Monday, October 17

Heartland's Michelle Morgan: The Momterview

You may know Michelle Morgan as "Lou Fleming" on the hit CBC show Heartland. Averaging over a million viewers an episode, this Alberta-based show is the network's most popular family drama.

Not only did her character give birth at the end of last season, but Michelle is a new mom in real life as well. Somehow she found time to chat with me about Heartland, her daughter, and the ever-popular "balance" question.


The cast of Heartland

This Mom: You've been open about how you moved around a lot growing up, and what a challenge that was for you. How did you handle that, and how did the experience help you?

Michelle Morgan: It always just was, and it actually got to the point that when we didn't move for a few years, I got restless. And I'm still like that. If I'm in the same place for a long time, I get a bit restless, and I need to sort of shake things up. But now that I've had a child, I'm actually really excited to plant some roots and have a home. I've never really had that instinct before, so it's an interesting change for me.

TM: You studied drama at the University of Toronto. Do you feel having that background has benefited you as an actress, and that it's something that actors should have?

MM: It's funny, because Tommy Lee Jones is an actor who, for example, never did any acting classes and says you don't need it, and he's an exceptional actor. So I don't think it's necessarily for everyone, but what I would say is having that training, especially in the theatre, gives you a really strong foundation and builds your confidence. The thing that happens is that some actors are amazing, and they have no training but they have tons of confidence when they're young and full of energy, but sometimes they lose that confidence and they have nothing to fall back on, whereas when you have your training, you can go back to what you've learned. You've got techniques: breathing, physical, vocal, and you can go back to that, which I think is something I need, for myself anyway.

TM: You've done some Q and A's through the Heartland blog, and mentioned how you've auditioned for many roles you didn't get, which I know is true of all actors. Is there a particular "one that got away" that you still think about?

MM: Sure! Really early on I auditioned to play the lead in Gilmore Girls, so I used to see that show on TV all the time and think "Oh, man!" And I watched that actress's career and always thought that would have been a good one. I auditioned for a role that later went to Zooey Deschanel in The Assassination of Jesse James and it was a small part, but when I auditioned for it, the auditioner really made me feel like I got the part, as they do sometimes. She was like "That was excellent! Good job! Wow!" and she seemed so impressed with me that I walked home thinking "Oh my God, I got it!" But of course I didn't. So when I went to see the movie of course that was in my mind!




TM: When Heartland began five seasons ago, did you ever anticipate what a success it would be?

MM: No! When you film a pilot, you never know if it's even going to air. A lot of them just get shelved and nothing ever happens with them, so to be in the process of filming Season Five...no, I never imagined! It's been so exciting, and what a gift to be working on a project that has had this kind of longevity.

TM: Switching gears a bit now to your pregnancy...I know you were very happy with your doula experience. Can you tell us a bit about that?

MM: I didn't know what a doula was until I got pregnant, but my best friend-slash-naturopath said "This is what you need, it's support for the mother," and it was so great for me. I managed to have a natural birth without any drugs and I found the birthing process really difficult, and there were many points where I thought "I cannot do this!" and it was my doulas who gave me the strength and the physical support, like actually leaning on them, that actually got me through it.

TM: You've said that next time you'd like to try a home birth?

MM: I think I would. The midwifery program I worked with has just started a home birthing program, and I think that I would like to do that. I feel like if I was in the comfort of my own home, it would make the process easier for me.

TM: I assume your pregnancy was written into the show?

MM: No, actually it was a total fluke! I knew that I was going to be pregnant on the show, they told me a season ahead, so I knew it was coming, and then I found out I was pregnant, so it just worked. Isn't that funny?


Michelle Morgan as Lou Fleming

TM: Heartland held a baby-naming contest for your character's baby - and had tens of thousands of entries! {Catherine Marion Minnie Fleming won out.} How did you choose the name Mara for your daughter?

MM: Well, we were going through a million names and couldn't settle on anything, and I thought of Mara because it was my Grandmother's nickname, so it was a name that I liked, and I had talked about it with Derek, and he was like "Yeah, I like it," but we didn't settle on anything. Then when Mara was born, the midwife said "What's her name?" and I looked at Derek and said "Mara?" and he said "Yeah!" so we kind of agreed on it when she was born.

TM: Mara is over six months old now. What are her latest milestones?

MM: She's just grown her two bottom front teeth, and she just started eating solids, which she enjoys. She's also starting to get up on her hands and knees. It's so fun to watch her right now. Her dexterity has increased so much, you can just hand her anything and she'll play with it and bang it around. It's so great to play with her.

TM: I've read that this season Lou will have to struggle with going back to work early for financial reasons. You can certainly relate to the quick return to work. How did you manage it?

MM: Mara was only eight weeks old, and I was not ready to get back to work, but that's when the show started filming, so that's what I had to do. It was probably one of the most challenging times of my life but it's gotten a lot easier now that Mara's sleeping through the night, and I've got a great full-time nanny so things have gotten a lot easier, but it was very difficult at first.

TM: On your blog you wrote about being very active before and during your pregnancy - yoga, etc. How has that been going since Mara was born?

MM: Well at first I would be lucky to find time to do a little yoga at home by myself, but right now I just got out of a swim at the local rec centre, so lately I've been finding a little bit more time to do those things. It's hard for moms. At least moms I know. I mean definitely the first thing I sacrificed was time for myself. It's hard to find that time to do things like exercise and do yoga but I'm trying!

TM: I recently wrote an article about work-life balance...and whether "balance" is even the right word to use. How do you find you're doing with that? Do you think it's even a realistic goal?

MM: What I like to say is every day I am trying to achieve that balance and I have yet to achieve it. It's always a challenge, every day. You know, you just have to try to make things work. Enjoy the time you have with your family, your child, your husband, and when you're at work try to focus on that and enjoy that, and every day is different. You have to take it as it comes.


Michelle icing her baby shower cake.
Can you believe her own baby shower was the first one she'd ever attended?

TM: What are your work aspirations after Heartland, if someday the show should end?

MM: I would really like to just be challenged and to play a character that's completely different from Lou. A complete departure would be fun. I would love to do some straight-up comedy in the vein of 30 Rock or Arrested Development, that's always something that I've loved, and I'd love to do some theatre. I haven't done any since I started Heartland and I miss that.


Michelle with baby Mara Carmen

TM: You identify yourself as Chilean-Canadian. What aspects of Chilean culture do you hope to pass on to Mara?

MM: I'd love for her to speak Spanish. And she's gotta learn to make a proper Chilean salad! She has to soak her onion in hot water and slice up the tomato! I'd love for her to have the cooking, and also to know my family. When I grew up, every few years we would go down to Chile and visit my family and I'd love for her to be able to do that too.

*****

Next came the part where I said "That's all my questions, thanks for your time,." etc. However, the interview took an unusually nice turn when Michelle then said "Tell me about yourself!" She asked me about teaching, and my family, wrapping up with: "And you keep a blog! Good for you! I know from keeping my pregnancy blog that it's a lot of work. It may not seem like it, but keeping a blog takes a lot of time!"

Thanks for a great chat, Michelle, and for sharing your pics with us as well!

*****

Season Five of Heartland premiered on September 18th. Find out what you've missed on the Heartland website, and catch new episodes of this multi-generational saga Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBC.
You can follow @MichelleMorgan_  and @HeartlandOnCBC on Twitter, and learn more about Michelle at http://www.michellemorgan.net/.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome interview Kate!
Krista S.

Anonymous said...

Awe, I love hearing about other moms and their stories. I love heartland also, so reading this was very fun and interesting. Great questions also!