Interview by Andreea Boyer // Edited by Chris Charles of Idol Features
Tristan Risk made quite a name for herself performing on stage in theater and burlesque in and around her native Vancouver, before landing her breakout film role. That role came in the form of the bizarre, Betty Boop-like stripper Beatress Johnson in Jenn and Sylvia Soska’s 2012 horror film, American Mary.
Since American Mary, Tristan has gone on to become one of the hottest names in indie films. Some of her most recent projects include starring roles in the remake of David Cronenberg’s Rabid, and James Bickert’s award-winning Amazon Hot Box.
Despite her success as a film actress, Tristan hasn’t lost her love for performing on stage, as she is also a regular performer with the Vancouver-based circus/sideshow collective, Caravan of Curiosities.
Andreea Boyer: How did you start your career as an actress and what has inspired you?
Tristan Risk: I have always been an entertainer, from when I was young. I was an only child, and my best friend and I would put on these skits for our parents, who humored us. I later got into theater and from there, burlesque. I had always wanted to do acting, but never had really pursued it until I was offered an audition for the part of Beatress in American Mary by Jen and Sylvia Soska. After I had a taste, it was really hard to stay away. I had been getting into some theater again with Spectral Theatre too, and it all felt like a really good fit. Inspiration comes for me from a number of different places. The Muppet Show, old drive in and grindhouse films, action movies, horror. All the things I cut my teeth on growing up. It wasn’t enough to just watch it, I wanted to live in these worlds. I wanted to help create it.
Andreea Boyer: What challenges did you faced during your career?
Tristan Risk: I find often times my biggest challenge is I’ll read an amazing and unique script and be excited to do the role, only to find out that the folks looking to make the film are struggling to finance it. I’m not talking ridiculous films where you’d need a George Lucas budget, but something more modest. It grieves me to miss out on doing films that can’t take flight when the ideas are good, and then I see sequels and reboots swamping the major markets, and it’s a shame. There are a lot of unique stories that haven’t yet been told that could use some of that space. Part of my transition from actor to filmmaker to take up some of that space as a queer female, and to help other voices (such as) POC, LGBTQ2, and other marginalized people, be heard as well.
Andreea Boyer: What are your recent projects?
Tristan Risk: My last project that I worked on was the Soska sister’s remake of David Cronenberg’s Rabid, where I got to play three separate characters in the film, but I’m not allowed to reveal whom yet. Prior to that, I was in C.R. Avery’s directorial debut film, Victory On East Hastings. Coming up, I’ll be working on a music video for Longwalkshortdock with the Bad Cookie Pictures crew, and going on a tour of Western Canada performing sideshow with the Caravan Of Curiosities.
Andreea Boyer: What are the most unforgettable moments from your career?
Tristan Risk: I would say some of the highlights have been being able to travel the globe and work with such a wide pool of humans with such a variety of knowledge and range of experience. They all utterly captivate me. Seeing my name share the screen with larger studios like Universal Studios for both American Mary and Aliens Ate My Homework gave me such joy. Creating weird art with people and then getting to see the look on the public’s faces and their reactions. It’s part and parcel of the satisfaction of the job.
Andreea Boyer: How long have you been an actress?
Tristan Risk: I feel like I’ve been an actor my whole life. Since about 2010 have I been pursuing acting, but that’s when I started with film, and I’ve gotten to play a lot of strange and wonderful characters and monsters.
Andreea Boyer: Which movie roles have you felt the most attached to and have helped you evolve your acting?
Tristan Risk: I’m very much attached to Beatress, my character from American Mary,who was Betty Boop and surgery-obsessed. I will always love her, since she gave me my start. I’ve loved playing Val in Amazon Hot Box and Frankenstein Created Bikers,who is completely deranged, and this crazy unhinged woman that has no boundaries, and yet still manages to be somewhat sympathetic, while being the most garbage human on the planet. Madame Pong from Aliens Ate My Homework is probably the other. She was a character I knew from childhood, through the books written by Bruce Coville, on which the film is based. To get to play a character that I grew up reading about was the ultimate childhood dream come true for me.
Andreea Boyer: What roles have your played so far ?
Tristan Risk: So far, creatures and characters I’ve played have been a banshee, a multitude of demons, a vampire, a murderous mermaid, a stripper hybrid, and so many more. I’m making a bingo card of roles I want to have on my CV before I die, so that I can feel my time on earth was well spent.
Andreea Boyer: What is your advice for new talents and other actors?
Tristan Risk: Be honest about what you want to do. Do not feel pressured into doing something to get a role or in a role that you don’t feel comfortable with. Do your homework and be ready to work harder than everyone else on set. Always bring 100% to your game, not just for yourself, but for everyone else. Your sass levels are infectious. If someone is lightening a mood, it’ll perk everyone up. Don’t bring negative feelings to work. There is always a resolution. Don’t wait for it to happen, go out and make it happen. Create the content that you would want to see, and you will attract like-minded folks.
Andreea Boyer: What would be your favorite movie roles and which genre of films is your favorite?
Tristan Risk: I’d love to be able to play a sorceress type role, or a Amazonian warrior woman. Something to do with sword and sorcery, which is one of my favorite genres. I’ve not yet done a film in that vein yet, and I’m waiting on time with that. I’m confident it’ll come to me soon!
Thank you, Tristan. We wish you continued success.
See more of Tristan at:
The Caravan of Curiosities Circus Sideshow Website
Her Personal Blog