‘Pacific Rim’ Star Heather Doerksen Talks About Guillermo Del Toro, The Necessity of Wearing Deodorant

Heather Doerksen is no stranger to the nerd world. With 44 credits on IMDb, she’s worked with the likes of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard in projects like Stargate: Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica and The Cabin in the Woods. But starring as Lieutenant A. Kaidanovsky in Pacific Rim, Doerksen finds herself in one of this summer’s most anticipated blockbusters. I spoke with her over the phone about Pacific Rim, some upcoming projects and the importance of wearing deodorant.

It’s kind of a big summer/fall here for you, isn’t it?

It sure is!

Pacific Rim is the first big movie you have coming out. What can you tell me about it?

Well, the basic premise is giant monsters fighting with giant robots and the movie starts kind of at the end of a battle so they’re a little worn down and grimy and there’s a bit of a defeated feeling as we head into it. From there, it’s a question of whether the humans or the monsters win, really. That’s the basic premise of the movie. It’s giant, huge, fantastic monsters against giant, huge, fantastic robots.

In one of the first trailers, Charlie Day says something along the lines of “you have to understand them if you want to stop them,” something like that. Is there an environmentalist sort of vein in this movie or is that just a misinterpretation I’m making?

Oh, I really like that. I haven’t seen it as such. My take on it is basically, it’s almost like a — in terms of environmentalist — it’s more of like an empathy thing. It’s, can you understand the person that you’re going up against in order to find a way in. [The kaijus] are not stupid things that are going to take a missile and that’s going to stop them. We needed to build robots — Jaegers — that would combat them and would be able to think alongside the monsters who can also think. So we needed to match them in that sense. I think the movie explores that concept, which I think is something kind of new and exciting. How do you understand the monsters that you’re going up against? They’re not just stupid, slobbering things, they actually have minds and are thinking which makes them even more deadly.

And certainly Guillermo Del Toro has a great track record with these visionary, giant films which must be kind of a cool thing to jump into as an actor to know you’re working with the person who’s got such a clear cut vision for what they’re working on every film they make.

He was amazing. I walked on set that first day and it was almost overwhelming how large the sets were, how grungy and dirty they looked and how many crew members were involved in the production. I think the grandness of it all has the potential to be quite overwhelming but Guillermo just has this air, don’t worry, I got it. I got it. It’s all good. And it kept that way the entire shoot and it was a long shoot. It was seven months, I believe, and took up all eight or nine sound stages of Pinewood Studios in Toronto. So he was, he’s got this really wonderful hand, and was laughing and joking and one of the best shooting experiences of my life. Probably the best shooting experience of my life.

You got into acting in a little bit of a roundabout way, is that correct? 

Yeah, that is correct. I had been acting prior to it, but hadn’t focused on it as a career until I got into college. The story, kind of reading into deciding to take it on as a potential career, was I took a theater class in college and the teacher was almost a motivational speaker. He had us close our eyes and picture what makes our hearts sing and for me it was performing. I had done community theater my whole life and high school plays, but he’s like: “Well, ask yourself what’s stopping you from doing that. Ask yourself how you can start.” And then I switched my major to theater and that took me on this path and here I am. I just kind of followed that instinct. So, yeah, the big push was in college. I really decided, “okay, I want to do this as a career.” I just knew that I didn’t want to necessarily do an office job, I wanted something that was outdoors, so my goal was environmental biology — stream mapping and marine biology, too. I kind of wanted to go out in the field so that it was different every day and it was an outside kind of thing so I kept that particular drive and with acting, it is different every single day.

From adventure in science to adventure and action in films is sort of a good transition.

It sure is. I mean, I don’t know why, but throughout my career thus far I have been easily cast in sci-fi and the more I do it, the more I love it. Because there is kind of that scientific aspect to it that I think really satisfies my math brain and I also really like the sci-fi fans. They’re very loyal and very passionate about the genre. Yeah, sci-fi’s fantastic. Monster movies, sci-fi — I grew up watching that with my brother so it just seems right that I would be getting cast in stuff like that.

It seems like there’s a little bit of sci-fi/fantasy renaissance going on right now with the popularity of all of these science fiction and fantasy TV shows and movies coming out, so it seems like kind of a good time to be doing those sorts of things, especially if that’s what you like.

Yeah, I mean even Game of Thrones has that fantasy vibe to it. I think people are just hungry for really good stories and really good characters and that’s what I think Pacific Rim will give. Not just a great story, not just great action sequences, but great characters that you want to root for, that have flaws, that are on a journey on their own and that hopefully people can relate to.

Pacific Rim is not the only big movie you’ve got coming out. You also have Hidden which is, I believe, coming out in September, if that’s correct? 

You know what, I don’t know what the release date is. Do you know that it’s September? I would love it if you just told me this right now, that’s amazing.

It takes place during the zombie apocalypse and what happens… the microscope is particularly on one specific family and what their journey is. So Alexander Skarsgård and Andrea Riseborough and their daughter and how they manage through this particular apocalypse. And then as you go along, obviously the zombies have different characteristics that maybe people haven’t seen before in the zombie genre, so that’s kind of exciting. It was a very intriguing script because, like I said, there are some twists and a different take on the zombie genre that I hadn’t yet seen, so I hope that people respond to it and are excited about it, too.

Anything else here on the horizon that you’re excited about for you?

Well I do a lot of voice work so lately I’ve been working with Marvel Comics on the new mini-series playing a plethora of different characters from Emma Frost to Psylocke to She-Hulk and it’s pretty exciting. Those start coming out, I believe, September of this year so that’s an exciting thing on the horizon in terms of voice because I love doing cartoon voices. It’s so funny. How did I fall into that? I don’t know but I love it.

Any job that you can just walk into the studio and voice it must be a nice gig.

You could show up in your sweats from the night before if you wanted to and nobody would complain as long as you put on some deodorant.

The deodorant, I assume, is a pretty important part. Well, congratulations. It must be an exciting year for you and I’m excited about these movies.

I hope you enjoy them, Robert.