It never ceases to amaze me the caliber of artistry within today’s bustling acting community. All too often, those who work behind the scenes or appear as guest stars on various shows are seen, liked, and subsequently forgotten. As a part of my ongoing mission to highlight talent that may not always be at the forefront of every well-known production, I happened upon Joel Sturrock, and I found his story quite fascinating. Recently, Joel agreed to answer a few questions concerning his career, his notable works, and a few of his future endeavors.
Why did you decide to become an actor? What kind of training have you had?
I started out as a dancer, and it wasn’t until I was training at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet School as a teenager that the thought of becoming an actor even crossed my mind. I had always had my heart set on becoming a professional dancer, but not necessarily ballet, so my time there was tough. As a bit of an escape, I would spend any time off at the Towne 8 cinemas in the downtown core of Winnipeg. I would watch film after film, double bills on Sundays, when I wasn’t in the studio. It wasn’t until I saw the film Life as House that it dawned on me that I wanted to act. The film opened up something in me, a sense of possibility and opportunity and from there, I started to research and study as much as I could on my own. I decided to leave the ballet school the following year and begin my studies as an actor at the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria B.C. From then on, I have studied with numerous schools and renown coaches and companies such as Andrew McIlroy, Raina von Waldenburg and members of the SITI Company. I particularly am attracted to teachings that are very physical and connected to the body, such as View Points, Laban, or Suzuki and I have my time at the ballet to thank for that.
What was your first professional job? Tell us a little bit about it if you can.
It was after my first year at ballet school, and I was cast as a dancer in the film Hell on Heels: The Battle of Mary Kay starring Shirley Maclaine and Parker Posey. I was fascinated by the world of filmmaking, the hustle and bustle and hundreds of people and elements working together to create one picture, moment to moment. I remember my first day on set so vividly… it had that entering-the-backstage-of-a-circus-tent-type feeling. We were dressed in pink bow ties and gold cummerbunds, and we danced on a massive winding staircase. Shirley entered in a Cinderella-esque carriage led by miniature ponies, haha! It was crazy, over the top and extravagant. I am very fortunate that was my first gig.
I notice you were inPercy Jackson The Lightning Thief. How does working on a feature compare to working on TV shows/films?
The main thing I would say is time. On a feature film like that, you can have an entire day to shoot a scene, time to discuss, rehearse and cover it from many angles. As an actor, you have time to make more choices and offers on the day and work things through. Television–it is speedy and can be very efficient, especially the shows that are well into a few seasons. The incredible crews are to thank for that; they are a dance unto itself. How they can set up a shot, turn around and be onto the next is amazing.
You were in four episodes of The True Heroines. How did you get that role? Even though that show didn’t run long, what was the experience like?
I’m actually one of the co-creators of The True Heroines and developed the show from the ground up with the amazing True Heroines creative team. The beauty of that process was the generosity and support we received from our community in Vancouver. It is unbelievable the people that came out to join and help create the world of the Heroines. We really owe it all to them. I see it as a testament of what is possible when you are passionate about your story and endow others with respect and trust in what they do. Being a passion project, we developed it for four years on the screen and stage. We can’t say it didn’t have its bumps along the way… it was tumultuous at times, but all in all it was a beautiful show and I am very proud of everyone involved.
I always ask about the experience on Supernatural because so many actors guest star on that show.
Supernatural was a blast. It is definitely one of my most memorable Vancouver moments. We shot under the Burrard Street bridge in the middle of the night in a crushed bus that they had brought over from the Godzilla set. I am such a sucker for fun sets like that. Misha Collins was great to work with–such a generous actor–and our stunt coordinator, Lou Bollo, taught me a lot that day. He recognized my dance training and was incredibly helpful and intuitive with rehearsal for our fight scene.
Please tell us about your role and experience with the film What An Idiot. As this is a comedy, do you have a preference on what genre you prefer to play?
What an Idiot is about an unlucky-in-love guy, Nick, played by Peter Benson, who pretends to be gay to get close to his new boss, Jackie, played by Julia Benson. I play Luke, Jackie’s best friend, who Nick mistakenly thinks is her boyfriend. Comedy is great, especially with the powerhouse producing couple Peter and Julia. They create a very fun set and welcome input, which I found encouraging. Comedy is tricky and I think harder than any other genre, but I don’t really have a preference. The biggest thing is finding great people to work with. It definitely was the case with What An Idiot.
Recently you were in Warcraft. What was the fan reception of that film?
With Warcraft, I feel the fans found what they needed even though the film received mixed reviews from critics. After witnessing the sheer magnitude of the project, I can only imagine how difficult it would be to try to capture in just over two hours what many have spent days upon days playing in. With something so gigantic and ambitious, I found talking to friends closer to home helped with some perspective. Close friends who are avid players went back to see the film three to four times. I think that’s a good indication of a job well done. I can say that working with movement director Terry Notary and director Duncan Jones has been one of the most influential experiences on how I view creating movement for the camera.
Any other upcoming works you can mention?
In late September, I am going into the workshopping of a new show currently titled The Circus Project with Twenty Something Theatre. Director Sabrina Evertt is bringing together eight artists of various disciplines and backgrounds to begin devising the project. With regards to film and television, Monster Trucks, where I took part in the “creature creative team,” will be released early 2017.
I see you have a few credits as choreographer. Please tell us about your training and experience doing that.
I started young in my hometown of Lloydminster, Alberta and later trained at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet then The Canadian College of Performing Arts, where I completed the Choreographer Mentorship Program. Movement and dance is where I feel most at home as an artist, and I have been lucky enough to be able to use it alongside my performance career. I have choreographed plays, musicals, TV shows, films, music videos and I always find the set or rehearsal hall will shift in energy when the “movement” per se begins. Everyone is excited and enticed. With choreography, the job is always different and challenging in the best of ways. I have created movement for swarms of aliens in Start Trek Beyond to creating video game dances for the feature Afterparty. It is always fascinating figuring out how people move and what drives that impulse and then connecting and fusing that to the character or story.
I do! A short film I wrote, called The Hustler is heading into pre-production with Sociable Films this fall. Entirely told through movement, it’s the story of a young man who is responsible for the disappearance of his younger brother and how he copes with this tragedy living on the downtown east side. Albeit, directing is definitely something that is in the cards for me. For this particular project, I will be playing the lead and co-choreographing, so it was important to me to have a trusted collaborator at the helm. Michelle Ouellet will direct and Sarah Ballard will be co-choreographer.
If you could spend the day with an actor either living or dead, whom would you choose and why?
The first person that comes to mind is Charlie Chaplin for sure. He is one of the major influences in cinema and movement. He pioneered not only incredible physical comedy with his exploration of vaudeville for the screen, but with three other artists, worked together to create United Artists, an entertainment studio that focused on the interest of artists and not that of the major Hollywood studios. He transcended the idea of being called “just” talent and took responsibility for his voice and influence. That is incredibly inspiring to me, especially during that time. The man pushed boundaries and despite controversy continued to create and pave the way for others.
No doubt Joel has found his true passion in life with movement of all kinds, whether through choreography, acting, writing, or in the near future (I’m certain), directing. His enchantment with the entire process of making films is readily apparent, as is his determination to arduous work to actualize the complete spectrum of his ambitions and dreams. Although countless young people continue to flood the gates of this industry seeking fame and fortune, it is the genuine aspirants like Joel who don’t give up when things don’t happen as rapidly nor in the way they may have envisioned it. Joel is one who is equally content infusing a role with heart and spirit, devising the most consummate way to choreograph the movement of diverse works, or penning a tale to inspire and entertain. It’s no wonder Charlie Chaplin–indeed an individualistic actor who broke out of the norms of his time to create new opportunities for actors–is one with whom he would relish spending a day, as it boggles the mind to imagine just what legacy Joel Sturrock may establish within the world of entertainment. Be sure that you follow Joel at the various links below lest you miss a solitary second of his extraordinary journey to accomplish everything within his heart and mind.