Anastasia Phillips: Trusting the ride

By Kerry Turner

Anastasia Phillips stars as Audrey, an apprentice carpenter at an oil refinery, in THE TRADES.

After landing the role of Audrey, an apprentice carpenter at an oil refinery, THE TRADES co-star Anastasia Phillips headed straight to Sarnia, ON. Show creator Ryan Lindsay had compiled 180 hours of interviews but it was important to Phillips to get an in-person grasp of the living and working conditions of people in the industry. The eight-part, 30-minute comedy is set in a working-class community, where the stress and high risks of working in a refinery are balanced by the comedic, high-wire antics of the plant workers.

“Brothers and friends and family, extended family members and I met and spoke to a bunch of, well, not a bunch because there aren’t that many, but a handful of trades women. The most important thing was for me to catch the frequency of the town and the people, and I’m happy I did because, gosh, what a hilarious, wild group of good and colourful people. There were people from all walks of life like veterans, becoming trades guys that are apprenticing after life in the service, and just the patience locals have with people while they figure out new opportunities for themselves,” says Phillips.

Navigating new opportunities is something Phillips can relate to. She moved back to Canada from Los Angeles after a successful and diverse acting career there to create a different lifestyle for herself. The purchase of a rural property in 2019 proved to be life changing personally and professionally.

THE TRADES is currently streaming on Crave.

“It was not a choice that I made for my career obviously. It was a personal choice. I just had a vision that having a homestead would be the thing that most satisfied me. But interestingly, and this is, again, like the wonder of how life works when you can tune into what you really want and what will really make you happy, it ultimately leads you where you were hoping to go anyway. As soon as I moved to the country, I started to get these roles to play these capable, competent and handy women.

“I’d be renovating my kitchen or in my sunroom, writing, mowing the lawn and tending to the garden and doing all these things that in L.A. didn’t seem like the things to be doing. You kind of have to live like this bird in a gilded cage and preserve yourself. But I also wanted to get my hands in the dirt and to live my life. It was just so wonderful that all the roles I got subsequent to the move were asking me to be exactly that woman, a handy, competent, practical woman. I just love that,” says Phillips.

“If I was still living in Los Angeles in the culture I was in there, I might not have the same sort of heart connection to people, trades people, workers, labourers, and farmers. That’s who I live around now and I understand the value of hard work and the human relationships that come as a result of having to work hard with others when a lot of things are out of your control.”

Thinking ahead

Despite having a busy acting career, the farmhouse and Therianthropy − a natural winery she and her husband own, Phillips still feels she has too much time. “I think we waste a lot of time in our lives and we have a lot more time than we think we do. I started thinking of time as something that was elastic and that I had control over and that I wasn’t a victim of,” says Phillips.

She has also had some profound life experiences that make her believe it’s important we find our own way of belonging in the world. “I think the piece that’s missing right now is how disconnected people are, particularly kids. There’s a theatre hall here, a community theatre hall I really want to turn into a creative, theatre space and just teach kids, especially about how to connect deeply with each other and the world and themselves and to feel a sense of wonder and magic in their own lives. That’s my long, long-term goal.

“If you have a deep longing to achieve some longer-term goal you can trust that the universe isn’t going to forget that. It has a way of getting you there, if you surrender to it and trust the ride.”

Finding the value in roles

Phillips graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in philosophy and her approach to life and acting has been influenced in part by her education. Only now does she have a grasp of in what way. “As a younger woman, there’s so much to absorb about how the industry works and the hamster wheel of time for your next job. But I’ve just come back from France where I did a course at the Jacques Lecoq school, which is a very famous theatre school using a lot of physical theatre. I realized that when I was studying acting, I was constantly looking for books on the philosophy of acting to validate and legitimize my choice. I realized acting and the theatre is the one place where we get to be fully human and then also fully transcend ourselves at the same time. I also realized that acting is a sacred activity for me. It’s also fun and I love it. Obviously, this is a silly comedy that I do but I find the meaning in the silly comedies and the value of doing those roles.”

She hopes the messaging in THE TRADES with several strong female leads will resonate with women considering the trades as a career. “It’s sort of the female point of view of the trades because we know it’s such a male dominated industry for now. I think that’s going to change. It’s so important when you make a show that doesn’t alienate half the demographic.”

The show doesn’t gloss over the fact there are some workplace culture issues with women entering the trades. “I would like to tell the story of how one starts to change things so you’re not trying to find your place in the male culture; where you can actually start to build your own culture that reflects what you value, what you believe and how you operate.”

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