Canada's Rising Stars: 15 Newcomers Grabbing Hollywood's Attention

6:30 AM 9/12/2016

by Etan Vlessing

These up-and-comers from north of the border are making a major impact at home while steadily gaining the attention of Tinseltown talent watchers.

Canada's Rising Stars - Newcomers Grabbing Hollywood's Attention - Graphic- H 2016
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic; Coutesy of Bell Media; Sonia Recchia/Getty Images; David Livingston/Getty Images; George Pimentel/WireImage

  • Gurdeep Ahluwalia, 33

    A former reporter on the Canadian version of ESPN's SportsCenter, Ahluwalia now is host of the popular local morning show CP24 Breakfast in Toronto.

    Biggest 2016 accomplishment: Cycling the eastern coast of Taiwan in June and landing the CP24 Breakfast Monday-Friday anchor role. The show is the crown jewel of the No. 1 channel in the city; to be steering the ship is an amazing honor and responsibility.

    Big break: Nailing my second audition with CP24 in 2009 after pooping the bed during my first audition the year prior. (Ahluwalia then left for a stint at TSN.)

    I wake up at: 2:45 a.m. At the studio by 4 a.m. On TV at 5 a.m.

    The first thing I do in the morning is: Steam my suit.

  • Tara Armstrong, 33

    A product of the Canadian Film Centre's primetime TV program, Armstrong went on to create the assisted-suicide eOne drama series Mary Kills People, which is set to debut early next year on Global Television in Canada and on Lifetime in the U.S.

    Biggest 2016 accomplishment: Getting the green light for Mary Kills People.

    Best advice: "We're all going to die."

    10 years ago, I was: Having an existential crisis.

    When I'm not working, I'm: Having an existential crisis.

    The first thing I do in the morning is: Meditate. Just kidding, I go to Starbucks.

  • Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, 31

    Bowyer-Chapman hit it big as the openly gay producer Jay on the Lifetime series UnREAL and recently was seen on the big screen opposite Zac Efron and Robert De Niro in Dirty Grandpa.

    Biggest 2016 accomplishment: Having the Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman scholarship for LGBTQ+ Actors of Color launched in my name by the BGB Studio in Los Angeles.

    Big break: I had been working as an actor for nearly 10 years before UnREAL came to me. It has changed my life both personally and professionally in ways I had only dreamed of.

    10 years ago, I was: Working overseas as a model and just beginning my career in television and film.

    When I'm not working, I'm: Spending time nourishing my relationships with my closest friends and family. Also spending time nourishing my relationship with myself.

    I wake up at: 10 or 11 a.m. when I'm not working and have absolutely no shame about it!

    The first thing I do in the morning is: Meditate and drink an obscene amount of coffee.

  • Jaime Callica, 30

    Callica can be seen in season two of Fox's Wayward Pines, and he has a recurring role on the Canadian espionage spy drama The Romeo Section.

    Mentors: My ma, Deborah Callica. This woman taught me everything. Outside of her: Michael Jackson — even though he didn't know he was mentoring me!

    Best advice: "Whatever that thing is that you love about yourself, love it proudly. The person who created the word 'vain' was insecure; don't let them stifle your greatness."

    Big break: I'm not sure that "big break" has happened just yet, but getting cast in Wayward Pines was huge for me. Super grateful for that one.

    10 years ago, I was: Finishing my criminology degree — intending to become a lawyer, ha! — and managing a Rogers Wireless store. A lot changes in a relatively short period of time.

  • Alex Bronfman, 29

    The daughter of Paul Bronfman, the country’s biggest supplier of film and TV rental equipment to local and Hollywood shoots, and a scion of the Seagram’s clan, Alex is co-president of ABMO Films, a boutique indie film distributor in Toronto that she co-founded in 2015. Her release slate includes The Blackcoat’s Daughter, starring Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka, and the Cannes Critics’ Week entry Krisha.

    Biggest 2016 accomplishment: The release of Krisha has to be my biggest accomplishment to date.

    Best advice: “Let people underestimate you.”

    Big break: That has to be getting the opportunity to work at Phase 4 Films. It was there that I reconnected with a friend from the past who became my business partner, Matt Orenstein.

    When I’m not working, I’m: Always trying to take advantage of my spare time. I love cooking for family and friends (word on the street is I make a mean heart-of-palm salad), traveling and heading to the movies.

  • Burkely Duffield, 23

    Recently seen in the big-screen adaptation of Warcraft, Duffield also had a role on The CW’s Supernatural and next will appear on the Freeform drama series Beyond.

    Biggest 2016 accomplishment: So far, it definitely has to be starring in season one of Beyond.

    Big break: My big-screen debut in Warcraft.

    10 years ago, I was: Starting high school, dreaming big!

    When I’m not working, I’m: Being super lazy, hanging out with friends or working out. Ideally, fitting all three into one day.

  • Stephen Dunn, 27

    Dunn’s feature debut, Closet Monster, nabbed the 2015 best Canadian film prize at the Toronto Film Festival.

    Biggest 2016 accomplishment: Releasing Closet Monster theatrically and screening it in my hometown movie theater, which refused to hire me when I was in high school.

    Best advice: Jane Campion: “Relaxed people make good decisions.”

    Big break: On a trampoline when I was 12. Broke my arm in two places.

    10 years ago, I was: Definitely not employed at the Avalon Mall movie theater in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

    When I’m not working, I’m: Reading or becoming a Pokemaster.

    The first thing I do in the morning is: Make a smoothie and check for Pokemon.

  • Jodelle Ferland, 21

    Ferland, who received a best actress Genie nomination in 2007 for her performance in Terry Gilliam’s Tideland, currently can be seen on the Syfy series Dark Matter.

    Biggest 2016 accomplishment: Getting to go back for a second season of Dark Matter.

    Mentors: Pretty much anyone who isn’t afraid to be different or weird sometimes. Aubrey Plaza is kind of my favorite.

    Best advice: “Be you! Never change unless you want to. Don’t listen to the haters.”

    Big break: That’s debatable, but Twilight: Eclipse certainly seems to be a popular one!

    10 years ago, I was: Scaring the crap out of people as a little demon child in Silent Hill.

    When I’m not working, I’m: Bingeing Netflix, reading, painting/sculpting and going to Comic-Con conventions, sometimes as an actor, sometimes as a fan.

  • Kaniehtiio Horn, 30

    Horn first gained attention playing Destiny on Netflix’s werewolf thriller Hemlock Grove, and she has a recurring role on Syfy’s Defiance.

    Biggest 2016 accomplishment: Keeping my streak from 2015 alive and working every month as an actress. And I finally joined SAG!

    Mentors: My parents — for always giving me unconditional love and support ... and strangely, old movie stars through reading their autobiographies.

    Best advice: “Always ask why and trust your instincts.”

    10 years ago, I was: A barista, working for tips and on my breaks, changing in the car at stoplights, rocketing to auditions.

    When I’m not working, I’m: Doing intense research ... aka watching TV.

    I wake up at: Whatever time my cat decides.

  • Alex Mallari Jr., 28

    Born in the Philippines but raised in Scarborough, Ontario, Mallari boasts credits including the digital thriller Cybergeddon, Guillermo del Toro’s FX series The Strain and the 2014 reboot of RoboCop.

    Biggest 2016 accomplishment: Becoming a father!

    Mentors: My parents, Alex [Sr.] and Modesta Mallari; my older sister, Kathrina Mallari; and my former student leadership teacher, Michael Consul.

    Best advice: “Decide. Take action. Analyze progress. Adapt to change.” (A shoutout to Tony Robbins!)

    Big break: Playing Four, aka Ryo Tetsuda, on Dark Matter.

    10 years ago, I was: A stock boy by day, DJ by night.

    When I’m not working, I’m: Helping my better half, AlexandrasGirlyTalk [Alexandra Beth], with her YouTube channel.

    The first thing I do in the morning is: Kiss my significant other on the cheek, talk to the baby bump and say good morning to my pups.

  • Emilia McCarthy, 18

    Known for her roles on Nickelodeon’s Max & Shred and Disney Channel’s Zapped and Bunks series, McCarthy once doubled for Elle Fanning as Brad Pitt’s desert-wandering daughter in the 2006 drama Babel.

    Biggest 2016 accomplishment: Balancing education, social life and my career without too many anxiety attacks.

    Mentors: My agents, my acting coaches and all whom I’ve worked with and inspired me to be just as great as them.

    Best advice: “Expect the worst, hope for the best.” That’s what I tell myself at every audition.

    Big break: Max & Shred.

    10 years ago, I was: Playing with Barbie dolls I bought with my first paycheck from my first gig, Babel. ... Miss those days.

  • Annie Murphy, 29

    A veteran of Canadian television, Murphy was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for her performance as the spoiled Alexis on the popular local sitcom Schitt’s Creek.

    Biggest 2016 accomplishment: Convincing myself it would be irresponsible to get a puppy. And I also beat my Jeopardy score.

    Best advice: Bill S. Preston, Esq. [of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure]: “Be excellent to each other.”

    10 years ago, I was: In a theater program in Montreal and working as a nanny. I’d take the kids to the park and throw my key chain for them to fetch. Kids are weird.

    When I’m not working, I’m: Unemployed.

  • Sophie Nelisse, 16

    A mainstay of French-Canadian TV drama since age 10, Nelisse starred in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight thriller Mean Dreams opposite Bill Paxton.

    Biggest 2016 accomplishment: Going to Cannes with Mean Dreams.

    Mentors: My mom, [Canadian writer-director] Philippe Falardeau and Geoffrey Rush.

    Best advice: “When nothing goes right, go left!”

    Big break: Playing the lead role in [2013’s] The Book Thief.

    10 years ago, I was: Training 18 to 20 hours a week, because I wanted to go to the Rio Olympics [as a gymnast].

    When I’m not working, I’m: Chilling with friends around the city. I listen to music, play guitar, watch Netflix, play ice hockey and dance.

    I wake up at: 6:20 a.m. when I have school, 9 a.m. when I don’t!

  • Tommie-Amber Pirie, 29

    Pirie, who played Paige Winterbourne on Syfy’s Bitten, will star as the female lead in Jeremy LaLonde’s upcoming indie film The Go-Getters.

    Big break: I fractured my tailbone as a professional figure skater. Ugh. ... Oh, you mean acting?! I’d say The Trotsky [2009], playing Jay Baruchel’s younger sister.

    10 years ago, I was: 19 and moving [around] Toronto all on my own while rolling pennies in coin rolls and taking them to the bank on my bike to make rent. I also was doing everything I could to pursue acting more fully and hustled as a server in the west end of Toronto at a restaurant called Insomnia. 

    When I’m not working, I’m: Wondering if I will ever work again.

    I wake up at: If I’m working, then sometimes I am up at 4 a.m. If not, it’s usually 8 a.m., or when my dog, Winnifred, has won the stare-down and I have to take her to pee.

    The first thing I do in the morning is: [Say,] “Thank God I didn’t die in my sleep.”

  • Niamh Wilson, 19

    Seen in David Cronenberg’s 2014 dark Hollywood satire Maps to the Stars, Wilson survived three installments of the Saw franchise and had the titular role in The Family Channel series Debra.

    Biggest 2016 accomplishment: Winning a Young Artist Award for best supporting actress in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet and training at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City.

    Mentors: My mum and my agent.

    Best advice: “Understand that there is a place for you in this world, no matter who you are or what you do.”

    10 years ago, I was: Skipping third grade to work on set.

    When I’m not working, I’m: Doing professional development. I wake up at 7 a.m., weekends at 8:30 a.m. I’m most productive in the morning.

    The first thing I do in the morning is: Boil water for my coffee. Priorities.