Hello! Canada: Exclusive Interview

Hello! Canada
Published: February 1, 2016

As she receives her first Oscar nomination Rachel McAdams gets candid about her most challeging roles and how she manages her feelings

Canadians have yet another reason to be proud of Rachel McAdams. In projects as diverse as The Notebook, Mean Girls and True Detective, the actress played roles of all types, impressing fans and critics alike each time.

Now, in what may be her most serious and influential role yet, the Toronto resident has earned the biggest nod of all: an Oscar nomination (her first) for Spotlight.

In the film, which was a special presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015, Rachel portrays real-life investigative journalist Sacha Pfeiffer, who was a crucial part of the Boston Globe team that uncovered the child molestation scandal hidden by the Catholic Church.

“Something I discovered along the way is how honourable Sacha was in terms of dealing with the survivors of the abuse,” Rachel exclusively told Hello! Canada. “She did it all with such in-tegi ity and grace.”, As Rachel prepares for the Academy Awards at the end of February, she opens up about her idols, the dish she loves to cook and the iconic Canadian miniseries that inspired her career.

Rachel, congratulations on your Oscar nomination. You’ve recently taken on some more serious and possibly stressful roles. How do you handle stress? I usually talk to my sister or my mother for a really, really long time on the phone. They’re probably the people I go to in my life most — and a few friends. I always find nature really reminds me that my problems are not that big, that there’s a much bigger world around me that keeps going and carries on and is beautiful and at peace. So sometimes I try to get out into the bigger world and hug a tree or something. That seems to help.

It sounds like you and your family are really close. Did you spend a lot of time together growing up? I ate dinner with my whole family every night. We all had our specific chairs that we always sat in and it was great. It is really something I miss now because I travel so much and work all the time. I’m always eating out. I [think] that the dinner table is a place to learn — about compassion and just sharing life together. I do miss that with my family. It’s one of the things I always look forward to during the holidays. When I’m home, I love to cook. I think it’s a really intimate experience to share with others.

Do you have a special dish that you make? I love to do roast chicken because it seems more impressive than it really is. It’s not that hard to do, but people always [act, like] there’s a wow factor So that’s my go-to dish.

In Spotlight your character is very close to her grand-mother. Are you also close to your grandparents? Sadly, both sets of my grandparents have passed away, but I had two amazing grandmothers. One was particularly religious, so I couldn’t help thinking about that when I was playing this part How would I have rocked her faith? How would I have broken that to her; So, yeah, it became a little bit personal that way.

Do you consider yourself to be a religious person? No. I don’t subscribe to one particular religion. I probably would lean closest to Buddhism, if I were to pick one, but I’ve never declared one over the other. I grew up Protestant.

Growing up, who inspired you? I was a figure skater, so I really loved [Canadian figure skater] Elizabeth Manley. I remember staying up to watch her win. silver at the Olympics. She had incredible stage fright and I had a little bit of the same thing, so I really admired her spunk and how tough she was when the moment called for it. So, yes, growing up she was a big hero to me.

What about films? Was there one that inspired you to be an actress? Yes. For me it was a [mini-series] called Anne of Green Gables that I watched when I was young — about 150 times! It was just a really great performance.

That’s a Canadian film! A Canadian film! A Canadian film, yes, with an amazing Canadian actress, Megan Follows. And it was just so beautifully crafted and executed and I wanted to be her. So I would say that one was quite influential to me.

What criteria do you use when selecting your roles? Oh, it sort of seems to change with every project, but I just always look for something that’s going to challenge me, some uncharted territory. A director who’s passionate, good storytelling — those are usually at the top of the list and then I go from there.

What parts do you find the most challenging? For me, comedy is the most challenging. I think it’s something you’re almost born with or not and if you weren’t born with it, it’s a constant education. So, yes, I would say that one stretches me the most.

When you can spend time at home, are there special things you like to surround yourself with? I have a lot of things that have sentimental value to me. I just read this book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’s very good and very challenging because it asks you to touch everything in your home and ask yourself if it sparks joy. If it doesn’t, then you’ve got to give it the heave-ho.’ So I’ve been trying to do that, but I do find it very difficult.

What types of things have you chosen to keep? I’ve kept stuff that I wore in my first play, like my mother’s nightgown. I get very attached to things. I love books, too. [Author Marie Kon-do] says you should only have a couple of books, which is sacrilege to me! I can’t imagine throwing away my books, but I’m working on it. And what else do I like? I like to have a lot of plants around. I always like to have things growing. That’s pretty much it.

What do you splurge on? I probably spend the most money on food — really good food — and travel and trying to see the world. That’s probably where I would put most of my funds.

You recently filmed Marvel Comics’ Doctor Strange in London. Can you tell us anything about that? I’m afraid someone from Marvel will jump out of a hidden closet to stop me talking! I’m playing a doctor and I don’t actually know how much I can say, to be honest. But most of my stuff is with Benedict [Cumberbatch], which is great for me.

In Spotlight you play an investigative journalist. Does journalism interest you? I think really hard-nosed investigative journalism is a dying art form. I try to chase it as best I can. I listen to the radio a lot. I listen to CBC News in Toronto kind of 24-7 because they do very in-depth stories. They spend a lot of time on topics. That’s hard to find nowadays.

What was it like playing a real-life journalist? Sacha Pfeiffer, who I played, brought an incredibly compassionate ear to this story. She allows people to tell their story and she sort of steps aside and lets them get whatever they need to get off their chests. The fact that she was a woman allowed people to feel a bit more comfortable.

Journalists often have to convince people to talk when they don’t want to. Are you good at that? If I really believe in what I’m talking about I tend to fight a good fight. I would at least go back for one more round before I give up.

© 2016 Hello! Canada | Written by Dagmar Dunlevy | No copyright infringment intended.