White had to undergo hours of training to get into her character, Maxine, on Haphead. PHOTO COURTESY OF SASHA THOMAS

Alumna stars in online sci-fi series

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By Karoun Chahinian

A Ryerson Theatre School (RTS) alumna stars in an award-nominated web series about a factory worker empowered through futuristic gaming technology.

Elysia White, an RTS graduate, plays the lead role of Maxine – a “badass, no nonsense chick who gets things done for herself” – in Haphead.

“Raised by her rebel father, she doesn’t have a strong female presence in her life, so she became her own,” White said. “She wants nothing more than to be the best version of herself.”

The eight episode sci-fi series is set in Toronto during 2025, mainly taking place in a factory producing Haptic hardware, technology that allows video game players to learn fighting abilities of their chosen character.

Maxine, a factory worker, steals the technology and uses it on her favourite action game featuring martial arts-fighting rabbits.

The series often switches between Maxine’s life in Toronto and her fights with opponents on Haptic.

“It unleashes this whole conspiracy and underworld,” White said. “She doesn’t really realize what she got herself into.”

White performs all her stunts in the series, which called for an extensive workout regimen and lessons on choreographing a brawl on-screen.

“It was a lot of learning technique on the fly,” White said.

Her stage combat certification was useful when she fought World Wrestling Entertainment professional wrestler Devon “Hannibal” Nicholson in an episode. Although Nicholson’s accustomed to the injuries associated with stunts, playing Hal the Hammer in Haphead was a far cry from the folding chair fights and rope jumps he’s used to.

“I’m not really an actor, but I’ve been involved in several projects through wrestling,” he said.

Nicholson fights White during the factory’s “Friday night fights,” a tradition that tests out technology’s effects on players.

“He’s the nicest guy in the entire world, but when he turns on his growling bear face of fury, it is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen,” White said. “You know in

Monsters Inc. when Boo sees Sully do the scare demonstration and she cries and runs away? That’s basically what it was like.” The series has received four award nominations since its launch on Jan. 22. The series has been nominated at the International Academy of Web Television with Jim Munroe for best writing, Tate Young as best director, and Jonathan Robbins – playing Maxine’s Uncle Bruce – as best male performer.

“It was an honour to get nominated for a smaller role in the show,” said Robbins, the show’s comic relief. “The challenge in preparing for that is to find a way to make him over the top without being over the top.”

“Any time you’re nominated for anything it’s awesome,” said Young. “I’m extremely happy with the way everything came together in the end and with the positive response we’re receiving from the public.”

As for White, she’s very satisfied with the first eight episodes, hoping another season will be filmed.

“The biggest and most important pieces of advice I have for everyone trying to get into this field is to stick to your training and don’t lose faith,” she said.

“I got no work, no auditions and thought to myself, ‘That was a waste of a degree.’ Now, I’ve got offers just coming at me and it’s just because I hustled.”

Haphead is available for free online at haphead.com

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