Stories about rebellion and fighting against powers of evil are needed now more than ever. Set in the not-too-distant future, the new CBC Gem and Hulu series Utopia Falls is another one of those stories. In it, a group of teens are chosen to compete in a prestigious competition that takes place in their seemingly idyllic colony of New Babel. However, when the group stumbles upon a hidden archive of cultural relics, they begin questioning everything that they’ve been taught.
As the teens start to question and rebel against the laws of their world, they will come head to head with the leader of New Babyl’s police force, Authority Phydra (Kate Drummond). She is a smart and cunning woman who puts law, order, and the status quo of New Babyl above all. As the group of teens begin to introduce hip-hop into the competition, and culture at large, Phydra becomes more and more determined to stop them.
Playing a villian that fans will love to hate is nothing new for Toronto-based Drummond. She played Agent Lucado on Wynonna Earp and has also starred on series such as Dark Matter and Saving Hope. Drummond recently spoke to The TV Junkies about why she really enjoyed playing such a powerful character as Phydra, how she views the role of the antagonist, and why, after spending 12 years as a school teacher before turning to acting, she really enjoyed working with the talented young cast of Utopia Falls.
The TV Junkies: The concept behind Utopia Falls is so unique and unlike so many other series out there. What was it about the show that drew you to it?
Kate Drummond: The first thing that drew me in was actually my character’s name, Phydra. I thought with a name like that, the role had to be super kickass. It’s such a strong name. Phydra was described as a model of determination and dedication and I thought, “I can definitely play that!” but then also, knowing that she was the antagonist really peeked my interest too! At the beginning, I don’t think I fully understood how Utopia Falls would evolve into the show that it is… really. I just knew it was music oriented, futuristic and that when peeked my head in and saw Phydra and this world she was governing, I knew then that I wanted to play in it!
TTVJ: You’re not only Phydra, you are Authority Phydra.
KD: I know! There’s so much about my character that is just so cool, right down to the wardrobe and hair and words I get to speak. It was such a thrilling experience for me and I really loved it.
TTVJ: What else can you share with us about her?
KD: Authority Phyrda is the head of New Babyl’s police force. I’m the enforcer of the law and order, making sure that everything is status quo, and that people are playing by the rules. I’d call her “The Enforcer,” but she’s also the main obstacle and main antagonist of the show. I’m kind of accustomed to playing that these days, but she’s fantastic and super smart. She may be manipulative, but it’s all for the purpose of keeping the peace in New Babyl. Authority Phydra will do what she needs to do to make sure that her nation is playing within the boundaries and not coloring outside the lines.
TTVJ: There’s all this amazing music and dance happening, but Phydra is having none of it.
KD: I’m definitely against it. As far as she knows, they’ve created this idyllic colony where history has been kept away from the people of New Babel. The fact that it starts to slowly leak in means that Phydra has her work cut out for her and she’s got to shut it down.
TTVJ: Is it hard to play that role, especially in these times where it feels like we all need to rebel and speak out more than ever?
KD: Yes and no. No because I just get to make the kids fight harder for what they believe in. I love viewing the role that way. As opposed to standing in your way, I love being the one who makes them question how hard they will work and how far they will go to get what they believe in. I like playing those roles and challenging the protagonist, as well as giving them something to work hard for. It makes the stakes in the show much higher too when you have a big force against what you know is right. Of course, the freedom of expression, diversity, eco-awareness, activism, and the powerful youth we have attached is such a beautiful collection of themes in one show. To be a part of the telling of that and bringing it to light, no matter if I’m the protagonist or antagonist, it’s still part of the passion behind those themes.
TTVJ: Okay but you’re so nice and lovely, Kate! Let’s petition to get you some of the nice roles too is all I’m saying. You’re very good at being mean, but come on!
KD: I would love a funny, nice person role, but I think the reason I always get cast in these roles of women in power is that they have this ‘Don’t mess with me’ attitude. Those are really fun roles for me because I don’t shy away from standing in that power. It’s something I embrace and I’m like, ‘Bring on that powerhouse woman and let people be scared of her.’ I love that! It’s so fun to play, but yes, then I go home and cuddle with my dog. It’s a balance.
TTVJ: You mentioned the hair and wardrobe of your character earlier, but I have to imagine that’s something that really helps you get ready to stand in that power.
KD: 1000%. If I had to say these words in jeans and Converse it just would not have worked. The hair took quite some time to do and it’s a very tight hairstyle. It’s like when you pull your hair back into a really tight ponytail, and even that makes you stand a little taller and have a little more edge to you because you’re irritated at your hair being pulled. I loved everything about the creative team’s work with Phydra because that red jacket really was tailored to me and my body. I’d zip it up and it made all the difference.
TTVJ: It’s quite the visual to see her in that red coat and hair versus the rest of the adults in the show with their white jackets.
KD: I love that! As an actor, to walk in and be different and have a different energy and color, that just sets you apart and makes you not fit in. That’s just such a fun place to be, this place of other because that’s usually what the antagonist is: they are the other. If you can embrace that as an actor and really go there it’s such a fun place to play for sure.
TTVJ: What was it like for you getting to work with this talented cast of younger actors? Could you have kept up with them in the music and dance at all if you had to?
KD: [laughs] I could never keep up with them on any level with what they are doing. They are so talented and vibrant. I instantly fell in love with all of them. I don’t know if it’s my teacher background, but I just love seeing young people thrive and excel. For me, as an actor, walking on set and being surrounded by these incredibly talented actors full of beautiful energy was so exciting.
We had a lot of really great conversations. Akiel [Julien, Bohdi] and I had a lot of conversations about preparation and some good heart to heart moments as well. I almost felt like a mentor at some points, and I just loved that. Speaking to my teacher background, that’s my other passion: empowering youth and seeing them excel. I love working with kids, acting with kids, and teaching kids. I love being around that youthful energy. I’m so proud to know them and think they are perfectly cast, wildly talented, and I’m a huge fan of all of them.
TTVJ: It’s perfect until they yell, ‘Action!’ and you crush all their characters’ dreams. [laughs]
KD: I loved intimidating the crap out of every single one of them. It’s so funny because I walked by Mickeey [Nguyen, Mags] and he said to me, ‘I don’t know what it is, but every time you walk by, I clench.’ I said, ‘Yes, and I love that I have that effect on all of you.’ [laughs]
On the other hand, without giving anything away, I love that the dynamics between Phydra and some of the seven kids are very different. There’s some very different dances happening and that made it very exciting. There’s always something new happening with Phydra and these kids and it made my job so fun.
I’ll tell you that I tried to learn one of their dances, it was where two of them were doing a dance and I tried to step in. I have never felt more like Elaine fromSeinfeld in my entire life. I thought I’d just go for it and try, but then a voice in my head said, ‘Walk away Kate while you have dignity.’
TTVJ: Outside of crushing it as Phydra on Utopia Falls, what other projects do you have coming up?
KD: I just finished shooting two movies back-to-back. One is called The Novice and is an interesting, dark sports movie about rowing. I play a former Olympic rower turned coach. It’s hopefully coming out this year and was a really challenging role. We shot it outside, mostly on the water, in November in Peterborough, Ontario. It was so cold. Then I went and shot a movie in Hamilton called A Dangerous Test. I’m also doing a lot of voice work right now and in pre-production for a movie called Healing Hearts. It has a fantastic script that I wept through having to do with horses and grief. It really resonated with me and I have that to look forward to.
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Utopia Falls is available for streaming on CBC Gem and Hulu.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.