Sherwood Park’s got its very own blood sucker, and she’s getting stronger by the day.
Well, OK, she’s not a vampire, but Sara Canning, a Sherwood Park native, is about to start taping the second season of Vampire Diaries, which airs on the CTV in Canada and the CW Network in the United States.
Canning plays Jenna Sommers in the TV show, an aunt and caregiver of Elena and drug user Jeremy, who go and live with her after their parents died in a car accident.
But in a world filled with vampires, witches, and other potentially supernatural beings, alluded to throughout the first season, Canning believes that her character will continue to stay oblivious to the fact that she is surrounded by blood-thirsty creatures.
“I’m often asked when will Jenna find out that there are vampires where they’re living, or that vampires exist, and I actually don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon,” Canning said. “I think one of the most important aspects of Jenna’s character is that she’s one of the few that are left in Mystic Falls (Virginia) that are actually left completely grounded in reality.”
However, Canning did say that this season characters who had not been explored as much in the past will be exposed in much more detail, which is exciting for her.
More than anything though, Canning believes that the entire cast is ready for season two, and that they have proven their place in television.
“I think, as a cast, we’re all really excited to come back this season,” she said. “A second season is quite different from a first, because now we’ve sort of cemented ourselves into the network, and I think people have developed expectations of the show.”
It seems that those expectations are being met, as the Vampire Diaries managed to pull in seven of the eight Teen Choice Awards that the show was nominated for.
Among the surfboard awards were best breakout show, and best fantasy/sci-fi show.
“That was a just … wow,” Canning said. “That was just such an honour and so cool to see where the show came from, last year when we won that (one) People’s Choice award, to it really being kind of a staple now.”
Canning knows though that the awards wouldn’t have been won if they hadn’t managed to build up a following in the first season.
“It’s exciting to know that the show has such a large audience and that people are watching it,” Canning said. “It’s exciting, it’s really cool, and we’re really grateful.”
Canning has also managed to extend her reach past the world of the supernatural, and recently had a major role in Black Field, a Canadian film.
The movie, shot in Manitoba, is a historical drama surrounding two sisters in a love triangle, and the man who interferes with their relationship. Canning plays Maggie, one of the sisters.
“I’m really sort of most proud of Black Field,” Canning said. “It was such an exciting experience as an actress.”
Canning said that the low-budget film held every obstacle from extreme weather condition to animals used on set.
“For the cast and crew alike, it was a very grueling process, but it was so fun,” Canning said. “It was creativity at its most primal form.”
Canning, who used to live in Vancouver where she worked at a restaurant and would do her best to take off months at a time to film, feels that between the TV series and movie, her work is finally being appreciated.
“For the first time I think, now working on Vampire Diaries, and Black Field is getting great recognition in Canada, this is the first time I’ve really been recognized for my work,” Canning said.
“In Canada, unless you’re working on a really large-scale film or TV show, so many brilliant Canadian actors work all the time and kind of fly under the radar.”
Now living in Atlanta where the show is filmed, Canning still leads a fairly normal life, although she does get recognized from the show now and then, and enjoys the experience every time.
“It always catches me off-guard, but everybody who says hello, not knowing me personally and just recognizing me from the show, has been so wonderful,” she said. “Especially here in Atlanta when people do recognize us. For me personally, they always say how happy they are to have us shooting here, and that they’re fans of the show, that they love it, and that we’re really welcome here. It’s a really nice thing.”
She did say that it’s rare that she gets noticed, possibly because her character looks so different than she does.
“I look very different on the show than I do in my everyday life because I play someone who’s quite a few years older than I actually am,” Canning said.
“Sometimes when people do recognize me, they say ‘You look really young,’ and I’m like ‘Oh, you know, that’s what comes from hair, makeup and wardrobe I guess.'”
Canning is currently staying in Atlanta and focusing solely on filming Vampire Diaries for the second season, but plans on moving in other directions once taping is over.
“I love indie films. I would love to do another independent in Canada,” Canning said.
“I would love to do a really quirky comedy, too.”
Canning added that her style of comedy is comparable to shows like 30 Rock, Modern Family, and The Office, and that she really enjoys working on period pieces too, like the role she played in Black Field.
Not only is she looking to take her acting to other levels, but Canning wants to get involved in all aspects of the entertainment business.
“I’m completely interested in all other aspects of the industry,” she said. “As a story teller, I would love to be able to direct, or watch something that I’ve written.”
Canning is currently writing a film with another Sherwood Park native, which she calls “a collision of a few different genres,” combining a Western time period with a love story, and introducing a bit of fantasy throughout the story.
“We’re stepping outside of the norm a bit,” she said.
Season two of Vampire Diaries will premiere Sept. 9.