Rachelle Lefevre escapes from Under the Dome to enjoy pastoral pleasures
Photographed by Ian Derry
Check out all the stunning photos from her Watch! photo shoot here.
Styling by Sarah Nash at Carol Hayes Management
Photographed at Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire and Jane Austen's House Museum, Hampshire, England
Slim, petite and dressed down in jeans and boots, Under the Dome star Rachelle Lefevre could almost slip by unnoticed if it weren’t for that incredible skin and luminous mane of red hair that frames her face and cascades down her back.
And it’s not just her hair that’s fiery. Sipping a cocktail in a stately tea room at Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire in the English countryside—just a stone’s throw from Jane Austen’s house—the Canadian actress is smart, sassy and strong-minded about a variety of topics from Obamacare (she’s for it) to football (the Chicago Bears are her team, and woe betide anyone who tells her the score before she’s watched the game).
Oh, and then there’s the voice: Husky, sexy and like nothing else in Hollywood, it has put her on the map, even when she’s yelling at the football game on the TV.
She is not unlike her TV counterpart Julia Shumway, the no-nonsense investigative reporter in Under the Dome, the summer series that became a blockbuster hit for CBS last year and returned for a second season in June. It’s based on a novel by Stephen King about an invisible dome that mysteriously covers a small New England town, cutting off access to the outside world.
By the end of the first season, Julia had survived a point-blank shooting, fallen for her husband’s murderer and been crowned the town’s “monarch,” who may or may not be the savior of mankind. But just like the show ended on a cliffhanger, the future of the cast was also left hanging in the balance.
“As actors we were all waiting to find out,” Lefevre says, months before returning to start filming Season 2 in North Carolina. “They don’t tell us what’s going to happen. It’s gut-wrenching because the writers really want to make it exciting, so they aren’t afraid to do away with characters, no matter how popular.”
Filming in North Carolina—seemingly another planet than Hollywood—has had unintentional good consequences for the actors. “Living there for months at a time means you can’t not get close to your castmates!” Lefevre says with a laugh. “You really are living under a dome. It’s a long time to be away from home, but there’s something I like about being on location because it forces you to be close. Not everyone would be great friends in real life—it’s a mishmash of personalities— but we’re more like a family. Every now and then someone gets sick of someone else, but then you go out for a drink and you’re all good. There’s a lot of love. Mike Vogel, who plays Barbie, is so lovely—he’s like the guy who could be everybody’s boyfriend or husband, really loving and caring.”
Which makes the unpredictability of the series that much more challenging.
“No one ever knows if they’re dying, so we get stressed out if there’s a cliffhanger,” says Lefevre. “I like that they do it. It’s good to be a little insecure.”
But today the actress, 35, is in total command as she shoots setup after setup at Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire, a Georgian-style manor said to be where Henry VIII first met Catherine of Aragon. And while that union didn’t go very well, the Watch! shoot is ahead of schedule and operating like a well-oiled machine as Lefevre models almost a dozen couture dresses and outfits, the photography crew moves locations 10 times, and a video crew from the TVGN cable network captures footage for a TV special that aired in June about Watch! magazine’s photo shoots.
Helping pull it all together is Lefevre, who demonstrates a great can-do team spirit and impeccable sense of style.
“I was so excited to see the clothes. I absolutely love anything to do with fashion,” the actress says animatedly. “My favorite dress from the shoot turned out to be from Topshop! The way it’s cut, and the fabric, looks like it could be Lanvin.”
The actress knows her fashion well, but will often work with professional stylists to get the perfect red-carpet look.
“I don’t have specific designers who dress me for events, but I have a great stylist in L.A.,” the actress says. “It’s sometimes harder to get a dress loaned by a designer than a job! I wear a lot of up-and-coming designers who are keen to have their clothes worn. And I love Balmain—it has that tomboy edge—and Dsquared, too.”
High fashion may be natural to Lefevre, but the trajectory to TV stardom wasn’t easy. “A producer gave me an audition after spotting me waitressing in a Montreal restaurant, but that wasn’t the end of my career waiting tables,” she recalls. “I had to go back to it again for several years. It was an exercise in humility for sure. People in Montreal would recognize me from being on a successful kids’ show while I was waiting their tables.
“I always think of the famous George Clooney story about all of the pilots and TV series he starred in that didn’t succeed until the giant success of ER,” she says. “As an actor, you have to have thick skin and be prepared for rejection. It’s intensely personal, but at the same time you learn to not take it personally.”
She’s now busy with a hit series on CBS, film roles (including a starring role opposite John Cusack in an upcoming Lionsgate film, Reclaim) and lots of exciting projects on the horizon, including this cover shoot to promote Under the Dome’s second season. You might expect her to be a little anxious but the actress is relaxed, fun ... and ready to eat.
A traditional tea is served, including a sumptuous feast of sandwiches, cakes, scones and clotted cream, with glasses of champagne and pots of tea. This is not regular fare for an actress working in Hollywood, but food is certainly a passion for Lefevre, whose boyfriend is chef Chris Crary, a former Top Chef finalist.
The actress picks up a scone and slices it in half, smearing a tantalizing mixture of jam and clotted cream over each piece. “This is a special treat,” she says, nibbling a corner of the scone.
“It’s stressful being in Hollywood and being under that constant pressure to be a certain size,” Lefevre says. “I’d love it if everyone in Hollywood got together and agreed not to conform to these ridiculous standards anymore, but no one’s going to do that. There’s an expectation to look a certain way and that’s part of the job.”
She gestures at the cake stand. “I could do this every day, but then I’d be going up against girls who aren’t eating cake, and you don’t want the only reason you don’t get a job to be because you weren’t thin enough,” Lefevre says. “But then again, I chose a job where how I look matters. I’m a volunteer, not a conscript. No one put a gun to my head and said, ‘Go be an actor and stay a size 2.’
“For me, being extraordinarily thin wouldn’t work unless the role required it. I’m not going to live a life of constant scrutiny and deprivation because there’s too much joy associated with breaking bread with friends. I’m Jewish on my mother’s side and French on my father’s. The French girl in me wants cheese and wine, and the Jewish part of me wants a second helping—I’m fighting biology!”