Saturday, August 24, 2013

Submitted from Twitter: Canadians on American Television...

Earlier this week, as I was rewriting my original television pilot The It Couple for the short-form web format, it dawned on me that the two biggest and most passionate ideas I've had for television shows have not really been my stories to tell. I wasn't stealing them, but I was certainly re-imagining them from things that happened to friends of mine. And that kind of halted me in my tracks. Maybe there's a reason nothing has ever come of them: I didn't exactly ask these people for their blessings in sharing their stories (even if I changed enough about them for my own loglines and arcs). So it really made me rethink a lot of things. And that sank me into a writer's block of sorts in general, suddenly zapping my creativity. In order to combat that, I took to Twitter, not to waste time clicking on random BuzzFeed lists or looking at celebrity Instagrams, but for renewed inspiration. I asked my followers to throw some topics at me-- anything, everything, whatever came to mind, improv style. I said I would write about whatever was pitched my way to exercise my muscles. 
 
As I'm sure you've already noticed, these are stream of conscious. And so I present to you the next in the series, from 's submission, "Canadians on American Television!"
 
Do you guys remember when Joey took Rachel to the set of Days of our Lives on Friends, and she met his co-star Kash, who she pointed out (to his face) that she knew his favorite flavor of ice cream and that his dog's name was Wally? When that episode first aired in 2001, I scoffed pretty hard at her "facts." Sure, 2001 was well after Google had been founded, so information was much easier to come by, but mostly, I just felt that if you really wanted to bond with someone you had to know more about them than something anyone they encountered in their neighborhood park would overhear. And yes, I still stand by this, even knowing first-hand just how creepy it can be to have someone know information about you that you didn't share with them. The trick is not spilling it out in a "look what I know!" list, especially the first time you meet them, but finding ways to gradually and organically work the topics into conversation. But I digress, because this is not a stalker's guide.

Knowing your favorite actor's pet's name or favorite food or where they were born was commonplace for those of us who grew up in the '80s or '90s with subscriptions to Bop and Tiger Beat and Teen. Those sophomoric questionnaires filled pages of those magazines, to the point where you kind of couldn't avoid the information even if you just wanted to rip out the pin-ups and paste them on your locker or your ceiling. It personally became a point of pride for me to devour every article on my personal favorites to know everything I could, but that still only encompassed a select group and kind of actor (or musician, if you were into that sort of thing, too). Those who aged out of the glossy Teen Beat or Big Bopper-- or who crossed my radar years after I fell out of that phase-- managed to escape my freakish memory for useless trivia often with even the most basic fact unknown: where they are from.

After my tween magazine phase-- and my soap opera magazine phase, but that's a whole other can of worms-- I went through a time in adolescence when I wished I had been born in Canada. I wanted the free healthcare without even realizing just what a burden it was to shell out a hundred and some odd dollars a month when you were unemployed, just "in case" something happened to you, and I really wanted to avoid the post-9/11 politics that seemed to require me (then still living in New York) to be all rah-rah America and encouraging when friends or family would sign up for war. Now, all these years later after that phase, too (although if I met a nice Canadian man who was willing to marry me for citizenship I wouldn't turn my nose up at it-- snow and all!), I get quite the kick out of learning a new actor I've just noticed is actually Canadian. It's like discovering a unicorn. 
 
Seriously, look at Tatiana Maslany. That kind of raw and all-encompassing talent will not be found again for a long, long time.

Now, I'm fully aware that many Canadian actors have long and successful careers on specifically Canadian programming before they come to Hollywood or get cast in something more mainstream. Degrassi has certainly taken credit for many of them. But Hollywood is such a notoriously hard place to begin with: you have to not be the most talented or the best looking but some weird combination of talent, looks, and politics-- not to mention with impeccable timing. You can (and I have, just not as an actor) work for years in this industry without ever really making any strides. I should say that it really should be about the job going to the best person for it and blah blah blah but I can't deny I'll always root for the underdog, and so seeing someone swoop down from up north and crack the door wide open for themselves always puts an extra big smile on my face.

More than that, though, the Canadian actors I have had the pleasure of meeting, interviewing, or otherwise working with have been some of the most genuinely nice people in this business, in this town, and dare I say in this country. So many come to Hollywood as the top whatever from their small hometown, used to being the big fish and assuming things will fall in line just the same here. Even more have heard nothing but praise and blown smoke for years, so they, too, have an odd sense of entitlement. And even the ones who just want to put their heads down and work can burn out or become jaded super quickly. But for whatever reason, at least in my experience, Canadian actors can keep it all in stride. That isn't to say they, too, don't burn out, but they seem to appreciate the chances they have been given more, and they probably know that if they don't shoot to Brad Pitt level stardom here they always have a warm and loving home to return to in a place that will applaud them for going for their dreams anyway. They come from a hearty stock, those Canadians. Just consider Taylor Kitsch or Stephen Amell.

 

1 comment:

Hannah said...

Heh, I come at this obsession from the other side of the border -- I'm always trying to identify my fellow country(wo)men. We sure do have some good ones, although my great, eternal, burning wish is that someone will someday find out that Matt Damon is actually Canadian.