Katie Boland and Gail Harvey

Never Saw It Coming

I am turning into my mother.

I know. How many times have you heard that? But as time passes, I am becoming so much like my mother that I could be a heroine in a science fiction novel.

As a child, I took my tea with sugar until my mouth changed overnight. Suddenly, I could only drink it like my mother: just milk. As I became a woman, I would tell her men I thought were handsome. She always looked spooked, “Jesus, you’re me.” In my early twenties, I thought a lot about getting married. My mother’s never been married and never wanted a wedding. Now that I actually should be getting married, I’ve lost the desire. I am an actress and a writer, but I’m trying to be a director, like she is. My mother and I have made seven films together, as well as a web series, short films and documentaries. Being her business partner and collaborator isn’t working with another person, it’s working with another self.

I wonder what it’s like for her. Is looking at me like looking in a mirror? What face does she see? Mine or hers? Do I remind her of the past or make her think of the future?

When we made Never Saw it Coming, it was the kind of confusing weather that only exists during the Northern Ontario spring. I wore a parka but sweat in the sun. I had just moved back to Canada from New York City because a television show I created had been greenlit. In New York, I had a life that made no sense. I was in love with a man who didn’t love me back. I had a rash on my face all the time with no traceable cause. My rent was too high. I was avoiding the inevitability of living in Los Angeles, the impending reality of growing up and really committing to anything, I guess. New York felt like an affair. I knew it wasn’t going to last, but I was so happy.

In retrospect, I was in flux, a disorganization of my own making. I was in over my head. I had no idea what starring in a television show I had created, written and would produce would be like. When we were filming NSIC, I lived in this suspended state of wonder. I tried to focus on the movie but I couldn’t. I believe I knew, even then, that my show was going to fall apart. During filming, I remember countless strange phone calls and suspect meetings. Every step forward made me feel farther and farther from the reality of making a show. It all felt so theoretical. I wasn’t sleeping. I ate mainly raw oats in goat’s yogurt. “You really are just like Hannah on Girls,” my mom said.

Gail Harvey and Katie Boland

While filming Never Saw it Coming, though I was constantly winded by the marathon of my own mind, I was fused to my mother.

The things you remember about making a movie aren’t particularly enchanting. It’s the hours lost to a shared silence in a hotel room; trying to sleep but too wired; the quiet conversations about an edit; when my Mom first told me she had dinner with her famous novelist friend, and he had a book that could be a small movie, and there might be a good part for me in it; making her tea on set; lamenting about where to get a decent salad in Sudbury, Ontario. When I think of Never Saw it Coming, I’m not stuck in the technicolor memories of making a film but rather the odd, quiet details that proved, again and again, that my mother and I are a team.

My best friend is pregnant. When we had dinner recently, she told me “I love my baby so much. The only thing I want to do is protect him.” I told my mom that when I came home. Her eyes welled up with tears. In that moment, the only thing I wanted to do was protect her.

My mother came to visit when I was living in New York, right before we made Never Saw it Coming. When I think about one afternoon we spent together and I am ceaselessly catapulted into the past.

The sun is different in New York; diving through the leaves, shaking the branches, falling like snow everywhere I looked. I sat with my mother waiting for the train to arrive and under that light, I really looked at her.

“God, my mother’s beautiful”, I thought.

Looking at her felt totally new. I didn’t understand why. Leaning against a tiled wall that said 56th Street, I watched my mother’s face like stop-motion animation. Was she okay, now that me and my brother are getting older? What would she do? How would she spend her days, with more time and more space than before? Was she lonely?

Then a voice broke out, echoing amongst the tracks and cement, hitting me like a shot in the dark. I turned to my left, and saw a middle-aged man with long hair and worn shoes, singing. He had a sorrowful voice but it was hopeful. He held his guitar like a woman and with such aching tenderness, that I knew he’d been lonely for years. I could hear it in the high-notes.

When I turned back, my mother and I were both crying.

“Life is so beautiful,” she said.

My mother and I held hands until the song finished, until he started another, until the train came, until we were all the way home.

To have such a firm belief in the reliability, truth, and strength of another person is the only way I make sense of the world. My confidence is her confidence. My spine is built of her bones. My cells are copies of her. And if I eventually become exactly her, through the curiosities of space and time, it will be my proudest accomplishment.

Gail Harvey and Katie BolandPhotos provided courtesy of Katie Boland, Gail Harvey, and family. All rights reserved. No reproduction is permitted. 

Katie Boland is a critically acclaimed, multiple award winning actress, writer, director named one of three Canadians to watch and called “Canada’s sweetheart” by Elle Canada.

As an actress Boland has starred in over 75 television and feature film projects including the CW’s Reign, Bruce La Bruce’s Venice film festival hit Gerontophilia and Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. Boland created, wrote and starred in the hit web-series Long Story, Short (Hulu) which garnered hundreds of thousands of views and was called “the best thing on the internet” by TV Guide. She is the author of Eat Your Heart Out chosen by the Globe & Mail as one of three Hot Summer Reads which compared her to “Hemingway and Kerouac” and has produced several films including Sundance Short Film Select, Boxing and the award-winning Lucy in My Eyes.

Her directorial debut Lolz-Ita, which she wrote and starred in, premiered at TIFF: Share Her Journey, which highlights ‘the most exciting female filmmakers worldwide’, it also recently played the Austin Film Festival where it was nominated for best short. As an actress, she has four films to be released this year. She was also recently a cultural advisor to the Trudeau government and has four television series she wrote and created in development at networks.