UTM student makes her film debut in Level 16

Alexis Whelan
Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 12:45pm
Patricia Walker

U of T Mississauga student Alexis Whelan will make her feature film debut in Level 16, a dystopian science fiction thriller by Canadian director and independent filmmaker, Danishka Esterhazy, set for release on March 1, 2019.

Level 16 follows the story of Vivien (Katie Douglas), Sophia (Celina Martin), and several other orphaned girls, including Whelan’s character, Ava, living in the mysterious Vestalis Academy. At Vestalis, the girls are taught four key virtues: obedience, cleanliness, patience, and humility, in order to become ‘perfect’ adoptees for wealthy families…or so they say.

This is Whelan’s first role in a feature film. She describes her experience as “really exciting” but confesses she became “a little nervous” when the film started to gain some traction. “Now everyone is going to watch me for the first time and I hope they like what they see,” Whelan says.

Whelan, a second-year student pursuing a degree in environmental science describes her character as “super complex”. Motivated by a desire to be popular, Ava is not afraid to “step on people’s toes” to get to the top of the social ladder, but as Whelan explains, “she is still human and has feelings.”

Whelan’s favourite thing about being a part of Level 16 was working with the predominantly female cast. “We formed this kind of sisterhood,” she says. As for working with award-winning director Esterhazy, Whelan says, “she was approachable and accommodating. She set the bar pretty high for any director that I work with in the future. I hope they’re on her level!”

When filming began, Whelan had just started her first year at U of T Mississauga, and despite having a demanding filming schedule and taking five courses, she successfully completed her first year. She is proud of this accomplishment, as well as her decision to pursue a science degree while acting. She feels strongly about having “something to fall back on” if her acting career doesn’t go in the direction she envisions. Whelan is passionate about the environment and hopes fame will give her a platform to advocate for environmental issues.

Daughter to an Egyptian mother and a Scottish father, this young actress is the first in her family to pursue an acting career. Whelan started acting at the age of nine, in a television show produced by none other than Steven Spielberg. Since then, Whelan has appeared in several commercials, including ones by Sirius XM and Rogers, as well as some short films. When asked about her future plans and whether she intends to move to an acting hub like Los Angeles or New York, Whelan says she would prefer to land a role in a national network show. Although she is open to the idea of working in the U.S. and believes that working there would “catapult” her career, she says “I really like Canada. I don’t think I would want to live in the U.S. long term.”