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:: Someone has to play the topless lesbian boxer ::
By RITA ZEKAS

She is fearless, not quite up to Uma in Kill Bill, but give her time.

Meredith McGeachie has been a topless boxer, scuba diver and muff diver. She played a topless lesbian boxer in the film Punch, for which she was nominated for a best supporting actress Genie. She just spent three months in Mexico becoming an accredited scuba diver and will return to Vancouver mid- June to reprise her role as obnoxious, cat-hating, social-climbing publicist Tonya in the series The L Word, which will air on Global-TV in the fall.

Sitting across from us in a Second Cup in The Annex, she is relaxed, tanned and pretty, her face scrubbed of makeup. But pretty is not important to her.

"I'd rather be pretty by accident than pretty on purpose," she says. "In acting, there is so much pressure to look and act to perfection. I'm never enough of a knockout. I'm an actor; I'm not a model and I don't want to be."

McGeachie, who is currently based in Vancouver, lost the Genie to Marie-Josée Croze but won the Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award last year for the Punch role.

Born in Toowoomba, Australia, McGeachie relocated with her parents to Winnipeg, where her father was vice principal at Red River Community College. She has a kid brother, Jed, who teaches grades two and three English in Taiwan. He also skateboards and runs a skateboard club in school.

Her mom is also a grade school teacher with a flair for drama.

"To teach the kids about the solar system," McGeachie recalls, "she would cast the kids as planets. They had to research and the parents would film it. She put me in drama because it was good socialization and she pulled me out at 11 because I was too good at it.

"I never did drama in high school — it was considered lame and cheesy and you had to adhere to the cool factor. I hung out with the skateboarders. I forgot about it until I was 16 (she is now 25) and auditioned with a friend for a theatre company in Manitoba."

Armed with scholarships from Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Manitoba Arts Council, she moved to Toronto to attend George Brown. In her final year, she was scouted by Christopher Newton, artistic director the Shaw Festival, and contracted for the season.

"I did 14 understudies in my first season," she recalls. "George Brown should teach understudying: You don't want to be just a mimic."

She studied with David Rotenberg and, in 1998, she branched out into film and TV, where her credits include Bless The Child, Three To Tango, Earth: Final Conflict and Anne Of Green Gables: The Continuing Story, where we bet there were no topless female boxers.

In Punch, she took physical and personal risks to play one.

"I used to do a lot of sweet girls and I don't know if I do it well," she ponders. "There is a problem with playing babes; I get so confused trying to be perfect. I find the perfect girl is paralyzing. I'm afraid of not measuring up.

"My heroes are Marcia Gay Harden and Rachel Griffiths, actors who are not afraid to get dirty. I like to play imperfect people."

She had originally auditioned for the girlfriend role in Punch.

"I got a call-back but I said, `I'm not right for this role. Have they found Julie?' My agent said, `Would you do it?' I said no, but I'll audition. Then I called my parents. I was vain and afraid. My parents said they'd be ashamed if I didn't do it for those reasons. They said, `buck up, kid.'

"What kind of an actor would I be if I just wanted to look good or feel good? It was my chance to scare the pants off myself and it was so nice that I was nominated for it."

In The L Word, billed as "Same sex. Different city," she claims her character is "misunderstood."

"Maybe I don't have the same flaws as Tonya, who is so ambitious and outrageous," she reasons. "I love that her own moral code is opposite mine: She wants to be the lesbian trophy wife. She has tremendous courage and all I have to do is find it.

"These are stories about women who are not cookie cut-outs. Kelly Lynch is my hero; she plays a drag king. She is a beautiful woman who is fearless. Erin Daniels (McGeachie's on-screen girlfriend) plays Dana, a tennis star. We became engaged in the final episode. My first director on The L Word was Rose Troche, who directed Six Feet Under. When I did my first sex scene, I had to slam the door behind Dana and say, `I don't believe I get to go down on Dana Fairbanks.' I'm so shy generally, I'd never do that in my life."

On-screen nudity was new to McGeachie pre-Punch.

"I didn't do nudity," she says. "I was topless in Punch but I feel that we have to demystify that. There is too much significance given to that, to Janet Jackson's `wardrobe malfunction.' We gave it the power.

"Punch was my first nudity and it was not subtle and sweet — it was intense and huge and difficult to watch. It was not attractive; I had to gain size and muscle mass for it. I'm supposed to be a big tough boxer chick and I had to work hard to get back to looking like a girl afterward. I had a personal trainer and a boxer trainer."

McGeachie sustained a major shoulder injury just as she was about to run a marathon in Niagara Falls in aid of leukaemia research.

"I popped out my shoulder and two ribs hitting the sand bag a billion times," she says. "The doctor taped my shoulder and said I couldn't run. What could I say to the people who pledged thousands of dollars? `Sorry, I had a bad day at work?'

"So I hobbled through the marathon in 5 hours and 45 minutes, where normally I would do it in four hours. Just give me another couple of aspirins. There was this stroke victim, a 90-year-old woman with a three-pronged cane. Hey, if she could do it, I could do it."

McGeachie has been acting for seven years since theatre school. She spent eight years in Toronto before moving to Vancouver and plans to move back.

Meanwhile, she is bunking in with a dive instructor she met in Mexico. They are not a couple. "He has an extra room on the top floor of his house," she says.

"I'm so single," she sighs. "Playing a lesbian doesn't help me much."

She is infatuated with scuba diving.

"I went to Mexico for two weeks to learn Spanish and the day before I was to come home, I did my first dive. I've done over 50 dives and I'm certified.

"I was going to become a dive instructor. I want to spend a month a year remembering I'm a person, not an actor.

"Acting is not about love and champagne on the beach walking in perfect clothes and makeup. There is nothing I love as much as acting as long as I get the chance to play crazy ladies."





 


The L Word Online has been designed by Oz and Slicey.  Unique images designed by Oz.  Site maintained by Oz & Slicey.  This website is intended to be fun and informative, and was created with respect to show appreciation for the women and men involved in the creation of TV's first real lesbian drama.  This site is not endorsed, sponsored, or affiliated with Showtime Networks Inc., the television series "The L Word," or any person involved in the making of the show.  No copyright infringement is intended.  Images and other borrowed content are copyright their respective owners.  Credit is given where due.  All original content is the sole property of  the creators of The L Word Online copyright October 2003.