For as long as I can remember,
I had a desire to entertain. I would dress up as cops and pirates and old women with sciatica. It didn’t really matter, so long as someone was intrigued – laughing; crying; shocked, even! I blame it on Jim Carrey and John Candy and Robin Williams.
But this desire to entertain didn’t quite parlay itself into a career until much later. I come from a small town called Bradford in Ontario, Canada. When I was growing up I never really had an opportunity or an impetuous to become an actor, because at that time, Bradford didn’t have much of a ‘community theatre’ and my grade 9 drama teacher tragically passed away one winter (he was very well loved). This squelched any spark of becoming an artist. It pushed me further from what eventually became a career in the arts, and placed me in science class. A lot of them. Thankfully I had a couple of great teachers whom, after enough nagging, would allow me to make videos and skits instead of written projects – even if they were on schizophrenia, eating disorders or insomnia.
When I graduated, I asked my mom if I could audition for one theatre school among the other ‘science’y schools’. I thought, if I got in; if I somehow made it through the grueling process of auditioning in front of strangers and my competition, it would be a sign that I should become an actor. She obviously said yes!
We left the house at 6am and made it to my 12pm audition at the University of Windsor… in Windsor. By some stroke of luck, or juju, or crystal power, or blessing, I made it. I was accepted to the Bachelor of Fine Arts Acting program – “good bye” career as a science-loving-cardigan-wearer! (Note: I do wear cardigans and have nothing against them) – I’m gonna’ be an actor! That is, until I hated it. It wasn’t the school or what we were learning, though I was craving a little less Shakespeare, it was the cattiness; the competition; the backstabbing; the amalgamation of 12 hormone-raging budding actors. It was brutal and I was out. I left and went back to the only thing I ever knew: Science. I picked up mid-semester at York U in Toronto and started to study Psychology and Neuroscience – a small leap for someone reading Barefoot In The Park.
After years of avoiding the proverbial ‘acting bug’, I caught the disease again.
On a depressingly cold November day, I thought “Why not get an agent, while I’m in a city that has agents?” So I did just that. Slowly but surely, I began picking up small roles (I even got fired from a big one), taking weekend workshops – learning about the business of acting while learning how to act. But it wasn’t easy (still isn’t). Far from it. It was brutally hard – to the ego, the wallet, you name it!
Then, miraculously, I booked a supporting role in a feature film shooting in… Windsor. Oh f*** right off! That place again?! Luckily my dark memories weren’t enough to keep me from doing the job, and boy, am I ever glad about that! It was on that set, where I would meet the man who would forever change my perspective on acting: Tom Cavanagh. He was funny and insightful and talented and a leading man – everything I wanted to become. After wrapping the film, we remained in touch. We even hung out in New York and Vancouver. He became my mentor. When I was down, when I considered quitting, Tom seemed to know what to say to bring me back. I often retell this anecdote to young actors who are tenuous and want to leave the industry. (And I’m probably paraphrasing because it has been a while) Tom: “If you have any other doors open [a backup plan], if you aren’t completely facing forward when you walk, you can’t possibly know where you’re going. Stop looking over your shoulder and head forward.” And just like that, my perspective changed. I was no longer the jilted and jaded wannabe who hated his peers because they were doing better than him. Everything became clear: Work hard. Be fearless. Carve your own path. Have confidence. I remind myself of that, almost every day. Tom and I have since lost touch, but I will never forget the impact he has had on my career… especially because I wrote it here.
Today, I have a career in acting, writing and producing and I couldn’t be happier. There is still so much to learn and so much to achieve and with that, there are a lot of unknowns.
But I can tell you this much, for sure: I will not forget why I started this whole thing in the first place. To entertain.