THE PAIN OF LOSS AND THE SPARK OF LIFE.
I believe in life after death.
I’m not saying I believe in ghosts or spirits, or heaven or hell, or boating trips up the river Styx. What I mean is that I believe there are people who aren’t destroyed by the passing of a loved one. I believe that for some people pain and despair are turned into a drive and strength that can bolster and refocus a person. I believe that JaNae Armogan is one of those people.
I interviewed JaNae four years ago for a photo essay. At the time she was in Toronto, Ontario, an aspiring actress with an LA dream. I’ve known her as a funny, kind, and generous person. However, four years ago when I asked her what her biggest flaw was, she replied, “I think I hold on to too much sometimes. I don’t really forgive and forget. I remember if someone does wrong by me and it stays with me.”
That’s no longer the case. As much as she’s the same woman, there’s a palpable change in her that can be felt over the phone. Her energy just seems more at ease; it’s like listening to someone motivated by the positive things in life. She spoke to me from Los Angeles, California.
Mike: “Who do you go to for motivation?”
JaNae: “Usually my mom, sometimes my sister. But my mom is my number one go-to. She’s always been my motivator, my inspiration. Her and my dad.”
JaNae: “Sometimes I go and see my dad. I’ll talk to him about stuff, visit his gravesite. In certain ways, I feel like he’s still with us, whether it’s the wind, the energy, or the way I feel.”
Mike: “I didn’t know that.”
JaNae: “Yeah. My parents are definitely the first people I go to, to talk about my life or my career. I can trust them 100% without them having any intention other than my happiness and success.”
Mike: “Are there people who aren’t rooting for your success?”
JaNae: “It’s interesting, I’ve learned that not everyone is genuinely happy for other people’s success. I’ll probably go on a bit of a tangent but, people also get really mad about things they can’t control, or that they think are the end of the world. I try to keep my energy positive. I don’t want to waste time being mad at things or people that I have no control over. Life is too short for that.”
Mike: “Was that something that you had to learn?”
JaNae: “That came after the passing of my dad. When my dad died, my eyes opened up to a different light, one that shines on a life too short for anger.”
She shares that one of her favourite moments came at her first red carpet premiere for the movie ‘Sleeping Dogs Lie’.
JaNae: “I have a great relationship with my father. But, like most parents, he was keen on me having a “real” job. I wanted to prove to him that this is something I’m talented at and that I have a passion for. That night when he saw me in the theatre, on the screen, he was so impressed and proud. To convince him that what I was doing was good enough was huge.”
JaNae: “For him to come to me and say, ‘Okay JaNae, sh*t, you’re good. If this is what you want to do, I will support you.’.
Mike: (Haha) “Nice. I find it interesting and heartwarming that you go between present tense and past tense when you speak about your father.”
Mike: “And you use the present tense a lot, is that something that you do specifically or something that you, your mom and your sister do?”
JaNae: “I think we all do it… I’ve never really paid attention to that, to be honest with you. But he’s here, he’s always with me. So I don’t really like to talk about him like he’s gone because he’s not. He may not be here physically, but he’s always with us.”
We continue discussing some of her favourite projects to date.
JaNae: “Most recently The Good Witch, I really like that cast and crew. I also loved doing ‘King’. That was a bit close to home though because it was about me being kidnapped, held for ransom, and if it wasn’t paid I’d never see my father again. In reality, that was the first year without my father… It was really hard to be tied to a chair... and have someone saying to me you’re never going to see your father again...”
Mike: “It pulled at real emotional strings.”
Her pace slows as she battles a flood of emotions and explains.
JaNae: “It did. I literally lost myself in the moment. I thought, if my father gives them this money, I will see him again. Knowing that my actual father is in heaven and I won’t see him again… the thought becomes, how far would I go to have that one chance to see him again?”
JaNae: “In my weakest time, when the worst thing that could happen did happen, I was able to stand on my two feet and walk. Not crawl, walk. To get back in front of a camera and do that scene was big for me.”
Mike: “That’s interesting, so you were able to take something from that performance.”
JaNae: “It’s funny, I don’t think I took from that one. I gave to that one. Because I would have given anything to see my father again.”
As our conversation was getting heavy, we switched gears and talked about life in LA, the hustle of acting in America, her next potential role in The Good Witch, and everything under the sun. I’ve known JaNae for a while and understand the love the Armogan family have for each other. It is a love that runs deep. So deep that it could have easily become an abyss of despair. I don’t know the experience of losing a parent. I imagine it’s unfathomable, to say the least. However, I know that even with such a tragedy there is life after death and that death can sometimes reframe and refocus life. I know this because JaNae is in the golden state, making decisions about work in Toronto or work in Los Angeles. She lives with more positive urgency than ever before, and her drive continues to make her parents proud.
Mike: I think that’s it. Is there anything else you want to share or say?
JaNae: No, I think you got it all. You made me laugh, you made me cry, you made me get serious. It’s been an exhausting and wonderful conversation. (Haha)
(All images used with the permission of JaNae Armogan)