then they came across a beautiful image of a Punk girl in Berlin with a floppy Mohawk and they loved it, so we decided to do that instead, to show the Punk Rock in Scratch. I was excited to do it and thought it was a fun opportunity. In real life I wouldn’t think of shaving my head into a Mohawk… my agent would kill me (laughing).”
“It looked like a lot of fun, especially with the Dirty Harry handgun. Did you have to practise how to handle a gun for the role?”
“It was a replica gun, so I had to go through the safety of it. There’s been accidents on set, even with replica guns – we’re still shooting blanks that make a loud noise and release fragments and if you’re too close you could get hurt. I wasn’t allowed to point at anyone I was actually shooting at, they were all far away behind a barrier – I had to wear ear protection, it was all very safe.”
“You were nominated for a Leo award. Do you ever get emotional around award shows?”
“I’m always very surprised and very flattered but I wouldn’t say emotional. I was a little sad with the Covid cancelling the gala this year – I had some friends nominated for their cool projects. When I found out I was nominated and they were nominated I was looking forward going to the gala and celebrating our achievements and work.”
“How did you prepare for your character Scratch on Riot Girls?”
“It was really lovely, I had lots of time to prepare. I knew I had booked the role a month before we started filming. We also did a couple weeks of rehearsals – which I’ve never really had with film. I flew to Toronto and met my co-star Madison… we had time to go over the scenes/characters with the director. That was huge – especially building a relationship with Madison because the story is really about the relationship between the two girls. It was nice to show up at set knowing that we’d already built a relationship before showing up on the first day as strangers. I also had to learn to skateboard, which put me in the headspace of playing this badass role, although I didn’t end up doing much skateboarding in the film. Learning to skate as an adult is challenging because it’s a danger and you could fall the wrong way – I had to get over that and tell myself – ‘Scratch wouldn’t be scared’ (laughing).”
“Where was the film shot?”
“It was shot in Toronto and Sudbury, Ontario.”
“What attracts you to a new role?”
“As I get older I’m drawn to strong female roles with a purpose to the script – there’s been times when I’ve read a script and the girl is just the eye candy for the movie… and I have no interest in playing the ‘bubbly girl’ that doesn’t really move the story forward… but is there just to look at. We should be writing women in more powerful roles. It’s what got me so excited about Riot Girls. Here’s these two badass girls who run the movie and it was written by a woman, directed and produced by women. It was a very female team and was a very cool project to be part of.”
“When you take on the role of a strong/multi layered character, is it difficult to shed that character after the film shoot is over?”
“I think it’s actually harder to shed the whole experience of the film – you get so connected to the director, the cast and everyone you’re around. Your life really becomes a movie when you’re the lead in a film; you’re there every day and even when you’re not – you’re thinking about what you’re shooting next and making sure you’ve got your lines for it. I think it’s easy for me to shed the role but it is hard to go back to regular life, to be away from the set that you’ve grown so comfortable with… your little family.”
“Apart from acting, do you want to write or direct in the future?”
“Yes, I would love to. When I was in high school I was going to go to SFU for directing but stopped because I started working as an actor straight out of high school – it didn’t make sense to go into university fulltime. It’s always something that’s intrigued me. I’d love to sit down and write a script, I think I’d also be good at directing… I’ve always been good at multitasking and having a vision. I’d love to create my own work.”
“You began acting at a young age professionally and also enrolled into comedy improv, how much has your improv training helped you in your acting career and would you recommend it to other actors?”
“Definitely! When you do improv, you go on stage and you have no idea what the shows going to be or what’s going to come out of your mouth. Getting through that and getting comfortable improvising a scene gives you the confidence to go into an audition as well as making your instincts quicker and trusting them. Even if you’re not an actor, it’s still a fun thing to try for every person.”
“If you weren’t an actor, what else are you passionate about?”
“I’m definitely passionate about food, I like to cook I love to bake. During the Covid shutdown I’ve been watching a lot of cooking shows – The Great Canadian Bake Off… after I finished that I started watching The Great British Bake Off, so I’ve been doing lots of baking. I think in another life I’d like to be a pastry chef. I really like to bake cakes, so if it’s someone’s birthday – I’m baking them a cake.”
“If you could disguise yourself as someone else for a day, who would it be?”
“Oh, that’s a good question… the first thing that comes to mind is to try on the shoes of some huge movie star because I’m very interested in that world – Charlize Theron comes to mind. She’s such a powerful, talented actress – so to see what it’s like in her life and what her day to day is… being so established, a producer and being creatively involved in projects.”
“What is your favourite sport as a spectator and to participate in?”
“Ooh… last summer I really got involved with rock-climbing, which I find so fascinating – not that I’m very good but I do love to watch professional rock climbers, they’re so cool/just amazing and super inspiring… the way they can hang onto tiny little holds – it’s amazing what we can do as human beings.”
“What is your favourite activity to do when you need to clear your mind or find your Zen?”
“That’s easy, I really like to go out hiking and camping. To find my Zen I like to go out for multiple days – take a backpack with my dog and my boyfriend; it’s the kind of thing that definitely recharges us. I always feel so refreshed… there’s no cell phone coverage, the only thing you have is what’s on your back. You’re outside and all you have to worry about is getting back to your campsite.”
Paloma Kwiatkowski in Riot Girls will leave you on the edge of your seat with popcorn all over the floor. You’ll be so involved you’ll feel like an accomplice!