With roles in jPod, Heartland, The Tudors and Endgame, Vancouver actor Torrance Coombs has become a familiar face — with stunningly recognizable eyes — in the Canadian television industry. He answered TV, eh?‘s questions about his career, his Internet following, and the chaos of pilot season in Los Angeles.
I’ll start with the hard-hitting question — did that cool actorly name destine you to be an actor? Assuming not, though, how did you get into acting?
I was actually going to be named Tory, but my mom thought I should have a more formal sounding name in case I got into politics. That didn’t happen. Although I guess acting is somewhat like politics. We’re all in the business of deception.
I got into acting through school choir, doing a couple of musicals. But I didn’t really start to take it seriously until Sally, my high school drama teacher, recruited me for the theatre company. I really connected to the other weirdos in the program and found a real passion for it during long rehearsals. I ended up in theatre school in university and now here I am.
With jPod, Heartland, The Tudors and Endgame you’ve had some diverse roles. What do you think your strengths are as an actor?
Let’s be honest here, I owe an awful lot to my eyes. They’re a feature that allows me to stand out in a group of relatively comparable actors. My other biggest strength I’d say is my diversity. I’ve played geeks, bad boys, cowboys, rapists, murderers. Sexy and unsexy. On the one hand it’s an advantage, because I’m in the mix for a lot of different roles. On the other hand, I think it takes a little longer for a guy like me to establish an identity, because I’m not the guy who immediately springs to mind for any one particular type of role.
What’s been a career highlight so far?
jPod was an early highlight. Most of the cast of that show are still dear friends of mine. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard so consistently in my life as I did on that set every day. The Tudors was another highlight, and in every sense has changed my life. It’s the meatiest role I’ve had the chance to play. It’s also pretty hard to beat shooting on location in Ireland. I really felt a connection to the country and the people there.
jPod had a devoted online following, as well as Endgame, which gained new fans through Hulu. How does that kind of Internet fan base help a show?
The jury’s still out on how much it’s helped either of those shows. But from my perspective, it’s a great way to connect with the audience. TV lacks the immediacy of theatre. It’s hard sometimes to know whether people are actually watching, or what they might be thinking about your work. The feedback at times can be devastating, but mostly it’s really lovely.
How much hope do you have that Endgame could get a second season based on the Hulu success? (And if it did, would it end up as a web exclusive series?)
The word on the street is that there is a decent possibility of more Endgame getting made. Without any knowledge of what’s going on behind closed doors, I can’t say how close it is to happening. My understanding is that if it does return, it will also return to TV on Showcase in Canada.
You’ve been in LA during pilot season – what’s that process like? How does it differ from your experience in the Canadian TV market?
Quite frankly, it’s chaos. I’ve never actually booked a pilot during pilot season. I seem to have much more luck in the off-season. There’s something about the pressure and intensity that isn’t conducive to doing your best work. The process is similar to what happens in Canada, there’s just a lot more people doing it. It can psych you out a bit because you can see what you’re up against and how terribly the odds are stacked against you. I prefer being blissfully unaware of the odds. It frees me to just do the work and hope for the best.
What’s next for you?
I’m going back to Banff to finish shooting a movie I started on last year called Drawing Home, about Peter and Catharine Whyte. Other than that, nothing concrete, but a lot of pokers in the fire.
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