Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
August 24, 2020

In the horror thriller Z, a mother (Keegan Connor Tracy) is troubled by the changes she observes in her young son (Jett Klyne) after his talk of a new imaginary friend. As his behavior grows increasingly dangerous, she unearths a disturbing connection between his unseen companion and her own forgotten past.

Keegan Connor Tracy has been no stranger to horror, science fiction, and fantasy throughout her career, with projects including The Magicians, Once Upon a Time, Bates Motel, Final Destination 2, Supernatural, Jake 2.0, Battlestar Galactica, and Disney's Descendants franchise. In recent years, she has branched out to other corners of the arts, taking on writing with a pair of inspirational children's books, as well as directing with one completed short film and a feature debut in the pipeline.

With social distancing measures still in effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had the opportunity to speak with Keegan via Zoom from her base of operations in Vancouver, where her cat Romeo nonchalantly videobombs her conference calls. In this exclusive interview, she talks about working on Z, absorbing tricks of the trade from unsung talent behind the cameras, and looking ahead to her first feature as a director.

Z is currently streaming on Shudder, and available on VOD and digital, including Amazon and Google Play.

UPDATE 10/19: Keegan's directorial debut has apparently been renamed from The Evil Eye to Cradle Will Fall. Having been in a number of supernatural/horror projects throughout your career, would it be correct to say it was a genre that always fired your imagination?

KEEGAN: I read a lot of Stephen King when I was really young--like, way too young to be reading that--and I did dig that. You know, there was that period in time when he was the king of everything. But I think as an actor and as a grown-up, what's available to you is what's available to you, and that shoots a lot in Vancouver, and so I think that became a genre that was easy to associate me with, because that's what I ended up doing much of the time. But certainly, I was thinking about it the other day as I was writing something, there's always magic in everything I write, so it clearly is something that appeals to me.

Growing up, did you have an imaginary friend? Or, at least one that you've made up recently for purposes of answering this generic question for Z?

[laughs] Yeah, really! It's like with Once Upon a Time, the question is always, "What's your favorite Disney princess?" And I don't have an answer for that, because I never really was into Disney princesses, right? So I always say Belle, because at least Belle read books--that was my thing about her that I always really liked. I never really had an imaginary friend, although I have these thoughts about dreaming lucid dreams and stuff like that when I was a kid. But I don't recall having an imaginary friend. So maybe I should make one up, I guess! [laughs]

You've made a segue into directing with a short film called La Fille. What did you learn from that experience?

Oh my gosh, so much! So much! I always hang around with the camera guys and women, and I'm always asking questions. "What lens is this? Why are they doing that?" Paying attention, paying attention. And then you do your own [project] and you're like, "Okay, I get it!" I loved being able to put all the pieces together. And everything you see in that film is what I made--I made the props, all of the set dec, the costume. Like, it was all my vision. And I loved that. I loved being able to dig into telling the story in a way that I hadn't been able to do necessarily all the time as an actor. Although Z was one place where I got to really dig in. And so I think to go from all of these small scale learning experiences, and now build all of that into making [a] feature film is something that I'm really excited to do.

In what ways were you able to "dig in" with your character in Z?

I just think that at this stage of the game, I feel like the way that the system is set up in order to make money, every studio is looking for the biggest name they can get, and so it's, like, all the already famous people kind of get all the good stuff, right? I'm not quite famous enough to get just that next level of great stuff. And so for me, an indie film is the place where they're going to let you do this. So when this came across my desk and I saw what I felt like I could do with that role, I scooped it up because you don't get those opportunities, necessarily, especially being Canadian and being up here. It's just sort of the nature of the beast all the way around. And so I just saw in it a chance to push my own boundaries as an actor to do something that was super challenging and emotional, and emotionally taxing, and create a backstory and this whole life for this woman. And I felt like [it] demonstrated that I can carry a film and carry it strongly. I'm really proud of the work that I did, and I was glad for the opportunity.

You'll be directing your first full-length feature with The Evil Eye, which involves an actress who makes the mistake of watching some of her old stuff, and then shenanigans ensue...

Yeah... [laughs]

When looking back on your own early works, do you tend to be more nostalgic or self-critical?

Hmmm...I think I usually check into my work when it comes out, if I want to see how it came across. I haven't really watched a lot of things from a long time ago recently. Chris Gorham sent me a thing the other day from Da Vinci's Inquest which I had done...Gosh, 18 years ago, I think? It was this long tracking scene and I play this ex-heroin junkie. It was kind of funny to see me so young. I was like, "Awww, Baby Keegan!" [laughs] And certainly there are things that I would have grounded, maybe, more in those performances. But I think it's easy to be critical when you look back on anything, even something I did last year, you know? I just try to see if the work was served, and I feel generally, I know when I leave a set whether or not I've served that work. And by and large, I think I do well, you know? [laughs]

I understand you shadowed some of the crew during your time on The Magicians. What sort of tips did you pick up by watching them, and was it more helpful to observe on days you were playing Professor Lipson, or on days where you didn't have scenes and could be completely objective?

It was better to be on the days when I wasn't working. And in fact, I only had one day [of shooting] on that episode that I was shadowing, and of course, it was the day when they were casting. And that was something that I really wanted to be in the room on the other side of the table, and just kind of get the vibe and see how that felt. I've been in the rooms as a reader many, many years ago, but never got to hear the scuttlebutt. I just really wanted to be in the room for that, and of course, that was the day that I was shooting, so I couldn't do it! [laughs] But overall, that was just a brilliant experience as a director, especially on a show of that magnitude--it was a fairly decent-sized show, and one that I knew really well. So to be able to go and sit in on the pre-production stuff of that, and get to know the whole team in a different way than I had as an actor...I would say that as much as I love the actors on that show, that show for me was a crew show. I spent probably more time with crew on that show than I did with other actors, because I was really sucking up everything I could learn about directing. I shadowed Chris Fisher, who's marvelous. He just directed, also, The Stand for CBS All Access. So that was just super cool on its own. And then Shannon Kohli, who was our 1st AC, our first camera op on Magicians...She's, of course, now blossomed into a director that you can't even get ahold of. So to be able to spend time and shadow her, and see somebody that had come up through the ranks and that they had given a shot to, made me see that that was possible. Obviously, unfortunately, we got cancelled, so I never got a chance to do an episode of Magicians, which I was really vying hard for. [laughs] But we'll see what comes out after this now.

I often hear that the set of Battlestar Galactica was a great place to work. As a recurring guest who came in at the halfway point of that show's run, did you see any examples of a type of atmosphere you would want to foster as a director on your own set?

Well, I think when you come to a new set that has established for a couple of years, and those actors are working together all the time, they have their own kind of vibe. I came in on Battlestar as I was pregnant, and we thought maybe it was going to be one day--you know, just that thing in the jail. We didn't know what was going to happen. And then my baby was born, and they're like, "[We] want you back!" And so I went back with a brand new baby. And I had had a sort of dramatic birth, and I was kind of down for the count for the first six weeks. I lost a lot of blood, I had a hemorrhage, the whole thing. So here I was, barely awakened to the world again, with a six-week-old baby on set. So I don't know if I was really in a headspace of like, "Let's make new friends!" [laughs] Every second I had, I was running back to my trailer where the baby was, and I would nurse her and then run back on to set and be present as [my character] Jeanne. And so that was a very different experience in terms of the vibe of a set, you know? But certainly, one of the things I loved about Magicians is I just felt it was a set where everybody welcomed me even though I wasn't there all the time, and that's always going to be what I want to foster on any set that I'm a director on. I want everybody to feel like they're there to have a good time and tell a story, and that at the end of the day, we're just making film and TV--we're not curing cancer or anything.

Given that "Keegolicious" is the name for your website and social medias, I have to ask for food recommendations: any specific restaurants or types of food we should be checking out in Vancouver?

The Asian food in Vancouver is [great]. Even myself, I'm like, "Oh my gosh, why was I not exploring Chinese food here?" Good Chinese food--like, real deal Chinese food, as opposed to the stuff of my childhood. And also, my mother-in-law is from the Philippines, and I think Filipino food is the last bastion of undiscovered ethnic food. And so I would say Filipino food.

Have you been experiencing any cravings or withdrawals during quarantine? Maybe something that isn't very convenient to make at home?

What I do miss, I would say, is a good, proper poutine. Because you can't really make a proper poutine at home, because you've got to have good fries that you fry it all up, with the right temperature, and the thing, and the thing... [laughs] So a good, proper poutine I could use, yeah.

Keegan, thank you for your time this afternoon, I appreciate it...

My pleasure!

Hopefully things get back to normal soon, but until then, stay safe and stay healthy!

Thank you, you too! [flashes peace sign]

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