Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Stephanie Bennett’s first feature lead was in 2012’s Grave Encounters 2, followed with roles in TV movies such as Stolen Dreams, Truth & Lies and Nine Lives of Christmas. She demonstrated her versatility in Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, Leprechaun: Origins, the CW series iZombie and the Lifetime series UnReal. Stephanie can be currently seen in the CBC drama The Romeo Section playing Dee. Next up, she will appear in the ABC Family series Shadowhunters, based on the popular book series The Mortal Instruments by Cassanda Clare, set to air in early 2016.
You studied classical ballet from a very young age, including two years at the National Ballet. It wasn’t until university that you decided to pursue acting full-time. What made you switch focus from dancing to acting?
Dance gave me the opportunity to portray different characters and tell their stories. Playing characters was my favourite part of dance so I knew at a young age I loved acting. When I was in university and considering a career, I had to give acting a shot before anything else. After my first acting class I knew it was what I was meant to do.
Over the last couple of years your acting career has undergone quite the transformation. You’ve moved away from traditional ‘pretty girl roles’ to take on more substantial acting parts that better demonstrate your range and versatility. What has this evolution been like for you?
I love roles that push me in directions I didn’t know I could go. Characters like Dee with lives very different from mine excite me. Knowing so little about that world required a lot of research and risk-taking. It’s amazing how playing Dee helped me learn about myself in the process. I really hope to continue to be challenged by my work and be able to transform into different characters.
We’ve heard you went above and beyond to ensure your part on CBC’s The Romeo Section was as authentic as possible. How did you prepare to play the role of Dee, a troubled cocaine addict?
I started by reading articles on drug addiction and the effects of alcohol and crack cocaine abuse in particular. I watched many documentaries on individuals and their personal stories of struggle with substances, as well as documentaries on young women in domestic abuse situations.I spent a bit of time in downtown Vancouver’s east side with women suffering from drug addiction. I made sure to take note of specifics, like their body language and how they communicated during highs and lows. As the season went on, Dee encountered new challenges that required new research. Not only did this role require outside research but I needed to do a lot of work on myself and how to bring out Dee in a way that was truthful.
Early next year fans can look forward to seeing you in ABC Family’s Shadowhunters, a new TV series based on The Mortal Instruments fantasy novels written by Cassandra Clare. This role is set to make waves State-side. How does an emerging Canadian actress, such as yourself, carve her career on both sides of the border?
I am very lucky to live in Vancouver as there are so many great opportunities in both Canada and America that come through there. It was the perfect place to begin my career and get my foot in
the door. I can audition with Vancouver casting directors in person, but I also have managers in Los Angeles that submit me for American projects. I send audition tapes to Toronto and Los Angeles for projects there. This was how I was able to audition for Shadowhunters.
In the upcoming series you portray Lydia Branwell, a no-nonsense young Shadowhunter. This part is definitely one of the most physically demanding on your repertoire; have you done any training to prepare for the role?
Dancing at a young age helped me develop a strong physique, which was useful as the role was physically demanding every day. I continue to run regularly and try to stay as strong as possible, all good experience for the role of Lydia. However, I did have some martial arts training during the shoot and it was completely new to me. I think I caught on okay but I was definitely nervous!
There’s buzz that the role of Lydia will positon you as Hollywood’s ‘next big thing’. If you had the choice, who would you model your career after? Is there any star in particular you would love to work with?
I have a never-ending list of actors that inspire me and I dream of working with. However, Kate Winslet has been a huge inspiration from the start. She is so honest in her work and I can see different aspects of herself in every role she plays. She can transform so beautifully and has played such a wide range of characters, which I definitely aspire to do.