‘Utopia Falls’ Star Kate Drummond: ‘Losing My Dog Destroyed Me…Then I Met Zelda’

Kate Drummond is a Canadian actress currently starring in the TV series ‘Utopia Falls’, which is streaming on Hulu now.

Dogs have always been a big part of Kate’s life and she believes they teach us to live in the moment and love unconditionally.

We caught up with Kate to talk about life-changing moments (she left teaching in her 30s to become an actress after someone in her class asked her why she wasn’t acting if that was her passion), unexpected moments on film sets and most importantly, we hear all about the dogs who’ve made her who she is today, including her newest dog, Zelda - a sassy Mexican street dog.

'Utopia Falls' Star Kate Drummond: 'Losing My Dog Destroyed Me...Then I Met Zelda'
Kate and Zelda / Photo Credit: Lisa MacIntosh

Hi Kate, thanks so much for your time today.

I know you have one dog, Zelda. Is she your first dog or did you grow up around animals?

Dogs have always been a huge part of my life and my family’s life. It’s so much a part of who I am. We always had a rescue, some little misfit pup who always seemed to fit perfectly into our lives and hearts. I cannot even imagine my life without a dog. Really, I can’t.

My first dog was a German Shepherd named Chimo who passed when I was 13. She was such a sensitive and gentle dog.

I remember she found my hamster, Teddy, who had escaped and she trapped her in the corner of the rec room…tail wagging... Teddy unharmed. Then we had Sox and then Bentley. They were all family members and came with us everywhere and will never, ever be forgotten.

'Utopia Falls' Star Kate Drummond: 'Losing My Dog Destroyed Me...Then I Met Zelda'

As for me personally, I adopted my first dog, Jackson, at about 12 weeks old. He was a puppy mill rescue out of Quebec and was so very sick when I got him.

When I went to meet him at the foster family’s house, he was the only pup that wasn’t zooming around the room. He just came and nestled between my feet and fell fast asleep. I cried instantly and took him home that night.

I remember they told me that he wouldn’t likely live to see four-years-old because of his health, but I had already fallen in love with him. I thought, well, I’d better give him the best four years of his life then. He just passed a few years ago at the age of 12 and a half. My best friend.

'Utopia Falls' Star Kate Drummond: 'Losing My Dog Destroyed Me...Then I Met Zelda'
Kate and Jackson / Photo Credit: Dale Brazeau

Eight months later, we adopted our beautiful, sassy Mexican street dog, Zelda.

Tell us all about her and how she came into your life.

Well, when I lost Jackson, I was destroyed. Devastated.

The grief was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, and I was just so broken-hearted. I still get choked up thinking about it.

'Utopia Falls' Star Kate Drummond: 'Losing My Dog Destroyed Me...Then I Met Zelda'
Kate's hardest goodbye, her last day with Jackson / Photo Credit: Lisa MacIntosh

Anyways, it had been about six months or so since we’d said our “see ya laters” and I was online looking through all these rescue sites, trying to find another pup to adopt. I applied, had home visits, and I could not stop weeping when I’d look at all these dogs. I even went and met a dog I was sure I was going to fall in love with, but didn’t. I just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t healed enough to bring a new pup into my heart. So, I told everyone to take my name off the list and I’d get in touch when I was ready.

Out of the blue, a few months later, I received a call from DIBS (Dogs in Better Spots) and they said they had a dog that they really wanted me to meet. They had already met me, done a home visit, knew what I was all about and that I had experience with dogs… my partner said to me, “Kate, let’s just go and meet her. If you’re still not ready, you’ll know because you won’t want to bring her home.” This made sense to me and we drove out of town to meet Zelda.

I walked in the foster family’s house, guard up, already ready to be disappointed and down the hall came this little golden Mexican street dog. I dropped to my knees and she immediately curled up in my arms. I remember saying, “How is it that I love you already?” as tears poured down my face. That’s how I knew she was for me. The foster mom said she’d never seen her interact with anyone like this before. I felt like I’d known her forever. Also, to this day, I feel like Jackson had a paw in Zelda coming into my life. As corny as that sound, I really do.

'Utopia Falls' Star Kate Drummond: 'Losing My Dog Destroyed Me...Then I Met Zelda'
Kate and Zelda pictured on the day they met / Photo Credit: Candice Brook (DIBS)

Zelda was a four-year-old street dog from Mexico when we adopted her. She’s a mix of Golden Retriever, maybe Collie… definitely sassy minx! (laughs) She had been picked up off the streets, very sick with heartworm and a bunch of other diseases, and she was rehabilitated at the Playa Animal Rescue Centre for a year in Mexico before being flown to Canada.

It’s never been a question for me whether or not to adopt. It’s how I grew up, it’s what my family taught me. An animal deserves as many chances as they need to find a home and to feel loved.

Has her personality changed much in the time she’s been with you?

Zelda was really timid when she first arrived at our home. Ears down, and tail tucked a lot. She didn’t understand what was going on. She wasn’t interested in toys or other dogs. She’d tolerate a snuggle but was more interested in being by herself.

Coming from the streets and being put on a plane…landing in a foreign country, I think she was so confused and scared. The first night, she cried a lot when her foster mom drove away and it broke my heart. But then she sniffed around, and immediately jumped on Jackson’s loveseat and fell fast asleep.

Funny, out of all the couches and chair and dog beds, she found her comfort in Jackson’s favourite spot. I guess I wasn’t going to throw that loveseat out after all!

I’d say it took Zelda about six months to really understand that she was staying with us and then I’d say about another six months to start letting her personality come out.

'Utopia Falls' Star Kate Drummond: 'Losing My Dog Destroyed Me...Then I Met Zelda'
Photo Credit: Lisa MacIntosh

What's the real Zelda like?

Oh, she is SO sassy and loving and gentle. We call her our “golden coyote” because she’s spunky and she wrinkles up her face and nose and shows her teeth when she’s happy. At first, though, I remember thinking, “OH MY GOD, she’s VICIOUS!” but then realised that it’s how she shows her love. Our coyote. God, I love her.

She also didn’t know how to play with toys, or other dogs. She would watch dogs from a distance and run in and then run away. I think it’s how she survived as long as she did on the streets and she brought this behaviour, this way of interacting with other dogs, to Canada. To this day, she still gets pretty spooked if a dog comes charging at her and she can definitely spot an alpha dog from a mile away but she’s getting way more comfortable with other dogs in general.

Now? She is so at home. We bought a house with a yard and she has just started to play with balls on her own; tossing them around and chewing on them. Her tail wags when she walks, her ears are perked, she’s confident and we all know how to communicate with each other.

She also sleeps with us in our bed and she LOVES to be around me. She’s definitely mama’s girl. Where I am, she is and where she is, I am… and that’s my happiest place to be.

'Utopia Falls' Star Kate Drummond: 'Losing My Dog Destroyed Me...Then I Met Zelda'
Photo Credit: Lisa MacIntosh

That’s beautiful. There’s nothing quite like a dog’s love, is there.

You’re starring in Hulu’s TV series ‘Utopia Falls’ which is streaming now. What can you tell us about the show and your character?

'Utopia Falls' is a really cool new show that’s being streamed on HULU and CBC Gem. It’s unlike anything that’s out there right now and is a sort of a cross between 'Hunger Games' and 'America’s Got Talent'… maybe a little 'Handmaid’s Tale' too.

It’s a unique sci-fi series that is built on a foundation of music, dance, pop culture. It’s a genre-bending show that explores themes of youth activism, self-expression, eco-awareness and it’s a celebration of diversity and culture. It takes place in the future, in New Babyl, a place governed by and devoted to predetermined laws, history, and culture. It’s a completely isolated and self-made land. Pop culture and history, as you and I know it, does not exist.

The show follows a group of super talented teenagers who are selected to compete in something called The Exemplar, which is a performance-based competition voted on by the different sectors of New Babyl. Almost immediately, the teens stumble upon a hidden archive of pop culture relics (voiced by Snoop Dogg, of course!) and soon they start to question everything they know, everything they’ve been taught… even who they are. Different genres of music like hip-hop and EDM, as well as different cultural dances and fashion trends, are discovered and they start to influence their performances. And…this is where I come in.

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'Utopia Falls' Star Kate Drummond: 'Losing My Dog Destroyed Me...Then I Met Zelda'

I play Authority Phydra, who is the head of the New Babyl police force and the enforcer of the established norms. When I start to realise that the traditional ways of song and dance and self-expression are changing, then I am determined to get to the bottom of it and stop any dissension. I’m so bad-ass. I’m the ultimate antagonist in this show and I love it. Someone said I was like the President Snow of Hunger Games and I was like, HECK YEAH! I love Donald Sutherland.

You were also a part of the sci-fi show ‘Wynonna Earp’. The show won a lot of awards for its photography, costume and visual effects. It’s based on a comic, isn’t it? Was it fun to be a part of something so different?

It was and has been an incredible experience to be part of the 'Wynonna Earp' family. It’s a highlight of my career.

The show was based on a comic mini-series created by Beau Smith. It’s set in the weird, weird west and follows the present day descendant of Wyatt Earp, Wynonna, as she fights off demons and takes care of Earp family business. Because of this really cool premise, the sets, the costumes, the makeup and special effects were all top notch and really creative in this show. I had absolutely no idea that my role would lead to something so special.

I was in the first two seasons, and spoiler alert, my head explodes like a can of spagettios in the microwave (gotta love sci-fi deaths!) but the fans really loved my character, Agent Lucado. Even though I’m not still acting on the show, I’m still heavily involved with the Earper 'Fam-dom' (fandom that is family) and I attend a lot of conventions. Truly, the Earpers (fans of the show) are such beautiful people and I am so grateful to have their constant support.

'Utopia Falls' Star Kate Drummond: 'Losing My Dog Destroyed Me...Then I Met Zelda'

You also starred in the 2015 film ‘Room’ which was a very powerful film. Did you know at the time that it would be so different and so well received?

I always say that I wasn’t really IN 'Room'… I just sort of walked through the room and exited quickly!(laughs) No, but seriously, it really was a special experience for me, being part of a movie like this. The film was so impactful and deserved all the recognition it received.

It was a very small cast and I originally had read for the role of the police officer (the incredible Amanda Brugel of 'Handmaid’s Tale' played that part perfectly, by the way) but the director, Lenny Abrahamson, who I’m such a huge fan of, really liked my audition and wanted me to be part of the show. He offered me the small part of the neighbour and of course, I jumped at the chance. I had read the script and fallen in love with the story and I’d get the chance to have a scene with Joan Allen, which was a no brainer for me. So, of course I said, "YES I WOULD DO IT!".

Funny story, the day I went to set, I wasn’t sure where the actor’s waiting room was so I asked someone where to go. This PA was rushing about, and just pointed to the upstairs of the house where we were filming and said, “Top of the stairs…” So, I went upstairs and found this room with these two huge, beautiful wingback chairs, and snacks and water… it was luxurious. I kicked back, grabbed a snack and in walked Joan Allen. We just hit it off immediately. She was so kind and gracious, and I was telling her all about video game acting.

About 15 minutes later, a PA came in the room and stopped immediately and looked at me, eyes wide. She delivered something to Joan, and as she walked away, I saw a HUGE sign on the outside of the door that said, “PRIVATE ROOM FOR JOAN ALLEN: ABSOLUTELY NO ENTRY”, or something like that. My jaw dropped to the floor. I looked over at Joan and my eyes must have been the size of the moon. I was so embarrassed. I said, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t see the sign!” I went to leave and she demanded I stay and keep her company. I’ll never forget that. So gracious.

Oh wow, what a memory to have!

You famously got into acting quite late and gave a TEDx Talk about starting again and chasing your dreams in your 30s. What made you take the leap from teaching to acting when you did?

It was an innocent question from one of my students that made me leave the classroom and pursue my dream of acting.

One February, I was teaching my students about Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech. We were brainstorming and making posters about what our dreams were…writing our own “I have a dream” speeches. A lot of my kids that year had come from pretty difficult backgrounds and I just wanted them all to feel empowered, like they could do anything they set their hearts to. One of my students came up to me and asked, “Miss Drummond, what’s your dream?” I said, “Well, besides teaching you… my dream is to become an actress.” She just looked at me and said, “Then why aren’t you doing it?”

What’s that saying, ‘out of the mouths of babes?’.

Honestly, that moment was the moment that changed my life…my path. At that point, I had been acting as a hobby for about five years, taking classes at night, doing community theatre, booking the odd small role in a Movie of the Week, but never in a million years had I thought I would ever leave the stability and security of a job I loved, to pursue an uncertain life in the arts…especially as a 35-year-old woman? Was I crazy? But I had to do it. It felt right. Scary, but right. I had fallen more and more in love with acting and thought this was a perfect chance to be a real-life living example of the lesson that I was trying to teach my students, while also pursuing my own passions.

'Utopia Falls' Star Kate Drummond: 'Losing My Dog Destroyed Me...Then I Met Zelda'
Photo Credit: Lisa MacIntosh

I asked my school board for one year off, without pay, to follow this other path and they agreed. They were wonderfully supportive. I sold most of my belongings, rented out my house, packed up my truck and my dog, and moved to Toronto. One year led to two years which led to three years…and every year that I had to let the board know that I was returning, I’d book something significant enough to make me stay in Toronto. That was 10 years ago.

Amazing, and what a lesson to teach your students too.

I always say that these are probably questions you won’t have been asked before - and probably won’t be again...

If you were to swap roles with Zelda for a day, what would you love most about being her and how do you think she’d cope as you?

If I were Zelda, I would love that I get to have constant back rubs and belly scratches…and have treats presented to me for just looking cute! Zelda would LOVE to be me, I’m sure of it. She gets so bored so easily, and I’m always on the go. I think she’d love how busy I am and all the activity of my life.

We ask all of our celebrities this question, it’s all in the name of fun. Based on personalities alone, which breeds of dog come to mind when you think of these celebrities and why?

Brooke Shields – Labrador – friendly, lovable, so fun, photogenic, everyone loves the Lab.

Snoop Dogg – Boxer – cool attitude, cool looks, lots of love, awesome poser.

Shania Twain – Pomeranian – beautiful dog, strong voice (ha!), gorgeous hair.

Justin Trudeau – Border Collie – do I really have to say why? (laughs)

And what about you, what breed of dog would you be and why?

I’d be a Labrador for sure or a Labradoodle. Lots of fun, playful, loves everyone, loyal. Yup, that’s me.

'Utopia Falls' Star Kate Drummond: 'Losing My Dog Destroyed Me...Then I Met Zelda'
Photo Credit: Lisa MacIntosh

Moving onto our quick-fire questions, are you ready?

Where’s Zelda’s favourite place in the world to be?

Anywhere I am.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about changing careers later in life?

TAKE THE LEAP OF FAITH! Don’t take your dreams to your grave.

What do you think is the most important life lesson we can learn from dogs?

Love unconditionally. Live in the moment.

Finish the following sentence, my dog is…the occupant of 99% of my heart real estate.

This is always a tough question so you might need some time to think about it, but if you could ask Zelda one question and one question only, what would you ask and what do you think she would answer?

I want to know about Zelda’s life in Mexico, so I’d ask her if she ever had a family, or someone she loved, when she lived there.

I feel like she’d tell me that she once had a family, but they couldn’t take care of her and put her out on the streets. She wonders what she did wrong. But I don’t think she’s ever known what it means to be protected and loved the way that we love her. I think she’d also say that no matter what, we are her family now and she’s very happy to be with us.

She’d also get the last word in for sure, and tell us that she really hates the canned Venison and Sweet Potato food that we bought, so to please stop trying to hide it in with her food.

Many thanks, Kate!

Catch Kate starring as Authority Phydra in 'Utopia Falls' on Hulu and CBC Gem now. 

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