MacKenzie Porter plays Naomi on AMC's Hell on Wheels which airs Saturdays at 9/8c. MacKenzie's Twitter: @MacKenziePMusic. Photo by Kelsey Porter.
Ahhh, the gorgeous MacKenzie Porter. MacKenzie is a self-starter who has entertainment in her genes. Music, acting and I'm sure there will be something else she takes on during her career! On top of all of this, MacKenzie has great family values. She's a keeper!
You play a series regular, Naomi, on Season four of AMC's Hell on Wheels. What was it like coming into a cast that was already established? Did you watch any of the previous episodes?
I think it's always more difficult to come into an already established family, especially having to replace one of its members. Luckily, this crew and cast welcomed me with open arms. Before I even got to set, I got calls from the producers and Anson (who plays my husband) to welcome me to the show. Anson was the first person I met. He made me feel right at home, like I had been there from the start, so I was instantly relieved . I've watched all three seasons several times.
Describe your audition for Hell on Wheels.
I was actually living in LA in a house with four other actresses. Two of the other girls got the audition for Naomi first so I helped them tape their auditions (me being the reader on the other side of the camera.) I remember being kinda bummed because I didn't get asked to audition. Finally, a couple days later my agent called and said, "Can you tape this today? I need it tonight." Fortunately, I already knew the lines from working it with my roommates so I quickly put on makeup, put on my "period style audition outfit" and had my roommates help me put it on tape. I booked it the following week...off of that audition tape.
What was your reaction when you found out your were nominated for the Rising Star Award at the 2013 Canadian Country Music Association Awards? Who told you the news?
I was ecstatic and surprised. At the time, I had only released my first single so I was definitely not expecting it. An email was sent to me around 6am from my marketing and radio promotion person but I, of course, didn't wake up till 10am so by then my Twitter was blowing up. I think I checked my Twitter before my email so that's how I found out. I immediately sent out a group text with lots of exclamation marks and dancing smiley faces to my boyfriend and my family.
What was it like growing up on a cattle and bison ranch? Did you help out as a kid? Did you EAT the cattle and bison?
Life is never perfect but growing up on our ranch would be as close to it as possible! I wouldn't change anything about the way I grew up. I got to experience living in the middle of nowhere on a beautiful ranch with my very close-knit family, my grandparents and cousins who were all about the same age. We literally lived about a two minute walk from each other. We played outside for hours never worrying about a thing. Not sure we were much help when we were younger - probably more of a nuisance but we always had chores. And yes we eat bison and beef. I love it!
As a musician and writer yourself, what's it like collaborating with other writers on music that you will be singing?
Songwriting is one of my favorite things to do. Often, I'll come into the write with a melody idea, lyrics idea or just an experience I went through. Sometimes it flows so nicely and sometimes it's like pulling teeth. Sometimes my co-writers are on the exact same page as me and sometimes not even in the same book! That's why it's so amazing to find a writing team with whom you click.
This summer when you release your debut album, you will be going on tour opening for country superstars such as Blake Shelton and Rascal Flatts. Who arranged all of this for you?
I have a booking agent who lines up the tours and a tour manager who works out the details. There are so many logistics that go into every show like advancing the sound equipment, meet and greets, sound check times, hotels, travel arrangements. I help a lot. I like being hands on so we actually do everything together. My managers oversee everything and make sure we are on track and ready to go.
You started playing violin at age four. Who's idea was it for you to begin on that instrument?
Well, my brother played so of course I wanted to be like him, until I found out how much practicing the violin requires! My parents were very encouraging / strict in the way that each one of us had to choose a musical instrument, learn to read music and study music theory. I owe all of my musical ability to my parent's endless nagging to practice. Haha!
Why did you decide to pursue an acting career? What made Vancouver so attractive to you?
I had it in my mind from a little girl that I was going to be an actress and a singer. I don't know where it stemmed from but just that it was always there. Vancouver was the place in Canada where my acting coach had connections so we went there to find my agent, who I am still with today.
You'll also be seen on Showcase's series Blackstone. What were the differences between working on Blackstone vs. Hell on Wheels?
Definitely a difference, but in a good way. I only came in for two episodes on Blackstone and we shot them extremely quickly. It was a fast paced show so it's somewhat harder to find your character. Luckily, the director I was working with shot the entire series so he knew exactly what he wanted which made things a lot easier. On Hell On Wheels, we change directors every episode. It's not as rushed. We take more time to get the shots we want. It's great to be able to ask for another take if you feel like you need it, but being challenged to get it right the first time keeps things interesting! Both shows were incredible.
How old were you when you went to Egypt, Jordan and Israel, and why was that your favorite trip?
I was 19. My mom wanted to go because my family is Christian and she wanted us to experience some of the most important Christian historical sites. We went on amazing tours. We went to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Cairo...we saw the pyramids, swam in the Dead Sea and went to Petra in Jordan. I have never learned so much in such a short amount of time. It was funny because before this trip, I couldn't book an acting part to save my life. I went for over a year without work. After the trip, I had a new perspective on life and what was important. Right after our trip, I started instantly booking. Sometimes you need to get away and see the world and realize what's really important. This trip did that for me.
Where are the 80 stitches you've had and what was the cause of each time you needed stitches?
I've had 40 on my face. I fell in the school yard playground when I was in grade four and cut open my entire forehead. Luckily, the scar is right in my hair line so you can't see any of it. I also shattered a window with my hand and got 25 stitches there. I wish the story was cooler but it's just that we locked our keys in the house and were trying to climb through the window. Five stitches on my hand from running into a saran wrap ripper...you know the metal thing haha! The rest inside my mouth - wisdom teeth, cutting my lip open etc. I'm a wreck!
How did you meet your agents for television, film and music?
I met my acting agent through an acting coach, and everyone else through him. He was the one who first believed, and is still my biggest supporter. I owe that man my first born.
Name an instrument you would love to learn to play and why you haven't started learning it yet.
Cello -- I don't have a good excuse for not learning it.
What in life intrigues you the most?
Travelling and people. I don't like being alone; I love having people over or hanging with friends. I like meeting unique people...funny ones and quirky ones. It's refreshing!
Anything else you'd like to say.
Shout out to my family whom I adore, and all of the people who are supporting me. They are the ones who are encouraging me and helping me move this whole journey forward.