By: Kat Harlton
Photos: Sam Gaetz
On a Wednesday evening, in a small, cozy coffee shop on Front Street West I meet Elena Juatco, a fan favorite as Dr. Scarlet McWhinnie on the TeenNick teen mystery drama Open Heart. Although well received, Open Heart wasn’t renewed for a second season, which came as a shock to both Juatco and her castmates.
“Everyone expected it to be renewed. I know some of the other actors had kind of planned around it, and it was just this last minute decision that came down from TeenNick.”
For Juatco, the most frustrating part was not being able to finish telling her character’s story. “I want to find out what happens to my character. Like what’s Scarlet‘s secret? Everyone has secrets right? I want to know how it all works out.”
Although Juatco may never get to play Scarlet again, Open Heart is never far away. A large portion of her social media following is now made up of fans who loved the show. “The fans were awesome, they were always so positive. I never got a mean tweet, they were all just super supportive, fans can do so much for a show.”
Since Open Heart, Juatco has been cast in multiple film and television roles including spots on Killjoys, Spotlight, and Beeba Boys.
“Killjoys was my first closed set experience. I was in my underwear, but they were very thorough and made sure only people who needed to be on set were in the room. It was opposite this actor who’s work I know, and I had just met him and it was like ‘excuse me while I get on top of you and try to undo your pants’. In those situations, you just need to go for it.”
It’s that “go for it” attitude, that landed Juatco a scene with Liev Schreiber in the 2015 Academy Award winning film Spotlight. “When we were on set, Liev was like ‘oh are you the guestlist girl ?’ and I said ‘yes’ and he introduced himself in his character name, so I was like ‘ohhh he’s in the zone’. It was really cool to see how he worked.”
“I didn’t expect Spotlight to win Best Picture, I couldn’t believe it. When they thanked Toronto by name, I thought that was really awesome. There are a lot of amazing films being made here, and a lot of Canadian actors who are really making a contribution.”
When I ask Juatco about this years Academy Awards, she can barely contain her excitement. “I love award season! I’m that girl that watches award shows and dreams and gets excited. It still sparks that little light in me. I remember when Jennifer Hudson won her Oscar. I had never been that affected, not just because she’s a woman of color, but because she was an a American Idol contestant, and when she won it, it wasn’t that long after I had been on Canadian Idol and it reminded me the work doesn’t stop here.”
Inevitably La La Land comes up, and we discuss what it means for film and television actors like herself, who have a strong theatre background. “It’s encouraging young people to watch films with singing and dancing. It’s inspiring them to ask about going to see a live show, which is how I got into it. There are so many talented artists going between mediums, people are really starting to understand the value of what it means to be creative.”
“I think next I would love to see true triple threat actors attacking these kinds of roles in Hollywood. There are artists who have been dancing and playing piano their whole lives who could take films like LA LA Land to a whole other level.”
Juatco’s passion for her craft and the industry as well as her determination to leave a mark will come in handy, as she’s currently in L.A for pilot season. You can catch her next as Kim stealing a few scenes with Jason Sudeikis in Kodachrome which is set for release later this year.