Canadian Actress Grace Lynn Kung Talks “Mary Kills People” And Working With Jessica Chastain
As one of the stars on Global TV’s new Canadian TV series Mary Kills People, Grace Lynn Kung plays a nurse who has a deep, dark secret. Kung’s character Annie is the trusted pal of Mary (depicted by Caroline Dhavernas), a doctor who helps to put terminally ill patients out of their misery. The drama series addresses the controversial subject of assisted suicide, and also once again brings the rising Ottawa-born actress to the small screen. Kung, who recently appeared in the film Miss Sloane with star Jessica Chastain, spoke to Real Style about her latest role. From her Hollywood role models to the challenges of the Canadian showbiz industry, Kung spilled on her life in front of the cameras and more.
Mary Kills People airs tonight at 9 p.m. ET/ PT on Global.
Real Style: Tell us more about your new role in Mary Kills People.
Grace: Mary Kills People is a six part event series that follows Dr. Mary Harris, single mom and ER doctor, who has an unpredictable side hustle: being the underground angel of death. I play Annie, Mary’s friend and ICU nurse who shares her side hustle. Annie is the one that deems certain patients in particular circumstances a good fit for their business and connects them to Mary’s toll free deathlike. Well, it’s not free, but in the first episode, we do partially refer to the reason that we charge what we do for our ‘service’. I like to call it Cat + Mouse: Death Edition, where the mouse comes knocking asking to be eaten.
Real Style: Last year, you starred in The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger. What set this role apart from previous ones?
Grace: This marks the first time that the beginnings of the process originated at a writers’ party. I had started writing out of a desire to stop hearing that there wasn’t truer representation of People of Colour (POC) in front of and behind the screens, because it wasn’t in the writing rooms.
It’s an honour to be a lead in a feature. The canvas you have to paint is larger so you have more corners to dust up with whatever you want. With Pam and Carl, it was delicious to dive into the mundanities of a couple we follow into the depths of an existential crisis. It’s like one uncomfortable dinner party for them from beginning to end. I love characters that show us parts of themselves that are like that one corner of your basement behind the furnace that you have never ever dusted, mopped or cleaned. Those are the things that makes humans interesting. I love that Pam and Carl are not at their best. They have a very real relationship where they’ve eaten almost a decade’s worth of meals together and some days you’re just past covering up the cracks. Also, I’m an actor that loves to eat on camera. I love it. Something about the act of eating means that you actually can’t act as much. You have to be involved in the very real task of trying to ingest sustenance without choking and dying. Something about that process takes the heat off trying to act and often feels more natural.
Real Style: How was your experience working alongside Jessica Chastain in Miss Sloane?
Grace: I call my Miss Sloane experience the best acting lessons I never paid for. I’m such a Jessica fan. Every so often you work with a celebrity, and Jessica is definitely someone that you would say is a celebrity – people know who she is, she’s been in recognizable, prominent, award winning work, she’s someone that gets shouted out on a red carpet, there were photographers taking pictures of her walking to set – but first and foremost, Jessica is an artist. Her character was on every single page of the script, the page was coated with her dialogue, driving at a pace that would actually take your breath away.
Real Style: Who are your Hollywood role models, whether they include actors or directors?
Grace: I get asked this all the time and it’s interesting to have to keep processing the changes as I shift and hopefully grow. Right now, Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham are huge influences because they are creators -actors, writers, producers, and Lena directs. I have to shout Mindy out because change is about those little things and if you watch The Mindy Project, you’ll see that her background performers are at least 50 per cent female
I’m a big fan of Constance Woo from Fresh Off The Boat, her comedy chops are right on and she is an activist. That’s what I need to have in a role model. Someone I can admire fully who is trying to make a difference in the world. Also a fan of Emma Watson and her work on gender parity and awareness.
I’m currently loving Jared Keeso too. If you haven’t seen the season two premiere of 19-2, go watch it now. One of the most mind blowing hours of dramatic television I’ve ever seen. Then they guy goes and creates Letterkenny with Jacob Tierney and plays a phenomenal comic character who slays me.
Real Style: What upcoming projects do you have in store?
Grace: Five more episodes of Mary Kills People, though they have six to look forward to when we premiere in April in the U.S. I’m currently shooting the newest Chucky film and that’s going to come out for Halloween for this year so horror fans, be ready.
Real Style: Do you have a dream role?
Grace: I’m an actor who loves to get physical so any role that allows me to access that is glorious. On a grander scale, I’ve had a dream of a period piece with POC. It’s the oddity of the industry that when it comes to certain eras of history all POC disappear. It’s been something that I’ve researched and it made my heart sing when The Black Chronicles exhibit came out in London in 2014. It was a series of astonishing portraits of Black Victorians. I went digging through the archives in Toronto and found these great photos also of Chinese families and associations in the 1920s. It’s a personal goal of mine to one day make a period piece that encompasses a world that existed but is rarely seen.
Real Style: What are some of the biggest challenges of being an emerging Canadian actress?
Grace: As an actor, you are at the mercy of others for what role you can be seen for and then what you will be cast in. I’ve gotten to network level for some series before (basically the last step of approval for casting) and it’s heart breaking to get that far and be told “they are going in a different direction”. You have to have hope and be sensitive to be good in your work, but it is difficult to withstand all the blows when you are sensitive and have hope.
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