Elisha Cuthbert moved from her home in Alberta, Canada to Los Angeles in 2000 to continue to pursue the acting career she started as a child. It was a good move in many ways, but she takes her hometown with her by way of her humility, friendliness, and charm. Sure, the stereotype of the friendly Canadian is cliché, but in this case, it’s also true. “I’ve really made a home for myself in Los Angeles, but there’s a special place in my heart for Canada. I feel at ease and can relax when I’m home.”
And up north she goes, as often as she can, to visit family in Toronto. Cuthbert also gets to our fair city once a year for work, and says she loves the excitement and energy of New York City, a welcome change of pace to her Californian home. In her unusually humble fashion, Cuthbert describes her last visit to a favorite restaurant: “I make a habit of going to Nobu, and the last time I was in New York I went there and sat next to Robert De Niro. It was such a New York moment.” If you want more proof that she’s one of the most normal celebrities out there, she says she’s part of a book club. Like, a real book club. “I miss a lot of the meetings because of work. I hope they don’t kick me out!” she laughs.
While many know her as Kim Bauer from the long-running hit show 24, and others still might recognize her as the young seductress from the 2003 hit Old School or her porn star turn in The Girl Next Door, Cuthbert is entering a new realm with her character Alex Kerkovich in ABC’s Happy Endings, where she plays a woman who leaves her fiancé at the altar, to the dismay and confusion of her friends. It’s Cuthbert’s first stab at real comedy, and despite her initial nervousness, she says it’s her most fun role yet.
“This character has a little of me in there, the goofy side of me. I don’t know if I would have had the confidence [before] to play this character, which is crazy because it seems like the lightest character I’ve ever played. But being outlandish and goofy and exposing yourself is hard. I used to think it was all about making people cry, but the feeling of making people smile and laugh has surpassed that.”
Aside from her busy schedule filming Happy Endings, she tells us that the long-awaited 24 film is happening. “I have not seen the script…but I’m hoping I’ll be a part of it in some capacity.” Cuthbert says she’d also like to play a “larger than life” action character in the vein of Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft or a female version of Jason Bourne.
Cuthbert’s effusive, sunny disposition contradicts the fact that many of her characters have been darker; she’s acted in a number of horror films because, she says, she loves the genre. “When you watch the final product, there’s the fear factor, but when you’re making them, it’s actually a lot of fun. House of Wax was so epic. We had this town built for us in Australia, and it was such a fun group of people. I had my lips glued together, I was getting chased around… it was great!”
Cuthbert’s unique idea of a fun working environment aside, the difference between making films and television shows often comes down to the attachment you have with the character and your on-set family. “Often, filming a movie, it takes a few months and then it’s over; it’s like this little snippet that you look back on and remember fondly. TV is a bit more of a beast. It’s a character that you’ll be for a long time, if you’re lucky. You get attached and very close to the character. And you gain lifelong friendships when you get on a show that goes for a long time.”
For a young woman who’s been consistently ranked in magazines as one of the sexiest women in the world, Cuthbert has a surprisingly realistic and touching view of that particular kind of spotlight. “It’s flattering and kind for people to say they find me attractive. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. But as you get older, you start to think about who you are. It’s not about being the most beautiful woman in the world, it’s about being the most beautiful person you can be every day. There’s no such thing as perfect; it’s about being yourself. I try to be a beautiful on the inside – a good friend, a good girlfriend, a good daughter.”
She goes on to say that the “sexy starlet” category can be limiting as well. “It’s my work that I want people to be interested in. And lately I’ve been really trying to avoid it – being known as this sexy person. It’s a lot to continue to live up to. It sends out a message to women that they need to be perfect at all times.”
Gracious, sincere, unaffected. Let’s be honest, those are not words you can reliably use to describe successful young actors in today’s world. But Elisha Cuthbert embodies all of these. She’s a talented actress too, of course; her universal likability and staying power in both TV and film show that. But in an industry where being a positive female role model certainly isn’t mandatory (or even expected), Cuthbert is a breath of fresh air.