Grace Dove

Grace Dove is a Vancouver-based actress, originally from Canim Lake, near 100 Mile House, British Columbia, in Secwepemc territory. Perhaps best known for her work in the film The Revenant, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Grace Dove’s interest in acting started from a very young age.

“I think it started actually, when I was really quite young. I was always really comfortable in front of the camera. My dad always had a camera going and we’d make little videos of all of our summer trips, and I was always the one narrating it. I think that’s really where it sparked.”

Her work in front of the cameras started when she began hosting a children’s television show in Prince George at just 10 years old, which got her started on a career in film. But despite her early interest in acting, and knowing that she wanted to pursue acting as a career, Grace had a long journey and lots of work ahead of her to make it a reality.

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Illustration by Shaikara David

“I realized I didn’t know anything about what it took to become an actor. There’s a lot of steps you have to take in order to even start auditioning. How to get an agent and how to even go into a room and audition and the technical aspects of it. And so I knew that I needed to go to school. I went to acting school for two years and that’s where I learned about what steps I needed to take to make this a reality. It was amazing. They do the acting work, the emotional work, you learn how to emotionally prep, how to prep your body, how to prep your voice, you get physical classes, voice classes, on camera classes, and then you also get a business class to learn about that side of it. They really try to get you ready in all aspects of it.”

And despite her years of experience, preparation, and training, Grace still deals with anxiety on a regular basis. When asked if there are any times she feels shy or nervous in an audition, Grace replied:

“Yes. I’d say most (times). That’s the thing. It’s like an audition, every single one, it feels like you’re going in for a job interview. It’s a practice of rejection. And I audition hundreds of times a year and each time there’s something new that I learn and the stakes are really high. I’d say that it’s taken me this long, it’s taken me up until this year to even manage those nerves because that’s been my biggest challenge has been getting out of my own way and not getting ahead of myself and letting the pressure and the nerves get in the way of my creativity. So it’s taken a long time to even figure that out. And I feel like this is the first year I finally have gone into the room and been able to manage my nerves.”

Managing that stress, and managing your “inner voice,” is key. “If your self-talk is negative or if you give up on yourself — which I’ve done — I’ll be in the room and if I stumble on a line, what I would have done in the past is just go, ‘Oh, well, I blew it,’ and give up. And so knowing that that’s not okay, that I have to be the one to completely be in it 100%.”

Managing your own expectations of yourself is also important. When asked if there’s any advice she would give to her younger self, Grace says, “I think the biggest thing that I’m even working on today is just how to have not so many expectations or ideas of when things are going to happen in my career, or how it’s going to happen, because there’s just so many unknown factors. It’s important to set goals, otherwise you won’t know which direction you’re going. But also I remember feeling disappointed after a few years and feeling like, ‘Oh, I’m not where I want to be.’ ‘Oh, I’m getting older.’ I always thought that I’d already have booked a kids show by now, this and that. You can’t have that much pressure otherwise it’s easier to feel down about it.”

Grace spent years working side jobs to make ends meet, working in restaurants and radio promotion. So when success does come, it’s a feeling that’s hard to beat. “I can remember every time that I got that call, or even if I get shortlisted, my heart starts beating really fast and I get really excited. When I booked The Revenant, I remember exactly where I was. I got the call and I started jumping up and down and screaming. That was the first big thing that I had booked. It was definitely one of the top moments of my life.”

Grace’s work as an actress has taken her around the world, but she knows how hard it can be for Indigenous youth to leave home, even if it is to explore their career and life options, but she says it’s worth it. “I think even if you do end up going back to your community, that’s a great thing. It’s okay to want to live in your community with your family and on your territory, but you don’t really know what’s out there until you at least try. And I think that it’s a really great thing for youth to go to school somewhere else, to go see what’s out there because you really just don’t know. For me, it’s interesting because I’ve been slowly making my way down to LA each year and spending more time there. I always thought that I wanted to live there and that was the dream. But then when I’m actually there, it has different challenges. Every time I go there I have so much more perspective and I’m able to really enjoy what I do have in my community and at home.”

Even when she’s not at home, Grace finds comfort in community, especially in a place as big as LA. “I’m pretty good on my own. I love adventuring by myself. I’ll go try out new yoga studios and new gyms. The amazing thing is I’ve actually got a good network of other Indigenous artists. I just try to find them. I’ve got a bunch of friends who are all into music, who are in the film industry, who are activists. Having Indigenous friends helps me feel grounded and connected.”

Special thanks to Keith Collier for authoring this blog post.

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