I had the pleasure of interviewing Canadian actor Jonathan Torrens!
What inspired you to become an actor?
It’s funny, I don’t really think of myself as an actor but I guess I am. Maybe because most of the shows I’ve done over the years have been hybrids. Mockumentaries, sketch shows, fake reality shows. For some reason I think of actors as being way more serious. Acting found me. I was in high school at St. Pat’s in Halifax when I landed the job on Street Cents, a CBC show about financial awareness for teenagers.
What unique lessons did you learn in PEI or Nova Scotia that have stuck with you throughout your career?
Humility. Canadians are self-deprecating by nature but the further east you travel, the more that becomes evident. Just look at the answer to the question “how are you today?” Most people you ask would answer “great”. People from the East Coast answer with “not too bad”, as if some degree of bad is a given but anything more would just be showing off.
What challenges do Canadian actors face?
Obviously the market is smaller here so overall there are less roles on less stages or tv shows. But that also creates a unique opportunity. This also means the community is smaller and people help each other out in order to get stuff made. Technology helps too. You can shoot a pilot on your iPhone. That wasn’t possible when I started out. I think geography matters so much less these days. There are so many outlets that if something’s good, it’ll find an audience. We saw that with Trailer Park Boys and we’re seeing it now with Baroness Von Sketch, Letterkenny and Schitt’s Creek.
Did you find there was a stigma growing up in Atlantic Canada and wanting to be an actor?
No more than anywhere else. There are even fewer opportunities here but I just see that as a challenge to create my own. One thing is for sure – sitting on the couch complaining about how “people in Toronto get everything” doesn’t help.
What was your favourite project to work on?
Hard to say. As an acting challenge The Joe Schmo Show was incredible. It was a parody of reality shows with one real contestant and everyone else is an actor playing stereotypes. Trailer Park Boys and Mr. D were fun because we were given the freedom to improvise a lot. I did a YTV show a few years ago called Game On and got to work with Samantha Bee. That was a thrill because she’s so smart and so good. The entire cast of Call Me Fitz was so good it really pushed me to try harder and be better. But most recently Letterkenny has brought me tremendous joy. I play a small supporting role but it’s super fun and everyone there is so kind and welcoming.
What character did you most identify with playing?
Honestly there’s a little bit of me in every character I play. Yes, even J-Roc. The thread that connects them is that they are overconfident and underqualified. That’s what I tend to find funny and therefore those are the characters I’m drawn to.
What is your favourite thing about Atlantic Canadian culture?
Authenticity. No one is trying to be something or someone they’re not. And if they are, they’ll hear about it. Nothing worse out here than someone who’s “gettin’ above their raisin’”.
What makes Canadian media and television unique compared to the US or other countries?
Less resources but that can often mean more creativity. As writers we are constantly trying to find clever ways to convey images without bells and whistles. “I know this is supposed to be a Roman coliseum with 2000 extras but what can I do with a Bingo Hall and two actors?”
If you could pick your dream project, what would the show be about?
At this stage my motto is simple: I just want to make good things with good people. I’m thankfully beyond having to take gigs that don’t give me oxygen and I simply won’t put up with jerks. It’s not worth it.
What advice do you have for young actors, producers, or writers who want to break into the film or television industries?