‘I borrow from her strength and just keep fighting’ – Tasya Teles on relating to Echo from the 100, developing characters and pizza
Actress Tasya Teles has a pretty busy schedule right now. Her character Echo has been promoted to series regular on the 100, she’s opened a restaurant in her native Canada, and she’s just touched down in Australia to be part of this year’s incredible Oz Comic Con line up. Teles’ dedication, professionalism and friendliness have made her an absolute fan favourite on the con circuit, (even for those fans who still haven’t quite forgiven Echo). She made time in that busy schedule to have a quick chat with Til Knowles about bringing depth to characters, loving your job, and of course, the 100.
Congratulations on becoming a series regular on the 100, that’s so awesome! Has that shifted your approach to developing Echo’s character at all? Obviously there’s a lot going on in season 5 with the time jump. Has being a series regular given you some more space for her development?
Oh my gosh, absolutely. In season 4, by contrast, I didn’t know when my next episode was going to be. They would tell you things very last minute. From day to day my agent was submitting me for other jobs, other movies, so I’d be at work, and then memorising auditions, and then getting home at three in the morning, then trying to figure out I was going to go and perform this audition, and my schedule was just bonkers. Since becoming a series regular I have the space and the time now to really commit all my attention to the show, which is so helpful.
Absolutely. It sounds like you’re so invested too, certainly watching you on screen there’s so much dedication, but reading other interviews too, you’re so committed to the character and to really understanding her. What leads you to that kind of depth of development?
I remember when I started acting, I was in my 20s so there was this sense that I had to kind of catch up to everybody else. To do so I challenged myself by finding the best teachers in the US and in Canada. Specifically Larry Moss, who worked with Leonardo DiCaprio, Hillary Swank, Helen Hunt, and most recently with Margot Robbie for I, Tonya. And he just instilled this level of discipline and passion for honouring the writer and fleshing out your character and making sure you don’t get lazy in your work, which is an epidemic in acting I think. Because Echo is so different to me, especially in season 4 when she’s so ruthless and she was so angry and violent, it took me a lot of work to get behind her so that I wasn’t just playing the idea of a character. I wanted to play somebody who’s a real person. You have to see conflict in their eyes, and you have to know as an actor why they’re conflicted at certain moments and what’s easy for them… To be a compelling actor I think you have to really, really dig deep, and that will set you up to have a long career because otherwise you’re too replaceable. I love this job so much, I just want to keep on challenging myself and see how far I can go.
How do you find the time or the shortcuts or the mechanisms to bring that depth of character to characters that are only present for a single episode (such as in Supernatural or iZombie)?
It really all comes down to relationships. If you can understand who your scene partners are, or objects or places. If you have very definitive understanding of what a certain place or what a certain object or person means to your character, then it will live in your system and in your body and in your eyes. How you feel about certain things, like if you tell someone [in a scene] ‘I can’t believe that’ and someone says ‘now say it like you’re saying it to your sister’ it immediately becomes more personal and textured than if you’re just arbitrarily saying the line.
If someone was playing you in the TV series of your life, what relationships and objects would you say are key to your character?
Oh my gosh. I think having the curiosity of a kitten, but the energy and excitement of a puppy, and if you can somehow figure out what that animal is, that would probably be the closest. One thing about me is that I’m definitely full of energy and am immensely curious. My friends are like ‘oh my god do you ever stop’ and I’m just like ‘I need to get to the bottom of this! It’s so exciting’ and then I do and then I’m on to the next thing! And the next thing!
What do you relate to most about Echo and her character?
Ooh, that’s a big question. Season 5 Echo… I think… I mean, I’ve been asked this question a few times and depending on the day it kind of changes. Right now, I identify with her determination, and her resilience and self- sacrifice. She really is insisting on making amends, on making it work. Even in season 4, when she was like Echo 1.0 or beta-Echo, she still had that really strong determination to survive and she was very resilient. In the last few years my acting… well, I opened a restaurant at the same time I was acting…
Yeah! There are so many things, and so much pressure, I was barely sleeping and sometimes it feels like you’re just trying to get through the day. But I kind of reach out into my mind and I grab Echo’s traits and I borrow them, I pull them down into my system and I’m like ‘you can do this, it’s not that bad!’ *laughs* So I borrow from her strength and just keep fighting. I think it’s something that everyone identifies with now, it seems like everyone has at least like two or three jobs and is running circles around themselves trying to keep up.
Why did you decide to open a restaurant? And what kind of food is it?
It’s a pizzeria! It’s kind of a fancier type of pizzeria, we have tapas and raw food and really nice gourmet pizzas (even though I hate that word – gourmet). It’s a funky spot, we play hip hop and have a nice time, lots of drinks. It’s in Vancouver and we’re opening our second one in Toronto in a few months.
That’s wonderful, congratulations!
Come visit if you’re in Canada!
It really seems like your career is branching out in all sorts of directions!
I’ve told you – it’s the ADD!
You’ve mentioned that you’re interested in directing as well. Is that something that you’d like to do on the 100 or do you have another project in mind?
I’m definitely going to try and utilise the 100 as much as I can in my work, because it is such a family and the show and Jason and all the producers are so supportive. But first I want to get a little bit more the scenes; I want to go to the editing room, I want to learn more about the process in its entirely before I tackle directing specifically. So if the show goes on long enough hopefully I’ll be able to do it at the 100 but all in due time.
You’ve been involved with the show for well, years at this point. What are the changes that you’ve seen in the industry since then?
Well, of course there was the #MeToo movement that happened last year. It’s funny because I feel like the 100 was kind of ahead of the curve on that one in the sense that it was always promoting strong female characters who don’t take shit. There was always a strong sense of feminism in the show. I love that about the show. We always get the opportunity to talk and to flesh out these really complex women characters, so when I would hear people talking about how there’s no good roles for women in the industry I was like, ‘what? I dunno about you, but I am quite satisfied with my job.’ But now it seems like the times are catching up a bit. We see a lot more shows that are doing that. It’s really exciting. It’s really exciting for women. I remember when I started training one of the shows that got cancelled was… what was that Charlie Sheen show? Where he had the brother and the kid?
Two and a Half Men?
Yeah! My teacher at the time said ‘oh no, we don’t want that show to get cancelled because they hire so many women!’ But the women on the show all fit the same mould, so it wasn’t the most exciting material. Compared to now where there’s so many shows out there that are doing such interesting things with women characters.
Tasya Teles is visiting for Oz Comic Con. Oz Comic Con Melbourne is on this weekend, 9 & 10 June, at the Melbourne Convention Centre, South Wharf. For tickets, photograph and autograph times, and panel information, head to the Oz Comic Con website.