Naomi Duvall is one of the hardest-working artists in the region.
She works across multiple disciplines, including but not limited to acting (stage, television, and film), puppetry and object art, playwriting, and burlesque comedy. Duvall is known to have numerous projects on the go at any given time.
Perhaps this is why so many people in the Peterborough-Nogojwanong arts community are celebrating Duvall’s recent speaking role in the feature-length Hallmark film Two for the Win.
It’s wonderful to see all of her hard work paying off.
A graduate of the professional theatre acting program at John Abbott College in the west island of Montreal, Duvall has worked on nearly every stage in Peterborough.
Though she has worked extensively in television, commercials, and film, Two for the Win represents a breakout role for the actor’s career.
The film, starring Trevor Donovan and Charlotte Sullivan, is about a champion ski-racer (Donovan) who returns to his hometown, where he reconnects and eventually falls in love with a local ski instructor (Sullivan).
VIDEO: “Two for the Win” preview and sneak peek
Duvall plays the role of Margaret Ainsley, a ski-mom who rather comically fawns over Donovan’s character and even bids in a charity auction to try to win a day with him.
“This is my first speaking role ever,” Duvall says, “I’m so excited.”
“In a sense, my time doing a Hallmark movie feels like a true Hallmark experience — I feel like Tiny Tim,” she laughs. “For a small-town girl like me, it feels really good.”
“Before reading the script fully, I actually thought it was a Christmas movie,” Duvall recalls, laughing. “I was so excited — I had this notebook and I decorated it with Christmas stickers, like a 12-year-old kid. I was so pumped, and then I showed up on set with my Christmas notebook and realized it was a skiing movie.”
“For the first time in my life, I got my own trailer, which was amazing,” she adds. “I was absolutely losing my mind — I even took a video of myself.”
The actor landed the role by means of a self-tape audition — a prerecorded video audition where an actor reads selected script portions, called sides, which are then submitted to casting directors.
“Because of COVID, I’ve been getting a lot more self-tape auditions,” says Duvall.
“During non-pandemic times, I would be going to Toronto maybe twice a month for auditions — and that would be a really good month in terms of auditions. Now, it seems like I’m getting like one a week. Not too long ago, I actually did four self-tape auditions in one weekend, which was what my monthly quota for in-person auditions used to be before the pandemic.”
The online nature of work during the pandemic has levelled the playing field, in a sense, for regional artists who normally would be required to travel to urban centres for work opportunities.
As is the case for workers in every sector, the pandemic certainly made work more difficult for the actor but Duvall feels lucky that she was able to do her work safely.
“I was really, really lucky in that respect. We were shooting in Ottawa and I had really good friends who were able to give me rides there and back, which was a huge relief from the anxiety of dealing with public transit. I was also able to find, through a local forum, a wonderful contactless Airbnb.”
On set, multiple precautions were taken to ensure the safety of the cast and crew.
“We had to get tested beforehand and send them the results,” explains Duvall. “And then, while you’re on set, they test you regularly as well. They had a mobile testing unit on site. I think it took a lot of planning, but I feel like the film industry is used to that.”
“Obviously, I would have liked it more if my first experience had not been during COVID,” says Duvall of shooting during the pandemic. “We were pretty isolated from each other on set.”
“It just wasn’t the same. Because of COVID, it was a lot more like background work. You’re shooting and then you’re holding but then you just stay there and try to keep six feet apart from everyone and wear your mask whenever you can.”
“Still, I had a really great experience,” she says. “The director was amazing to work with, and the one thing that really, really sticks with me was how supportive the crew was.”
“After we shot one scene, the whole crew clapped and cheered for me,” Duvall recalls. “Of course, that was the scene that ended up being cut — it was also the scene with last-minute script changes. The scene may have been cut, but the memory in my head lives on.”
“There’s so many things I’m grateful for — I’m grateful for it all,” says an exuberant Duvall. “Now, I’m just so excited to share this film with others.”
Two for the Win airs Friday, February 19th at 8 p.m. on CityTV.