Amy Jo Johnson on Toronto, directing and Power Rangers
Amy Jo Johnson talks her feature-length directing debut, Canada and legacy as the pink Power Ranger.
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Amy Jo Johnson likes being behind the camera better than in front of it.
The Flashpoint and Felicity star, who officially became a Canadian citizen two years ago, says she’s no longer seeking out acting gigs and is now dedicating her time to filmmaking and being a mom.
She plans to turn her screenplay Crazier Than You, a story about her mother, into a film within the next few years, but wanted to start with a few shorts and a couple of feature-lengths first.
This week, she chatted with the Star about The Space Between, her debut feature film as a director (which she also wrote and starred in), moving to Canada and how her first acting gig unexpectedly followed her career.
In The Space Between you play Amelia. Did you always know that character was going to be (played by) you? What was it like writing a character that you would also then play?
Half of the money we raised to make the movie was through Indiegogo and people who have supported my acting career for 20 years, especially from the first job I ever had as a Power Ranger.
I knew that because people helped so much in creating the movie with raising so much money, that I had to put myself in the film.
As a first-time feature film director, I wanted to make sure my role was smaller than one of the main characters, so I could really focus on the actual directing and creating the film.
You mention being a Power Ranger, it’s been, I guess, 20 years or a little bit . . .
More! (Laughs). That was my first job ever, my first acting job, yeah.
That still seems to come up a lot quite a lot for you even though you’ve done quite a lot in between. How much do you feel that (role) is still part of your identity?
I think it comes in phases, but because (The Space Between) came out this year and, because all those children are now in their late 20s, early 30s — they’re adults — it’s sort of having this bit of a resurgence for a moment. It’s all good, it doesn’t bother me.
Can you tell me about the switch from acting to being a director. What made you decide to switch sides of the camera?
I always knew that at some point I wanted to direct.
You know, I think it was moving. I left Los Angeles 10 years ago because I just — it was swallowing me up. For myself, I found myself to be a very insecure actress.
And then when I moved my life to Montreal first and then Toronto because of Flashpoint, I found my confidence within myself. As soon as Flashpoint ended I knew I was ready, personally, to give it a shot. And once I directed my first short, I was like: ‘This is all I want to do.’
And I love it so much more than I ever loved acting.
When did Toronto start feeling like home?
(After leaving Los Angeles) I just sort of landed in Montreal and took a couple years to decompress.
Two years after being there I got asked to audition for Flashpoint (as Julianna ‘Jules” Callaghan) and reluctantly I did it, because I thought at that time I wanted to stop acting. But I got the job.
And as soon as I came to Toronto I knew this was going to be my home. I loved Montreal, but it never felt quite like home. I don’t know French so it felt like I was on the outside of the joke, in a way.
And then as soon as I came to Toronto I was like, “Ahh god, I love this city so much.” I lived in New York for a while, too, and I find it to be like a boutique New York.
Everything is here that I need, but I don’t feel overwhelmed by it.
Right now I’m doing the Canadian Film Centre’s Directors’ Lab, bringing my second feature through, and it’s called Breaking Emma. And I’m going to be shooting that next spring. . . . It’s loosely based on my experience with leaving Los Angeles and moving my life to Montreal, it’s very loosely based.
The movie is about an actress who goes to Montreal on a whim to find her autonomy kind of, and to decompress from her life in Los Angeles.
The Space Between is on tour around the province and will screen in Toronto at Carlton Cinema from Aug. 25 to 31. The film will be available online through various platforms — including iTunes, Google Play and Amazon — as of Sept. 1.
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