Katharine Isabelle is a Canadian actress born on 2nd November, 1981. Her father is an art director and production designer known for his special effects work on The X-Files, while her mother is an amateur writer and producer. Growing up on her dad’s sets, Katharine saw herself as being part of the family business and never had a desperate need to be famous. She made her debut appearance in the romantic comedy, Cousins, in 1989 and has since starred alongside some big Hollywood names including Al Pacino and Hilary Swank (Insomnia, 2002). Her talent has spanned across various genres in both film and TV series such as Goosebumps, The X-Files, Supernatural and the critically acclaimed, Hannibal. Katharine’s role as Ginger Fitzgerald in the werewolf movie, Ginger Snaps, seduced horror fans around the world and earned her a loyal following (*waves*). Despite carrying the title of a modern day scream queen and having starred in numerous horror and slasher flicks, Katharine isn’t as enthusiastic about the genre off camera and even admits to being scared of horror movies. Not to worry, Katharine, because we love to see you in them! With over 115 credits to her name, it’s hard to pick a favourite so here’s an overview of her most notable contributions to horror.
‘I would much rather be a horror icon who’s known for really cool female characters that are multi-dimensional, interesting; motivated in ways that people don’t normally see women in films being motivated.’ – Katharine Isabelle
Ginger Snaps (2000) was directed by John Fawcett and written by Karen Walton. When Ginger (Katharine) is bitten by a werewolf, she and her sister, Brigitte (Emily Perkins) must deal with the consequences or risk losing their bond forever. What’s so special about this movie is that it tackles a lot of teenage issues: family rivalries, bullying, sex, puberty and everything that comes with it. The sisters are social outcasts and seemingly death obsessed, yet Ginger is tough, witty and ultimately Brigitte’s protector – until disaster strikes. The dark undertones, lashings of gore and even the transformation of Ginger herself are suitable for adult viewers, too. Katharine and Emily also played sisters in Another Cinderella Story (2008) and have known each other for many years; coincidentally, they were born in the same hospital, attended the same pre-school and used the same talent agency. This connection can be felt onscreen and is perhaps what makes their relationship in Ginger Snaps so utterly convincing, and that’s the core foundation of what the story is built upon. The sequel, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004) is a direct continuation, whereas Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (also 2004) is set over a hundred years before the first. It’s a much more serious re-telling of the original and offers an alternative ending; while it wasn’t as popular amongst fans, it was a fresh take and nice to see a more positive outcome for the sisters.
‘Even going back to Ginger Snaps days, to see women like us who are strong – who are independent, who are going to put up, you know, a real good fight and not just be victimised – reflected back to ourselves, I think it’s important.’ – Katharine Isabelle
There’s no doubt that Katharine has pulled off some badass roles: the stony killer, Gwen/Flamingo out for revenge in 88 (2015) and the zombie flick, 13 Eerie (2013) amongst others. However, most fans would agree that her performance in American Mary (2012) – which earned her several nominations for best actress – is the most memorable since Ginger Snaps. Directors Jen and Sylvia Soska, aka The Twisted Twins, managed to create a buzz amongst horror fans with their original and stylish, refreshing spin on the rape-revenge plot. Katharine was their first choice to play Mary – the script was written for her after the twins fell in love with Ginger – and the three of them have remained close friends. In a sense, this character has so much likeness to Ginger that it’s almost like seeing a matured, non-werewolf version of her.
Katharine plays a medical student who’s drawn into the world of illegal surgeries and body modification, out of financial desperation. There’s already an aloofness about Mary, rather than being the stereotypical sweet, delicate girl that’s commonplace in this sub-genre; and by the time the worst happens, she’s already begun that descent into darkness. We only see Mary lose her cool once, which gives a disturbing glimpse into her deranged mind; other than that, all she has is her finely-tuned skills and trusty scalpel. The gore is moderate rather than gratuitous, and even the rape scene features no nudity or excessive violence. The Soska Sisters’ goal was to create a movie without cheap shock value – which, let’s be honest, is often a (fun) cop-out. American Mary explores many subjects that are considered taboo or shameful amongst society, from extreme body modification to the fetishism that comes from Mary walking around in a latex apron, underwear and high heels. She’s a smart, confident, sexy woman and definitely not someone to be taken advantage of. I also liked that we never see Mary cry, and there’s a depth to her character that means we never quite know what she’s thinking, which makes her all the more intriguing. There are perhaps some feminist tones to this movie that were deliberate as far as the directors wanted to portray something that completely contradicts what we’re used to seeing. In Katharine’s own words, it’s rare to see a female character onscreen that doesn’t fall into the normal stereotypes of women in film – and I’m all for freakish uniqueness.
‘There’ve been nudity arguments in the past. I’ve said that I won’t do nudity, which isn’t entirely true. I’ve never come across something that I thought nudity was essential for.’ –Katharine Isabelle.
Yes, people, Katharine uses a body double, which should be every actor/actress’s right should they choose; unfortunately, some people do need stringing up and hacked apart American Mary-style. Katharine encountered this issue while shooting Freddy vs. Jason (2003), which she originally auditioned to play the part of Lori but director Ronnie Yu thought she’d better suit the role of Gibb; failing to inform her of the nude scenes. Without a doubt, there are some risqué moments in American Mary but they were tasteful, edgy and necessary to the story. It was Katharine’s performance as Mary that landed her the role of Margot Verger in Hannibal (2014-15); she’d also previously worked with creator Bryan Fuller on Carrie (2002). With another strong but flawed, complex character on her list, as well as being invited into such a dark, cleverly twisted show, it’s no surprise that Katharine feels so blessed. Her ability to take on scripts last minute and tackle the limited set time that comes with low-budget Canadian movies is a testament to her passion and dedication for film. She possesses an eccentricity that shines through in her acting and claims that the best way to make characters relatable and believable is to add a bit of tongue-in-cheek. We definitely see a lot of that in See No Evil 2 (2014, also directed by The Soska Sisters) and I’m confident that this was without any input from Jen and Sylvia! So, while Katharine isn’t exclusive to the horror genre, her sense of fun and love for shooting guns off on set, running around screaming, killing people and being altogether dark (and badass), we can rest assured that we’ll be seeing more of her!
‘There’s no typical genre that I go for. I like things that are interesting, that are smart, that are original and unique.’ – Katharine Isabelle