Zimbio Interview: Sara Canning from 'Vampire Diaries'

Actress Sara Canning arrives at the 12th Annual Young Hollywood Awards on May 13, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.
(May 12, 2010 - Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images North America)

If you've tuned into CW's The Vampire Diaries, you've probably noticed Canadian-born actress Sara Canning, who plays the former wild-child turned responsible aunt, Jenna Sommers. After Jenna's much-older sister dies in a car accident, she becomes the guardian of her teenaged children (the show's 17-year-old protagonist, Elena, and her brother, Jeremy).

Jenna isn't exactly ready to take on the duties as the responsible adult, as she has recently been making some of the same youngster mistakes as her niece and newphew. But it's not all heavy coming-of-life acting for Sara: playing Jenna means she gets to smooch her love-interest, hunk Matt Davis of Legally Blonde fame, experience southern hospitality while living in Atlanta, and is lucky enough to get in on that whole vampire craze. We caught up with Sara to talk about life, acting and kissing her co-star.

Sara+Canning in Nina Dobrev's Birthday Party At Studio 54's 12th Anniversary CelebrationZimbio: What was it like going from being a actor in Canada to a big-time TV actor in Hollywood?
Sara: I had broken into the film and TV industry in Vancouver, but had been to LA a few times to test projects. The biggest difference is the scale of the show: Vampire Diaries has been well-received and we have a large audience and fan-base.

Sometimes in Canada you are working all the time as an actor but don't really get recognized. This is the first major show I've worked on. It's more all-encompassing, and more of a media experience which I hadn't been used to. I'm also exploring a lot. I've been on a lot of road trips, exploring the South, and I've driven back and forth to Canada a couple of times.

Zimbio: So you've worked on Smallville, Kyle XY, now The Vampire Diaries. Are you particularly into the supernatural?
Sara: I think that aspect has been serendipitous. Those shows [Smallville, Kyle XY] shot in Vancouver and guest starring on them was part of my process of breaking into the industry. I kind of really hit the pavement as an actor when I got out of school. I was just like 'I want to work so badly.'  I was never picking and choosing, I was just happy to get work as an actor and take a month off from the restaurant where I had a job.

I love supernatural as a genre, I think it's really fun. Since I was a kid I've loved it; from the fantasy side with Lord of the Rings to the darker side, I always loved Dracula. It's cool I get to be part of the whole evolution of the vampire story.

Zimbio: So what was it like to play Miss Nicky Hilton in the film Paparazzi Princess: The Paris Hilton Story?
Sara: That was my first film ever -- other than student films. It wasn't like playing a historical figure who you want to play correctly because they've actually lived and died. It's like, a person who is very prominent in the media scene. That was a bit of a challenge and I wanted to honor that. Before getting that film I'd had a skewed view of the Hiltons. I actually really researched her and I tried to put most of the focus on the business side of the Hiltons. She is actually a really great businesswoman and was sort of the voice of reason in that film.

Zimbio: What is your typical day like filming on Vampire Diaries?

Sara: Getting up really early. I do a vocal warm-up in my car. Then I show up to set and go into hair and makeup; there's anywhere from one to six of us in there at any time. The cast are my really great friends but also great people to watch work. We all jive together really well. Last week I shot a scene with six other cast members, it was all of us, for one day, in one room, shooting a bunch of scenes. And we just looked at each other and were like, 'How good do we have it?'

Sara+Canning in Nina Dobrev's Birthday Party At Studio 54's 12th Anniversary CelebrationZimbio: Definitely. And then there's playing the love-interest of heartthrob Matt Davis. What's it like having love scenes with a guy who women all over the U.S. drool over?
Sara: He's just so easy to be around. He's laid back, but very funny and cracks me up. He's a great love-interest because it's easy going from that off-set friendship to acting in scenes with him where I really care about him. It's so much easier when you have a good friendship with the person and can laugh at each other. You are be able to do those scenes that get a little intense or a little romantic when you trust each other.

Zimbio: Love scenes will probably continuously be a mystery to people who aren't actors.
Sara: It's an odd thing because you need to find qualities in someone that you connect with as a person. Because, I mean, you really have to sell it and be in love with them on screen.

Zimbio: What do you like about living in Hotlanta?
Sara: The food. The weather is a lot better than where I'm from. We had this gorgeous weekend and yesterday I was talking to my mom who lives in Edmonton, Alberta. I think we worked it out that it was 50 degrees colder where she was. People are really friendly here and that's nice. People always say, 'Canadians are so friendly!' I'm not saying they're not, it's my home, but I find people really generous and friendly here.
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