The actor, 49, on moving to LA, playing tough women and breaking the law when breastfeeding
Acting was the only thing I ever wanted to do, after I got over the stage of wanting to be a vet. I just couldn’t bear the thought of giving an animal an injection. I have always had a strong will. I really believed that if I wanted it to happen then I could make it so. I had never known anyone who wanted to become an actor, so I didn’t have a road map.
Playing Trinity in The Matrix was a highlight of my life. In some ways the conversation that surrounded it is even more relevant now. We really are all plugged into the matrix. I feel like the Wachowskis [the siblings who directed the film] had a lot more clarity around it than I did at the time. In that first scene, where the babies are all plugged in as batteries, everyone is mentally asleep – they knew exactly what they were saying. It’s amazing as an artist to be part of a conversation.
I grew up in a very middle-class life. I’m grateful for it – it has given me a lot of stability. Canada has a very different vibe to the USA, and being Canadian has given me a level of innocence that I feel like I view the world through. But I couldn’t stay there. I moved to LA – without a green card, money or friends – as soon as I could. There was no other option.
Nothing ever felt like a sacrifice at the time. But looking back I can see that I never took vacations, I missed babies being born and I missed funerals. I realised that if I stayed in LA over Thanksgiving I’d get jobs because everyone else had left town. I was always working.
I have no major regrets. I’ve made the conscious decision not to look at life that way. I always try to learn something – to take something away from the situation.
It’s extremely difficult and very challenging to be a woman in film and television. Just showing up in this business forces you to know yourself. But I learned how to deal with rejection and get tough when I was working as a model – it taught me how to put myself out there. In a way, my time modelling was a preparation for life.
I’ve broken the law many times. Mostly, breastfeeding over a car seat so the baby would stop crying. I’ve got three kids. It happens.
I’m not funny like Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts. When I realised that what I do really well is play women who are tough and vulnerable, it was a moment of clarity. Many female characters either have one trait or the other, but I play both. I don’t need to play characters who are like me. I can just do that with my life.
I haven’t watched The Matrix for a long time. Two of my kids have, though. I wanted to watch it with them, but they decided they’d rather watch it without me in the end. Perhaps it’s time I revisited it…