As Harper on the CW’s The 100, a day on set for Capilano alum Chelsey Reist starts at 6 a.m. Season two the of hit show (which aired March 11th) saw Harper face a ton of torture scenes, resulting in hours of hair and makeup—or as Reist puts it, getting “bloodied up.”
Originally only meant to appear in one episode of the dystopian thriller, Harper has been a recurring character on the show since the end of season one and begins shooting season three later this year.
Taking a Risk
Despite her success and affinity for acting, the Edmonton native didn’t always consider it to be a tangible career. She was working at a law firm when a close friend studying filmmaking at Capilano encouraged her to apply for Capilano’s Acting for Stage and Screen diploma program. Shortly after submitting an audition tape, Chelsey was accepted and packed up to Vancouver—a city she had never even visited.
“I was at an interesting age, in a new city, with new friends, and I was studying emotion and vulnerability—it really opened me up to new relationships that I have to this day. The fact that the program was three years meant I could find out what about my craft I loved.”
Amongst the ongoing friendships is P. Lynn Johnson, an instructor in the Acting for Stage and Screen program, who Chelsey credits for giving her confidence as an actor, and for later introducing her to her agent.
“If you ask any student in the program they love her, the teachers and friends I made were my favourite part. She really encouraged us to be vulnerable, to make fun of ourselves and to be open,” she says. “All the professors are actually working in the industry, I run into them on auditions.”
Road to Success
After graduating, Chelsey landed a gig as host of ‘Discovering Great Towns,’ a show which aired in over 60 countries internationally. More hosting and background work followed, before her first Union credit came in the Steven Siegal film True Justice. The director was so impressed by the depth she brought as a background actor that he had her written into the script. She continued to book work, but was apprehensive about taking the next step.
“I was scared to take the risk of trying for an agent and decided to do it on my own. I decided to take a step every day to further my career.”
Eventually, she agreed to meet her former instructor P. Lynn Johnson’s agent, who immediately signed her.
Life as Harper
Harper was meant to die the first episode she appeared in—a scene Chelsey was prepared for.
“She was supposed to die! I was on set and they said ‘that’s a wrap’ and I thought ‘I didn’t have my big moment!’ The next thing I knew I was called back and back,” she says of the unexpected and fast pace of the show. “We can get scripts the night before and they can change 15 or 20 times before the set, we’re constantly learning new lines.”
Chelsey is a trained dancer, which she says gives her an awareness of her body that, combined with stunt classes in her school career, comes in handy for the physicality in the 100. In contrast to her bubbly and friendly demeanour, she admits being drawn to the dark and sadistic when it comes to acting. So much so that ‘blood curdling scream’ is listed on her resumé. Indeed, in season two Harper is captured, tortured, and has her bone marrow harvested.
“Harper is constantly struggling to push through. She has to fight for love, to stay alive, she’s constantly fighting. Season two was the second time she was set to die in the series but lived. She was grateful for that, and I constantly feel grateful as well.”
Next up for Chelsey is the lead female in Dark Harvest, a film produced by P. Lynn Johnson. She’ll also be doing voicework for a character in the second feature film of a fellow Capilano alumni and has a small role in her fourth Hallmark feature, Garage Sale Mystery: The Wedding Dress. Looking forward, she hopes to diversify her roles.
“I play the victim well, I would love to take on a role where I can be the heroine, kicking butt and taking names,” she notes. “Or a role which is minimal, very beneath the surface. Anything Kate Winslet has done!”
When it comes to advice for making it in the world of acting, Chelsey asserts that she’s still learning, but is a firm believer in pushing beyond comfort zones.
“Take risks in your career, in the scene as an actor, constantly take risks! They say success happens when luck meets preparation, and I believe those two are most likely to meet you outside your comfort zone. This career in general is a risk, but I feel I set myself up for success by studying my craft, by learning the industry from professionals from the inside out, and by pushing myself when it felt the most impossible.”
Submitted by Marketing & Communications