The Canadian-born actor, Jennifer Cheon Garcia talks about her time on the Syfy show Van Helsing, along with her experience and struggles as an actor.
Based on a graphic novel, Van Helsing takes us into a dark horror fantasy future, now overrun by creatures of the night. The series follows Vanessa Van Helsing who wakes up after a long sleep, only to find an eruption that blanketed the world in ash with vampires now dominating with no fear of sunlight. It is a great setup, and one that has led to five seasons of the show.
With the fifth season wrapping up, and Van Helsing ready to catch up on via streaming, there was no better time to touch base with one of the series main villains, and get a sense of what people can expect when they give the show a look.
Jennifer Cheon Garcia plays Ivory, The Sisterhood, a group of bloodthirsty female vampires, and has been a series favourite with many fans. Garcia is a Canadian actor, has been featured in a wide range of projects, and brings a unique look to all her characters. From west Vancouver, we got a chance to talk to her about her role on Van Helsing, along with discussing her career and acting in general.
CGMagazine: So, this is the last season of Van Helsing. How does it feel to have been on a longer ride and what’s next?
Jennifer Garcia: It feels like a mixed bag of things but all positive. It’s been an incredible experience. I learned so much about acting, about myself and the industry. And what’s next? Well, now you guys get to see it. And a few other projects that I’ve been working on and some I could talk about in summer camp. But I don’t want to get in trouble. So, with other projects coming up, you just gotta stay tuned and check in on me on social media as a staff, and I’ll let you know when I can.
CGMagazine: That sounds fantastic. Van Helsing has been a unique show. It has apocalyptic and supernatural vibes. How did you get drawn to this show, and what was your experience like being on it?
Jennifer Garcia: It’s been such an incredible experience not only to get to act and to call yourself an actor but to work with such an amazing cast. Like you hear other people say that. Do they mean it? We really mean it like everybody—everybody—on that call sheet, they were incredible and so warm, and we built a little crew and I missed them.
CGMagazine: I just want to quickly talk about your career as a whole, you’ve done a lot of diverse different things from rom-com type projects to genre, what is the type of show or movie that draws you in the most, and what is your guilty pleasure even if you’re not acting on that type of medium?
Jennifer Garcia: That’s a good question. What draws me to projects is character. I’ve played quite a few villains and what I find interesting about villains, in our everyday life, you can be the villain in someone else’s story, or you can be the hero in their story. So, it’s all about perspective. That’s what I love about this kind of storytelling in film and TV, because they can show you those different sides of the coin within that hour. So that’s generally what draws me, it is all about character. And if there’s something in that character that I feel would be interesting for other people to see, if I can find something within that character that maybe the audience didn’t quite see coming.
My guilty pleasure is 90s rom-com, there’s something about that era of rom-com that I’m particularly nostalgic toward and could watch over and over again.
CGMagazine: How has being an actor changed with the pandemic?
Jennifer Garcia: It’s been challenging. I always had this thing that if I haven’t booked anything in a year, then maybe acting isn’t choosing you. And you should consider other ways of making a living. I think that’s the challenging thing about this pandemic as a whole, whether you’re an actor or whatever, you do it as your occupation. It’s kind of taken away a lot of our identities of what we feel that we are, your identity is when you go see your friends or when you go to your beer league, baseball team, soccer team, whatever have you, and then you feel more your identity when you’re there when you’re with a group of friends or when you’re in a different environment. And those kinds of identities have been on pause for a lot of people including me.
I’m so thankful that we were able to go back and finish season five because that got postponed. We were originally supposed to shoot in March of last year and that’s when everything closed down. It was a solid amount of time of depression and heavy drinking and eating. When we got the call, things were coming back. I was like, ‘Oh damn, I got to get this butt in gear. I got to look like I’m some warrior fighter instead of pizza bender’. That was quite the joke. It had its challenging times. But I am so glad that we were able to finish it, and we’re still in this pandemic and content is something that people are wanting and needing that escape, and I’m so glad that Van Helsing can be part of their escapism during this time and a way to enjoy some bloody fight.
CGMagazine: How have you viewed representation evolving in cinema? Do you see it improving overall?
Jennifer Garcia: I see a huge improvement. That’s something that I love about our industry, when they know, then they’ll act, and they’ll act on it quickly. I’ve seen that in every breakdown that comes through my inbox, the way they describe characters, their sensitivity and their open-mindedness. It just helps because I’m a unique person, I’m six feet tall and Mexican-Korean, most of the time, when people are writing a character, they’re not thinking that she’s going to be this Amazonian half Mexican, half Korean person but the fact that they open their mind up a bit when they see me, because I’m not the only person out there like that.
I know that there are tons and tons of people like me that feel like they’re odd or out, so it’s been great to be able to bring that to my work and have people relate and feel and be there for part of that journey, even from far away. When I was a little girl growing up, I didn’t have many friends. I felt very singled out and bullied. I looked at the cinema and found pieces that I could relate to, but didn’t necessarily look like me. But the feeling was there, the attitude was there. I want to give that back to my younger self out there somewhere. The industry is making that. I mean, I’m working. So, that’s a tell-tale sign right there.
CGMagazine: Filming locations have been limited due to travel restrictions. Do you see that as a good or bad thing in your personal view? Do you think film/TV should be more localized or do you feel we are losing a lot of potential when films/TV travel across the globe?
Jennifer Garcia: I love the idea of fantasy and exploring other places. When I was a kid, that was the way you saw the world in film. Well, for whatever circumstances, if you have to be in a city or stuck in a place, you could always get that immediate escape and travel to far off places and far off land. So, I really can’t wait until we can travel again. And that’s another thing I love about my line of work is that you’ll end up on a job with people that you would have never met from all different places and walks of life.
I am looking forward to that. I do miss that a lot. In general, all of us have that escape plan, doing our nine to five and thinking, ‘I can’t wait, I’m going to work hard so that I can save up for that trip to Greece’. And then, that’s your mental getaway. But now, I want to go to Greece, but I don’t know who’s ever going to know. There are all these other questions that kind of trail in there. So, I can’t wait until we can do that again. I think everybody, not just the film industry, will feel a lot better.
CGMagazine: What should they expect, and what should fans expect for this final season, and what should people just jumping in know about the Van Helsing series?
Jennifer Garcia: I think they should expect all the explosions and action. But I think we can expect to fall in love and to find family and relationships and to care again. I think what’s nice about our show is that it is an apocalyptic show. It has a lot of family and unity and what you’re fighting for, I think that’s what fans can look forward to.
CGMagazine: That’s awesome. Thank you so much for your time.
Jennifer Garcia: Thank you so much too. Have a great day.