As her Twitter bio says ‘New Writer. Old Actress. Cheap Drunk.’
Where to start.
The simple thought of me mentioning of her name – in my blog of all places – is going to make her cringe a little. She is very private and modest to a fault. She will tell me that she is an introvert and say she is uncomfortable with any attention but the truth is that even in the most overwhelming of scenarios that an actor can face – like posing with me in the above photo at a dress-up event – she holds court like a pro.
In September of 2009, I was attending my first Vancouver International Film Festival Party. Being new to VIFF and Vancouver, I was just getting my feet wet in the Vancouver film industry. The only person there that I knew pointed to a beautiful blonde actress across the room and said, “Lisa, do you want to work and be respected in the Vancouver film community? Look up to someone like Sonja Bennett.”
I was taken by how elegant she was – pregnant and smiling from ear to ear. I left the party feeling like I had someone to look up to and a goal to work towards; strive to be as good at my craft as Ms. Bennett.
Over the next five years, I would see Sonja at auditions, sometimes in the waiting room… and other times, just her name on call sheets.
During the Seed call backs, I sat next to her while waiting to go in. I was nervous. Not for my call back , but because she was there. I took a little comfort in the idea that she too seemed nervous. Clearly her nerves were for the audition and not because I was there. She smiled and in a moment of silence, I blurted out, “Don’t be nervous. If you get a call back they already like what you did.”
I instantly wished I had kept my mouth shut as she was very experienced and clearly already knew that. But she was kind and laughed.
In February of 2014, I was in LA for pilot season when I got an audition (to be taped for Vancouver) for a Canadian Independent film: Preggoland. I read it and was very excited at how much it reminded me of Less Than Kind.
Funny, Dark, Honest, Enlightening. It wasn’t until I had finished reading it that I noticed it was written by Sonja Bennett. As most actors tend to do (they are lying if they tell you otherwise), I assumed she wrote the part I was auditioning for with a close friend in mind. She would be the lead and this was just a technicality to appease the union. Audition at least X amount of ladies but the part is already been offered. Ok. No stress. 5 years later, Sonja Bennett and my favorite young Canadian Director Jacob Tierney (Good Neighbors, The Trotsky) were possibly going to watch my tape. This for me was a win. The phone call from the two of them a week later was a wonderful surprise. I had landed the part!
Over the next month, we filmed Preggoland and the experience of filming with Sonja Bennett turned out to be the easiest and most rewarding experience for me. She was open and present in every scene, every day and gave it 100% for 20 days straight while re-writing on the go and filling bottles for her newborn in her trailer at lunch. She was a machine.
I had assumed after writing for so long, she would have a really strong opinion on each character but in true Sonja style, she graciously gave it over to each actor to find their take on her words. She made it clear from the beginning that she trusted us and that we were free to play. This was echoed by Jacob who gave us all free reign to explore.
Looking back on it now, the thing that I have come love the most about Sonja is her dedication. She did what most people only talk about. She created her own work and continues to do so. She wrote, and still writes, diligently day after day, all the while raising 2 young kids, acting and taking on the world with her husband, fellow thespian Stephen Lobo.
Sonja remains very much her own person. She is private and focused. She is not a fan of social media, (so I was very surprised and kinda flattered that she asked me to help her enter the world of twitter last year). But even then, she is careful about how she uses it. She proudly walks to the beat of her own drum and that is why she is so loved.
Whether it is drinking wine and dancing with you or just having you over for toast and cheese with her kids, Sonja is always the same fun loving, compassionate person. She is what every girl needs in their life; a real girlfriend. Had someone told me 6 years ago that I would be so blessed to call her that, I would have laughed. I still look up to her but now I take joy in being able to tell her that – over laughs and toast and cheese in her kitchen.