Canadian native Laura Vandervoort is no stranger to the world of acting. Her career began as a preteen when she eagerly accepted small roles in commercials. She then began landing roles in shows that—if you were a kid in the 90’s—used to be absolutely terrifying, like Are You Afraid Of The Dark? and Goosebumps. After countless more television appearances, she struck gold in the form of a regular role as Supergirl on Smallville,propelling her career and popularity to even greater heights. Her following knows her as the bombshell that pretty much kicks supernatural butt! While most of us would shy away from all things creepy, Vandervoort seems to think the weirder, the better.
Her most recent role as Elena Michaels on the well-received Bitten only confirms that the talented actress is in her element when it comes to sci-fi and the darker side of adventure. The show originated from a very successful book series by Kelley Armstrong, meaning that fans would already have high expectations. Vandervoort met those prospects with ease. As the only living female werewolf in existence, Elena Michaels’s life is a constant struggle to keep the supernatural world at bay—very unlike the thrill-seeking actress who plays her. Vandervoort is a total knockout, literally and figuratively. The blonde beauty has a black belt in mixed martial arts and a love for yoga and the gym. Growing up as a tomboy certainly toughened her up, but a life in the spotlight definitely ensured that her femininity was brought to the forefront. Throughout it all, Laura Vandervoort remains refreshingly humble, surprisingly humorous, and incredibly real.
Photographer: Quavondo, Photography Assistant: KC Guyer, Makeup: Lysette Castellanos, Hair: Ashley Lynn Hall, Stylist: Ja’Niya Walker, Location: Ryan Blair
Cliché: We know that, like many other actresses, your early career began with small appearances in commercials and television. Now, you’re the lead in a series that had a huge following before it even aired! At what point in your career did you feel like you finally “made it” so to speak?
Laura Vandervoort: I started working at around 13 years old. It was something that transpired in my own head at that age. I asked my parents to let me try acting. I had done martial arts since I was 7 and I think they really liked the idea of me trying something new and artistic. After working on commercials and children’s TV series, I slowly kept working, training, and taking acting classes. It’s hard to say that there was ever a point where I felt like “I’ve made it.” Every job to me was an opportunity in my mind to prove myself worthy or good enough to be there. Smallville was a huge grab for me because it was a well-known series and an iconic female superhero. That was the first opportunity I had to have the American market and the world watch. It was definitely a learning ground for me. I took it very seriously. Working in the feature film world was also a new experience. The Lookout with Jeff Daniels and Joseph Gordon Levitt was a dream come true. Years later, after feature films, indie and TV guest stars, I started to enjoy the work and not focusing so much on “proving my worth.” That was an epiphany for me—that it wasn’t all about work, that the work actually got better when I let myself go and enjoyed the experience, that I had put the work in over the years and truly earned the right to be there.
On Bitten, you play Elena Michaels, the only female werewolf that exists. Your character tries to live a normal, “mainstream” lifestyle, but the supernatural stuff sort of gets in the way. If you were a werewolf, do you think you’d embrace it and run with the pack or keep it a secret?
[Laughs.] If I myself were a werewolf, I think I would definitely be going through the same experiences as Elena on Bitten. I think we all feel the need to belong somewhere in this life. Sadly, society often views “different” as not belonging or odd. The werewolf lifestyle is not a norm and like Elena, I’m sure I would struggle with that. Obviously there are perks to being able to let the inner animal out—a sense of release—but that comes with a cost.
How difficult are the scenes where you’re transforming from human to werewolf? Is the wolf CGI’d in, or is the process as painful as it seems?
At the beginning of the season, Elena is transforming a lot. We wanted the audiences to see her struggle and pain during this process, her hate for the animal inside of her. It’s all CGI. No prosthetics were needed, which is fantastic! The cast did all get together at the beginning of the series with producers, writers, and directors to discuss how the transformation would look, sound, and feel. We didn’t want it to be a copy of other werewolf series or features. Elena has more issues with the process because it is still new to her and she’s always fighting it, thus her change is excruciating—whereas the rest of the pack can simply change with a small moan.
We have to ask—are you really nude on set when it appears that you are? Are you comfortable when it comes to being scantily clad in front of the cast and crew?
No. I mean, for the most part, yes [laughs], but we do make sure the actors are comfortable and covered up where necessary. Body doubles are often used for wide shots but for the intimate shots and majority, it is us. At first, I was uncomfortable and nervous, but as the cast all got to know one another, it became easy. We all want the show to look as great as possible and have our relationships feel the same way. The comfort level for nude scenes became high, and it became just another scene in the day, rather than this nerve-racking beacon of fear to get through. These scenes are crucial to the plot and Elena’s struggle with the animal inside of her, and thus it was important to make them feel real.
What drew you to this role? Were you a fan of the book series?
I actually wasn’t aware of the book series. My agent informed me of their interest and the synopsis. I was definitely intrigued by the idea of a leading lady who is a werewolf. We hadn’t seen that done before. I always like a challenge. I spoke with our executive producer for about an hour on the phone, discussing the role and the vibe of the show. I asked what any actress would: why was this show different from the existing sci-fi series and feature films? The answers I got were what sold me. I read the books and the first two scripts and signed on! I loved Elena’s tortured past, her struggles, demons, and secrets. But on the flip side, I loved her basic need to belong and be loved—something we all want.
With a predominantly young (and hunky male cast, does it feel like a frat house on set?
No, not at all. There are definitely moments where I look around and the men are shirtless and doing pushups for scenes [laughs], but for the most part I feel like one of the guys. They feel like my brothers. They have all been really accepting of me, much like Elena was accepted into the pack. They have welcomed me into their world and treat me as one of the guys. We are always joking around and laughing. Season one was a wonderful experience and they were all there for me through the ups and downs.
Do you all watch the episodes as they air?
I actually got copies of the show up to episode 9. It made me nervous to watch it live for the first time with everyone else. Having the episodes ahead of time allows me to prepare for what others will see and to warn my parents what NOT to watch [laughs].
On set and off, you always look effortlessly flawless. Growing up as a tomboy, did you care about things like beauty and fashion? Or was it just something that came along with being in the public eye?
I actually never thought about makeup, beauty, or fashion growing up—which is clear if you see childhood and teen photos of me. I think that all came with working as I got older and attending events in L.A. I became aware of the importance of some of it. Makeup artists would show me how to wear makeup and as of late, stylists have taught me about fashion. It’s not really something I ever thought I would care about, but now I have a lot of fun playing with it all and discovering different sides of myself.
Did you ever dream you’d find yourself on Maxim’s Top 100 Model list? How did it feel when you first found out?
No! Are you kidding me? I grew up with a unibrow, in a karate uniform with sweaty bangs and a boy’s haircut (thanks Mom)! I never would have dreamt of being seen as a Maxim girl. It is still rather odd to me, but flattering none the less.
How do you maintain that gorgeous glow and amazing figure? Please tell us there’s something easier than liquid diets and hours at the gym!
Well, I do enjoy a good workout, so I won’t lie; that’s important. But my Mom always taught me to remove makeup before bed and wear sunscreen. I think those two tips can be lifesaving [in addition to] really just taking care of your mind, body, and soul, as cheesy as that may sound. Work out, do yoga to turn your mind off, get in touch with your inner thoughts, and SLEEP!
If you didn’t choose a career as an actress, what would you be doing instead?
I went to York University for English and Psychology. I always wanted to be a writer. I grew up writing poetry and short stories and creating plays for my cousin and I to act out for our parents. So I’d likely be writing. I recently had the opportunity and idea to write a children’s book about a young superhero. I got the idea at Comic Con while meeting little girls who were tomboys in their costumes. That was me! I thought, “I need to create someone for these little girls to look up to: a definite character with flaws and a unique style, not the superheroes they’re currently looking up to with unrealistic body types.” After writing the first book, the response was that people really wanted to see it as a live action television series. I teamed up with Shaftesbury in Canada and we are making this a reality. Stay tuned!