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Alumni Interview – Lee Shorten

“It’s definitely the biggest project I’ve worked on yet,” says Lee Shorten (@lcshorten). The Acting for Film Television and Voice-Over grad spoke with us while in the midst of filming his eighth episode of the upcoming Amazon On Demand adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s alternate history series, The Man in the High Castle.

Two years ago the Australian native would never have thought that he would be playing a recurring character on a major series here in Vancouver. Before coming here to pursue a career in acting, Lee was making his living as a tax lawyer for the Australian government. “It was a good job, and I wasn’t miserable – but I felt like I could see my whole life laid out before me,” he shared with us.

Even though Lee was lined up for a big promotion as his 29th birthday approached, he couldn’t help but feel that something was missing in the trajectory he was on. “I just didn’t have a creative outlet at my job, and I realized that that was where I was spending most of my time” he shared with us. For Lee, that was enough to inspire him to change career paths, journey to Vancouver and pursue work in the film industry.

Before going to Law school, Lee obtained his Liberal Arts degree in film studies. He’s always been a lover of film and has admired the people who created the movies that have made him the person he is today. For Lee it wasn’t so much a passion for acting as much as it was a love for film that drew him westward. According to him his sole acting role before coming to Vancouver was what he described as a “short stint in junior high.”

Since arriving in Vancouver, Lee has made huge strides. While taking the Acting for Film, Television and Voice-Over program, Lee signed with his current agent Murray Gibson at RED Management. Lee was able to go out for roles even while studying. In his first year living in Vancouver Lee got his feet wet working on over forty independent projects and building up his professional resume with roles on TV series’ The Flash (CW), iZombie (CW) and The Whispers (ABC).

Lee on set with his US Dialect coach Tony Alcantar

Lee on the set of The Man in the High Castle with his US Dialect coach Tony Alcantar.

Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle is Lee’s latest gig. Set in San Francisco in the sixties, the story is an alternate history in which the axis powers won World War II. Shot here in Vancouver, the production uses hundreds of extras and intricate details on all of its set deck and wardobe. Lee auditioned and booked a small role on the show, but once filming started the production decided to expand his role far beyond what he initially anticipated.

Lee attributes a lot of his success to the approach that he brings to set. “A lot of actors see this job as mainly about performance and talent, but you have to remember that it’s a job and at the end of the day everyone on set wants to know that the people they’re working with bring with them a certain level of professionalism. Business and technical skills are just as important as your ability to act,” he says. Man in the High Castle isn’t the first time that Lee’s role was expanded post-casting. His role on The CW’s Supernatural started small as well, but he’s now been featured in numerous episodes of the latest season.

Even as Lee’s acting resume continues to expand, Lee remains cautious and humble. “I’ve been very fortunate these last two years,” he says. His advice to others interested in pursuing acting: “Work harder than you think you have to. Because (despite how it may appear) this isn’t an industry where you can coast by on looks or talent. Sure, both those things help, but they only take you so far. Hard work will always prevail and you can be sure that however hard you are working, someone else is working even harder.”

Lee Shorten setting up for a scene

Lee setting up for a scene.

Even with all of his incredible success, we still see Lee in class every week, sharpening his skills and expanding his toolkit. Lee may have forgone his promising future as a lawyer back in Australia for a career with more uncertainty, but Lee’s foray into acting is looking just as bright. This time however, when he sees things lined out before him, he’s happy with what he sees.

You can see all of Lee’s episodes on The Man in the High Castle when they’re released November 20th on Amazon on Demand.

A special thank you to Kirsten Aubrey at Carbon Life Media for our cover photo of Lee.

Find out more about Vancouver Acting School’s 6-month accredited diploma program in Acting: Film, Television & Voiceover, or call 604-564-7247 and ask for our Admissions Team.