Lara Jean Chorostecki – Firecracker

Lara Jean Chorostecki is tucked inside a small glass box, her back pressed into a tight corner. But despite being crammed in a panic-inducing, creaking Edwardian elevator paused on the fourth floor of the Gladstone Hotel, Chorostecki does what she does best. She gets into character. “Daaarllling,” she drawls, channelling an amalgam of Marlene Dietrich and Ingrid Bergman in an amusing Russian accent. “You look beee-uuutiful.” The blue-eyed, petite actress, shifting her slim body covered in fur, effortlessly transforms herself into an old Hollywood star.

The scene is a striking contrast to the part Chorostecki plays on Citytv’s Hannibal, a dark, twisted thriller that plots the bloodbath of literature’s most grisly serial killer. In the role of tabloid reporter Freddie Lounds, she is both fearless and intrusive, her tight, fiery ringlets popping up at crime scenes to the chagrin of FBI agents. Her appearance is a cheeky nod, she explains, to British journalist Rebekah Brooks, an idea concocted by Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller. “I can’t really think of one way that I’m similar to Freddie,” says Chorostecki, who likes to sail the waters of Lake Huron with family during the summer months. Now curled up on a couch in the hotel’s Tower Suite wearing a T-shirt and jeans, Chorostecki reveals a humble, sweet side we don’t get to see onscreen. While her character employs a sociopathic pursuit to cracking murder mysteries, Chorostecki prefers to unwind with yoga, writing poetry and catching up with old friends. “There are parts of Freddie that I admire,” she admits, “because I find — as everyone does when little insecurities come up — that she wouldn’t care about what people think or what they say.”

Her start in the industry is an impressive one. Growing up in Brampton, Ont., Chorostecki dreamed of becoming an actress after watching Susan Gilmore perform in Les Misérables at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. She was eight. Her childhood aspiration became a reality after leaving high school early and working at the Stratford Festival as a theatre actress. In her early 20s, she moved to London, England, obtaining a master’s degree in classical acting from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. At 29, her trajectory is rooted in sacrifice, constructively shaping who she is today. “I had a really interesting journey … it was a lot of growing up, really quickly,” says Chorostecki, whose first professional gig was in The Threepenny Opera at the Stratford Festival. “There’s a lot of people who started acting young who can tell you the same story, but it’s not a sob story; you just grow up different. I used to worry a hell of a lot more, but I don’t think that’s a story about being an actor, I think that’s the story about being human. I feel more comfortable now in my own skin, for sure.” By 2008, Chorostecki dived into TV, picking up roles in Camelot, The Listener and Copper, guest starring in The Border and has an upcoming guest star role in the sixth episode of this season’s Lost Girl. She also starred in the rom-com Please Kill Mr. Know It All earlier this year.

Much to the delight of viewers, and critics who have praised the show’s ability to rise above the shark-jumping tactics typical of the crime drama genre, Hannibal’s second season will begin airing in early 2014. Employing a surrealistic, stylistic approach to Thomas Harris’s 1981 thriller novel Red Dragon, the show explores violence with an artistic notion while tapping into the collective consciousness. “You get to see that psychological, deep dark part of yourself that you’d never want to put into reality and get to see it in this fantastical world onscreen, and I think that’s cathartic for people,” says Chorostecki. “I’m not saying we’re all psychopaths, but there are qualities of ourselves that we’re afraid of. It’s almost a way to exorcize those demons within us and watch them in a safe way.”

Reprising the role of Freddie Lounds alongside a stellar cast, including Laurence Fishburne, Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen (in the lead role of forensic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter) and fellow Canadian Caroline Dhavernas, Chorostecki, who lives in Toronto, is revelling in the experience of working next to seasoned actors in select locations across the city. But she’s quick to credit the brilliance of screenwriter Bryan Fuller, who took a character once portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman and turned it up a notch. His ability to move beyond the one-dimensional character has pushed Chorostecki to rouse her inner fire for a role originally designed for a male. “His writing is so layered, so intricate, that you are then allowed to be a layered and intricate character. He’s the kind of guy who makes you want to work hard.”

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Amanda Storey

Amanda Storey