The MANY ROLES of Midtown’s Kristin Booth #COVERSTORY
Actor, Instructor, Learner & Mother — KRISTIN Brings Depth to Every Role She Plays
A talented actor who practices their craft with great ability, convinces us they are the character they portray. When, for example, Bobby Kennedy lies dying in his wife Ethel’s lap at the end of The Kennedys, we believe that Kristin Booth is in fact Ethel Kennedy. The actor’s job is to become their character — the added challenge is in letting go of the difficult traits and experiences of that character once filming “wraps.” Learning how to accomplish this is a topic of great interest to Kristin Booth.
Kristin met with me recently at d|bar in Yorkville’s Four Seasons hotel to discuss her return to the role of Ethel in the upcoming miniseries The Kennedys After Camelot. Katie Holmes, who directed the first episode, helped Kristin open up so she could achieve the depth required to play Ethel Kennedy with the same level of excellence as in the original 2011 series. Learning how to access that depth was a Godsend for Kristin. Over the duration of the time we spent together, I witnessed that learning and teaching form the cornerstones of Kristin Booth’s story. She wove living examples of both into almost every aspect of our conversation.
An essential part of learning lies in the ability to compare situations from the past to the present. Coming full circle is a common occurrence in Kristin’s work as evidenced in her experiences with teaching, learning and religion. Kristin admits, however, that she is not a religious person, though she states frequently that she is indeed spiritual. She goes on to clarify that spirituality manifests differently in her than it does in the sharply portrayed Ethel Kennedy. Kristin describes that the Camelot era woman’s strength comes from her unwavering religious convictions. Similarly, in Signed, Sealed, Delivered (Lost Letter Mystery on Bravo in Canada) Kristin plays the strong-minded and feisty Shane, a woman not unlike Kristin herself. Spirituality is most clearly a component of writer Martha Williamson’s message. Kristin believes that armed with undying faith, people can muscle through almost anything. It is a trait she both admires and envies.
As for teaching, Kristin tells a poignant story. After the birth of her now 5 year old daughter, just as she was beginning her role on Signed, Sealed, Delivered, Kristin saw the urgent need to return her figure to its original petite size. She was re-introduced to Pilates — this time with great purpose. Wanting to learn more about the discipline, Kristin took it upon herself to qualify as an instructor though she had no intention of actually teaching. She was eventually convinced to try leading classes and when she did, her own instructor praised her abilities. Unexpectedly, this positive experience reopened an old wound Kristin believed was long-forgotten. She had been told as a child by one of her teachers that she wasn’t smart and would never be able to teach. Fast forward to the present day in the Pilates studio and it is immediately evident why this teacher’s encouraging words proved to be a lesson with great emotional significance.
Kristin believes that each role she plays leaves an imprint on her life… to varying degrees. Many of the imprints are positive, but just as many may be harmful. With great animation, Kristin then discussed how her Pilates training taught her that the fascia in our bodies — the very connective tissue that holds together our muscles and tendons — also holds on to emotions. “It can result in some negative experiences if it is not effectively dealt with,” she explained. Learning how to release those feelings has become a useful tool in her actor’s arsenal. “In theatre school you learn body movement, classics, voice, dance, but nobody ever teaches you how to deal with roles that have negative impacts. I want to combine the knowledge I’ve accrued
in my 20 years of acting with the continuing study of the body through Pilates to develop a method of support for actors as they transition out of emotionally challenging roles.”
When the topic moved to family life, I wondered how she was able to switch her role to that of a mother. “Being in my daughter’s presence changes me. There is an immediacy to her that is completely absorbing.” Discussing her family life and living in Midtown revealed Kristin’s domestic self at its finest. She spoke of enjoying the benefits of big city living yet feeling as though she lives in a small town. Summerhill Market, Cafe Belong in The Brickworks and the children’s gardens on the Brickworks site are among her favourite spots. Toronto’s smaller family-owned businesses provide Kristin with a true sense of community. The topic of community caused her to drift back to the notion of religion. “It’s that trail from Mt. Pleasant cemetery down to The Brickworks … that nature within the city … this is where I find my religion.”
Kristin’s candidness continued to shine through as she described how she was focused on fame in her early career. “I measure success differently now. As I grow I want to know that the stories I’m telling are important.” Although cast in the early years as the angel-faced ingénue, she is now proud of the diversity in her body of work. She is excited to continue this growth through her 40’s and 50’s with portrayals of more complex characters. “The further I get from who I am in reality, the more fun and challenging the role is.”
Whether she is on the screen, with her family enjoying nature, or in the Pilates studio, Kristin Booth finds something new to learn. Opening her mind to each experience and sharing the knowledge she gains with others has become a life-changing role for Kristin Booth.