Julia Chan is an actor, television host, and VSP favourite. Originally from the U.K., she spends her time between filming in abroad, and at home in Los Angeles. Julia's style still keeps a British sensibility when it comes to mixing shapes and patterns, always with a smart, structural piece to tie it all together. With her academic background in art history and drama, there is no one we trust more to advise us on visual aesthetics. VSP chats with Julia about the ultimate role she'd play, favourite museums, and her newest projects to keep a look out for.
What are some qualities you find yourself drawn to in art and fashion?
As far as fashion goes, I’ve been told I can’t resist a bit of whimsy - cue my favourite Harry Styles t-shirt from a concert in Tokyo, a marigold floor length duster and pink velvet Gucci loafers that were a Christmas present from my husband. But my day-to-day style is pretty simple. I’ve figured out my uniform, which consists of straight slim pants or jeans, a slightly oversized sweater or white t-shirt and a duster or blazer of some sort. I LOVE jumpsuits and own about eight, most of them by Horses Atelier. A jumpsuit is a literal all-in-one for practicality, style and pluck. Never fuck with a woman in a jumpsuit.
I have an Art History degree and pondered entering the art world for a while after college, but couldn’t resist the perilous acting profession. I love portraits. I’m fascinated by how artists filter a human onto a canvas or film. My favourite artists are Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Frank Auerbach, Balthus, Wolfgang Tillmans and Rineke Dijkstra.
What do you suggest for those still trying to develop their personal style?
Take a risk every now and then! When I worked in vintage I would always encourage my customer to add something surprising to their buy. Sure, get your “old faithfuls”, but perhaps allow those red leather ankle boots or a colour you’ve never tried to sneak into the pile. I always feel extra powerful when I am wearing something that scares me just a wee bit. Always shop with an honest friend.
Which characters have stayed with you over the years?
If you haven’t seen Killing Eve be prepared to fall in love with Jody Comer’s character, the unknowable Villanelle. From the moment I saw her sitting on the psychiatrist’s couch in that baby pink Molly Goddard dress and Balenciaga combat boots, I was hooked. Fashion can be such a powerful storytelling mechanism. I will also be forever enchanted by Maggie Chung’s character in In the Mood for Love - she wore bespoke cheongsams throughout movie and they are exquisite.
I’ll never recover from Gena Rowland’s performance in A Woman Under the Influence. She is just one of the wildest bravest actors, in my opinion.
Who would be your dream role to play?
Don’t laugh, but Queen Elizabeth I – just in my dreams. She’s already been played perfectly by Cate Blanchett and Bette Davis, and she wasn’t half Asian, but I just think she’s endlessly fascinating. I adore it when women play Shakesperean male roles. I’d love to play a villain; someone who appears innocuous but is all fractured and ruined on the inside. A broken down doll face, if you will.
Tell us about a few of your ongoing projects.
Season 2 of the Great Canadian Baking Show is coming out Sept. 19! I recommend this show to quell any post summer holiday blues – it’s like a warm hug. Plus Dan and I have some pretty fun outfits!
I just wrapped a show called Little Dog for the CBC, which is set in Newfoundland. I was so lucky to spend my summer on that magical island with its 30-minute time difference. The show is surprising, hilarious and at times might even touch your heart. This was also the first time I’ve worked on a show with all female directors, a female DP and stunt coordinator, which was pretty inspiring. About time!
Where are some of your favourite galleries or museums? Which artworks are your favourite?
My favorite museum is The National Portrait Gallery in London. It has everything from the grandiose early royal portraits to the work of contemporary artists. I always go and pay my respects to the Lucian Freud paintings and the portrait of a young (not to mention incredibly chic) Elizabeth 1 from 1600 by an unknown artist. Her jewelry is to die for. Pun intended.
Do you ever get nostalgic this time of year for going back to school?
Even 15 years later I find the back-to-school-energy really invigorating when it hums in the air.
I loved my undergrad experience at Harvard in particular, and feel very grateful for it and the friends I made. Many of my favourite memories took place at the American Repertory Theatre. They let us put on whatever plays we wanted and we were FEARLESS when it came to material, not to mention the scale of the sets. I wish all wish all artists could have that kind of freedom in the real world!