Most Hollywood actresses begin their careers with the goal of getting as much screen time as possible and learn the physicalities of their craft along the way, but for Canadian actress Katheryn Winnick, who’s played some of the toughest women to grace our television screens, it happened the other way around.
Winnick, 43, holds a third-degree black belt in Taekwondo and a second-degree black belt in karate. At 16, she started her own martial arts school in Toronto teaching self-defense to women and children, an accomplishment the Big Sky actress credits to her entrepreneurial parents. “I saw that drive from my father, and was able to start a school at 16 and had three schools by the time I was 21, but even before that, when I was much younger, I would put on Christmas plays around the house and charge people admission—it was just crazy. I’ve always had a business mind, and I’m grateful for it.”
That business mind has parlayed her into a whole new realm of Hollywood’s elite. Not only has she worked for some of the most notable filmmakers in the business—including Vikings showrunner Michael Hirst, Big Sky’s David E. Kelly, and Sean Penn, who she stars alongside in Flag Day—but she’s also taking on the role of producer, which she says gives her a say in creating projects for strong, intelligent, dynamic women, much like herself. “I’m drawn to strong content, especially strong female characters,” she explains. “I’m developing five or six different projects, and I am also very excited to continue my directing career and directing Big Sky as well.”
Photography by John Russo at The SHAY, Culver City
Dress: Maria Lucia Hohan; Earrings: Graziela Gems; Ring: Melinda Maria
With a balance of Old Hollywood beauty and the brawn of an action star, Winnick’s fans often refer to her as “the perfect woman.” Her followers are so loyal, some of them have even committed to permanently tattooing her fierce Vikings shield maiden character on their bodies. “It’s the biggest compliment in the world, obviously, if they’re tattooing your face on their bodies. They’re stuck with me for life,” she says with a laugh. “It can be a little strange when you meet them in person, and you see their back or their arm or their leg and it’s your face. I was just lucky enough to work with and develop a character that people respond to and are inspired by. Most people in their lives …….