Nadia Hatta and Kristoffer Polaha reach for their goals in “A Winning Team,” a new, original movie premiering Saturday, March 18 (8 p.m. ET/PT), on Hallmark Channel. We at Survived The Shows had the pleasure of chatting with Jovanna Burke about her experience in the making of the movie and what fans can expect. Check out the full interview below!
What’s the main element in Sheila’s character and the movie in general that fascinates you the most and drew you to join A Winning Team?
JOVANNA BURKE: Sheila is the TEAM MANAGER and TEAM PARENT and in a lot of ways she really represents the team’s spirit. She believes with every bone in her body that these girls and their coach deserve a winning chance, and she will do anything to honour that. What I love about Sheila is the amount of energy she brings to everything that she does – and this is the
characteristic that I embodied first when creating her character.
Where are you and Sheila most similar and where most different as human beings?
As I mentioned, Sheila is a big ball of energy. She is the type of woman who loves to organize, hosts every party, is a bit of a control freak (in a good way) and must be involved in everything that her daughter does. I can find tons of little similarities between us, but Sheila is far more outgoing than I am. She is also a better hostess; I shy away from having all the parties and I am also not as involved as Sheila is in my own kids’ activities. But I understand her innately.
To all the fans looking forward to watching the movie, how would you describe A Winning Team in just 3 words?
Fun (I really think you can feel how much fun we had making this film; I think it shines through in the performances and the tone) Heartfelt (There are so many moments that will make you smile); Romantic (There is a very cute romance that happens between Emily and Coach, and I just can’t wait till you see their chemistry)
What can you tease about Sheila’s journey throughout the movie?
Let’s just say she gets her wish.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you in portraying Sheila?
Portraying Sheila was honestly one of the most fun times I have had as a character – she is such a happy energetic soul. I would say the hardest part was pulling together all my energy when we were shooting outside in the cold weather.
Talking about the environment on set, how would you describe your experience while filming A Winning Team and do you have any fun anecdotes to share?
Working on this show was truly a pleasure. From the wonderful crew, our lovely director (Jason Furukawa) and the awesome cast, we had fun every single day. The show had quite a few kids on it, and that always lightens the mood on set. It was winter in Vancouver and there were epic snowstorms while we shot this, and of course we shot a lot of it outside, so it was interesting for the crew who was trying to portray “Spring” weather for our exterior scenes.
When we were shooting the party scene at Sheila’s house, the outdoor fountain was completely frozen, and the crew had to heat it up so that we looked like we were enjoying a warm spring day. The kids were such troopers playing soccer in their shorts, you can imagine their commitment. So, we all spent a lot of time together in the warming tents making jokes and trying to keep each other’s spirits high so that we could make the best movie possible.
If you could choose any other character from A Winning Team, apart from Sheila, that you would have loved to play, which one would it be and why?
Well, I loved playing Sheila, but if I had to choose…I would probably say Emily (our leading lady), just because I loved the strength of the character and I understand what being a professional athlete entails (mentally and physically) so it would be a lot of fun to bring that aspect of a character to the table. I think that Nadia Hatta (our Emily) did a top-notch job at portraying this character, she made some lovely choices and I think the audience will really fall in love with her.
Did you take anything from set, any prop or piece of costume, to remember your experience as Sheila?
I wish I could have…I did not get to keep anything. BUT if I could have, I would have loved to take home my bright purple “Team Manager” jacket, because I feel like it embodies Sheila so well.
Throwing back to the origins of your career, how did the passion for acting come about in your life?
It has always been a passion of mine to portray characters and tell stories through the eyes of others. When I was younger, I wanted to be a ballerina, so that I could be the principal dancer in the story ballets…and when that dream fell apart, I was lucky to find another medium where I could pursue my love of story. I studied Theatre for many years and it helped me understand my instrument, so that I could open it up and tell these stories. I love to open people’s eyes and help them understand what it might feel like to be someone like the person I am portraying, and I strive to bring as much honesty and authenticity to every one of my roles.
Among all the roles you’ve had the chance to play throughout your career, is there any role you’re most fond of?
I feel like I have been super fortunate, and I have had the chance to play many interesting, different characters. It is hard to pick just one, to be honest, because each one has a piece of Jovanna in them. All of them have different parts of my personality either turned up or turned down. I do often enjoy portraying characters that are VERY different than me because it is a fun challenge to find the things that we would have in common and also find the pieces of me that could have led me to lead their life.
One character that I really loved playing was which I never thought I would, was a villain in a Hallmark Mystery. Megan in Ruby Herring Mysteries. Digging deep and finding those parts of me that could possibly go that way, was quite a fun challenge. I found finding her truth to be so interesting and it is one of my favorite characters.
What can you tease about your next projects?
I had the pleasure of working on two upcoming series, one is a comedic drama starring the incomparable: Bob Odenkirk and Mireille Enos called “Lucky Hank”; and the other is a drama based on a real-life tragedy that happened when I was a teenager on Vancouver Island called “Under the Bridge”. Very different roles, very different shows, but both were SO much fun. Look them up- stream them when they air. Both will be awesome.
If you had to give some advice to people who want to pursue an acting career, which kind of advice would you give them?
I would say, study. If you can, study theatre, because it is the greatest training ground we have. There are people who have never done theatre who can be wonderful screen actors, but it all depends on your training. We all have great natural instincts, but they need to be honed somewhere. Study, study, study. Also, it isn’t an easy business, so you must prepare to fail. Failure isn’t bad, it is how we learn. As actors we need to learn to fail, because it is part of the journey. We also get to start over A LOT which is a blessing.
Every single role brings with it an ignorance and an insecurity, and so you must approach it with the same curiosity and humility. I’m always nervous. Doesn’t matter how many auditions I do. But I remind myself it’s because I care. So, I have a motto: Fail and then fail better! And that little motto is so liberating because you realize that it’s not about getting it right, it’s about getting it truthful and being your most authentic self as a character. Lastly to remember that auditions are our job as actors, and they are our opportunity to play- so take it as that and a lot of the pressure comes off.
A Winning Team, with Jovanna Burke, premieres March 18 on Hallmark. Get a preview below!
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