"What's For You Won't Pass You" -- EXCLUSIVE Interview With Actress Karen Bryson ("Family Reunion", "Shameless")

Karen Bryson has appeared on UK TV shows like Shameless, Buried, The Bill, and Bodies over the course of her long and accomplished acting career.  Most recently, she's appeared in David Kitchen's directorial debut short film, "Family Reunion" (reviewed here) as a troubled woman with knowledge of a secret that could blow her family apart.

We got in touch with Karen to talk about her role in "Family Reunion" and her career.  Check it out!

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FCSFR: According to IMDb, your first onscreen credit is in the disco classic, "Staying Alive".  But when did your film life begin?  Who did you look up to as a young woman first getting in the game?

KAREN BRYSON: Oh, IMDb.  Yes, there's a bit of a story here.  I’ve encountered this many times before. The actress/dancer who appeared in Staying Alive is not me. I’ve done a fair bit of research into finding out who she is. I believe her name is now Karen Mueller Bryson. She is of course from the US and is now a rather successful author of a number of books.

I have, on several occasions tried to change my IMDb page, where I was asked my reason for wanting to delete the credit.  "Erm, because it's not me."  Needless to say, I don’t think they believed me.  It’s clearly still on the page!

Firstly, I was a small child in pre-school, secondly, in London. I mean, come on, Nicholas, do I look old enough? Actually, don’t answer that!

I want to start a campaign, or shoot a short documentary.. entitled "Finding the other Karen Bryson",  like “Searching for Sugar Man", LOL!

The whole thing has tainted my feeling about the film, I loved Saturday Night Fever and its poor little cousin the sequel Staying Alive was one of my guilty pleasures.

My major passion has always been to act since I was a small child, but in my less than twenty years as a professional actor I've also written and directed.

FCSFR: You've had notable performances in "Buried", "The Bill", "Bodies" and most of all as Avril Powell on "Shameless".  Do you have a favorite character or one that was just fun to play?

BRYSON: Every character I’ve ever played, whether it be in TV, Film or theatre has been so very different (including Karen in "Family Reunion") -- I’ve been lucky in that respect.

But I must say, the most fun to play was Avril, simply because the outlandish nature of the show . . . totally bonkers!  There’s a poster that I believe is quite famous in the western world saying, “You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps a lot if you are!” That sums it up quite nicely! LOL!

FCSFR: When you are preparing for a role, what do you do?  Are you a method actress or do you have your own way of getting into character?

BRYSON: When preparing for a role, I have, what I call my method. It varies from project to project.  I love this part.  I try and arm myself with as much information by way of research.  That could involve clues in the script that inform of the person you’re about to play, research in to the world/environment or circumstances in which the character exists. Then, what does this person look like and why? Once I have those, I can get on set, where it's pure gut instinct and heart.  This is where the creativity truly happens, along with the director and other actors.

FCSFR: How did you come to be involved with "Family Reunion"?  Did you know David Kitchen previously?

BRYSON: I’ve known David for years, we trained at LAMDA together. We weren’t in the same class, but we all socialized. After graduating many years later, David and I were talking at a party. He spoke of an idea for a short involving a character that he thought of for me. A few years after that, last year, specifically, Dave contacted me with the script.  My response: “Let's do this!"

The rest you’ve seen.

FCSFR: You're not just the actress who played Karen, you're also the producer of the short film.  Can you talk a little bit about the difficulties inherent on set when you have to be both Karen Bryson the actress AND producer?

BRYSON: David and Kirstin Clarke (who also played Jason's wife), the other producers, did such a fantastic job freeing things up so that was seemless process.  Great team work.

FCSFR: In your role as Karen in "Family Reunion", you go from Daddy's Little Girl to seductress to raging with embarrassment, all in the span of a few minutes.  How difficult was it to portray such an enormous range in such a short time?

: I love complicated characters.  That's a true reflection of the human condition.  Dave and I talked at length about filming the really emotional scenes in sequence. As one scene provoked the emotion in another scene, and so on. So for us as actors, we had an opportunity to play out real and true reactions.

FCSFR: What was it like working with such an incredibly talented team?  It may have been Kitchen's first time directing, but you'd never know it from watching the film.

BRYSON: A fantastic process, a brilliant team -- from David’s amazing ability and talent to get the best out us as actors (having been one) to the fantastic D.O.P Stuart Graham and the guys on camera, to the thorough sound department led by Antonis Tsoukatos to make up/hair designer Victoria Poland creating the looks.  And of course all the brilliant actors who by the end really felt like family.

I’ve known Clint Dyer socially for years and have loved his work.  Playing his sister was just wonderful, we just had creative chemistry. It's hard to convince an audience of  close relationships if the actors aren’t "vibing"!  A real pleasure to work with such a superb bunch of talented people.

FCSFR:  What can we look forward to from you in the future?  Do you have any new projects brewing?

BRYSON: I’ve literally just finished an independent feature film called Artificial Horizon.  It's a sci-fi thriller about a world where there is an antibiotic pandemic.  Lots of tense action, and a lot of night shoots!  I would LOVE to do more film in the future . . . just putting it out there!

FCSFR: If you could give aspiring actresses one piece of advice, what would it be?

BRYSON: Never give up.  It's such a tough business, full of  "No"'s.

This saying kept me going during my career full of ups and downs: "What's for you won't pass you!"

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Thank you so much to Karen Bryson for taking the time out of her busy schedule to sit down and answer our questions, and to clear up that IMDb mishap.  Thanks for being such a good sport and a class act, Karen!

MORE exclusive coverage of "Family Reunion" -- exclusive interviews with writer/director David Kitchen and Trevor Laird here!

Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!