For an actor, much of the work that goes into physically becoming a certain character comes down to identifying and creating their mannerisms, idiosyncrasies and the way they carry themselves. Movement in itself is a form of communication, something Canadian actress Sidney Leeder knows all about.
Audiences across continents will recognize Leeder from her roles in the films Debug, The Hazing Secret, Salem Falls, and Goon, as well as the hit television shows Beauty and the Beast, Reign, Lost Girl, Debra, Alphas and more; but prior to becoming the sought after actress she is today, Leeder was a professional dancer.
The grace and flawless movement that she brings her characters to life with on screen makes it easy to see that her extensive training as a dancer has made her a more intuitive and dynamic performer than most of her contemporaries.
In the 2011 Lifetime film Salem Falls, an adaption of Jodi Picoult’s 2001 novel of the same name, audiences had the opportunity to see Leeder in the pivotal role of Catherine, a young teen who falls in love with her teacher and subsequently turns his life upside down when she claims rape. Directed by Bradley Walsh (The Listener, Turn the Beat Around), the film follows Jack McBradden played by James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek), a high school teacher who tries to make a new life for himself in Salem Falls after Leeder’s character tarnishes his reputation.
Unfortunately for Jack, his past comes out and turns the whole town of Salem Falls against him except for the one woman, Addie Peabody played by Sarah Carter (Falling Skies, Rogue), who goes to great lengths to track down Catherine and prove Jack’s innocence.
Although Salem Falls was one of the earlier films in Leeder’s career her performance comes across as that of a seasoned veteran.
“In one of the most pivotal scenes of the film I confess to lying about my alleged affair with professor… The scene takes place while walking down a long passageway. It was lengthy and revealing dialogue that required serious mental concentration. This character was also a challenge to play, as she needed to have just the right balance of maturity and naivety,” recalled Leeder.
“Prior to shooting I talked a lot with director Bradley Walsh about the characters motivation and significance. Having the opportunity to delve into such a complex character so early on in my career was an amazing challenge.”
Leeder’s career continued to skyrocket after the release of Salem Falls with the actress going on to land multiple guest star roles on television shows such as Life with Boys, The L.A. Complex, Degrassi: The Next Generation and Satisfaction. In 2014 she was cast to star in another Lifetime movie, The Hazing Secret, where she took on the riveting role of Melissa.
The storyline of the film revolves around the death of Leeder’s character Melissa, a naïve college freshman who makes out with the boyfriend of one of the sister’s of the sorority she’s pledging. Nancy, the sorority leader, revives the old practice of hazing in order to punish Melissa for her mistake, but when she locks Melissa in a coffin the young pledge suffocates and ultimately pays the price with her life.
Over the course of the film, Megan, one of the sorority sisters who is played by Gemini Award winner Shenae Grimes-Beech (90210, Scream 4), makes it her mission to expose the crime and the truth about Melissa’s tragic death. The film, which was directed by Jonathan Wright (Nostrum, A Very Merry Mix-Up), was nominated for an award from the Directors Guild of Canada earlier this year.
If there was ever any question over Leeder’s emotional capacity as an actress her knockout performance in The Hazing Secret proves that she can bring the waterworks with natural believability and make an audience feel for her character like the best actors in the industry.
Last year Leeder also starred as Lara alongside Adrian Holmes (The Cabin in the Woods, Elsium), Kjartan Hewitt (Capote), Jeananne Goossen (The Vow, The Night Shift) and Jason Moma (Game of Thrones) in David Hewlett’s (A Dog’s Breakfast, Rage of the Yeti) sci-fi horror film Debug.
Convicted of eco-terrorism, Leeder’s character Lara, along with five others, are placed into a work program aboard a dilapidated spaceship where they are assigned the task of debugging the ship’s artificial intelligence, but their job aboard the ship proves to be far more dangerous than simple computer hacking.
“Lara is very intuitive right from the get go. She warns the others that something about this mission feels wrong and explains that she is sensitive to the energy of her surroundings but is ignored,” explained Leeder.
When Iam, the ship’s AI played by Moma, feels the threat of annihilation, he begins fighting back in surprising ways killing most of the hackers aboard the ship including Leeder’s character Lara. Lara’s death is one of the most shocking of all as she is virtually raped to death.
Thinking that she is going to try out a kinky method of virtual fraternization with Mel, her beau on the ship played by Hewitt, Lara follows the ships orders and enters its sensory system not realizing that Iam is luring her into a trap.
“She is asked to remove her clothing and enter a pool of crystal clear liquid. As she does this she is transported virtually to a blood stained prison cell where Iam awaits her. It is there that he, and every other man who has set foot on the ship rape and beat her to death,” said Leeder.
“While mentally she is in this virtual reality, Lara’s physical body is actually drowning in the sensory system pool she entered. By the time Mel finds her it is too late and she is already dead.”
From playing the catty teen girls everyone loves to hate to the sweet and innocent girl next door and everything in between, including a psycho serial killer in the film The Killer, Sidney Leeder has revealed herself as an artist with exponential talent. She also recently finished filming multi-award winning director Rachel Meyer’s film Lunch, which premiered at the Beverly Hills Playhouse Film Festival last month.
“Being on a film set is one of my favorite places. It’s like stepping directly into a storybook. Acting gives me a natural high and allows me to explore myself, connect with others and imagine endless possibilities. I act because not acting simply isn’t an option. The need to perform and create has lived inherently in me for as long as I can remember,” admits Leeder.