TORONTO (CP) _ Tamara Podemski’s phone has not stopped ringing with calls from Hollywood studios and casting agents since she unexpectedly walked away with a prestigious acting prize at last month’s Sundance Film Festival.
"It came out of nowhere, so it was a total shock, and I am still sort of riding this roller-coaster," Podemski, 29, says in an interview from her Toronto home.
Podemski plays a troubled native American in the indie film "Four Sheets to the Wind," about an aboriginal family in small-town Oklahoma. The Sundance jury honoured Podemski for her "fully realized physical and emotional turn" as Miri, a woman whose carefree lifestyle brings her to the brink of tragedy.
Even though the film has yet to find a distributor, Podemski’s performance has caught the attention of Hollywood power brokers, and the lifelong Torontonian _ who’s also an accomplished musician and dancer _ is heeding their calls to move to Tinseltown.
"NBC Universal were the most adamant of the people I’ve talked to, to just get me down there and get me in some meetings as soon as possible. So I’m going in a couple of weeks, but moving to L.A. is most definitely happening as well."
She isn’t making the move without some sadness.
"I invested so many years in this industry up here, and I believe so much in this industry _ my first film was the Bruce McDonald movie ‘Dance Me Outside’ _ so there are loyalty issues," says Podemski, who was named best female artist and best songwriter at last fall’s Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards.
The actress has appeared in several Canadian TV series, including "The Rez" and "Ready or Not," and oddly enough, became something of a star in Germany for her role in the German-Canadian co-production "Blue Hawk/Blauvogel."
But she adds that it’s time to face facts _ she owes her greatest career successes to Americans. It was U.S. director Sterlin Harjo, after all, who chose her for the lead role of Miri, and while she had a supporting role in the Toronto version of the stage musical "Rent" in the late 1990s, American producers chose her for the lead role of Maureen on Broadway.
"I have three careers _ acting, music and dance _ so when one was slow, I ended up doing something else. And I think that might have been deceiving to me until I stepped back and realized: ‘Wow, you really haven’t been on the screen in a while,’ " she says.
"It was only when I did this film last summer, and had a lead role that was the meatiest and most in-depth that I’ve ever been given, that’s when I stopped and thought: ‘Whoa, I’m actually capable of this. Why hasn’t anybody back home given me a role like this?’ So the wheels started turning last year, and I just started looking at my whole career and seeing that my greatest roles, and the biggest successes in my career, have happened because of Americans noticing me."
She’s not miffed about that, Podemski is quick to point out.
"I am so grateful for the projects and the people that I’ve worked with here, but I’ve never been given a lead role. Even my first album was on a record label out of Los Angeles that brought me down there, and up here I had to make my own label to put out my own album," she says with a laugh.
"I am not bitter, I am not angry, but it’s just an observation that I’ve had to make and now I have to act accordingly."
When she moves to L.A., Podemski worries about missing her family _ "a huge part of my life," she says _ and not having the chance to continue her Canadian work with disadvantaged native teens in remote aboriginal communities, something she credits with "keeping her sane" in the topsy-turvy world of show business.
But she admits that, professionally speaking, she had become a bit complacent.
"I got comfortable doing the series that came along once in a while and the odd play here and there, but I now need to broaden my horizons and focus on what my biggest dream is," she says.
"And having a taste of what it is to sink my teeth into a character and getting my rocks off as an actor …. I don’t know if I can risk never tasting that again."