My fiendish floofs,
I am delighted to share with you something very special for part two of my Halloween "Trilogy of Terror". I am sure many of you will have seen the film "Nightbooks" trending on Netflix lately? Well, I just so happen to have had the pleasure of a Q&A with Cleo and her hooman Wendy Gabrek! I have the scoop on Cleo's likes and dislikes, what it's like being a cat on a film set and what it is like being a celebrity!
Wendy, thank you so much for agreeing to take part in the Q&A with us. We are so pleased to be given the opportunity and not only did we thoroughly enjoy the film but we are now big fans of Cleo and her character Lenore!
Please tell us a little about yourself?
Hi there! We are the proud owners of Cleopatra “Cleo” a Blue Seal Point Sphynx and the cat who starred in the recent Netflix film, ‘Nightbooks’. We live in Alliston, Ontario, Canada, about an hour north of Toronto. All together we have a family of five, plus our furry friends. We are: Mom Wendy, Dad Craig, and brothers Brodie, Braedon, and Logan. Other family pets are sister Chihuahua’s Ruby Sue (fawn, 8 lbs.) and Cookie (black, 4 lbs.), and sister cat Angel, a white, blue eyed Persian.
How did you come to have Cleo in your life?
I have always wanted a hairless cat. When the movie Austin Powers came out I was obsessed with ‘Mr. Bigglesworth’, Dr Evil's cat, and that sealed the deal. We looked online, and found a breeder about 20-minutes north of us in Barrie, ON, Canada. We went to visit the family breeders, and spent time in their home meeting their cats. There was a lot of them, and they are very curious creatures – crawling through my sweater and sitting all over me, as I sat on their living room (TV room) floor. We did a bunch of paperwork, gave a deposit, and met the pregnant mommy cat. Then we waited. When Cleo was born the breeders sent updates and pictures. We had third pick of the litter, so we actually didn’t get the cat we initially liked, but on the day we went to pick her up, we were instantly in love. We took a kitty cage – filled with blankets and plush toys – and she sat on my lap in the front seat all the way home. And the rest is history …
What age is Cleo?
Cleo is four years old now, and finally settling into her own big personality. She was NOT an easy kitten. Sphynx cats require a lot of care – baths, nail cleaning, ear cleaning, etc. And to be very honest, they are very smelly cats, especially when they get grunge in their rolls. Also, as a kitten there was a serious litter box issue (smelly cat) but thankfully she’s outgrown that.
Do you have any other pets?
As mentioned above, we do! We love our animals, and I’d have a lot more if we had proper space for them. In particular I’d have a large dog (Border Collie or Doberman – and I also love Greyhounds as well) and a goat! Goats are the greatest. With the five family members, two cats, two dogs, oh, and we have a fish, it’s a lot!
What does Cleo's daily routine consist of?
Cleo sleeps in. She sleeps in bed, with me and my husband and our dogs, under the covers. All of us! She very carefully hops on the bed (the dogs snarl at her) and claws at the blankets near my feet. Eventually she wiggles her way in, and somehow (I need to set up a camera!) gets her head to hang out like a person, with covers pulled up to the shoulders. LOL. Anyway, I get up about 6 a.m. and she’ll wander out around 7. I’ll sit on the couch with my coffee for a few minutes each morning, and she’s curled up on my lap (with the dogs). Ugh. Then she’ll follow me through the house, directing my attention to her food dish – which MUST BE heaping full at all times with dry kibble or she’s not having it. During the day while we’re at work, she sleeps in my son’s bed, but Brodie doesn’t mind – because although he calls her a pest (which she can be for sure, Sphynx cats are more like dogs and very intelligent and therefore trouble makers) – he loves it. When I get home, she greets me at the door with the dogs, wanting pats and praise and love. While I’m making dinner she disappears (napping again, likely) and comes back in the evening when it’s TV time. Usually she’ll cuddle into a favourite blanket she has (which is actually my blanket, but she’s taken it over). Before bed, the dogs go out for a pee and everyone, including Cleo, gets treats. She likes dry crunchy treats, but also scampers over to get one of the dogs’ soft chews too. She knows the word ‘treat’ and comes when called.
What is Cleo's favourite food?
Cleo has never been into people food until recently. Now, if I shred up meat (chicken, tuna, pork) she’ll have a few small bites. She and the dogs surround me in a circle while I’m eating – just staring at me. I have to be honest, they’re horrible beggers. It’s not becoming when there’s company over. When the kids eat, she’ll hop onto the kitchen table for a closer look and a sniff, and usually has to be put back on the floor several times. Terrible! LOL. But otherwise she eats dry kibble. When she was on set for Nightbooks the trainers switched her food to Science Diet, but to be honest, we buy a cheaper brand.
What are Cleo's favourite toys?
Cleo loves catnip! Any soft toy with catnip in it is her jam. Otherwise, she’ll play with the kids – batting paws in the air, and rolling around on the floor – until she gets rough and bites. Then it’s game over.
Cleo's breed is that of a beautiful Sphynx cat. With this particular breed being furless, are there any special requirements for looking after them?
As I’ve mentioned above, having a Sphynx cat is a big deal and it’s a lot of work. They can’t go outside (they have no fur to protect them from sun or cold), you can’t declaw them (because the design of their paws would require you to literally amputate their “fingers” half way up); you have to clean them with soap because they have no “filtration system” of hair, and they get grubby and stinky. They are also NOT hypo-allergenic in any way. Most people think that they are allergic to cat hair, but actually it’s dander from their skin. With no hair they are a cat allergy nightmare – ask my husband Craig, at least once a day (he’s allergic to cats) I hear, “Oh no! I touched the cat and then I touched my eyes.” And sure enough, pink, runny eyes await for him.
How did you find out about the need for a cat role in Netflix' Nightbooks and how did she end up being cast? Is there an audition process for cats?
I was on Facebook one day, and my friend Laura McArthur (who owns Silver Willow Farm Rescue and Sanctuary) had a post up, looking for a “black bald cat”. Laura works with trainers who cast animals for various television and movie roles, and was asking for a friend (Sue Parker). I jumped into the comments and mentioned Cleo – even though she’s not black. She immediately PM’d me and asked for as many pictures as I could send. Then she forwarded them to Sue, who then reached out on her own, asking for more pictures and videos. Sue then came to the house to meet Cleo, and told me she’d get back to me. We found out later that week that she was in the running, but as Cleo is such a difficult cat to find a double for it wasn’t a sure thing. However, Cleo’s mannerisms intrigued Sue, who went to bat for her at Netflix (she liked her, and knew she could train her based on the time she’d spent getting to know her), and she was later selected. They had to make a clay replica of her, and use a stand-in cat (Trixie) for some scenes.
The film has received wonderful reviews and it is a wonderful family friendly spook fest. Cleo has already become iconic with her role and image on the artwork. Did you expect the film to be as big as it has become?
I was shocked at the cult-like following the movie has. It’s wonderful. We watched Cleo’s movie together as a family, while Cleo dozed happily beside us (she missed it!). I knew the movie hit the big-time, when I saw Kysten Ritter’s Instagram post, in which she mentioned Cleo and her Instagram handle @purrfect_cleopatra. The post was a billboard in Times Square, NY, NY, USA. Does it get any bigger than that?
Describe what a typical day on set for Cleo was like?
I wasn’t with Cleo. In fact, she lived at Sue’s house for almost four months. They filmed during the COVID–19 pandemic, so filming was difficult in terms of wearing protective equipment and limiting the people allowed on set. Sue and I did talk everyday though, and she sent me pictures from the set. I was sworn to silence so I couldn’t share them or talk about the film with anyone. It was torture. I’m not even sure if I should be talking to you or your audience now! LOL. Sue took excellent care of her, and she came back leaner, with less hair (she grows “peach-fuzz” in our house because it’s kept so cold because I’m boiling to death all of the time! LOL), and in perfect shape.
Cleo receives a fair share of screen time during the film. Are there any scenes which were difficult to film or required many takes? Were there any scenes filmed with Cleo and not used?
I can refer you on to Sue if you’d like, but from what she told me the first few days on set were difficult for Cleo – a lot of people and movement. Although Cleo doesn’t scare easily (in fact, she’s the total opposite of a “scaredy-cat”) it took her a bit to warm-up. Sue had worked with her for months before her big day on set, so she was click trained and treats were readily available too. The cast loved her from what I hear, and she got a lot of her marks perfectly a lot of the time. In one scene, where she appears in the bedroom, Sue said they got it on one take. A scene that she was afraid of, because she had to keep a safe distance from the actors due to COVID. But Cleo nailed it.
Cleo made a wonderful partner to Krysten Ritter's character in the movie. Did the pair spend much time together on set?
When Sue sent to me the poster picture of her and Krysten together I was star-struck for sure. I’m a big fan of Krysten’s and I’ve followed her career. Seeing them together was fantastic and sometimes, even now, when I pet Cleo I think, “Krysten Ritter has held my cat!” it’s amazing.
What was it like working with Winslow Fegley and Lidya Jewett? I am sure they were delighted to have an animal cast member alongside them?
Again, I must only imagine that they were wonderful. I wish I could have been there, but due to COVID–19 set restrictions I wasn’t able to attend. Sue tells me everyone was wonderful!
There is a lovely photo of Cleo on set with the director, David Yarovesky on his Instagram. It looks like the two became good buddies? Cleo must be a very sociable cat with humans?
Cleo is like a dog. She loves being held, comes when called, and doesn’t scare easily. She likes being tucked under an arm, and carried around the house with her mid-section supported. When people first meet her at my home they’re either terrified (I’ve had one person scream, jump on the couch, and yell, “What is that?”) or they love her and tell me they want to take her home. A lot of people think she looks like an alien – grey body, big eyes.
Is Nightbooks Cleo's first film?
Yes! And I’m hoping it won’t be her last. She is a super star. Although we missed her while she was off filming, it was worth it to see our girl immortalized on the Silver Screen. We are her fan club and understand being in love with a movie star means being patient while our girl is at work.
I understand that in many films, several animals can be used for various scenes. Were there any other cats involved in the making of Nightbooks?
Trixie was a stand in (she got a nod in the credits like Cleo did) and also the clay model of her. I want that clay model! I asked, but it’s not likely to happen.
Without giving too much away to anyone who hasn't yet seen the film, how did you react to the hilarious and unexpected "poop" scene with Winslow? My hoomans and I had a very good laugh at that!
I did a double-take. I was like, “What’s happening here?”, then I realized and nearly died laughing. What a bad kitty! One of my fav Cleo scenes for sure.
We absolutely adore Cleo and her character Lenore. We hope she stars in more films. What plans are there for her in the future?
Cleo is patiently waiting for the offers to roll in, and the phones to ring. We’re open to another role, or roles. I want to quit my day job, and manage her social media fulltime! Just kidding. But seriously we’d be receptive to her working again.
How is Cleo adapting to her new found celebrity status?
She is either completely unaware, or so big of a star now that us “little people” bore her, and she doesn’t have time to acknowledge the fanfare. A true diva.
We hope she has been getting a good rest after all her hard work and enjoying the spotlight! You must be very proud of her? Is there anything you would like to say to her fans and followers?
Thank you so much to everyone who watched and liked the Netflix Nightbooks movie. What a fantastic production, and we’re so proud our girl Cleo was a part of it. A movie you can watch on repeat and always pick-up new things. To the cast and crew and especially Sue, thank you for being so kind to our little lady. To her followers and fans: thank you! She is such a special kitty and so worthy of your love. We feel your good vibes and we’re grateful. Thank you so much!
(Wendy with Cleo as a kitten. Too cute!)
So there you have it! Your boy Nacho got the scoop on the epic Nightbooks character Lenore! Be sure to check it out on Netflix if you haven't already!
As you can see, Cleo is having a well deserved snooze after her busy filming schedule! Be sure to follow her on Instagram @purrfect_cleopatra. I'm gonna take a leaf out of Cleo's book and go for a good snooze myself!
We hope you all enjoyed the Q&A my furrriends!