Strange Empire is not your typical CBC fare. This extremely dark western centres on a group of women who have to fight for survival in the aftermath of a massacre. Cara Gee, a long-time theatre star in Toronto, and a rising star at last year’s TIFF for her role in the film Empire of Dirt, stars as tough-as-nails Kat Loving. This is Cara’s first TV series, and she’s clearly passionate about the role. Cara took some time out of her filming schedule to chat with Ageless Living about the joys (her horse) and pains (her corset) of playing Kat.
Taking the Western in a New Direction
One of the things that drew me to this script is that it is a story about all the people who were there in that time and place whose stories we never get to hear. Just the diversity of the cast is so exciting, and a real step forward—not just for Canadian television, but for the diversity that we need to see on television in general.
Kat, being a Métis woman and having her voice heard in such a strong way, I just felt that I had to get this role—I had to do it, it was the role for me. Kat is a gun-slinging, horse-riding badass—she’s the coolest character in the world. There’s a ferocity to her, and when I step into her skin I become this really tough, tough lady, which I think is totally different from how I am in real life. And the writing on the show is exquisite. It’s a really new direction for CBC, and a direction that I think is what needs to happen next. It’s so exciting to be a part of it.
Staying Centered—And Loving Life
I will never watch a TV series in the same way again knowing what goes into it. I sort of knew that it was going to be a marathon, but actually experiencing that and just emotionally how much of myself I have to give, it takes a toll. It’s satisfying work, but definitely as much as it is artistically satisfying, it’s like every single day I wring my heart out.
I don’t know if I can honestly say that I am maintaining balance right now, but I certainly have my eye on how I will regain that balance afterwards. It’s hard because the days of the week fly by, so whatever time there is to just take and centre and breathe is key. It’s been a challenge for sure. I get to ride a horse in the show, and I find that to be a calming and centering thing. I’d never done that before, so that’s a new and interesting discovery. And I’m in love with my horse. He’s the sweetest, gentlest creature in the whole world.
When I can, on the weekends, I slip away to a yoga class. We wear corsets in the show quite a bit, and that does weird things to your back, so just to work out those kinks. Even just a forward bend is helpful to let that tension go from your spine.
I think loving life—really, really loving life—is my biggest investment in my health. Having good friends and good people in my life and living it fully. I’m not really worried about the idea of getting older—the wrinkles and the hair. I think as long as you feel good, you look good. I know it’s a cliché, but I think it’s true.
Lasting Life Advice from Mom
Be nice to people. Everybody just take care of each other. My mom used to say that to my brother and I when she’d leave us home together. She didn’t say be good or don’t act up, she’d say take care of each other. And I think that is really good advice, so you feel a sense of responsibility for your fellow humans, which I think is a really good thing.
By Christina Newberry