Krista Hovsepian is an award-winning writer, creator, executive producer and actor raised in Waterloo, Ontario. Her series Wholesome Foods, I Love You… Is That OK? (WFILY) is a comedy about a neurotic yoga teacher in search of love at her favourite organic supermarket. She’s currently based in LA.
You've been working in the film industry for almost 30 years. How did you get to where you are in your career?
Tenacity. You’ve got to keep showing up, growing and evolving as an artist, and doing the work even when nobody seems interested in what you’re doing… even when the majority of people are telling you that you’re being unrealistic or unreasonable. Listen to that little voice inside that says you can do it and then keep moving forward. I could say, “Oh, I took this class” or “It was this book”, but the truth is, no two paths are alike in this business. I think the things that have helped me the most have been non-entertainment industry related experiences like exploring the human condition through travel, yoga and meditation, connecting deeply with other people, going to therapy… and understanding that not booking the job or not getting into the festival… it’s not usually rejection. It’s timing, or it’s that they loved you, but they also loved the other person and it was a bit of a toss up. Any number of factors come into play. Once I stopped beating myself up about the “no's", things got a lot easier.
How often do you come back to Waterloo and what are your favourite spots when you're here?
It’s been about 10 months this time. I’ve been in LA for almost four years and at first I was back every three or four months working on Wholesome Foods… (meetings, table reads, test shoots, etc.). I’m obviously a sucker for health food stores, so Goodness Me! is one of my favourite stores to pop into. I grew up snacking on Circle of Life treats from Grainharvest - I’ve really been craving their macaroons and energy explosion cookies lately! Lost of nostalgic spots: Symposium Café was our go-to hang out in high school (KCI), along with William’s and Sweet Dreams in University Plaza, and Princess Cinemas. My family and I used to get amazing sacher torte from this Austrian café called Café Mozart in Kitchener. Once it closed, we started ordering from Nougat Bakery… I still love it there. And it’s always nice to hike local trails, visit the farmer’s market, and more recently I’ve started stocking up on basd body care products. They’re super clean vegan lotions, body washes, etc. and the company started in KW, which is really cool.
Let's talk about Wholesome Foods, I Love You… Is That OK? (WFILY). You're a certified health & nutrition coach and a self-confessed fan of organic supermarkets. How much of WFILY is autobiographical?
It’s definitely semi-autobiographical! My character, Julia, is a heightened version of me and I do spend a lot of time at Whole Foods. There’s another boutique organic market in LA called Erewhon… I pop over there almost every day and really do run into friends and neighbours… I know a lot of the employees by name and we’ll catch up on each other’s lives at the checkout. Most of the Angelenos who’ve watched the show say that they recognize all of our characters as regulars at their local organic market. And because it’s LA, it’s pretty common to find yourself shopping next to Tracee Ellis Ross or Julie Bowen (my co-star, Daniel De Santo, was recognized for his work in Mean Girls and on Are You Afraid of the Dark several times while we were shoot at Goodness Me!). I haven’t had any massively romantic encounters at the supermarket…yet... but I think most of us (in the health/organic world) assume that we’ll meet the loves of our lives there one day!
You're the creator, writer, executive producer and actor for WFILY. How do you balance all those roles?
I don’t know if balance ever exists. In some ways, some roles suffer because paperwork needs to be taken care of or someone’s having a minor crisis that needs to be managed, so, you know, those things can pull you out of creative flow or a really interesting moment as an actor. On the flip side, I’m someone who tends be easily under-stimulated and underwhelmed if I’m not being challenged. My mind works really fast, I pick things up quickly, and I lose interest if I’ve only got one task to focus on. I do meditate and enjoy unstructured time to just be, but if I’m working on something or creating something, I need to have all engines running. I recently started working with a trainer who coaches me in boxing, Muay Thai, and Kung Fu. He learned pretty early on that if he tries to break moves down and simplify things in a step-by-step manner, I check out and literally can’t function. But if he just does the most advanced version of the move at full speed without any explanation, I pick it up immediately. I think it comes down to having enough going on that I can’t afford to let myself get caught up in overthinking or “analysis paralysis”! Every time anyone asks a question on set, like, “What if we did ____ instead?”, my answer is always, “Let’s try it. Let’s just do it!” Just jump in. If it works out - and as long as everyone’s safe - great!
WFILY has an all-Canadian cast. Was that intentional?
Yes. We were bound by Canadian union rules and were shooting the project on a dime, calling in tons of favours or partnering with friends who genuinely wanted to collaborate. When you’re working in indie film, you obviously can’t afford to be flying international talent around or supporting work visas. My partners and I also wanted to shoot locally (in KW and the GTA) because it’s home to us… we had relationships with location owners, we were familiar with all of the rules when it comes to filmmaking, and we felt - and feel - fortunate to be members of such richly talented communities. We really wanted to showcase that.
Is there anyone you'd like to collaborate with that you haven't yet?
So many people! I just can’t get enough of Mindy Kaling and Tracee Ellis Ross… and then you’ve got the greats like Meryl Streep and Dame Judi Dench. I have close friends from high school and film school who wanted to team up on Wholesome Foods, but scheduling conflicts came up. I’ve got a huge new community of creatives in LA who a just brilliantly talented up-and-comers. And Will & Grace has always been my all-time favourite sit com. In fact, every time something really significant happens in my career, I end up running into Sean Hayes in person somewhere. He’ll be on my flight or I’ll see him out somewhere in Hollywood. It would be such an honour to work with any of the W&G cast members. I also really admire the content that Andrea Savage and Lilly Singh are creating. They’re on totally different paths, but I think they’re both super smart, funny, and they’re breaking down barriers at countless intersections. And then my absolute favourite modern filmmaker is Canada’s own Xavier Dolan. I cannot say enough about his artistry and the risks he’s willing to take as a creator.
WFILY has been streamed over 500,000 times through multiple platforms and has received several nominations and features. What is it about the show that you think is resonating with viewers?
I think that the characters are really approachable/relatable… even if situationally everything’s kind of wacky and heightened. We’ve been called “slacker for millennial women,” and I’d agree with that one… especially in Canada, we’re (broadly) a generation of over-educated, under-employed, dream-followers wading our way through this weird sea of dating apps, awkward run-ins, and almost-but-not-quite-relationships. I’m also hearing that a lot of people love that it’s light and goofy, that the show pays homage to the days of Friends and the early seasons of New Girl or The Mindy Project. There’s so much heaviness in the world, people are stressed out and there’s a lot of anxiety. It can be incredibly good for the soul to just sit back and laugh at the absurdity of being human for a little while. And people are clearly hungry to see more female-led content! We’ve gotten some of our biggest compliments/best responses from dudes in their mid-to-late thirties who are just totally in love with the show. That was unexpected, but is an incredibly cool wave to be riding.
How do you define success? Do you feel like you've "made it”?
I measure success by how free I feel, how easily I can access and experience feelings of joy, peace, and unconditional love. Some days feel more successful than others. I don’t know if most people ever feel like they’ve “made it”. I try to be conscious of that very human thing that we do where we get so caught up in what comes next that we forget to enjoy the wins we’ve already had. But there’s definitely a part of me that feels like “it” will feel complete when I’ve got my own network TV show or an Emmy or whatever my ego dreams up down the road. Let’s just say that I’ve had some pretty incredible experiences and I’m looking forward to many more, whatever they might be.
What's your advice for any Waterloo Region artists or creatives who have an eye on LA?
Just keep trusting yourself and keep creating. Let it be weird, let it be messy, let it be terrible. There’s value in all of it - and the film or painting or whatever it is that you make… the piece that you absolutely hate might end up being the thing that launches your career because other people find it super interesting or really connect with it on some level. Waterloo Region has so many incredible artists and opportunities to collaborate with creatives. It sounds cliché, but relationships really are everything. Like I said, I called up so many old friends from KCI and film school to carry me through the Wholesome Foods… process. I hadn’t worked with some of those people in over 10 years, but we’d kept in touch and had been supporting each other from the sidelines all along.
As far as LA goes, it isn’t as big and intimidating as it can seem. I’ve found people to be really warm and welcoming across the board. The most difficult part for me was getting my O1 Visa (for an “artist of extraordinary ability”) - it can be a lengthy process and the visa itself is restrictive: you can only work in your designated field, so if you’re granted a visa as a film & TV actor, you can only work as an actor in film & TV.
I’d say if you’re at the point in your career where you have a strong body of work or a few recognizable credits to your name, head out to LA to visit first. Stay in an Airbnb, rent a car, cook in the apartment, audit some classes… get a feel for what it’s like to live there before investing any additional time or money (I think it’s paradise, but some people don’t like it!). I went out for six weeks at a time to take classes and meetings - including meetings with immigration attorneys who are well-versed in entertainment visas. If you love the city, you’ve met with a lawyer who thinks you’ve got a strong case, then save up as much money as you can to help with the visa restrictions… or consider going out for pilot and episodic season, then heading back home to work/save.
All of that being said, I do know four or five actors who went out on a whim for the first time ever, got representation immediately, booked a lead role on a TV show, and never looked back. Everything was taken care of and just fell into place. That’s why I started with “trust yourself”. Anyone can tell you what the more reasonable or responsible path might be, but at the end of the day, you know what you’re destined to achieve better than anyone else. If it’s meant to be yours, it won’t miss you.
Last question. One of your mentors is Sarah Finn, Casting Director for Marvel. Who's your favourite Marvel character?
Emma Frost! I mean, telepathy and the ability to basically turn into a diamond…? Relatable.
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Interview by Glodeane Brown