Here is a challenge for you: try to think of a time where an American actor played a Canadian character. No luck? Me neither, and you know it is bad when even Google can’t answer this question. But then, if I asked you to name a Canadian actor playing an American character the difficult part would be knowing where to begin!
It is a strange concept once you start to think about it, but essentially, Canadians will almost always play Canadians (and if not, it won’t be by an American), while American roles are much more open-ended. Given that Canada borders the U.S., boasts a burgeoning film industry that draws many American productions, and its citizens have similar accents in certain parts of the country, it makes perfect sense to cast Canadians as Americans. There are even coaches that specialise in what they call ‘Canadian dialect reduction’, which is absolutely a thing.
Of course, this can then lead to Canadian actors being misidentified as American by many, only to be shocked by the truth later…if they ever even find out. In recognition of this all too frequent occurrence, I have compiled a short list of performers who some might be surprised to learn are Canadian. However, I did not include names such as the Ryans Gosling and Reynolds, Jim Carrey or Catherine O’Hara, considering the average person knows of their Canadian background for one reason or another.
With that out of the way, here are some actors you might not know are Canadian.
- Matthew Perry
Perry and his old castmates from the megahit sitcom Friends have been trending hard lately after their much anticipated reunion special aired last week. It was a pleasantly nostalgic reunion of one of the best-cast sitcoms of all time, and you better believe Perry was a vital part of the show’s immense and continued success.
Perry was born in Massachusetts, but soon moved to Ottawa with his Canadian mother (who was at one point the press secretary to Pierre Trudeau) where he was raised. As a teenager Perry was a talented tennis player who ranked amongst the best in Canada, but ultimately embraced acting and used his American citizenship to move to the U.S. and pursue his dream.
While he has never achieved the same level of success after the conclusion of Friends, Perry is a respected performer in the eyes of his peers, and has earned critical recognition for his continued work over the years, particularly in the criminally short-lived Aaron Sorkin comedy-drama, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
He will feature in the upcoming black comedy Don’t Look Up from the Oscar-winning filmmaker Adam McKay, which is his first movie role since 2009’s 17 Again.
- Evangeline Lilly
With such an unassuming accent, many would be surprised to learn that Evangeline Lily was born in the city of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, and raised in British Columbia.
Early in her career, Lily landed a number of extremely minor roles, which included ‘School Student Next to Locker’ in Freddy vs. Jason and ‘Party Guest’ in the Eliza Dushku TV show Tru Calling, both of which were in 2003. Lilly’s breakout role came in 2004 as Kate Austen in Lost, which catapulted her to international fame almost overnight. Lily featured as one of Lost’s leads until its conclusion in 2010 and hasn’t looked back since, landing one movie role after another.
While she has had some notable roles in her venture into feature-length movies, such as the massively acclaimed The Hurt Locker, and behemoth productions such as The Hobbit sequels, it wasn’t until 2014 that she landed the role of her career, thus far, as Hope Van Dyne in the MCU’s Ant-Man, which released in 2015. Lilly signed a multi-picture contract with Marvel and while she was a love interest in the first picture, she was not only billed as a co-lead in the sequel, but her character even earned title privileges in what was eventually revealed as Ant-Man and the Wasp.
With her role as the Wasp, Lilly’s career is flying high. She is in the process of filming the third entry in the Ant-Man and the Wasp franchise, and undoubtedly has a significant part to play in the MCU as it moves into Phase Four.
- Thomas Middleditch
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the Mike Judge HBO show Silicon Valley was one of the best TV comedies of the last decade. The first season blew me away, never getting old despite multiple viewings, and I remained a loyal fan in the seasons that followed.
And yet, during that whole time I had no idea that Thomas Middleditch, the show’s lead, is a full-fledged Canuck, having been born and raised in British Columbia. More embarrassing again, this was only a recent revelation for me.
While it was Silicon Valley that truly launched Middleditch’s career in 2013, his ascension, in hindsight, seemed inevitable given the sheer body of work he was building over a few short years. Hell, the same year Silicon Valley debuted Middleditch had a minor role in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street!
He would eventually earn an Emmy nomination for his work on Silicon Valley, and even after the show ended Middleditch would continue to bolster his impressive resume, which also includes extensive voiceover work, something at which he is a proven natural. He has featured in acclaimed children’s animated features such as Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie and Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe, as well as more adult-themed shows such as Bob’s Burgers and Solar Opposites, the latter of which he is a regular cast member.
Middleditch has kept remarkably busy indeed, capitalising on his professional rise by becoming the face of Verizon in 2017 and making appearances in blockbusters like Godzilla: King of Monsters and Zombieland: Double Tap in 2019. Currently, he is the star of his own live-action comedy show, B Positive, which is produced by Chuck Lorre.
These are only a few actors that came to mind when writing this piece. If you can think of any others, be sure to include them in the comments below!