Alumni Interviews: Jeff Evans Todd Gets Personal About Acting

Alumni Interviews: Jeff Evans Todd Gets Personal About Acting

Jeff Evans Todd is an alum of Vancouver Acting School’s Acting for Film & Television diploma program.

“If you want to do something and your heart is still beating, then do it. Do it now. Don’t wish to do something, don’t wish to be happy; be happy now doing that thing you love.” 

What are you working on right now?

A few different projects, but a couple I’m really excited about. I got to play a pretty fun character in the season four finale of A&E’s Bates Motel. I’m not allowed to say much more about it than that, but I think fans will enjoy it. The other project, which I also can’t talk about yet [laughs], is a dubbing job for a popular anime series in another country.

How did you land that gig?

As with a lot of successful, established shows, they’ve already got such a strong fan base back home, they want the North American voice actor doing a specific character’s voice to sound as close to the original as possible. It just so happened that my voice fit the bill, but I didn’t get a vocal reference until I went in for the audition. At that point, my training really helped me shake my nerves and focus on the voice.

They felt you had the right voice but still wanted you to audition?

That’s right. Although sometimes I’ve been able to book work from my demo alone, which is always nice. Would be fantastic if that happened more often with on-camera acting! There are roles you book sometimes that involve, say, one line of dialogue. And you’ve got a resume of work, an online demo and a head shot, and you think they could look at all that and say, “yeah, let’s just book this guy.” Then again, I love the face time with casting directors, and potentially a director or producer. That can be a fantastic opportunity to build relationships which becomes important later. So ultimately, it’s a good approach to stay open to whatever scenario plays out.

Speaking of staying open, have you ever landed a role that seemed to come completely out of left field?

Actually, one of the other projects I’m working on was one of those. Just before Christmas last year, I auditioned for a fairly big film role with a casting director I hadn’t seen in a while. She was honest and told me she’d actually forgotten about me, but that she thought my performance was really good. As it turns out, I didn’t get the part, didn’t have the right look. But a few days later she invited me back to audition for a smaller role she thought I was perfect for, and I landed it. So sometimes the work you get isn’t the original thing you went out for. Actually, when I think about it, there’s never been a direct link for me from the first meeting to the job I ended up booking. For example, I auditioned a while back for a role that had the casting director in tears. They thought I was great. But again, I didn’t have the look they were after. But because the director liked my acting, he and I ended up becoming friends and I’ve worked with him on two different projects. There’s no way to predict those opportunities.

What advice would you pass on from that experience to others?

Be patient. Have faith in yourself, continually improve, trust the process, but above all, be patient. Everyone’s got insecurities, and those insecurities constantly threaten to sabotage you. So don’t let them. Recognize and honour what you’re insecure about and know where it comes from, and you’ll build a depth of self-awareness that works in your favour. Through learning to be patient with yourself, you’ll learn to be patient with acting. Which is key because the life of an actor can feel like a long, surreal journey!

You’re a fairly spiritual person. How important is your connection to the universe when it comes to your success as an actor? 

I learned early on that, for me anyway, there has to be some sort of spiritual center to what I’m doing. In May 2012, I was in a production in which I played Charlie Brown, and my girlfriend at the time gave me Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. Working my way through it, I discovered how important it was to really know myself and let myself have fun and just play, and things began to take off for me. Internally, I mean, as both a person and an actor. It was like a light went on, like I was “levelling up”, to borrow a term from video games. It gave me a lot of confidence faith in myself, as well as in the process of acting.

And has that helped in those moments when you don’t get the role or experience disappointment?

Definitely. I’m not just an actor, of course, everyday life happens, too. I went through a fairly significant breakup that felt like the end of my world at the time, and that threatened to keep me in a rut. Then there’s the auditions you don’t book, the roles you don’t land, and all of that can really tempt you to get down or just give up. Being an actor is a real trip, emotionally and psychologically. So knowing how to quickly get back to your spiritual center, to replenish your courage and move on, is important.

How soon after you graduated from Vancouver Acting School’s Acting program did you find work as an actor? 

Within a month of graduating, I learned there was a shortage of actors my age in Vancouver and that agencies were looking. I originally thought I wouldn’t actively seek representation for at least six months, but the opportunity was there, so I grabbed it. As part of Vancouver Acting School’s program, we produce a professional voiceover demo, so I brought mine with me to the interview. The agency liked what they saw and heard, and agreed to represent me for both on-camera and voice work. A month after that, I auditioned for Lego Legends of Chima, and a month after that I got confirmation that the role was mine. So roughly four months after graduating.

Sounds like you might have missed that opportunity if you hadn’t acted quickly.

Absolutely. That experience reinforced how important it is to know what your gifts are, to keep your eyes open to opportunity when it shows up, and take that next step without hesitation.

How did it feel to get work so soon after graduating?

I felt incredibly lucky. But strangely, I also felt lonely and a bit anxious about the future. You see, I grew up in Saskatchewan and from the age of ten, it was always my dream to become an actor. I loved to make my family laugh and took theatre classes when I moved to Alberta, where I got to play Donald the Soda Jerk in a school play called Rock Around The Block. The audience laughed right from my first line and I thought, oh yeah, I like this. And as the years went on, that dream just got stronger and stronger, and then one day, there I was living inside my dream, which is a place not a lot of people find themselves. And now my thought was, where do I go from here? What if I lose this?

If you could go back in time and talk to yourself, what would you say?

I’d say, relax. Worry less and just be nice to yourself. Go to the mountains, go to the spa, nurture and trust yourself. And pay off your student loans! I was making good money, I could have done that but I didn’t. I’ve learned to be better with money since then.

How important has family been on your journey?

Huge. They’re all a bunch of goofballs, too. For the first year, I think they were like, what is he doing, what is this acting thing? But now, as time’s gone by, they’ve put together the pieces of my, shall we say, interesting behaviour as a child, and of course now it all makes perfect sense. And as I’ve done that, it’s been cool to watch them pursue their own sensitive, artistic sides, too. Since I got into acting professionally, my dad, who’s an RCMP officer, has written a book. And I’m super proud of him for that. I’ve seen him open up emotionally as well as creatively. Meanwhile, my brother, who is a prison guard in Red Deer, has decided to move to Vancouver and become a professional photographer. So there’s this visible evolution in my family. I’m not assuming that’s all my doing, but I can’t help thinking that when you see someone you love chase that crazy, bold, unpredictable part of themselves, it inspires you to do the same.

You pursued acting right out of high school, didn’t let any grass grow on your dreams. How important do you think that is? 

When it comes to doing what you enjoy and being happy, I don’t understand why anyone would postpone that. Life is short and opportunity doesn’t hang around indefinitely, so you’ve got to take hold of it while it’s sitting there in front of you. At the same time, I’m quick to say that it’s never too late. There are plenty of examples of people who pursued their dream when they were older, who sometimes didn’t even know what their dream was till later in life. Like my dad or my brother or my mom. If you want to do something, if you still have the urge to do it, if your heart is still beating, then do it. Do it now. Don’t wish to do something, don’t wish to be happy; be happy now doing that thing you love.

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