Molly Parker, Actress, “Trigger”
Actress Molly Parker has an impressive resume: everything from major studio movies (“The Wicker Man,” “Hollywoodland”) to acclaimed TV series (“Deadwood,” “Swingtown”). So why would she take time out of her busy schedule for “Trigger,” an extremely low-budget indie about two sobered-up rockers who reunite years after their nasty public split? The answer: love.
On a break from her latest project, Parker spoke with The Film Yap’s Lauren Whalen about the story behind “Trigger,” her costar Tracy Wright and why it was so important to make the film.
What drew you to “Trigger”?
All the people involved in this movie are people that are dear friends of mine, so there’s that. So when we first started talking about it, Bruce McDonald. who directed the movie, sent me a postcard, which seems to be his favored way of communication: “Hey, Daniel [MacIvor] wrote the script about you and Tracy. It’s about those rock and roll chicks who had a band; they’re sober now but they’re still really cool.” So that was the beginning of it. I started to read drafts of the script, and we started talk about what it was supposed to be. Daniel was a good friend of mine who wrote another movie I was in. I was very excited to work with Tracy. As wonderful of an actress as she was, she didn’t get many lead roles.
What happened was: There was this script and we were all keen to do it and looking to make it probably last summer. But around Christmastime two years ago, Tracy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, so Daniel called me in L.A. and said, “Tracy’s really sick and we’ve been talking, and she’d like to sit down and read the script, and could you come to town and do that?” I said, “Sure,” and all of us sat down and we read the script out loud. When I got to Toronto, it became clear how ill Tracy was and it sort of seemed like that’s what we were going to get to do and it was great to do it. And then we left and the producer, Jen [Jones], who was also a friend, and I walked home. We were just lamenting how horrible it was and would there be a way to make this movie and enrich Tracy’s life? We started a week later and we shot in nine days — every weekend for five consecutive weekends.
I do think the film stands on its own, but to say it was a labor of love was an understatement. It’s truly just love, and we all did it for (Tracy) and to have the experience of being with her and working with her and being involved in this thing we loved to do, at this time in her life. It was a gift that we were all able to make it happen.
[Before the film’s opening credits, it is revealed that Tracy died shortly after filming wrapped. “Trigger” is dedicated to her.] I was so sorry to learn about Tracy. What was it like to work with her?
Tracy and I had worked together 15 years before, with all the same people. Tracy’s husband, Don McKellar [who also appears in the film], wrote and acted in a TV series called “Twitch City,” and Bruce directed that and Daniel, who wrote “Trigger,” was acting in that, and [“Trigger”] was a reunion in a sense. So I had worked with Tracy, but I’d never had the opportunity to work in-depth with her. Tracy did a lot of theater, and I had left Toronto many years before. It was great. We had so much fun.
It was sort of terrifying. We had to do these things really fast and had no time to prepare. One afternoon, we hooked up with the bassist from Broken Social Scene, who taught us how to play the song and neither of us really play anything, so it was really daunting. We had a couple hours of rock school. It was a very indie movie. We shot in the winter. It was freezing. We were out on the streets. We had so much fun. There were days we laughed so hard, and it was poignant. Tracy’s fierce and was a smart, sweet, kind woman, and all of this comes out in her work. She wanted very much for the work to be the work and not about her illness. She wanted to do the work. It’s what every actor wants.
Did you have any background in music prior to filming?
No, not really. I think that I kind of half-played the drums in a movie called “Center of the World” a long time ago. We just did it and it was fun. It’s kind of a reactive fantasy to get to be the lead singer in a band, but there’s nothing less cool than pretending to be a lead singer in a band. When we shot it, Bruce — who makes a lot of rock ‘n’ roll kind of movies — said, “We need to throw a huge party and have a lot of Toronto bands play and shoot it with the real audience.” They set this whole thing up and we’ve got these 10 local, great bands playing and all these Toronto music people. The place is packed, and the Toronto film community’s come out in support of Tracy. And there’s 400 people and in the middle of it you had to go out and lip synch to this. I had done the vocals, but they were recorded previously. I wanted to throw up. It’s a horrifying kind of humiliation being an actor sometimes. The crowd was very patient and supportive and we got through it.
In “Trigger,” the band is recognized and praised by girls and young women, some of whom were inspired to form their own band. What music had a big influence on you when you were young?
I grew up in a smallish town in British Columbia and when I was that age, I had just figured out that outside of the smallish town I lived in, in the city of Vancouver, there were other people who were also kind of freaks. I didn’t look like a freak, but I felt like a freak and I really wanted to be with those people. And I would drive in every weekend and hang out with these kids, who were punk-rock, and it was so exciting and fun and they turned me on to the Velvet Underground and all of it, everything important in music. That would have been the late ’80s. But then I also grew up in a home where there was a lot of rock ‘n’ roll: Rolling Stones, Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young and ’70s power rock played in my house. Sort of the nostalgic Fleetwood Mac/punk rock problem.
Your character, Kat, returns to Canada from L.A. to reunite with her former bandmate, whom she’s known since childhood, and ends up revisiting a lot of her old haunts. You returned to Canada from L.A., where you now live, to film this movie. Did you have a similar experience?
[Bruce] wrote it for us. I do live in Los Angeles and I am working in television. Not far off the mark. As it happens, I’m here right now in Toronto. I’m from the West Coast and B.C., so Toronto is like my young adulthood. I spent three years here in my early 20s and loved it. It has that northeastern-grit kind of look that felt more like a city to me, closer to New York. I like Toronto a lot. My experience is a completely different thing. I have a 5-year-old and working here, my life is going to a PTA meeting, so it’s different.
What do you want audiences to take away from “Trigger”?
I always have a hard time with that question because I don’t have an intention for anyone to take anything. The experience of any movie is the truth, I guess — sort of a sense of hope. That’s what it did for me. And I think it’s what women are looking for, what they’re talking about: They’re sort of at this place in their life where they’re sober, kind of, they’re trying to be, and as we get older there’s this mythological part where you turn inward and there’s this spiritual reflection, this self-awareness and this sort of inward journey that begins to happen which is in contrast to our early 20s, when we’ve just left our homes and we’re out in the world and it’s all about having this experience of life. I think these women [in the film] are more in a reflective place and asking those kinds of questions. And hope is what I think they’re looking for and I think the movie provides that.
Also I have to say, I love the pink boots you wear in the movie.
Aren’t they awesome? I love those boots. A girlfriend of mine in L.A. who’s a costume designer lent me those boots for the movie. They made that character for me. As it happens today, I have a cold and I was out in a vintage store and I bought a pair of pink pumps those exact same color. And I didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s because they reminded me of the boots in the movie!
You can’t be in a bad mood when you’re wearing pink shoes.
No, you can’t!
“Trigger” is available on DVD today. Keep an eye out for the pink boots.