No matter how tough the mission of the week is for our heroes on Warehouse 13, they know that they always have a safe and comfortable place to come home to in Leena’s Bed and Breakfast. Its proprietor has a long association with the Warehouse, possibly pre-dating its current Special Agent in Change, Artie Nielsen. Leena serves mainly as a researcher as well as archivist and is privy to a number of Warehouse-related secrets, some of which even Artie is unaware of. She first appears in the show’s pilot episode, and the actress who plays her, Genelle Williams, remembers auditioning for the role as if it were yesterday.
“I actually missed my first audition because I was having my tonsils out that week, so I couldn’t exactly speak,” recalls Williams. “I was really disappointed, especially because it was one of the first auditions where I wouldn’t be playing a teenager. Prior to that I’d done a lot of children’s shows for the Family Channel and similar networks, so I was really looking forward to it.
“Thankfully, they [the Warehouse 13 producers] hadn’t cast the Leena role yet, and I believe it was a week-and-a-half or two weeks later that they called me in and I auditioned for Jace Alexander [director and co-executive producer for the pilot]. We did the scene once and then spent the next 35 minutes or so just taking about anything and everything, including the fact that Canadians say ‘sorry’ too much, because I kept saying, ‘sorry,’” she jokes. “It was a very interesting audition to say the least, and I was lucky enough to get the part.
Warehouse 13 cast (L-R): Allison Scagliotti (as Claudia Donovan), Saul Rubinek (as Artie Nielsen), Joanne Kelley (as Myka Bering), Genelle Williams (as Leena) and Eddie McClintock (as Pete Lattimer). Photo copyright of Syfy.
“As far as shooting the pilot, what sticks out most in my mind is probably the day that I first met Saul Rubinek [Artie Nielsen]. We were on-location in Hamilton, Ontario, because whenever we do exterior shots of Leena’s B&B it’s actually at this gorgeous estate in the hills of Hamilton. Saul was there and it’s difficult for me to explain, but he was like this 'Godfather-type' figure to me. He was super-cool and made me feel so at ease. It was one of my first days on-set, and I guess I was a little bit nervous. It was extremely hot as well, and we had the network executives there along with several other people, and Saul just talked me through the whole thing. He made my entire day that much easier and smoother and I’ll never forget that.”
Like her Warehouse colleagues, Leena possesses a skill that makes her contribution to the job even that much more important than it already is. She has the ability to read peoples’ auras and a person’s life force. That aspect of the character, or how to express it, was one that initially proved slightly daunting for Williams.
“It was really hard, I guess, for all of us, because we didn’t know how much we’d be playing into this whole aura/psychic thing,” explains the actress. “In the beginning it was kind of up in the air and I think that’s what I was most nervous about. How do you play a psychic? I wanted to find a natural way to do it, because psychics can sometimes get stuck in this weird dimension or slot, do you know what I mean? I wasn’t too keen on that, so I was pleased that [executive producer/show runner] Jack Kenny decided it would be more of an aura/energy reading thing, which I personally enjoy and feel is a little more interesting. You also don’t have to worry about things like, ‘Leena knows everything, so how come she doesn’t know about this?’
“My character is a very calming presence amongst everyone else, and while Leena appears to be one of the younger characters, she tends to act sort of motherly towards the others, which is neat. Something else that’s tricky about playing Leena is that we don’t know a great deal about her, and it’s been that way pretty much season after season. So I’ve had to make up stuff in my head about who Leena is, where she comes from, how she came to be at the Warehouse and what she does there. She’s kind of a mythical person, not the same but almost in the same essence if you will as CCH Pounder’s character [Mrs. Frederic]. Leena is just there, and people accept that.”
Although most of her contributions to the team’s various missions take place at the Warehouse, it does not mean that Leena has not had her fair share of adventures while sticking close to home. “My character has grown quite a lot during the past four seasons, as has her involvement within the Warehouse,” says Williams. “As an actor, once you get into the swing of things, the writers begin writing more the way you would act and react in a particular situation, which not only makes the work more challenging, but also more enjoyable and exciting.
“I loved at the end of season one and the start of season two when MacPherson [Roger Rees] takes control of Leena’s mind and involves her in a scheme to steal Artifacts from the Warehouse. I also enjoyed the scenes I had a bit later on in the second season when Mrs. Frederic uses the Pearl of Wisdom and is choking my character. I absolutely adore CC and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with her a couple of times, so it was nice for us to have those scenes together. I had fun, too, getting choked,” says the actress with a laugh. “I never really get to do neat stuff like that.
"So again, Leena has grown a lot. She’s helped out quite a bit and become more involved with the team, which I’m thrilled about. As an actor, you want to work as much as you possibly can and be as involved in the storytelling as much as possible. That to me hasn’t been so much a challenge, but more a case of, yeah, bring it on.”
Along with her own growth, Leena’s relationships with the other characters on the show have also further developed and strengthened throughout Warehouse 13’s four seasons. “From the very beginning she’s always had a close relationship with Artie, and this [fourth] season, especially towards the end of the first half, you see how deep that connection truly is,” notes Williams.
“I find that similar with everyone else, other than Claudia [Allison Scagliotti]. Leena is still very motherly towards Claudia, but they’ve had their ups and downs because of the whole MacPherson situation. Those feelings linger, but not dramatically or in any way that’s pronounced, but they’re always there. With Myka [Joanne Kelly], there is a maternal aspect to their relationship as well, but she and Leena tend to be more like friends. As for Pete, in the show’s pilot, the writers wanted to play up an attraction between him and Leena, but that quickly ended. The two of them have become more like brother and sister, with Leena being the older sister and Pete definitely the younger brother,” teases the actress.
Warehouse 13's cast shot from one of its Christmas-themed episodes. (L-R back row): CCH Pounder (as Mrs. Frederic), Eddie McClintock (as Pete Lattimer), Joanne Kelly (as Myka Bering), Genelle Williams (as Leena) and Saul Rubinek (as Artie Nielsen). (Front row): Allison Scagliotti (as Claudia Donovan). Photo copyright of Syfy.
Prior to Warehouse 13, the actress played regular or recurring roles on Radio Free Roscoe, Degrassi: The Next Generation, The Line, Lovebites and The Latest Buzz. She also guest-starred on such TV series as Wild Card, Sue Thomas : F.B.Eye, Flashpoint and The Listener as well as appeared in several made-for-TV movies. Williams’ feature film credits include It’s a Boy Girl Thing, The Incredible Hulk and Orphan. Not long ago, the actress guest-starred in Table for Fae, an episode of the hit Canadian supernatural drama series Lost Girl.
“That was a lot of fun,” she enthuses. “A friend of mine is a regular on the series, and although I didn’t get any scenes with him, it was still neat to be guest-starring on a show that he’s working on. The director of this particular episode, David Greene, also happens to be the DOP [director of photography] on Lost Girl, and I find that whenever a DOP is directing, they’re so passionate about the work and know exactly what they want and don’t want. The actress [Lyndie Greenwood] who played my sister had worked before with my brother, too. So it was just a great experience overall, and it felt good to play another character as I hadn’t done anything else aside from Warehouse 13 for a while.”
Although she modeled and acted when she was a child, Williams’ true passion was sports, especially basketball and baseball. That was the career path she had her eye on all the way through to her final year of high school. “I planned be a physiotherapist,” says the actress. “I’d get to watch sports all day and help athletes. How perfect would that be? However, when I was a senior in high school, my drama teacher asked me to be in a musical. There was a teacher in the audience who also happened to be a part-time actress, and after the show, she asked me if I’d ever thought about giving acting a try because she thought I was really good.
“Two days later I went to see an agent who she had recommended and he’s been my agent ever since. I’ve been acting professionally for about eight years and it’s been amazing. I have no complaints whatsoever. I really enjoy the work and I love when people enjoy what I do and actually take something from it away with them. Of course, not every part can do that, but the ones that do, I truly appreciate.”
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