photography by Caitlin Cronenberg|
stylist Shea Hurley
hair and makeup Amy Harper
set design Caroline Pandeli
location Olga Korper Gallery Toronto
Katheryn Winnick is busy. A journey that started in Toronto has taken her all over the world…as well as your television set. Winnick has appeared in such television shows like House, The Glades, Bones, Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, CSI, CSI: NY, CSI: Miami, Criminal Minds, and Person of Interest. She even had a role on the History Channel’s Vikings and the Netflix series, Wu Assassins. Now, Winnick has been cast on the ABC crime drama series Big Sky, produced by legendary writer and producer David E. Kelley (Chicago Hope, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Legal, Big Little Lies). Needless to say, although 2020 may be bleak, the Sky’s the limit for Winnick.
I chatted with Winnick after a mandatory 14-day quarantine for the production on her show, Big Sky, shooting in Canada. It was the first week of shooting and she could sense the set would be different than all the others. “Things are completely different now with all of the COVID regulations, it’s a whole new energy on set. I think everybody now is getting their groove on and it’s going well, going smoother than I anticipated.”
Winnick was born in Toronto and her family is from the Ukraine. She’s currently in Vancouver filming and rented a house right in the mountains “surrounded by bears. I actually saw my first bear last week which was a bit freaky to see on a hike considering I didn’t have bear spray.” It’s a beautiful setting, with waterfalls and creeks—the perfect backdrop for her show. Big Sky is a drama centered around two detectives (Ryan Phillippe and Kylie Bunbury) that team up with Winnick to try and solve the mystery surrounding two kidnapped sisters in Montana. “I would probably describe it as more of a thriller and very suspenseful, shocking in a lot of ways, episodic television,” states Winnick. “It feels from reading the scripts, like a movie, so rich in story plot and twists and turns that you don’t really feel like you know what you’re gonna expect next.” The show will premiere in November.
By looking at her past work and the shows she’s guest-starred on, Winnick is anything from delicate and dainty—she’s a complete badass. “I kind of consider myself a tomboy and my first love was martial arts. I started training in Tae Kwon Do at the age of seven, got my first black belt at the age of 13, and I started running martial arts schools at 16,” says Winnick. “By the time I was 21 I was running three different schools in Toronto and teaching families Tae Kwon Do and martial arts. “I got into the business of acting by teaching actors and actresses martial arts on movie sets so I got a chance to hang out on sets. I couldn’t really afford headshots ‘cause they’re crazy expensive so I ended up trading Tae Kwon Do classes, martial arts classes for headshots,” laughs Winnick. “It’s pretty amazing when you look back at those photos and see how far you’ve come so I love that.” That toughness came with an entrepreneurial spirit, as Winnick started to invest.
“I’ve invested in three different things and one of them is a great clothing company called Vuori which I’m very proud about.
Another company that I’m involved with is a hard kombucha company called JuneShine that is now in Whole Foods. I want to be involved in stuff that I’m really passionate about and that I actually truly believe in the products. The third company that I invested in is a company called Blooma which is a software company that is underriding loans right now so I’m very excited about that.”
Financial success while empowering women is something Winnick has a passion for. “I’ve always felt very strongly about women needing to be educated and how to have financial freedom of their own,” insists Winnick. “It’s not something that’s really taught in school and also [for women] coming from different backgrounds and traditions and different settings, it’s usually the husband is the provider, but it’s very important for women to just be able to be educated and to be able to have their own source of income and make their own choices.
As a young kid at summer camp teaching Tae Kwon Do and Karate, I would actually start reading all of those self help books and they really give women the independence to be able to make the choices that they need.”
We can keep talking about this—and we all do—and we all know that until women feel empowered they’re not going to be in power and for that to come, you have to manage your risks, you have to turn around and be prepared to take the lead whatever happens. You might lose, but mostly you’ll come through the other side on a learning curve.
“I think that it’s something that’s not really taught in school, there’s no courses on this and for the most part it is really a boys club out there in terms of guys scratching each others backs and helping each other in their business,” says Winnick. “To be a strong woman I definitely had to fight to get my own independence and I would love to see women around the world to be able to have that as well. It takes a certain mindset to change that and the education is needed and there’s a bigger conversation on how to even get that on a mass scale and I think it’s important to just start learning, start reading, and to create your own financial freedom.”
That independence has given Winnick the directing bug and she was able to showcase her skills on the Vikings set. She directed in high school, truth is, directing was what she really wanted to do. “Acting was just a way into it [directing] and it gave me the experience to see how things are done on set and how the machine moves. Being on Vikings for six years I really fought, gave them a lot of extra time and years to be able to have the opportunity. I was the only actor that had that opportunity to direct and I needed to have that first one just to get under my belt. I couldn’t ask for a better platform and get to dissect their characters even further and know what to say to make them push their buttons and make them you know react a certain way. It was an incredible experience.”
For Winnick, there are so many women to thank, it would take forever to send out all of the gratitudes. But because of the lack of diversity for women’s opportunities right now, it takes a certain personality, a type of a woman to get up there and “hopefully that is changing and going to change so that the industry will have to give women the opportunity to do it. But I find that the women who have made successes out of themselves and who are directors and producers and writers and cinematographers, they work twice as hard as any man. They definitely are working towards using the support system of not only just the women and the network but also learning from other men as well. “I hope that it inspires women to be strong and go after what they want so I’m very excited to be part of the Moves family and to be part of the issue so thank you, cheers to powerful women.”