Canadian actress Emily VanCamp is known for action-oriented characters like Emily Thorne (ABC drama “Revenge”) and Sharon Carter / Agent 13 (Marvel’s “Captain America” films). But to play an American mediator in Quebec filmmaker-to-watch Chloe Robichaud’s second feature “Boundaries” (eONe, in Canada), which premiered in Toronto Sept. 10, VanCamp had to aim for neutral ground. Before heading north to visit her family in Port Perry, Ontario, VanCamp talked to Variety about her first French-speaking role, the art of listening, and life outside the Marvel Universe.
You were fluent in French as a teenager studying ballet in Montreal, but was it tough returning to the language?
I have occasions to speak French. But my first reaction when this role came up was — this is crazy! But when I read the script, and saw Chloe’s first film (“Sarah Prefers to Run”), which I loved, I knew I had to do it. Fear is often what ultimately inspires me to say yes to a role [laughing]. I spent loads of hours with the script, making sure I understood everything and that it came out naturally — because a mediator must be extremely confident in the language, extremely confident in front of all these people.
Your character—Emily . . .
I know! I have weirdly played so many Emilys. All very different Emilys.
Emily handles negotiations about natural resources between the Canadian government and small (fictional) island nation off the Atlantic coast. What did you learn about mediation?
Mediators are really interesting people, their work fascinates me. My own challenge is remaining neutral. I’m not neutral with my opinions. I’m expressive. So the first thing the mediator I spoke with told me about was about body language — it has to be very welcoming and neutral, and quiet and still. All things that I’m not.
How was it returning to an indie-film environment, and shooting in Newfoundland — far from the showbiz central?
Newfoundland is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It’s also very cold! We were shooting a few days on a smaller island during the tail end of a hurricane. I wasn’t sure if I would wake up one morning on the other side of the island.
I have been playing pretty heightened characters for a while, in very heightened realities. I needed to get back to my roots. So coming home was amazing, being with my people. And also, it was primarily women on the set, which was something I didn’t even realize I needed but, you know, after the superhero world . . . it felt great.