Canada has many talented actors, writers, directors, and other content creators. To help our industry grow, we would like to introduce you to some of those talented folks that have managed to capture that magic on screen.
This week we spoke with Toronto film and television performer and voice-over artist Julius Cho.
You may be familiar with Julius Cho as Jean-Luc in Children Ruin Everything, Yoshi in Wedding Season and over forty more film and TV credits.
HNMAG: Are you originally from Toronto?
Julius Cho: I am, yes. I was born in Scarborough.
HNMAG: Did you go to public school there?
Julius Cho: I did, my folks moved from Scarborough to Markham when I was pretty young. Most of my childhood was in Markham. It was a nice suburb and the public school was ok.
HNMAG: When did you get interested in performing?
Julius Cho: I did show and tell as a kid, and for some reason, all the kids kept laughing and were really enjoying what I was doing.
HNMAG: Was it intended to be funny?
Julius Cho: No, it actually wasn’t (laughing), so maybe that explains my career. I’m trying to be real serious and everyone is like, that’s really funny.
HNMAG: After show and tell, you got the performance bug from there.
Julius Cho: Pretty much, in high school, I couldn’t stop myself from wanting to perform and be on stage. My drama teacher encouraged me to pursue acting as a professional career.
HNMAG: That got you started in the industry?
Julius Cho: I first pursued voice-over because some of my acting professors at Windsor University, in 2011, were wary about the way I looked in terms of theatre, specifically Shakespeare productions at Stratford.
HNMAG: Why would they be wary about your looks? What did you look like?
Julius Cho: I looked Asian. I am Asian. I was in a program primarily of white people. I didn’t fit their mould. A bit ironically, my voice instructor told me that acting was not the career for me. For a while that affected how I perceived myself and how I could fit into this industry. That’s how I decided to pursue voice acting because I don’t sound whatever stereotype people think of and it doesn’t matter what I look like, I could transform into the character. I could focus on the work and not what I look like.
HNMAG: How did you get into voice work?
Julius Cho: While I was in school in Windsor, I’d travel to Toronto for voice-acting workshops. Before I graduated I got myself an agent for voice-over auditions.
HNMAG: What did you submit to get that agent?
Julius Cho: I created an animation and commercial demo with a professional studio. I sent that along with a blunt cover letter that pointed out an opportunity on their roster for diversity.
HNMAG: Did that agent only want to represent you for voice-over work?
Julius Cho: They also had a film and TV division. Eventually, they represented me for on-camera auditions as well. That’s how I started off my professional acting career.
HNMAG: Did you also perform on stage?
Julius Cho: I did one or two theatre gigs but I found myself wanting to step away from theatre.
HNMAG: When did you join the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA)?
Julius Cho: I joined ACTRA about three or four years into my professional career. It was good to have some experience under my belt so I wasn’t overwhelmed as some people are when they jump straight from school into the union.
HNMAG: Did you stop getting commercial auditions after becoming full union?
Julius Cho: The pandemic actually pushed me to get more commercial work.
HNMAG: You were booking union commercials then?
Julius Cho: Yes, I was.
HNMAG: Were you able to sustain your lifestyle on acting work?
Julius Cho: I was pretty fortunate because I started early on with voice acting. There became such a pull for diversity that I’ve been quite fortunate to be able to stay a full-time actor without any side work.
HNMAG: Do you voice a lot of animated characters that look Asian but have a standard American accent?
Julius Cho: Yes, pretty much. Especially during the pandemic, a lot of productions felt they needed to be as authentic as they could and were conscious about being diversity inclusive. Even though the voice was not different from most, the creators felt that a character would be an Asian character. It’s really cool to see that.
HNMAG: When did you start to book non-stereotypical roles on TV?
Julius Cho: It was either 2020 or 2021.
HNMAG: Not that long ago?
Julius Cho: No, not really.
HNMAG: You’ve done some amazing shows. Did Ghosts fly you to Montreal?
Julius Cho: They did yes, twice.
HNMAG: You did two separate episodes of that show for CBS?
Julius Cho: I was on two episodes for two separate characters. It was pretty wild! I played a D&D dungeon master character and then months later they booked me for another role without even an audition.
HNMAG: Another amazing show you were on was What We Do in The Shadows. Did you just audition for that?
Julius Cho: Yep, I just auditioned for it. It was pretty surreal to be on that set. I saw Doug Jones in his vampire lord outfit and I was amazed. It was pretty special.
HNMAG: It’s a really funny mockumentary. Is it improvised?
Julius Cho: No. I’ve read a few scripts and it looks like they follow it pretty directly or religiously.
HNMAG: Are you working on anything right now to create your own work?
Julius Cho: I am working with a production team as a writer and an actor to create the work. I met an independent film team through a 48 hour film challenge. Since we liked the way we worked together, we decided on collaborating further. Right now we are doing real shoe-string, low-budget productions but we are growing and will pursue grants and funding for bigger projects.
HNMAG: How important is it to make our own independent projects?
Julius Cho: If you look at what’s happening right now with the strikes, how everything has come to a halt, we can see how dependent we are on the Americans and that’s a real red flag. I hope that we will see more shows and way more Canadian content.
HNMAG: You have a new movie that aired on July 23rd.
Julius Cho: There was a film completed before the strike called Maybe It’s You. It’s a rom-com on E! Entertainment. It’s my first supporting role, so I’m pretty excited. I play the lead character’s best friend named Doug.
HNMAG: What do you think is important for aspiring actors to keep in mind?
Julius Cho: Everybody is going through this tough time. You need to look around and remind yourself it’s a beautiful day. Every day we’re going to keep fighting because this is what we have. Fighting for the little guy is always more important.
Julius Cho overcame systemic racism within the film industry by focusing on what he could do. He eventually thrived and that need to perform and entertain was rewarded. Now that he is writing and performing on independent productions with other Canadian artists, hopefully he will lead us into an age of real high-quality Canadian content.