'Preggoland' reaches its due date

Actress Lisa Durupt on 'Preggoland', James Caan, and being funny

Want to see remarkable in action? Tell Lisa Durupt she can’t do something, and then sit back and watch her soar.

When, at the age of 16, she lost all of her fine motor skills for three weeks due to multiple sclerosis, she didn’t give up her burgeoning hockey career. She kept at it, and two years later, she was offered a hockey scholarship in the United States.

Later, when a shoulder injury derailed her post-secondary plans, and she discovered a passion for acting via an elective, Durupt – who had never before studied anything arts-related – decided to dive headfirst into acting. Within a week, she’d enrolled in nine dance classes, and was studying music, stage combat, and acting.

“My mom joked, ‘you want to be an actor? You and three million other people’ – which, for me, the minute someone says ‘you can’t do this,’ my brain goes into, ‘okay, just wait and see,’” says the Winnipeg-born, Vancouver-based actress in a recent interview.

“I’ve always been the person that starts something late, is the last to ever be chosen, but is the last person standing.”

And where Durupt is standing now is fully entrenched in a busy acting career, one that began in the Winnipeg stunts scene (“The athletic side of me liked that part, but I loved the creative side of actually the straight-up acting better”) and is now firmly rooted in the Vancouver film and television biz.

Durupt will next be seen in Preggoland, the laugh-out-loud comedy written by and starring Sonja Bennett that premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and won the award for Most Popular Canadian Feature Film at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

In Preggoland, Bennett stars as Ruth, an irresponsible thirty-something who fakes a pregnancy in order to fit in with her social group.

Durupt plays Hillary, Ruth’s sister. “It’s freaking amazing, because everyone talks about writing, but not everyone does it,” says Durupt. “Sonja actually did it, and did it really well.”

The film also stars Machete star Danny Trejo, and Godfather alum James Caan as Hillary and Ruth’s father.

“He’s just this grumbly grandpa who is so passionate and will fight for all of his choices,” says Durupt of Caan. “He was funny. He would bark a little bit, but he reminded me of my grandpa, so a couple of times I gave it right back to him and he kind of realized, ‘we’re cool, we’re good,’ and then he would sit there and spill stories about things like when he lived in the Playboy mansion.”

Hillary is the kind of comedic role for which Durupt regularly auditions (requiring a similar skill set to what she employed during her four seasons on Less Than Kind). It was comedy that, long before Preggoland, routinely brought her and Bennett together in audition waiting rooms.

“We went up for some of the same roles, because you get that when you’re blonde, and perky,” laughs Durupt. “I call it the Quirky Corner. You get shoved in the Quirky Corner, and you’re like, ‘okay, so I talk a lot, that’s fair.’”

While Durupt enjoys comedic roles, she doesn’t like people telling her she can’t do more than that.

“I think Vancouver is slowly figuring me out, but originally it was, ‘oh, she only does comedy,’” says Durupt. “I do ‘ridiculous’ well, which is not necessarily something you want to be known for in Vancouver, because it’s all sci-fi and serious, but if someone says, ‘here’s a bunch of props, make me laugh,’ it’s something that revs my engine, and I say, ‘what can I do, what can I do?’”

• Preggoland opens in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto on May 1, and in 10 American cities on May 8.

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On living in the moment and eating birthday cake with Richard Gere: “Take stock of every cool thing that happens, because there are so many little cool moments, whether it be people you get to meet that you never thought you would meet, or to be part of these crazy experiences that you never even thought for one second you’d get to do. The coolest one was when I was doing Shall We Dance, when I was doubling for Susan Sarandon. It was the last day of shooting and it was Richard Gere’s birthday, and we wrapped and it was a night shoot, and I’m having birthday cake with Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, and I was like, ‘You could not, at 22, have told me, you’re going to have birthday cake with Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere. What? No effing way.’ I think just really enjoying all that stuff, because if you’re worrying about when you’re going to get your next job, you’re never going to appreciate it.”

On advice she received from fellow Winnipegger, The 100 actor Aleks Paunovic: “Aleks Paunovic was somebody who, after Preggoland, pulled me aside and said, ‘Please acknowledge for yourself how cool it is that you got to be a part of this and be proud of your work, because all of the other stuff happens so fast around it, that if you don’t take the time to go, this was awesome, you will never appreciate it.’ He was really good about, ‘Lisa, really appreciate this moment, because this was a really cool moment.’ I really look up to him for that.”

On living with multiple sclerosis: “When I was 16, I lost my fine motor skills for three weeks. It came back; no problems. Eighteen, I lost the heat in my left leg and it never came back, and that’s when I was officially diagnosed, and then my mom just said to me, ‘You either own it, or let it own you.’ That was an a-ha moment, and that’s when I started making choices of things I wanted to do. I try really hard to be positive and not stress about things. It really dictates how your life will go, especially when you do have something like that. I know what it’s like to not be able to dress yourself or feed yourself and all that stuff, so when you do have your health, I think the rest, you can’t stress about anything. I’ve been very lucky. If I never work again, life is still good, and I’ll be great, and I won’t have any problems with it, because you need to appreciate it.”

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