An Interview with Dylan Ratzlaff
Dylan Ratzlaff is an actor known for A Million Little Things, The Next Step, and the upcoming film An Amish Sin. I spoke with Dylan about her career as a dancer, landing her first acting role, portraying Rachel in An Amish Sin, and her upcoming projects.
Did you always want to pursue a career as an actor?
I actually started off as a dancer, so that was my main point of focus for so long. I happened to get into acting through dancing. My mindset has shifted now, but I’m still in both worlds. I want to pursue acting now, but it wasn’t always the dream.
Was your formal training in dance?
Yes, I’ve been dancing since I was three years old. I’m trained in multiple genres.
How did you land your first acting role?
I did a couple of commercials when I was younger. I’d auditioned for a show called The Next Step, which was a family channel show. That was my first TV role. It’s basically a mockumentary about a dance studio. It seemed perfect to me as I could be on TV and doing what I love to do, which is dancing. Through that, I went through a couple of auditions and ended up flying to Toronto for a call back. I found out a week later that I’d booked it. They hired me as a dancer and taught me how to act long the way, which is how I got into the acting process.
So, you want to continue to do a hybrid of both acting and dancing?
Totally. I like being in both worlds. Obviously, dance is my first passion, but there have been many parallels within acting and I’ve grown to love acting. I don’t want to give up dance and I still want that to be part of my life. I feel fortunate to be able to do both.
Do you feel your background in dance has helped you as an actor?
I’ve always told people that it really helps with the body language and physicality aspect of it. I remember when I was on set for An Amish Sin, the camera operator said: ‘you do the exact same number of steps for everything, it’s perfect for continuity.’ Once I start to get into the choreography of things, I’m naturally able to memorise it in my head. It helps a lot for continuity, but also for the rhythm of the scene.
Do you find other actors you work with work in a very different way?
Every actor has their own process and we are all very different in the way that we work. Specifically, being a dancer, I really work hard on body language. That’s something that might be a little bit different to other actors, as it’s something I like to really focus on throughout scenes.
Could you tell me more about An Amish Sin?
In An Amish Sin, I play Rachel who is in the Amish community. It’s a very tight-knit community and throughout the years she experiences sexual abuse from people close to her. As she gets older, she starts to realise that this is something that really shouldn’t be happening in the community. She starts to make a stand and runs away. From there a series of events happen. She gets found out and has to go to this correctional centre. They really try to break her spirit and from there she realises that she has to do this and leave her family. So, it’s up to her figure out who she is in this real world.
How did you land the role?
I got an audition from my agent. It was a self-tape. Because of Covid, a lot of auditions have moved to self-tape. I worked on it over a weekend and put it on tape. It was about a week later when I got a call about a call-back. That was a zoom call-back. I did the work and I was very nervous. It was very different doing it from my own home. That’s how the process worked. Then, I got a call from my agent. They wanted to call me for a second call-back, but then they actually called me and told me I’d booked the role, which was kind of crazy.
Were there Covid measures in place on-set?
We were wearing masks all the time, whenever we weren’t in our scenes. We were tested and all that. More so during the peak of Covid there were dividers between actors, but there wasn’t so much of that so it was a little nicer to be able to communicate with people a bit more and not feel completely isolated.
What’s the best advice a director has given you on set?
It’s very broad, but it was not yet. Basically, what that means is don’t reveal too much too soon. You have to let the viewers anticipate it. So, every time I went into a scene I’d think not yet. It was very helpful.
Who are your acting and dance heroes?
I’ve been asked this question before and I continue to think about it. I work better with inspirations around me. I find that I really gravitate to learning from people around me. On each set, I find a new inspiration. On An Amish Sin, watching Rukiya Bernard and Kellie Martin was so fascinating. When I was on The Next Step, there were amazing dancers like Briar Nolet. It’s constantly changing.
What research did you do for An Amish Sin?
There was sexual abuse and being a victim of that, as well as the Amish community. I have a Mennonite background. It’s my heritage, so I knew a little about the Amish community. We also had an Amish consult that we got to ask questions. She was a victim of sexual abuse and so she was my main point of contact. I was picking her brain on everything. I also spoke with someone who counsels woman through sexual abuse. I heard about so many women and their stories and the healing process. It was very different for everyone, but I wanted to find things that everyone could relate to. That was a big part of my research.
Is there a particular role you would love to play?
I’d love to do a lead role with stunts. I feel with my dance background that I could be pretty decent at it. It’s a very difficult job, but it would be a fun challenge. It can be a daunting task to do your own stunts, but it would be very exciting and I feel like I could pick it up. I’d like to try that out in the next couple of years.
Are you currently working on any projects?
I recently just worked on Cruel Summer, the second season. I was a principal actor in that and it was super exciting. Fall is a busy season for auditioning, so I’m just putting my head down and working on those auditions and trying to book another one soon.
What are you currently watching/reading?
I’ve just watched Severance. I binged watched the whole series. I can’t wait for the second season. I also just watched Barry, which is another good one. I love a good TV show.