Photo: Tim Leyes

In modern-day screenwriting; a three-act structure is a format that divides the narrative into three parts; the setup, the confrontation, and the resolution. For those who have not yet heard of Cristina Rosato,35, and star of the new CBC sports drama 21 Thunder, here she is; in two and a half acts of unedited, unrehearsed charisma.

ACT 1
The first act usually introduces and establishes the main character. Cristina grew up in the Nouveau Bordeaux area of Montreal, and later moved to TMR when she was six-years-old. Her father was an electrical engineer, her mother, a CEO.

Like many pre-smartphone era children- she was active as a child, and enjoyed swimming and gymnastics. From the age of six or seven, Christina dreamed of being an actress, despite being shy, as she proclaims. “I remember realizing it when I was watching a movie and realized the actors in the movie get to play many different roles – that’s sort of what opened my mind to realizing you don’t have to pick one career. You can choose something that is diverse and you can always do different things.”

Her first ever role, at eight-years-old, was as the virgin mary in her school play. The acting bug would stay within her throughout her teenage years, but the bug was hibernating- perhaps cocooning and waiting to transform into blossoming beauty. As the bug slept, Christina found herself n a University classroom- studying finance, or something equally mundane. She can’t even fully remember.

All of a sudden, in the middle of the night, Christina awoke in a panic, and asked herself- and as a famous Talking Heads song did years before- How did I get here?

ACT 2
The second act, also known as the rising action, showcases the main character’s attempt to resolve the problem initiated by the first turning point. How did she get into a classroom that will destroy her soul from the boredom of EBITDA.

In order for the main character to deal with their predicament (passionless future, crunching numbers in a cubicle) they must arrive at a higher sense of who they are (passionate artist who bares a resemblance to a young Monica Bellucci). This process is known as character development, or character arc and is usually achieved with the support of a mentor (enter mommy Rosato).

“I remember waking up my mom at three in the morning, and telling her that I needed to quit University, I needed to go to acting school,” she recalls.

“Can we talk about it in the morning,” her mother fired back.

“I was like, No! We’re going to talk about this right now, I have an exam in the morning and I don’t want to do it!”

Her parents supported her right away, on the condition that she did it right.

“If you want to be an actress, you’re going to do it seriously, study theatre, learn the greats, learn all the playwrights- do it for real.” demanded mommy Rosato.

The American Academy of Dramatic arts in Los Angeles- The oldest acting school in the English speaking world, was where Cristina set her sights on. She was accepted, and at 22-years-old, left for LA.

The young Montrealer was studying at one of the most prestigious acting schools in the world. To this day, The Academy’s alumni include legends such as Robert Redford, Danny DeVito, Anne Hathaway, and Jessica Chastain. In the school’s 133-year history, their alumni hold a total of 108 Oscar, 288 Emmy, and 93 Tony nominations.

“I remember realizing it when I was watching a movie and realized the actors in the movie get to play many different roles – that’s sort of what opened my mind to realizing you don’t have to pick one career. You can choose something that is diverse and you can always do different things.”

What was it like for a young 22-year-old to step off the plane in California, all by herself, surrounded only by her dreams. “Absolutely Terrifying! I knew nobody,” she confesses. “It was weird because it’s kind of a cold place.” She remember walking to school every morning, putting on her Discman, and just walking to school. “People would stop on the road and be like are you ok? Do you need a ride?” she recollects. “Ya, I’m just walking to school [laugh] , but they’re not used to it there. It’s weird.”

LA feels like the heart of it so it was exciting for her to be there. At the same time, there is a sad side to Hollywood. “There’s a lot of desperation in the city, and there’s a lot of people that have tried and haven’t made it,” she says. “Because you’re surrounded by it, you see movie starts all the time, and there’s premieres- you’re sort of in it, so you feel like you’re close to it, but you’re not. And there’s something very sad about that – there’s a lot of really sad people. It was exciting, but also really scary.”

Coming from such a traditional Italian family, the lifestyle of it all is what scared her the most. She would often pick the brains of fellow actors. “Are you happy? How is your life… talk to me for real!”

Part of her was always on the fence because she didn’t like that life that you see in the media. “It doesn’t look good to me,” she says. “I love doing it. I want to be successful but none of these people seemed happy to me.”

ACT 3
Studying in LA was bittersweet for Cristina. “Being in theatre school you’re really going trough the shit,” she recalls. “You’re really digging through your emotions- you’re learning how to access different things. They really provoke you.” She was homesick all the time, missing her friends and family.

During her studies, Cristina’s mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Cristina stayed in LA for a bit after finishing her two-year program, and then moved back to Montreal. Her heart was in the city she grew up in. It felt like a bit of a backwards move to her, but there was no question it was the right thing to do.

“It was weird moving back, it’s a bit of a culture shock, when you’re living in LA for a while, you’re surrounded by the industry and then you move back to Montreal and it felt really disconnected.”

Her first big role was in the 2010 horror thriller Territories. It was a rough shoot, often outside in the winter, or in the forest at night . She was on set every day, for about a month and a half.

From there on, things sort of evolved. Her career progressed slowly, but surely. There were months where she would go without anything, as it often happens in showbiz. “I think that when I would look over it over a chunk of time, it was going up [career]. It wasn’t not happening, it wasn’t happening as quickly as I wanted to.”

Three years ago, she started going back to LA, and got a manager in Hollywood. Cristina didn’t feel like Montreal was going to be enough for what she wanted to do. She didn’t love LA, but it was a necessity.

In 2015, she booked a role in the TV drama The Art of More, starring Kate Bosworth and Dennis Quaid. That took career to another level. Her role as Alice in Bad Santa 2 starring Billy Bob Thornton was her breakout role in a major Hollywood picture. She had arrived at the place her seven-year-old self wanted to be.

As her career soared, she felt the need to spend more time in the west coast. Strangely enough, her dream role was waiting for her, back home in Montreal. Just as she received her US work visa, and sold her Montreal home, she received an offer to play a power hungry team owner in the CBC soccer drama 21 Thunder.

“I read the thing and I loved it,” she proclaims.

“It’s Montreal, It’s Soccer, It’s a great role . Let me do this.,” she said as she repacked her freshly unpacked bags and flew back to Montreal.

Growing up in an Italian family, soccer was on the tube all the time. “My dad watches Serie A, so it’s not just World Cup or Euro Cup- it’s all the time. I was a huge soccer fan, not only do I love the sport but I love the sound of the games.”

Cristina’s character, Ana Messina, owns the a soccer team, and is very powerful, and ruthless. “Messina will do anything for the team, for money, for publicity, but is not so good with the bedside manners,” says Cristina. “She doesn’t give a shit!”

How does Cristina stack up to her onscreen counterpart?. “I’m definitely a strong person, but I’m not that person. I’m pretty much more sensitive and empathetic than she is.”

The third and final act features the resolution of the story. It leaves the protagonist and other characters with a new sense of who they really are. Although Cristina seems to have discover who she truly is, the closing act is far from over. We can expect to see a whole lot more Cristina Rosato for years to come.

What exactly does the future hold for her. She is a natural storyteller, and perhaps would one day like to stand behind the camera, as a director, or producer.

Until then, we will have to let this butterfly soar in front of the camera.