Tag Archives: Canadian actors

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CANADA’S ELDER STATESMAN OF TV & FILM, ART HINDLE, DELIVERS GREAT PERFORMANCES WITH MULTIPLE PROJECTS COMING TO OUR SCREENS NEXT YEAR.

When I first arrived in Canada in 1974, one of the first Canadian films I ever saw was Black Christmas, a slasher/horror picture I was taken to on a first date! There was never a second date for that guy…LOL. It was scary and wild, and was filmed in a house that apparently was not far from where I actually lived in Toronto. But it did feature a very handsome young man for whom I developed a mad crush that has lasted decades – his name is ART HINDLE.art-hindle_min225Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, I would see Art appearing on the some of the most popular tv series of all time such as Dallas (he had a nice multi-episode story arc), Baretta, Barnaby Jones, Cannon, Starsky & Hutch, McGyver, Murder She Wrote, even Law & Order which was just starting off. Then came E.N.G. in 1989 which ran until ’94 – by then Art had become a major heart-throb with a resume that included feature films as well as TV. Over the past several years, I’ve run into Art many times at the Toronto Int’l Film Fest (TIFF) or ACTRA soirees, even photographing him and his beautiful wife, Brooke, on red carpets and at industry schmooze fests.Art & Brook20150915_1912091-300x251I recently caught up with the Canadian film & TV icon and asked him to share his thoughts on an actor’s life in the time of Covid, his long & successful career, and advice for those wanting to craft a career as impressive as his…..

As a working actor, how are you coping with Covid and the restrictions governing film or TV productions?   I’m using the lockdown as an opportunity to catch up on my reading…including some scripts that have been piling up. I’m also keeping my “instrument” tuned with some online ZOOM acting workshops – a group of us do scenes, usually 2-handers or monologues, every Monday evening. And I’m also Facetiming with all 8 of our children & grandchildren which takes up a lot of our time. I’ve managed to work on a couple of films & a TV series which has been very tricky for this old dog! Yes, I’ve had to learn a few new tricks – it’s a challenge to concentrate on the acting & practice both social distancing & masks on/masks off protocols.  The TV series involved travelling to Newfoundland and that was stressful, both flying and totally isolating in the hotel for days at a time!

Did you have any projects cancelled due to the pandemic? I know you have several projects completed or in post-production – do you foresee 2021 as being the year of Art Hindle with everything that was postponed this year coming to the screen all at once?  Yes, I have a couple of TV movies, a feature film in Montreal and the 2nd season of a TV series coming up. Hopefully the new year will bring the Industry back to normal (although, sadly, I doubt it) but we will all have to do our part, unlike what’s been going on in the general population this year!The Brood  1979Going back to the beginning, you were part of the 1974 iconic Canadian horror film, Black Christmas, one of the first big slasher movies to thrill audiences. What memories do you have of that experience and did you think it would become such a cult hit?  To be honest, it was just another job for this actor with 4 children who desperately needed work all the time which, in Toronto & Canada in the early 70’s, was little to none. In fact, while working with Margot Kidder she found out how little work there was here and told me if I moved to LA I would work all the time. It was then that I decided to do something I had been resisting so for the next few months I gathered as much cash as I could (i.e. selling my vintage Porsche), driving a cab 24/7 and even doing some modelling which I had done when I was starting out in ’68, then in November ’74, my girlfriend & I drove to LA in a delivery car. As for your question about a “cult hit” or cult film, I don’t think the term had been invented at that time, and besides, no one makes a movie thinking it’s a cult film – every day you’re just trying to complete it before they take your money away!Black Xmas Black ChristmasThroughout the 70’s and 80’s, you guest starred on so many big tv series including Cannon, Law & Order, Barretta, Barnaby Jones, Dallas, MacGyver (the original), Murder She Wrote (twice), and LA Law to name just a few before scoring your own tv series here in Canada, E.N.G. – what did you learn from these experiences working with legends like Buddy Ebsen, Robert Blake and Angela Lansbury?  I guess I first learned how to make people happy working on a series – unhappy actors & crews rarely make successful series. I also learned confidence, realizing I was at least as good as most of them; it was refreshing, as well, to be respected – actors rarely were in Canada.  I also worked with some great directors and almost from the beginning that was something that I wanted to do. So it was like being at school; in fact, when I was doing a series called Kingston Confidential at Universal Studios I nicknamed it “University Studios”.  I would poke my head into the various departments – editing, casting, set design, etc. – and asked questions. It paid off when we did E.N.G. (below) – I made sure the cast & crew were very happy & I got a chance to direct some of the episodes.20201223_194527 (2)E.N.G. lasted from 1989 to 1994 and established you as a leading man and you then went on to do other multiple season series such as North of 60, Tom Stone, Paradise Falls and Dot. – did you enjoy the steady long-term work or were you itching to tackle more film roles?  Actually, in between roles on TV I was always working in film. I seemed to gravitate to low budget projects; I did so many, some people pegged me King of the Indies…I didn’t mind. I like to work hard and fast… something you have to do on low budget projects, but if you pull something good off, it’s very satisfying!Return to ParadiseIn recent years, you’ve appeared in popular series such as The Good Witch (a personal favourite of mine) and other more gentle (non horror/slasher…LOL) TV movies – what sort of characters do you look for as far as new challenges or is it strictly based on quality of script?   To tell you the truth, I’ve never been a fan of the horror genre. I never go to the theatre for that and I’ve reached the point in my career…well let’s put it this way, the 4 stages of an actor’s career are: Who’s Art Hindle?  Get me Art Hindle!! Get me a younger Art Hindle!  and finally: Who’s Art Hindle??  Most of the casting directors who knew me, liked me and called me are now retired or dead. A few are still around and a couple of the young ones think I’m swell (!) …so at my age you take what you’re offered and I get offered enough that I can turn down projects I’m not interested in. Like a film I recently did called Robbery (I’m very proud of this one and it’s streaming everywhere!)  I look for stories that connect the young with the old and where, by the end, both have learned something and it’s changed them. 2018Your son, Zeke, was a child actor when you lived in L.A. and he’s now become a successful director & producer – I can only assume you are a real proud poppa.  Did you ever try to deter him from a not-so-secure life in showbiz?  I never ever pushed him in that direction. As a child he only did a couple of things so when he suddenly leapt into the abyss of acting, I had mixed emotions. But he seems to have inherited my gene of working hard and playing hard and caring deeply about the work and the people you’re with. I have to say, Zeke (pictured below) is much more the renaissance man than I was or could ever hope to be! He writes, produces, sometimes directs and stars in everything he shoots – I never had that much drive. He’s also studying on the side to get a Law Degree! What an amazing man…Zeke (2)Moving forward, do you and your wife, Brooke, plan any special getaways in 2021 to make-up for Covid’s travel ban this year, or do you have projects that will keep you close to home in Toronto?  We have a new grandchild with our son who is a professional polo player living in Florida, so when the coast is clear, that will be our 1st destination. Also, we will head to Southern California to visit with Zeke & his beautiful wife and a daughter and her wonderful family. Other than that, we rarely travel – we have a great home with a forest attached…a bit of Paradise., in fact.

Any advice for young actors looking to carve out a long-term career such as yours?  Well, I guess I’d tell them it’s a marathon not a sprint. In fact, about a year after Zeke declared he was in da Biz, he had flown me down to LA to be in his first feature film, (Happenstance, streaming everywhere) playing his character in the future. He told me he was worried that he wasn’t getting anywhere; I thought he was stacking his career up against mine so I told him that after a year or two in the business, I had done a couple of commercials and no one was close to calling me an actor or beating down my door. If you look at my IMDb page, you’ll see only about 6 credits in the first 6 years, then maybe more than double that in the next 6.  Finally, I’d tell actors starting out, do as much acting as you can – short films, workshops, readings with other actors like you…I’m not a big fan of expensive headshots (spend $200 max) or expensive acting schools – there are some good books on acting, probably at the library. If you get the chance to be on a set, do it…learn to be observant and learn to listen…listening is the key to acting, in my humble opinion.  And as my wife Brooke advises, do some background/extra work to get used to on-set etiquette and experience the stresses of making movies.1131060ef6438cf3de64b6e968bc72e7--canada-eh-ageless-beautyThank you for those insights, Art.  I know there are lots of young actors who admire you and your work out there feeling a little lost right now so hopefully your advice and assurances will stand them in good stead.  Check out Art’s IMDb page for a full list of his work and if you see any of his films on your tv listings, check ’em out and see what a terrific actor we can claim as our own!696934328420

Russell Yuen_167 (2)

MEET RUSSELL YUEN, ONE OF CANADA’S MOST IN-DEMAND ACTORS!

RUSSELL YUEN has got to be one of the busiest character actors in Canada I know – it seems like he’s on my tv screen nearly every day in some series or film. The charismatic Yuen splits his time between Toronto and Montreal and during the Covid pandemic, has been busy working from home auditioning online for international film and television projects (how difficult is that?), recording voice-overs, as well as coaching other actors.

When he first started acting, Russell applied his early training in Shaolin martial arts skills to roles as Asian gangsters and fighters which he then parlayed into more substantial roles. His “big break” came in the award-winning Canadian film The Red Violin followed by roles in Bulletproof Monk directed by John Woo, Phillip Noyce’s The Bone Collector opposite Denzel Washington, and Pluto Nash opposite comedy legend Eddie Murphy. Fluent in English & French, Yuen is popular with Quebec audiences starring in numerous Quebec feature films and tv series. He has established an on-set reputation for professionalism and good humour which probably accounts for his becoming one of the most popular go-to actors in Canada. I was thrilled watching him in last year’s mini-series 5000 Years of Heroes, and can’t wait to see his numerous upcoming 2021 films and tv shows.MV5BZmQwYmUyOTYtYWZhNC00NjhmLTg3OTYtYTc1ZmU5MDYyZDNkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjg2MTMyNTM@._V1_I recently talked with Russell and asked him to share his stories and thoughts about working under these difficult Covid conditions as well as revisiting some of his most memorable performances……

You’ve been working non-stop over the past 3 decades, providing voice-overs as well as acting. How have you managed to sustain your career and create such a diverse resume?  Desperation?! LOL. As a typically struggling Canadian actor, we have to have many tools in our bag of skills. Loosing my father at the age of 11 meant needing to support/helping my mother starting at the age of 13. By the time I graduated theater school, I already had more jobs than most. These skills became very useful in acting. Parlaying these life skills into my acting career was extremely beneficial and allows me to play a large variety of characters. After all, actors always bring a part of themselves into each role we play. The fighting against stereotypes was the hardest part. Growing up as the youngest “accident” of the family and the only Asian around for miles, meant that I had a lot of time to allow my imagination to go wild. Acting is all about playing…I’m just a big/old kid.

Instead of the usual waiter/bartender jobs young actors have to take while they’re establishing themselves, you had a surprisingly exciting range of jobs prior to full-time acting – white water rescues, a rafting guide in Northern Quebec, a Shaolin martial artist, even a fitness trainer. Am I correct in assuming these special skills helped you secure certain roles over the years?  YES! As you can see, I make it a point not to read ahead when doing questionnaires in order to keep the feeling fresh and spontaneous but YES.  When I graduated from theater school with classical training, sadly, there were no speaking roles for Asians back then. So, I found myself doing many action/martial arts/stunt roles for the first 8 years of my career. ALL those physical training and skills allowed me to stay in the job I love despite no speaking roles.Caught a FLY in this Shot LOL #5000yearsofheroes Movie #ActorsLife #BehindTheScenesI remember first being aware of your comedic skills when spotting you in that popular series of TV commercials featuring two wacky fashionista for Reitman’s twelve years ago– did that exposure help boost your career or do you have any regrets about taking that gig?  Comedy has always been an important part of my life. If you can’t laugh at yourself….  I can’t believe it was that long ago LOL!  NO regrets at all doing that series of commercials. I really do not think it helped or hindered my career, although, it did prove to my agents that I can do comedy. Until then, like most people, they saw me in very serious/dramatic roles. Not only was this role fun to do because of the concept, cast and the crew but it also allowed me to travel to many places I would not have normally had the opportunity to go to.

What has been the most fun project you ever worked on, be it a comedy or drama/thriller, and why?  Oh boy. This answer all depends on your definition of “fun”. For me, ALMOST anytime I get to be on set is fun. Make It Pop was fun, Rising Suns was fun in a different way but if you mean fun as in comedy and laughs on set, the first thing that pops into my mind is Reitmans and Tokens on Call. Reitmans for what I mentioned before…At one-point Martin (who plays opposite to me in the commercial) and I looked at each other on a mountain in Cuba and we actually said to each other just how lucky we are. This was said right after we had a laughing fit on set. Tokens was fun due to the fact that it was the first experience for me being in an Asian driven project that was laughing at what really happens to Asians (and other visible minorities) in our daily lives.#BehindTheScenes Deep in Thought and Finally Hit my Mark LOL with @lilygao1 #ActorsLife #NorthBay #RisingSunsHow has the Covid production lock-down affected you? Have you been able to work remotely, perhaps doing voice-over work or on web-based projects?  My partner said it best regarding Covid-19, “2020 and this pandemic is Beige” LOL. No, I haven’t been able to do much work from home sadly during this pandemic. It has created a very unfair situation for most actors, although I have been one of the fortunate ones. We have been asked to do 99.5% of our auditions as self-tapes while maintaining social distancing and respecting whatever Covid-19 rules are in place at the time. This meant for many actors to spend a small fortune (for Canadian actors) on getting or upgrading all their equipment in order to give a decent self-taped audition to casting. It means for many an upgrade to their internet so that both their reader can Zoom into the audition self-tape or for Zoom call backs. But since I coach people and help with self-tapes, I already had most of the necessary equipment but even I had to upgrade some of my equipment. I have been able to audition and secure voice work on video games but due to quality and production requirements, I have had to go into studio to record. The situation also leaves actors at a disadvantage when auditioning. When you go into a casting place for an audition, you go in with a few ways to do the scene. Once in the audition room, you do the scene(s) with what YOU think is the best fit but that doesn’t mean it is what the production wants. In the audition room, the casting person will often give you a direction or description that could completely change the way you interpreted the character. Then you could do another take of the scene(s) that better fits what they are looking for. When I audition at home, it’s totally a roll of the dice and you just HOPE you got it right. Hence, both auditions and booking roles during this pandemic have been a struggle and few/far between. Although on the positive side, I have had the time to get new headshots (below) and demo together (laughs)!Russell Yuen_75 (2)You have a number of exciting upcoming projects for 2021 as well as your ongoing appearances in the popular Rising Suns tv series. Can you share any news about your upcoming appearances, in particular Dancing Through the Shadow of Mao which looks to be a provocative telling of an artistic life under the tyranny of Mao Tse-tung (Zedong) in communist China?  Yes! Rising Suns is having a lot of interest from multiple platforms in regards to buying it and making it into a full series. We are supposed to go back next year and continue shooting with funding coming from some parties that want to purchase the series. Dancing Through the Shadow (formally know and based on the book “The Swan”) is in its final stages before being released. In fact, I’ll be doing ADR for it this week! It is not so much a ‘provocative’ movie/subject but rather the story of person who struggles to continue her passion of dance no matter the obstacles she faces. This TRUE story just happens to take place during Mao’s reign. However, one of the wonderful parts of this film is the fact that it does take place during this time of history. Not so much for the character(s), I mean it’s just not a fun time in history. This film also shows a time of history many, including myself, just didn’t know about. I thought I knew what happened in China during this time but the book and researching the character taught me much more than I knew. However, the film is about much more: it’s about love, family and dreams. I am currently working on a project going to film next year … but of course I cannot mention it yet. Tokens On Call is supposed to go to season 2. Rising Suns will go for a full 13 episodes. Dancing Through the Shadow will be released next year. But beyond that…..SOMEONE OFFER ME WORK, PLEASE.81OTAvyzecL (2)Are there any directors or fellow actors you dream of working with in the future?  Hmm, this is a hard one. Can I say EVERYONE?! LOL. One could say all the expected names like Spielberg, Bong Joon-ho, Scorsese, Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro, Mina Shum etc. Or actors like Hanks, Washington, Sandra Oh, Streep (who scares me a little), Sam Jackson etc. But honestly, I just want to work with people who have passion for what they’re doing and are ready and willing to work together to get the most out of what we are doing. It’s all about collaborating and sharing. However, as I get older, one hopes to do more projects and work with people who understand some element of what it’s like being Asian and incorporate this into the subject matter. It has become more important to me to share my story, my struggles, my path through life (including some very laughable moments) before it’s too late or I am gone. I want to make a difference … Growing up, the only Asians I saw and could identify with were (oh boy this is going to date me) Sulu from Star Trek (dreaming of being on that one day) and Robert Ito from Quincy (below). I want my kids and Asians as a whole to be able to see themselves and their stories. Things are changing but at a glacial pace. I fear I will not be around when people finally stop saying “Oh look, they cast an Asian” but instead say “Oh look, now that’s a great actoritoIs there any advice you’d like to share with up and coming actors who dream about the kind of career you’ve enjoyed – any pitfalls to avoid, dealing with casting people, whose ass to kiss or whose ass to kick? As I say to new actors when I am asked to talk to a class or group “Do not get into acting because you want to be a celebrity, do not get into acting for the money, do not get into acting because you think it will be easy, do not get into acting because you love it either. Only get into acting because you NEED to act. If you get into it because you LOVE it, it (like many partners you will have in life) will only let you down, disappoint you or leave you when you least expect it.”  Never believe anyone or anything until it is in writing but even then, you never know. Develop and trust your instincts both in business and acting – they will serve you well and protect you. Finally, NEVER LIE. The truth will come out and it may haunt you and your career forever. I’ve seen it happen to other actors and it has at times destroyed their credibility. MV5BZDdkNDk0YWUtODhiYi00ODNiLWE5OTMtNTUxMzM5ZjIwMjNkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzY0OTUwMTM@._V1_SY1000_SX675_AL_And for news updates on your films or tv shows, can you please share your social media links or website?  Sadly, I do not have a website yet…if anyone wants to build one for me…??!! But if people would like to follow me, here are my social media links:
https://twitter.com/RUSSELLYUEN
https://www.facebook.com/RussellYuenPage
https://www.instagram.com/russell_yuen/