Spreading her wings
She’s the latest in a long line of Queen’s grads who are finding success in the acting profession. Actress Amy Ciupak Lalonde, Artsci’98, Ed ’99, has recently won kudos from critics for her eye-catching work in a variety of roles, including two recent big-budget CBC-TV productions.
The talented “Niagara-region girl”– she was born in St. Catharines, attended high school in Welland, and her parents still live on a farm near Fenwick – played the lead character’s ditzy friend in Sophie, a comedy about a bubbly talent agent named Sophie Parker.
In Wild Roses, a melodrama about feuding families in the Alberta heartland, she was a wealthy oil baron’s conniving daughter, who set out to seduce her father’s business partners in order to sway business interests in her family’s favour. In one of the episodes, her character referred to her business degree from Queen’s. Amy smiles at that little irony and at her good fortune at having won such a plum role.
I've been incredibly fortunate and blessed. I've been able to do so much in a short time.
“To be part of a series cast for a full season and to have that dramatic arc is phenomenal; it’s such a crazy challenge. You live and breathe the job. You’re away from home, the hours are intense, but that’s the challenge. You just immerse yourself in it,” says Amy.
She has been doing more and more of that recently, landing better and bigger roles and working steadily.
After becoming a professional actress in 2003, Amy “paid her dues”, appearing in television commercials and doing bit parts wherever she could find them. One thing led to another, and soon she was getting hired for guest spots in such television series as Battlestar Galactica, Love Bites, Kevin Hill, Mutant X, and Queer as Folk (which featured another Queen’s grad, Dean Armstrong, Artsci’96, Ed’97), and in feature films. Amy’s credits in that medium now include horror filmmaker George A. Romero’s zombie tale Diary of the Dead and a number of American made-for-television movies.
This fall you’ll see her in a segment (episode seven) of the crime drama series Copper, to be aired on Global TV in Canada and on ABC in the States.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate and blessed,” says Amy. “I’ve been able to do so much in a short time.”
In fact, she got her acting start during her student days, appearing in a revue, staged by first-year Drama students and directed by Profs. Tim Fort and Anne Hardcastle. She also had roles in productions during her senior year and starred in a production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf staged by the Domino Theatre, a long-established and well-known amateur company in Kingston.
Oddly enough, Amy never landed a lead role in a big student production, something she has never forgotten. “However,” she says, “I also remember the day Tim Fort said, ‘You’d be really great in front of the camera,’ and that he thought I should look into working in film and television.”
After graduating with her BA, Amy put her Queen’s education to good use teaching film and drama at Notre Dame College School in Welland, Ontario, and then took a teaching job in New Zealand.
“I came into my acting career after I’d been teaching for four years. I have a conservative side that likes to be safe, but as far back as I can remember I wanted to act,” Amy explains.
“When I went to New Zealand, I told my students, ‘Live big and dream big. Spread your wings.’ Then the kids started to ask me why I wasn’t doing that.”
This spurred Amy’s life change. She decided to give acting a try. She says doing so was made easier because of her student experiences. “My five years at Queen’s gave me a strong sense of structure and allowed me to develop confidence.
“I loved the well-rounded degree experience I received at Queen’s: playwriting classes with Maurie Breslow, theatre literature classes with Robert Plant, directing classes with Anne Hardcastle, technical theatre classes with Tim Fort, and, most importantly, my acting classes with Gary Wagner, all of which provided me with a strong base and an understanding of theatre and drama. I still draw upon lessons Gary taught me, and I really think they’ve benefited me as a teacher and as a professional actress.
“I never go on a set without realizing the multiple specialists in the room. From writers to directors to set designers, there are many “cooks in the kitchen”, all bringing their expertise to the mix. It’s humbling and wise to know that actors are, at times, simply the icing on the cake.”