After stints on TV's Andromeda and Ready or Not, Guelph grad relocates to Robson Arms
BY REBECCA KENDALL
Moving to a new place generally means a new start and the beginning of new friendships. Laura Bertram sure felt that way in 1998 when she arrived at Guelph to study history after starring on the Global Television show Ready or Not for five years. This season marks another new beginning for Bertram, who earned her BA in 2004 in the midst of a five-year run on the U.S. TV series Andromeda. She's now setting up residence at Robson Arms, a fictional low rise in Vancouver's eclectic West End that provides the base for the CTV series of the same name.
I'm so thrilled to be working in Canadian television again, says Bertram. I feel really lucky because there are so many great Canadian artists who work on Robson Arms, and it's so well-written.
Going into its second season, the show stars Margot Kidder, Megan Follows, Mark McKinney and Shirley Douglas. Bertram plays Chris Colton, a woman who moves into the building with her partner, Andrew, played by Gabriel Hogan. Also joining the cast this year is Leslie Nielsen.
Bertram got her start in show business at age 12 after spending seven years with the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus and taking several years of ballet training. I thought I'd enjoy singing and dancing, but I wasn't particularly good at either, she says.
Her agent suggested acting might be a better fit, and after auditioning for a few roles, she landed the series pilot for Ready or Not. It was my first acting gig and I learned everything on the fly.
For the next five years, Bertram, who played lead character Amanda Zimm, spent long hours on the set and away from a traditional school setting. The role earned her much recognition, including four Gemini Award nominations and two wins.
Her work on Ready or Not led to a role in the TV miniseries Seasons of Love and guest spots on Soul Food, Wind at My Back, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, Mission Genesis and Are You Afraid of the Dark? She also appeared in a number of films, including Family Pictures with Anjelica Huston, Sam Neill and Kyra Sedgwick; and The Boys Next Door with Nathan Lane and Robert Sean Leonard. Despite those early successes, however, something was missing from her life, she says.
I really missed out on my high school experience. I missed the social aspects of being in school, and I missed being in a classroom.
Because of that, she wanted to attend university, but she didn't expect the transition to be as difficult as it was.
I was at a good university, but I didn't do well socially there because of my background in television, says Bertram. I wasn't accepted.
Impressed by what she'd seen and heard of U of G, where her then boyfriend was studying, she transferred to Guelph at the end of her first year.
It was the smartest thing I've done in my life, she says. I immediately felt like I belonged there, and it didn't matter who I was or what I did as a performer. I could just be myself, and that was so important to me. It was a fantastic place for me, and I met some great friends and had some fabulous professors who really inspired me.
She recalls, in particular, history professors Bill Cormack and Peter Goddard, who was her adviser for her thesis project on Protestantism in 16th-century France.
Prof. Goddard has a passion for his work, and he inspires his students to feel the same. I remember wanting to take all his classes because I loved how he taught and how he encouraged us. He made me want to learn as much as I could.
Bertram continued her acting work while at Guelph and performed the title role in the musical stage version of Cinderella in 1999. At the end of her third year, she was asked to audition for a new sci-fi series called Andromeda, a show created by Star Trek's Gene Roddenberry.
She was cast in the role of Trance Gemini, an elusive and secretive character who revealed little about her history and infused the show with a sense of innocence and humour.
Although millions of miles away from Earth as Trance Gemini and thousands of miles away from the Guelph campus in real life, Bertram continued to work toward her BA while on set in Vancouver.
I went to university to complete a degree in history because it's a subject I love. It may not directly employ me now, but I've definitely been able to draw on my education and understanding of history in terms of helping me with character development and critical thinking.
She cites as an example her 1999 role as an Irish immigrant who moves to America after escaping the potato famine in the historical fiction series Dear America: So Far From Home.
It was helpful to have knowledge about the struggles immigrants had coming to America. It's helpful to understand the context in which a character is formed socio-politically. Some actors will just pull their own experience out of their mind and apply it to their role, but I think to truly authenticate a performance, you need a context through understanding a character's past and what they've been through.
Andromeda, which also starred Kevin Sorbo and a number of Canadian actors, ended in May 2005.
I definitely miss the people I worked with every day, says Bertram. They were a great family to me, but I can't say I miss getting into the costume and makeup. She's referring to the body paint that took at least three hours to apply and another hour to remove.
For her role as Trance Gemini, she was nominated for a 2003 Leo Award for best supporting performance.
Bertram will appear on Robson Arms for the first time in the season's fourth episode.
University of Guelph | Guelph, Ontario, Canada
| N1G 2W1 | Tel: 519-824-4120
University of Guelph