Written and directed by Michael Doneger, Brampton’s Own tells the story of frustrated baseball player Dustin Kimmel (Alex Russell) who, after twelve years of fighting the battles of baseball’s minor league system, decides to retire from the sport and return to his small hometown where he was once a celebrated athlete. However, he quickly discovers that much has changed since he’s last been home as his ex-girlfriend Rachel (Rose McIver) and almost all of his friends have moved on with their lives.
Best known for her work as the undead detective, Liv, in television’s iZombie, star Rose McIver was excited to join on the project due to its cast and the strong female role that it provided.
“It was one of those perfect timing things,” she recalls. “It’s really tricky to sometimes to line things up timing wise and [this came up] right before I had to go back [to iZombie]… [Director] Michael told me that Alex [Russell] was involved and I was a fan of his work. I just thought it was a really sweet story that would be able to be told well. Sometimes, in a small independent film, they need to know what they’re capable of doing. If you’re over-stretched and you’ve got too many different locations, the story and characters get diluted. I liked that this was a small, contained story that felt like it had a lot of heart. I really liked the way that Rachel’s character was portrayed too. I’m very used to reading lots of female characters [who are] just supporting the guy’s journey. I liked that, while she might seem sort of slightly more vulnerable to begin with, she actually is on her own journey and makes decisions that I really respect. So, it made perfect sense, really.”
Although the film’s indie status prevented the team from lengthy preparation before the shoot, McIver maintains that part of the joy of working on this film was the opportunity it provided for freedom and improvisation.
“It often happens with these independent films that it was a very short prep [time],” she explains. “What I kind of love is when we’re discovering stuff on camera. Michael gave us the freedom to be able to play things in a variety of ways, including some adlib and improv. Sure, it’s lovely to have this luxury of weeks [of prep] but the upshot of a quick turnaround as you kind of catch your magic. You’re capturing instinct and you’re capturing revelations on screen rather than when it happens in the rehearsal room. So, it was a lot of freedom on the day to play the material and I think that it is what really works with the film.”
With this in mind, McIver was attracted to the story’s emphasis on the cost of following your dreams. Considering the fact that she left her home of New Zealand to pursue her career, she claims that the project was relatable to her own journey as an actress.
“I just think I can understand both sides of the story,” says McIver. “I’ve travelled across the world to follow my artistic pursuits so I can understand where he’s coming from, but I like that Rachel ultimately knows she doesn’t have to live in his shadow and the shadow of his dreams. She has her own [dreams] and there’s more than one way to go about things. I liked the themes in the story. I liked the idea of going back to a small town and the nostalgia that you deal with that. So, it felt like a project that would be very easy to look into for me.”
Despite its focus on Alex’s floundering baseball career, McIver feels that this theme is also developed through Rachel’s journey as she struggles to recapture dreams that she let slip away long ago.
“Yeah, I think that it’s self-confidence and I know a lot of people who tend to be so worried about helping everybody else… that they don’t look at themselves and go on their own inward journey,” she believes. “I think it’s not a selfish thing to do in order to be the best member of your community and family member and partner that you can be. For me, and for Rachel, it’s kind of about learning the value of her own dreams and that she’s not at the whim of somebody else. She can decide what really matters to her. I think she had made a few compromised decisions and, ultimately, I like that she’s on the journey to being the best version of herself that she can be as well as taking care of people.”
“I think we can be afraid of what happens when you let yourself think ‘Maybe I can do this’ or ‘Maybe this could be a part of my life.’ She wants to be a pop star. Maybe it’s that she wants to just have music be part of her daily existence. I think that that’s a beautiful dream just of itself.”
“It doesn’t have to be about a giant international career,” considers McIver. “I don’t think that is success. It’s about feeling like your truest self and making the most of this one short life that we have on the planet. Her music is something that she really gets great pleasure from. So success, for me, would be her playing music and making that part of her life. Sometimes we think [that], if it’s not a career, it’s a failure. I just don’t think that that’s true. I’ve seen so many examples to the contrary of that. I think, for Rachel, I definitely connect with that idea and just make sure you’re using this life as precious.”
Moreover, she also felt that she could relate to the film’s theme of the challenges of going home again. Just as Alex’s return causes an internal struggle within him, she too understands how difficult it can be to go back to where you grew up because of the weight of expectations, be it personal or external.
”When you leave at 20 or whatever, if you go back [home], it’s not just about the place. It’s the nostalgia of being a teenager or being young, and trying to reconcile that with [the fact that] everybody grows up,” reflects McIver. “They’re pursuing their own lives now and [have] moved on. So, sometimes it’s easier to be much more romantic about it when you’ve been away and what it will be like back home but actually everybody’s getting on with their lives. Everything has changed for everybody. I go back to New Zealand–and Alex, who played Dustin in the film, is from Australia and he goes back a lot–but I think for both of us it’s a very relevant theme where we’re able to be so self-obsessed about these things when we go back.”
“[It’s as if] we [think] we’re this instrumental cog in the whole town. But, actually, people have gone on with their lives and you can choose to come back as the version of yourself that you are now. Yeah, there will be all sorts of nostalgic things are awakened in you, but the world keeps moving with or without you. It’s kind of nice to go back and think it doesn’t have to be exactly the same way. That’s not wrong. It will be different and it will be new. I’m trying to just take away any expectations of how that’s all going to fall. For me, [that] makes it a lot easier to go home because if you go back to what you knew at 19, you’re going to be confused.”
As her press responsibilities begin to wind down regarding Brampton’s Own, McIver can now turn her attention back to her role as Liv in iZombie. With the final season currently in production, McIver acknowledges that fans will be excited to see some familiar faces return.
“There are returns of characters that we’ve missed,” she answers. “There are a lot of questions that people ask me about Liv’s family and we certainly start to look more at that in this season. People I think will be very satisfied to see some faces that you might’ve missed from seasons prior come back. Without spoiling too much, the story had started to answer a lot of the questions I hear in interviews.”
Brampton’s Own is playing in select theatres and on demand now.