PTR Senior Staff Writer
Every once in a while, a girl just needs to make a little time for herself.
Take a breath.
Have a moment.
Put saving the world on hold.
Stop fighting the aliens.
Meet up with the the dark lords of the underworld at a later date.
Darling of all-things alien and sci-fi, Kari Matchett, needed just that when she signed on for the Hallmark channel original movie, The National Tree.
"I’ve done a lot of aliens and sci-fi stuff," she says with a laugh, "and I just felt like I was in the mood for doing something sweet and light - something that didn’t hurt anybody, didn’t have any violence in it, didn't have any heaviness to it."
That would be standard Hallmark fare, which we here at PTR do actually appreciate given family dramatic programming has become a dying art, and light, bright and airy sitcoms have all but vanished from the television landscape.
So it was refreshing to catch up with
"It was a story that I thought would have a nice energy to be in for a while - and it was," says Kari.
Shot on location in her semi-native city of Toronto (she also calls Venice, California home), Kari's character, Faith, is assigned the ... well, let's just say challenging task of not only escorting the winning tree from its old home in Oregon to its new home in D.C., but also accompanying the adversarial father-son duo who own the tree (portrayed by Andrew McCarthy and Evan Williams, respectively).
Aptly said for a Canadian native who counts her favorite holiday memory as having seen Santa Claus when she was five years-old.
"I swear to God I saw Santa Claus when I was kid. I swear," says Kari, who was born in Saskatchewan and grew up in Alberta.
(She is so convincing when she tells me this that I can't help but imagine her holding up her right hand, swearing on a stack of candy canes, cookies and milk. But since I'm only chatting with her via phone, not in person, I just have to take her word for it ... and I do.)
"My mother actually swears the same thing – she swears she heard the bells on the sleigh on the roof," continues Kari, "so, I guess I inherited that trait. But, I do feel like I saw Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, peeking into my room to make sure I was sleeping before he put the presents under the tree."
And does she still believe in Santa?
"Yeah, don’t you?" she asks enthusiastically
"Yes, of course!" I say.
"There’s a certain magic a tree and Santa evoke that speaks directly to children," says Kari. "I think it’s infectious, and that’s why it’s so great to be around kids ant Christmastime. It’s beautiful, and it is a very magical time – if you just sort of let it be."
And, ironically enough, letting it be was one of the traits Kari could identify with the most in the character of Faith.
Says Kari: "As an actor, if you’re going into a meeting and you’re trying to convince people you’re the right person for the job, you often have to walk in with a certain amount of energy behind you, underneath you, around you. When Faith, doing what she does, first meets Rock [Evan Williams] and his dad, Corey, she has to present herself in this sort of how - can - you - not - do - this - it - is - the - most - exciting - thing - ever personality and belie whatever personal doubts she might be having. And that is certainly true as an actor – whether you’re on set or going into a meeting – you have to just drop it all and be that fabulous person over and over and over again."
"I took lots of singing and dancing when I was younger, and I was just sort of naturally a performer," says Kari. "But I was a big reader as a kid, too. When I was 12, I read and got obsessed with S.E. Hinton’s books – and the primary obsession was 'The Outsiders.' I would read about Ponyboy and cry and feel all this stuff – I got really addicted to just, like, feeling it. And then, around the same time, I found out they were making a movie of The Outsiders, and there was some kind of a connection that happened where I thought, 'Okay, that’s what I have to do – [acting] is a place that I can put all this stuff that I’m feeling.'"
Not surprisingly, the core of her inspiration as an actor - and in considering a project - stems from the character she reads on the page of a script.
"Character is the number one driving force," says Kari. "Can I see myself doing this, do I want to do this, does this spark a flame in me? If it doesn’t, I can’t do it. I just can’t. I trust my instinct – which I think is initially based on do I like this character, and then read the whole project and think, ‘Can I do this? Can I wrap my head around this?’ And when I see a project really work – whether it’s a film or television or play – I feel like it’s such an inspiration to me to see someone totally inhabit a character, and for there to be an exchange between that character and another character. One of the things I love is the notion of people breaking boundaries – breaking things that were known before or formulas that have been done before. That’s what inspires me. And I feel like what keeps me moving towards always seeking out great projects is when I see those things happen because it makes me realize they CAN happen – over and over again. I also get lots of inspiration, as an actor, from looking at great visual art – going to art openings, going to great concerts. [Being around] anyone creating something with that original essence that only they can give, that has an original voice to it – in whatever capacity – is completely inspiring to me. That level of truth and clarity I strive for – and I love."
What she also loves is participating in charitable endeavors, which includes her involvement in Foster Parents Plan Canada and Children of the Night.
"I've sponsored one girl in the Sudan and one girl in Egypt for quite a few years, now," says Kari of her involvement with Foster Parents Plan Canada. "But something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and of which I've just started to do is work with Children of the Night [in Southern California]. They mostly take girls off the street who’ve been involved with all of the bad things that can happen on the streets - drugs, prostitution. I recently went with a friend to act and do scenes with some of the girls. It was a really beautiful thing. We got them up on their feet, did some movement, brought them a bunch of clothes and cosmetics. It was amazing how talented so many of the girls were."
So what does she hope people will get from watching The National Tree – what might they connect with the most?
"If people watch and it makes them feel happy, feel good, have a chuckle or two, that would thrill me. I think that’s what it is there for. I don’t think it’s too deep, I think it’s just really sweet. It would be lovely if people just felt a sense of sweetness when they watched it."
I’m most comfortable when I’m … in nature.
The best part of my day is when … I’m chilling out, reading a book.
If I weren’t an actor I would probably be … a rock star.
The best piece of advice ever given to me was … and he/she said … have faith - but I can’t tell you who told that to me.
The oldest thing in my closet is and I keep it because … a ripped jean jacket because it’s classic.
The last time I laughed so hard I cried was when … I was over at my friend’s house the other night, and we were talking about stuff. We decided it would be a great sketch to do interpretive dance. So, if we had a sketch comedy show, there would be a small segment every show where we would have interpretive dance from historical characters.
If I could travel to one place in the world I haven’t been to yet it would be … because … Southern India because I just want to go there.
I want to extend a gracious round of thanks to the delightful Kari for taking the time to chat with us here at PTR. She has an open invitation to join yours truly at my local surf spot for a glass off session anytime. PTR also extends its thanks to our friends at Hallmark Publicity. You can catch Kari in The National Tree Saturday, November 28th at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Central). Check out HallmarkChannel.com for the entire scoop on the film. You can also stay on the lookout for Kari (who resumes her sci-fi darlingship) in the upcoming SyFy film Meteor (air date TBD). And, for additional information on Kari's charitable interests, check out: Children of the Night and Foster Parents Plan Canada.