Stephanie Bennett has scored a major role in Canadian primetime television portraying Assistant Coach Christy Cook on CBC’s summer series 21 Thunder. I recently spoke to Bennett over the phone about her character, what it is like behind the scenes of 21 Thunder and a pet project of hers back in Vancouver.
What personal goal did you set for yourself when you agreed to take on the role of Coach Christy Cook?
Stephanie Bennett: Christy is a very powerful character. She is very driven and ambitious. I have been very lucky to play a lot of characters like that, but this one was very different because she is a young woman in a man’s world, and she is taking on this leadership position. She really has to fight a number of things to get there, including her personal life. My goal was to just really demonstrate her strength as well as her vulnerability, and really make an impression for women taking leadership positions. I hope this character will inspire more women to take on these roles in the sports world.
The media has focused a great deal on the fact that Christy is breaking this ceiling in the world of men’s professional sports, but I want to know, now that we are learning more about her personal life, how do you reconcile Christy the professional coach with Christy in a relationship with the very flirtatious Davey Gunn (Ryan Pierce)—even though we are also beginning to see his own vulnerabilities behind this mask of his?
I think Christy definitely has an attraction to him and he is a lot of fun for her at a time when she is not having any fun in her life. But, I also think she knows what is most important to her and so she is struggling to stay focused. Davey can be a bit of a distraction and I think Christy is aware of that. I don’t think she has any expectations for this relationship. She is very level-headed. She knows what her goals are, what she needs to do to be successful with the team and that is the most important thing in her life at this time.
21 Thunder has a great underlying message about diversity; coming together as a team from many different ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. How do you see people responding to this message given the current political climate?
Well honestly, I am so proud to be a Canadian right now. I just think [21 Thunder] is a beautiful representation of how multicultural and how accepting we are here in comparison to other places and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The show is also a great way to bring international fans together too since we have such a diverse cast that represent so many international regions and backgrounds. I think [21 Thunder] is truly “Canadian” of us. I think the fans really appreciate the diversity and find it a breath of fresh air in a world that is still struggling with such horrible racism.
You have been heavily involved with the program Project Limelight. Can you share a bit about the program and your involvement?
Project Limelight is a free performing arts program located in the downtown east side of Vancouver. Currently, we are working with about 30 kids aged 8 to 15 or 16 and the program provides them with free experience in the performing arts. The kids work for about six months rehearsing and preparing for their shows, working with costume designers and lighting. The kids come in multiple times during the week to rehearse and participate in workshops to improve their craft; skills including singing, dancing and acting. Many Vancouver professionals have come together to provide workshops. During my time with the project, I tend to do whatever needs doing, whether it is using my extensive acting or dance background or just feeding the kids when they arrive. Sometimes we just hang out if that is what the kids need too. It’s amazing because these kids are super committed because they are putting on a full production at the end of the program.
Can you share with me one of your most memorable moments on set with Team 21 Thunder?
On set, throughout the season, the boys all came up with chants that they wrote themselves and then they would perform them in the locker room or on the field. It was really cool to see that creative collaboration between the cast members and the rest of us would be there cheering them when they performed them. It brought an authenticity to the show that I really loved.
And finally, which storyline, other than your own, has you most intrigued?
I would say the Nolan [RJ Fetherstonhaugh] and Emma [Clark Backo] storyline. The young love between them and just how torn Nolan is because of his life and how much he loves Emma. This last week ended in a proposal so we don’t know but I think they do a beautiful job with their characters.
My thanks to Stephanie for taking the time to speak with me!
21 Thunder airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.