As a regular screen actress, Christine Horn has appeared in many productions including The Good Doctor and Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House and last year, had the chance to portray Harriet Tubman in TV series Timeless. Christine has a YouTube channel and often uploads videos which are based around helping actors break into the industry. Taking time out to chat, Christine tells us about portraying Harriet Tubman, her YouTube channel and working with Freddie Highmore on The Good Doctor.
What do you remember about appearing in Disney’s The Lion King and getting the chance to perform at the White House for President George W. Bush?
When I booked The Lion King in 2006, it changed my life and my career. It was amazing getting the opportunity to travel the United States and abroad doing what I love. I was always a fan of The Lion King cartoon, and when I got the opportunity to quit my day job and perform eight shows a week, it really changed my life for the better.
I had the opportunity to perform with two national tours, the Las Vegas Company on Broadway, and I even had a chance to go to Germany to workshop a role in the show. It was a game changer, that’s the best way I can say it. In 2008, while George W. Bush was still in office at the White House, I was hand-selected to perform in the Rose Garden. I couldn’t believe how far my acting career was taking me, because of me sticking to my dream as a kid, and because of the opportunity that The Lion King presented to me, I was able to go to the White House and perform, and take pictures with, you know, my arm around the President. It was pretty cool.
How did you find going from stage roles to appearing on screen?
Making the transition from stage to performing on screen is a huge difference. There’s no difference at its core in creating character, and telling the truth of our characters, but it is definitely a totally different medium. Stage is all about working the audience, performing to a 2000 or a 5000-seat house. Whereas on screen, whether it be television or film, it’s all about you telling the truth and thinking what it is that you’re feeling.
It’s something that I teach my clients who I coach, that you don’t have to show us what you’re feeling, you just have to think it, and be present in the moment. At first, to be honest, making the transition was a challenge for me, I was not booking, I had a really hard time. The note I would always get from casting directors or producers, was that I was too big. It was really frustrating, because I didn’t know how to take that note. Like many actors who make that transition, you feel like all you need to do is just not move, and act like a robot, and that’s the farthest thing from the truth.
So, after years of coaching and reading books, and just being in the trenches, and doing web series, independent projects, I honed that skill a whole lot better. Actually, to the point now, where that is where I live. I live on TV and film, that is my bread and butter, and it’s what I really love to do now. I think I’ll always love performing for the theatre, because that’s where I grew up, but I am really enjoying this new chapter of my life, where I get to see myself on screen often.
What was the experience like playing FBI Agent Gruber in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story?
Being a part of The Assassination of Gianni Versace was an amazing experience. Getting to work with Ryan Murphy and the entire cast and crew was really epic for my career. I had actually just moved back to Los Angeles at the top of 2017, and a couple of months in, I booked this role as an FBI Agent. Though I didn’t perform in every episode, I did recur in two episodes, and it was very surreal going to Miami and shooting our scenes at the actual mansion of Versace. Being a part of such a respected show, just was a dream come true.
How was it working with director Ryan Murphy?
Ryan Murphy is a consummate professional, he knows what he wants, and has no problem letting you know. He has a vision; his entire team trusts him totally. I knew I was in good hands. He would just give us the room to do what we needed to do, but he would definitely jump in and let us know if we were not hitting the mark, which I love. I love a director to actually be direct with me, and challenge me and push me.
Even in my callback that I had with him in Hollywood, it was very intense. We went over the same scene multiple times. He had a vision, and what really moved me was that I knew he saw something in me. I’m an unknown name at that point, but I was able to have this one-on-one director session with him, and it was really awesome. When I got the call from my managers that I booked the role, I literally screamed, because I didn’t even think I did that great of a job in the callback, because I was nervous, and kind of thrown off. I was just in my head, like a lot of actors are, so it was a really great experience.
You worked alongside British actor Freddie Highmore in The Good Doctor, what was it like to film?
Working with Freddie Highmore on The Good Doctor was an amazing experience. He is as sweet as he seems on camera, he’s quirky, he’s fun. The whole cast and crew have an amazing cohesiveness. There’s such a good energy on that set. It was really nice to be able to travel to Vancouver, and be there for two weeks, and just immerse myself in the work. Freddie just made every day on set super comfortable. Most of my scenes were with him, and he and I had a really great rapport. I had been a fan of his since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, so getting a chance to work with him was really special. Also, because I was a fan of The Good Doctor Season One. So, getting a chance to be a part of the second season was a good career move.
How challenging was this role and what research/preparation did you have to do?
My character Dawn, that I portrayed in The Good Doctor, was extremely challenging, and extremely layered. I remember when the audition came in, and I was asked to submit a tape. I remember reading the script and feeling like, “Oh my goodness, this is so juicy”. My goal in this character was to just show her truth, her vulnerability, her mystery, her secrecy. Every layer of her personality was very layered, I don’t know how else to say it. I knew there was more to the story, and I knew the way the writers had written the script so beautifully, they wanted it to be revealed bit by bit, layer by layer, moment by moment. So, it was very important for me not to give away the end of the story in the first few scenes. I just had to pace myself while I was on set, especially on the really emotionally draining days.
As an actor, I use music to send me into certain modes, and that’s what I did on set. In-between takes, while cast and crew were changing lights or making jokes, I had to stay in my zone of focus. The actor who played my husband did the same. So, I would just put my earbuds in, and stay zoned into music that would keep me in the emotional state that I needed to be in, once the director yelled, “Action”.
What was it like on the set of The Haunting of Hill House?
My time working on The Haunting of Hill House was very quick. I only worked one day for my episode number three, and it was great. Mike Flanagan, who was the director, was very easy to work with, and fortunately for me, there were not any scary elements that happened on the day I was on set. The basement scene that I had was a little creepy, I didn’t have to even go into the basement, but I’m glad I didn’t have to be in a super scary scene, because I’m honestly not the most courageous when it comes to horror films, and things like that. I’m more of a suspense thriller person, so this show forced me to watch it, when it actually came on Netflix.
Can you tell us about your character Eileen?
My character Eileen that I played was a wife, and she was married to a guy who she thought was a good guy. Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the show, he turns out not to be such a good guy. She’s a foster mom, and definitely cares about every kid that come in and out of her home. So, it certainly is a shock to find out what she finds out in the episode, and also finds it very weird that this woman keeps coming around and asking questions, even though we came to her for help in the beginning.
So, my goal with this character was just to show her warmth, and how much she cared for her foster child. Had the show come back to Eileen after we find out what happens, I’m sure she would have been devastated. But an idea I played with while portraying her was, “Did she know all along? Did she turn a blind eye?” So, though that’s not in the script, those are just questions I asked myself as a performer and as an actor, and I get to layer my performance with those questions.
How did it feel portraying Harriet Tubman in an episode of Timeless?
When I got the call that I booked the role of Harriet Tubman in Timeless, I was astounded. I was just so excited. This role was a true bucket list role. I love getting asked this question, because it’s just one of those roles that’s iconic. Getting a chance to portray an American hero like Harriet, is just an honour. Point blank, period.
The script was written well, I had an amazing director. He gave me so much freedom and room to do what I needed to do. He just trusted me. I did so much preparation in just getting in sync and in tune, and reading as many books as I could about her, looking at other actresses’ performances. Not as a comparison, but just to know that I was joining the ranks of such American history. It was amazing, and I’m so excited to be able to even have that on my demo reel.
What was the most rewarding aspect of this role?
The most rewarding aspect of the role was just the fact that I got to put my stamp on how I imagined Harriet Tubman acted, breathed, lived, how she felt. We weren’t there when she was there, so all we have is our imagination and putting pieces of a puzzle together, based on literature we can read. So, my goal… I knew Harriet was a badass, for sure, and she was a spy, and she risked her life, day in and day out to free other slaves, and to do the work that she did.
But my goal as an actor, in creating my performance of her, was again, to bring different layers to the performance. And imagine, you know, how warm was Harriet? How sensitive was she? She had visions and saw things, and heard God speak to her. I wanted to show a vulnerability to her, but with a good mix of, “I will whoop your butt if you come too close”.
What are you looking forward to about appearing in the upcoming season of Bosch?
I’m really honoured to be able to recur on Season Five of Bosch. My character has been through a lot, and it really was an honour to be able to work with different directors this season, and to explore all the trials that my character has gone through. I believe my character, Zazie Little, brings a lot of strength and vulnerability to her role.
I can’t share much, due to… I can’t share much, and I can’t give much away, but I will say that it was a juicy role, and it was emotionally demanding.
What advice would you give young actors who are looking to book their first job?
The advice I would give to young actors looking to book their first job would be, first and foremost, before you even talk about booking, I would talk about studying. Studying the craft. I would want you to study the medium that you want to work in. So that means if you want to work in theatre, study theatre, like it’s going out of style. Go see shows, do shows, do community theatre, do it for free. If you want to perform in film or television, study that.
I think too many actors jump in the game without really being a true consumer of the medium in which they want to work. I have a great community called Hollywood Bound Actors, and anybody who’s interesting in breaking into film and television would want to come and visit me there, because that’s the kind of stuff that I teach. I try to be the teacher that I never had, the teacher who can tell you honestly what to expect in this industry.
The main thing I would say in getting started is to just study your craft. Once you study your craft, you’ll learn more about marketing and taking pictures, and getting an agent. But the core of everything is to study your craft. What good is having an agent or fancy pictures if you can’t support it with your skill? So that would be my biggest piece of advice, start to study. Read everything you can get your hands on, watch YouTube videos, learn from the greats, get a coach, and immerse yourself in the medium in which you want to work.
Can you tell us about your YouTube channel and your future upload plans?
I have a great YouTube channel for actors called… well, it’s under my name, but my show that I do on there is called Actors Daily Bread. It’s an almost daily show, exclusively for actors who want to build their confidence, who want to get audition tips, who want to get tips on marketing themselves, being seen, being heard. Who want to get someone to help them talk through their fears and anxieties.
I just share my everyday experiences with being in the industry. Through these videos, we’ve created a huge community called Hollywood Bound Actors, and it’s really humbling and really amazing that so many actors from around the globe resonate with the videos. They resonate with my podcast the Hollywood Bound Actor Podcast, and they’re striving for their best lives, and their best careers. I get to be their coach and mentor along the way.
I typically upload almost every single day. In addition to my Actors Daily Bread series, I do story time videos, where I just share funny anecdotes, and some not so funny, of my past, and everything that’s gotten me to where I am today. I try to be very transparent with my videos and with my content, because I know that’s what we need. We don’t need just another shiny object, and feeling like it’s unattainable. I let my audience know that it can happen for me, it can happen for them, and I take them on the journey with me.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
What I enjoy most about my career is the fact that I get paid to play pretend. This is all I’ve ever wanted to do, ever since I was a little kid, and the fact that someone literally pays me, blows my mind every time. I also love being able to travel, I love being able to dress up and put on fancy clothes and makeup. I love networking and meeting other fancy people, and I love the joy that entertaining brings to people.
I know when I put my heart and soul into a role, whether it be on stage or on screen, that it moves people, it touches people. I’m aware that I’ve been given a gift, and it is my duty to express it as much as I can. I’m aware that I’m a reflection of God, and my goal is just to keep sharing and spreading light as I go.
Are there any projects you’ll be working on in 2019 or have already worked on and will be released?
For 2019, there are several things in the works. I’ll be in a new Netflix feature film called Triple Frontier, starring Charlie Hunnam and Ben Affleck. I’ll be in another Netflix series called What/If, starring Renée Zellweger. You can catch me guest-starring on Lethal Weapon in 2019, as well as, of course, recurring on Bosch Season Five. There’s a show I’m waiting to hear about called Miracle Workers on TBS, but I haven’t seen a release date for it. I want to feel like it’s in February or March of 2019, and that’s a new comedy.
So, lots of things in the works, and I’m excited about new pilot season and seeing what shows will come from there. In addition to my acting, I am working on my first book for actors, called The Actor’s Guide to Becoming a Booking Magnet. I’m really excited to release that to the market, and to continue to inspire actors, to inspire people in general, to live their best lives, and to do it with joy and gratitude.
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