Actress, writer, director Kyra Zagorsky talks sci-fi and her take on the role of strong women on stage.
Written by Alice Chiang
“My family doesn’t necessarily understand what I do. They are very supportive; but I have come to accept that I don’t have to tell my family everything. Just be happy with myself, with what I do.” said Kyra Zagorsky with refreshing candor, recounting her parents’ role throughout her acting career. The Colorado-raised actress, now living in Vancouver, is best known for her lead role as Julia Walker on the SyFy network series, Helix.
Between rehearsals, filming, and performances, Kyra found some time to stop by the studio for this photoshoot. The familiar scent of hairspray and makeup filled the air around her as she quietly rehearsed lines for an audition that she would later dash to immediately after the shoot. I managed to squeeze in my interview between takes.
Accentuated by her dark, mysterious eyes, one could sense a poised beauty that blossoms from a strong, inner quality. There is a stillness in her presence, graceful yet tenacious, as if she was already getting into character for our femme fatale themed photo editorial.
It is no surprise, really; this narrative is one familiar to Kyra. Aside from her leading role in Helix, she has starred as a number of strong, female characters, including her roles as Vasquez, a high tech operative from the future on Showcase network’s Continuum, and as Veronica in the sold out stage production, The Motherf**ker with the Hat. In the latter, her character battles a drug addiction against a precarious and turbulent backdrop of change. A reviewer describes her as “a creature of terrifying beauty,” marked by her defiantly expletive temper that is every bit the match to her pent-up drug trafficking lover.
I wanted to know what drew her to different characters. “There are so many different definitions of strong female roles, but to me, a character needs to be 3-dimensional and have a story, not just a vibe.” Citing her character Veronica as an example, she said, “although she is troubled, she is vivacious… I know people like Veronica!” Her fascination with complexity and layers in the development of a character is evident as she listed off some of her favourites. “One of my all-time favourite sci-fi characters is Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) from Alien. She is strong but at the same time vulnerable. She’s more relatable.”
Kyra seems to have found a niche in the sci-fi femme fatale genre, to which she acknowledges with respect, praising its audiences for accepting “someone with my look.” Femme fatales are often morally ambiguous and associated with a sense of mystification and unease. Just the kind of complexity a discerning actor would want to sink her teeth into.
“My dad introduced me to Ashland, Oregon where the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is because he knew I loved Shakespeare. That’s where I discovered going to theatre school.” She described her road to a BFA in Theatre and a Masters of Fine Arts in Acting as a happy discovery in high school. “I grew up in a small town. I was athletic, very involved in sports. Then, I joined the choir and theatre in high school.” Once she played the baker’s wife in her school play she was hooked.
As the backdrop is drawn, Kyra took to the set and impressed the crew with her innate talent in channeling these characters. In front of the camera is no longer an earnest actress studying lines; instead, we are served a sensuous, assertive heroine from a dark science fiction, ready to go out and catch some bad guys.