Since heading to Los Angeles two years ago to revitalize her showbiz career, Thea Gill has discovered death becomes her.
The Vancouver-born actress has played dead twice since then -- in a Hallmark movie and an episode of The Ghost Whisperer.
"It's an acting challenge in itself -- a master class in stillness," said Gill as she recalled filming Among Friends, the murder mystery that recently brought her back to Victoria, the home base she shares with her husband, theatre director Brian Richmond.
Gill, 39, plays the beautiful former roommate of an art authenticator (Gabrielle Anwar). Her character ends up dead at White Swan Bed and Breakfast (Esquimalt's English Inn), where several college gal pals have reunited for a bridal shower.
"You can approach being dead in so many different ways," Gill said. "You can just lie there and try not to breathe, or be metaphysical about it and prepare for that moment."
The actress best known for her role as Lindsay Peterson, the sexy lesbian mom in Showtime's Queer as Folk, says she did both. She also found herself returning to Meryl Streep's classic death scene in the Depression-era drama Ironweed.
"I'll never forget that moment where she passes, so I kind of channelled that scene."
Shooting Among Friends at the English Inn was both rewarding and eerie, Gill said.
"There are stories about it being haunted," she said. "We had to block off some sections of rooms because we were warned there might be bad energy there."
In The Ghost Whisperer, Gill appeared opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt and Chad Lowe as woman whose spirit comes back to urge her husband to clean up his act.
The actress will be back in the land of the living on Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at the McPherson Playhouse. She'll play Mary Bailey opposite Jacob Richmond, Janet Wright and Scott Walker in an old-style radio reading of It's a Wonderful Life, Blue Bridge Theatre's festive fundraiser.
Coincidentally, she'll be bringing along a relative of director Frank Capra -- Gina Glass, her partner in Wonky Girl Productions. Indeed, the title of the Capra classic could describe Gill's fortunes in L.A.
"It was a good move. It's been a real liftoff year for me," said the actress, whose recent shoots include a Lifetime movie, The Boy She Met Online, and The Putt, Putt Syndrome, Allen Cognata's darkly comedic exploration of stagnating relationships.
She'll also soon be seen in SyFy Channel's miniseries Riverworld, and Australian filmmaker Frank Howson's Remembering Nigel, with Martin Landau, John Savage and Sally Kirkland. That film gave Gill, a gifted chanteuse, the chance to team up with record producer Damizza Young to record a new version of Willie Nelson's Crazy.
"It's taken a while to get adjusted to L.A. but I've met so many like-minded creative friends and partners," said Gill. "Hordes of people come here to pursue their dreams so if you're not well-protected you can easily spiral into a state of despair, loneliness and even abuse."
Gill, who dyed her hair blond and pursued a more natural look before landing in L.A., said she views Hollywood as an ideal place to experiment and reinvent herself. She has learned that there's no shame in exploiting your natural assets if they can help promote your individuality.
"We're not entrapped by our physicality," she said. "So let's celebrate the best of our bits. It's so difficult as women to accentuate the positive and forget the negative."
One of her most fulfilling experiences, she said, was deciding to start singing again. "I'm loving my voice again," said Gill, who took lessons from vocal coach David Coury of American Idol fame, and plans to release a CD.
"I was hesitant at first, because it can be overwhelming. Songs are an immediate emotional trigger and when I was more vulnerable it was scary. Now I'm turning those songs into getting a tap on myself."
Meanwhile, she's joining the ranks of Andie McDowell and Halle Berry in her new role as the face for a cosmetics company. She just completed her first photo shoot for the DMK line of skin-care products.
"It's nice being able to shoot for a cosmetics line, and also understand the value of it," Gill said. "It's to celebrate your outward appearance, but in a way that's very empowering to women."