Montrealers bend gender with Werewoman

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Amber Goldfarb and Kimberly-Sue Murray in Werewoman

A guy wakes up one day in a woman’s body. It sounds like a classic ’80s body-switching comedy, but in fact it’s Werewoman, a web series in development from a gang of ambitious young actresses from Montreal. The team has put together an online teaser as part of a campaign to win funding from the Toronto-based Independent Production Fund. Cult MTL spoke with series creator Kimberly-Sue Murray on the phone from Toronto, where she’s currently working, and met with actors Amber Goldfarb and Mikaela Davies in an NDG café to discuss the series.

According to Goldfarb, the seed of the project came about collectively from the tight-knit group, also including Sarah Hansen and Catherine Bérubé, who all attended Dawson’s theatre program. “We’re five best friends, we have a really special relationship,” she says. “We often have a girls’ night, and it always ends up being an amazing night with a lot of laughter and a lot of crazy stories. We came up with the idea to write a series about girls, and about our experiences together. We worked on that for a while, then it sort of dwindled because we all got busy with other projects.”

One of those projects, for Murray, was to attend a web series workshop at Toronto’s Centennial College. Called upon in class to pitch an idea, the ill-prepared Murray blurted out the first thing on her mind. “I lived in a communal home with a bunch of girls and this one guy,” she recalls. “I kept teasing him and saying ‘you’re gonna grow a vagina just living with us.’” She developed the idea in class, collaborating with writer Surita Parmar.

Somewhere along the line, the original collaborative idea was folded into Murray’s new concept. As you can see from the trailer, it leads to an intriguing blend of genres. “I’m a fan of Girls, so I liked the feeling that you’re a voyeur spying on people, you shouldn’t be listening in on conversations,” says Murray. “But I also love werewolves, vampires, all that stuff. So to mix the two was interesting.”

 

Werewoman’s core cast: Goldfarb (rear), Sarah Hansen, Mikaela Davies, Murray and Catherine Bérubé (l-r).

Though the team took shape in Montreal, many of them have found themselves dividing their time between here and Toronto. As the Gaspé-born Murray succinctly points out, “You can live off acting in Toronto. In Montreal, only a lucky few can do that.” And as far as Montreal’s legion of Toronto-haters, says Davies, “People who dismiss Toronto usually haven’t explored it.”

Of course, Toronto is also, as the famous robber once said about banks, where the money is. Getting the IPF funding (the awarding of which is evaluated on creative quality as well as online popularity) would take the project to the next level. But, says Davies, “Even if we don’t get the funding and move on to the next phase, we still plan on producing the series ourselves through independent producers, crowdfunding.”

The estrogen-heavy team sees the project as a way to remedy the lack of quality female roles in the business. “Women are misrepresented in the media, if you sit down and do the math,” says Goldfarb. “Men get 90% of lead roles and 70% of supporting roles. It bothers me, but I’m not gonna sit and complain about it. The only way to change it is to make your own work. If women are writing the stories they wanna see, then it’s gonna happen. It’s our way of being pro-active.”

Goldfarb, whose combination of feminine appearance and husky voice makes her somehow ideal to play a man-turned-woman, continues: “It’s a way of exploring sexuality, pushing boundaries, challenging gender norms. But we’re not saying ‘this is our message.’ We wanna explore these ideas and see where it takes us.”

However, Werewoman is far from an academic exercise. Above all else, it’s an enjoyably lowbrow comedy. “A friend of mine said it was pipi caca humour,” says Murray. “I just laughed and was like ‘yeah, maybe.’” When it comes to bodily-function comedy, she points out, “Everyone thinks it’s funny, they just won’t admit it.” ■

 

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