Womb Envy co-creator (and star) Champagna gets deep with Helen
Champagna: Dorothy is probably one of the most complex characters of the entire series with her troubling past and born-again nature. How did you approach a character that is based so much on correcting the wrongs of her past?
Helen: I don’t look at it so much as correcting the wrongs of Dorothy’s past. We all pull from our own experiences in life whether it’s from personal experience or from those we have known over the years, so after analyzing basic personality traits, then the emotional side came into play. Of course there is regret and remorse for what Dorothy has done in the past, but what it boils down to is she wants to be loved and have a connection with her daughter and to be a part of her life in whatever shape that takes, and the fact that she is about to become a grandmother makes it all that much sweeter and worthwhile. Dorothy loves her daughter and always has whether she was too inebriated to appreciate her and take responsibility for her actions or not....it was hitting rock bottom for her to find Christ and to “wake up” and to get sober enough to truly see. But I also felt it necessary to create an extended backstory and looked at what of myself I could see in Dorothys past. I considered her upbringing in a small white, northern, alcoholic, home where the deadbeat white supremacist father was the alcoholic and mom was the God fearing parent who tried to hold everything together in an abusive relationship. I visualized how Dorothy was a product of her upbringing, and although that does not forgive actions, it lays the groundwork for deep rooted personality traits, prejudices, and actions...all complicated by an alcoholic haze.
My analysis considered that Dorothy had hoped for and dreamed for better. That it’s difficult to raise a child on your own. Dorothy isn’t an anomaly. She is everywhere and I’ve always had a passion for observing the human condition and the way that individuals succumb to or excel past their conditions. I didn’t see her as a character that was attempting to correct the wrongs of the past. I approached her as a victim of her societal beginnings. That upbringing played a part in who she became as an adult, and who finally made the valiant move to become sober and see life and love more clearly. I also researched the traits and attitudes of alcoholics and the intensity and beliefs of religious fanatics.
Champagna: It seems like a lot of her character is driven by this idea of redemption through her daughter and “a second chance to write the wrongs of the past”. Do you think that ultimately clouds her judgment on how to connect with Maggie?
Helen: Absolutely...just because sobriety brought mom and daughter back together again, the relationship was destined to fail from the beginning because Dorothy’s attitudes and habits were so deeply rooted in old patterns. It takes looking to the future and truly starting fresh with honest, open discussions which is something that tends to naturally happen as children become more independent.
Champagna: At the end of episode 8, we are with Dorothy as she finds herself in a situation that puts her face to face with her own demons and down a path she’s been avoiding for some time. Why do you think (as people going through healing journeys), we resort to old patterns in times of chaos?
Generally speaking, chaos creates stress and when we’re stressed and “dis-eased” with no confidence we become fragile, vulnerable, and not terribly mindful. When we are not mindful of our actions, and under pressure, we revert to old habits and patterns. It’s easier. Not helpful or productive, just easier. The negativity and that pushes past our resolve and takes over. It is kind of a slippery slope to be honest.
Champagna: Dorothy and The Divine really only overlap a few times throughout the series, and at one point, Dorothy acknowledges The Divine. Do you think Dorothy needs her own little Divine?
Helen: Oh…we all need our own Divine to remind us who we really are…what is truly our essence under all of our family “root” conditioning. To have the strength of conviction and to be true to ourselves is a lifelong journey. The Divineis with us always, we just need to be ready to listen. Our “tribal” roots are so strong that we become deaf to everything else. It is incredibly difficult to ignore when we are trying to break free of old attitudes and beliefs. What would that look like? The double D? Dorothy’s Divine? haha. I think she would be either her granny of kindness, or perhaps even a young Dorothy with all the hopes and dreams of the future who continually reminds her to be truly kind and stay on the straight and narrow through thick and thin, and off the bottle! God fearing, yes, but realistic and can think for herself. Perhaps questioning some verse or proverb, as in “Dorothy? Do you really believe this? Ok, yes to this, but this? Like REALLY????” She is mystical & magical. Changes the booze to apple juice. Helps her with the housework - like in Fantasia Gives her advice. Never scary or mean, but maybe a silly slap on the side of the head as the ghost in Bill Murray’s Christmas Carol does on occasion.
Champagna: where can folks find you on social?
Helen: I am not huge on social media at this point…kind of baby steps when it comes to the tech world. Everyone laughs at me! For example I only just realized when I post to my story it disappears, DUH!! I have the traditional FB page and Instagram but rarely post.…mostly because I don’t take the time to figure it out, so I’m actually terribly boring in this realm. But I love seeing what everyone else is up to and cheer them on!!!
Champagna: What’s a surprising fact your cast mates may not know about you?)
Helen: I’m really quite an open book. My dad always told me “don’t wear your heart on your sleeve” but I still do. I ran a dang good bar in my day including a strip club…which just about killed my sweet mom! I come from a family owned hotel business that was established for over 60 years when my dad and mom decided it was time to retire. When it started, in the summer at Exhibition time my Grumpa at all hours of the night, would be hailing down traffic on the Lakeshore trying to get the last rooms rented out. My dad slept on the sunporch so they could rent out his room. From day one you always did what you had to do to keep the business current and growing…much against many family members beliefs. Today, I’ve been out of the business as long as I was in. They were still some of the best years of my life and I miss it all except the hours…they were the pits on family life, days were long and my family was always there about 100 hours a week each, sometimes more. One of us… 99% of the time..was always there. But the people! That’s what it was always about!!! They were all amazing, from all walks of life, and so interesting!!! Lunch and dinner in the dining room were the business folk, the “men’s room” crowd were the factory workers and locals who brought their lunch or grabbed a quick bite from the snack bar. The ladies and escorts was everybody. On the weekends the basement was hopping with a pub named after my grandfather and the big room that was used as everything from a games room or reception hall for weddings, to a fledgling ballet class for awhile (my contribution haha) and on to a Newfie Screech Club and then the strip club. I’ve got to tell you - I love this story. During war time if a fight broke out the band would strike up God Save the King and the fight would stop and the lads would stand to attention, cool off and go about their business. The lifestyle! Oh my god it was fun! The music at night, 6 nights a week, the dance floor…but I was not allowed to live the party lifestyle which I appreciate now. I learned the business from the bottom up. Hanging fly stickers was my first job, then housekeeping, snack bar attendant, waitress, chef for the summer while he went on vacation, and at 18 I wanted to surprise my dad and got the bartender to show me how to pull taps. Yeah, well that was a mistake haha! I got moved from the leisurely snack bar where I could chat with friends who came to visit, to the busy bar where there wasn’t a moment to think most of the time. I think you get the idea! I could go on for hours…which..nahhh…I don’t think that’s the idea haha. Thanks for asking though!
To learn more about Womb Envy visit the showpage: https://www.border2border.ca/womb-envy