Imajyn Cardinal, a gifted 16-year-old Cree actor, grew up on film sets watching her mother actress Michelle Thrush do her thing. Now it’s Cardinal’s turn to join the family business.
Cardinal stars in Wiebke von Carolsfeld’s The Saver and appears in nearly every frame of the film. It’s about a girl in Montreal whose mother dies suddenly of a heart attack, leaving her alone and uncertain.
Fern decides to hide her mother’s death to avoid going into foster care, the system that almost destroyed her mother.
A book called 50 Ways to become a Millionaire helps her dream big and helps her to find work, a place to live and do whatever it takes to make a stable life. We spoke with Cardinal from Calgary.
Monsters and Critics: I admire Fern. She takes charge of situations way beyond her years and accepts responsibility for her decisions. She has to grow up fast. Did you admire her?
Imajyn Cardinal: Yeah I did, the way she handled things. It was very mature. Some people are forced to grow up quickly like that, so this is telling the story of a lot people.
M&C: Thankfully she’s strong person.
IC: Yes, her mum was also shy so she learned from her mum’s mistakes. And in a way she was angry at her mom because they were so poor and because of the little jobs she had due to her shyness. Her mum grew up in foster care and was abused by her foster parents.
M&C: Did you apply anything about her to your own life?
IC: It’s that when she makes decisions, she does things. It’s her attitude when she says she would do something and did it. I am a procrastinator and perfectionist so I don’t just go and do things.
M&C: Fern’s plan to become a millionaire sounds fine on paper. So why did she give it up?
IC: Because she realized that it is not happiness being a millionaire, it’s the people you’re with and it’s not about money. She didn’t say that but the people think that and interpret it that way.
M&C: Did you have anyone you could refer to for her in real life or did you simply create her or go from the script?
IC: I know a lot of girls who are really tough and I just watched them. I study people as characters because that’s what I do.
I study people around me. I have a lot of tough girls around me, like my cousins, and I watch the mannerisms.
Some of the script von Carolsfeld and I co-wrote. She speaks three different languages and some lines were awkward for me so we read the script and I’d just say it with her and I could change lines if I wanted to. I had control.
M&C: You’re used to the film business but given the size of this role did you have nerves?
IC: It depends on the scenes. The easy ones were the ones that were the long, talking scenes and the hard scenes were the ones where I pick up a glass and talk.
So I wasn’t that nervous. I’m nervous about other stuff. But when I’m working and acting I’m pretty comfortable because I have something to focus on, a purpose.
M&C: I hear you’re shy, how do you fight it?
IC: If you’re comfortable with the people you’re with the shyness goes away. So why are people shy? You learn a lot about yourself from acting. You learn why you are shy.
Shyness will never go away; you just have to learn to cope with it and when you are shy and when you’re not and how to cope. How do you cope?
I just like to have alone time before and after I meet people. There are a lot of people on sets so I like to have silence.
M&C: This was a mostly female film, tech people and cast and all – did it differ from other projects you’ve done?
IC: There are a lot of differences, and the biggest was most people were speaking French so a lot of the scene notes were in French and they didn’t speak English. I learned the French words when they were talking.
M&C: Did you begin acting because of your mother or because of your own desires?
IC: I was being inspired by the people my mum was hanging out with. My mum is always around so many cool artists, so inspired, and I heard so many tips from actors.
I know it really well and it’s easy and I’m lucky to be around those cool people. A lot of girls want to be actors but they don’t have their moms to help them.
M&C: So what’s on tap for you now?
IC: I’m writing screenplays for fun, mostly about teenagers and young girls. I can’t write about anything I don’t know and I know that really well.
When my friends are talking and being funny and cool, I’ll record them. They think it’s funny and cool too. I like to be around them.
Prospector Films’ The Saver, starring Imajyn Cardinal and directed by Wiebke von Carolsfeld, is out now.