About four years ago Vancouver’s Sonja Bennett had an epiphany while flinging herself around her living room, bouncing from end to end.
“I was auditioning to play a nurse that becomes possessed by a demon,” she explains. “And so I’m in my living room practicing being pushed around by this power, pushed across the living room, slamming into the wall and convulsing.”
That’s when her two-year-old son asked, “Mom, whatcha doin’?!”
“I was like, ‘Hmmm, good question.’ So I just decided to cut that all out,” recalls Bennett. “It wasn’t making me happy.”
Instead, she sat down and started to write — ideally a screenplay in which she would star. “Around 30 I noticed that, let me put it this way, being an actress in your 30s is decidedly less fun than being an actress in your 20s, and the parts were just getting less interesting and smaller and I could feel myself getting that bitter actress-itis, and I didn’t want that.”
The result is Preggoland, an indie comedy that does star Bennett and earned strong reviews at the Toronto and Vancouver International Film Festivals before hitting theatres this month.
Bennett plays Ruth, a single, decidedly immature, childless thirtysomething who no longer fits in with her group of friends, all of whom have kids. When she’s mistaken for being pregnant, Ruth notices people are nicer to her — so she doesn’t correct them. Eventually the lie takes over her life.
In reality, Bennett has two little ones; that son is now five and her daughter is one.
It was while pregnant with her boy that the idea for Preggoland came to Bennett as she jaywalked across the street to her local coffee shop — just like every morning. For the first time, instead of eliciting angry glares, she was met by smiles as the cars slowed to allow her safe passage. She looked down and realized she was wearing a tight tank top and had just begun to show.
“I thought this was so interesting how society treats pregnant women,” she says. “At this point all I’ve done is have sex, but for some reason, when you’re pregnant people treat you as a goddess.”
Thanks to Preggoland, Bennett now considers herself as much a screenwriter as an actor. As for struggling to land small, humiliating roles in whatever happens to be shooting in Vancouver…
“No more,” she says. “No more zombies, no more nurses.”