Mediaplanet How did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in acting?

James Tupper I started entertaining my family at a really young age. In Nova Scotia, everybody sits around and we’d tell stories and I would just find ways to make people laugh. Anytime my life diverged from the path of acting, and it did so many times, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. People always say follow your dream, but what they should be saying is follow your dream every day. Do one thing today for your dream. That’s the energy and the hope that helped keep my dream going.

"No one graduated without knowing exactly what the job was. For me, they helped us create a tool bag of skills."

MP You studied acting at Concordia and then received your Master of Fine Arts degree from Rutgers in 1996. Why was it important for you to pursue a higher education?

JT Because I wasn’t one of those highly skilled child actors. All acting roles are part of the human family and sometimes you find yourself in it. You’re the dad, the neighbour, the boy next door, the lover, the ingénue, and I didn’t really fit into anything. I was still figuring myself out so it gave me three extra years of doing theatre, studying theatre, acting all day and doing shows at night. The reason I chose Rutgers is that it led straight into the New York theatre and acting world and I was able to start working.

MP Did you enjoy those programs?

JT The program was like a conservatory, it was phenomenal. I auditioned and it was a very competitive program to get in. They had these amazing people from New York and everybody was wearing a black turtleneck and talking about Chekhov [laughs]. No one graduated without knowing exactly what the job was. For me, they helped us create a tool bag of skills. They do these showcases after you graduate that are only attended by agents, managers and casting directors. I got agents from that, meetings with casting directors, auditions for films, and I started doing commercials.

MP Have you thought about going back to school again?

JT I’ve been offered opportunities to be a professor and teach or to go back as a guest artist. I’m looking forward to it in about ten years but I don’t have the time right now. I’m doing Revenge and I have two kids. I want to do a show at the Shaw Festival in Ontario. Anne Heche, my wife, and I would love to go and spend the summer there with the boys.

MP How did your Master’s degree help prepare you for your acting career and has it contributed to your success?

JT Definitely, it was basically a professional conservatory program that trains you for every part of the business. We even had a class on auditioning where they teach you how to do a monologue and how to tell a story.

Sharing his wisdom
Continuing your education will help you to achieve your dreams.
Photo: Jeff Berlin

MP What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in acting?

JT When you get up to the level that I’m at, the important thing is that you’ve done work on your person to make yourself a fascinating, lovely, interesting person. Do a project that makes you feel full, happy, and challenged. Challenge yourself every day because that’s what people want to see.

MP Why do you think continuing education is beneficial for the average Canadian?

JT I think of it as a time out where you get an opportunity to work on yourself. It’s an opportunity for you to grow and expand yourself.

MP In your opinion, where do you think the future of education is heading?

JT I think it’s alive and well. The universities are funded and people want to spend money on education.

My father was huge in education, he was an elementary and junior high school principal in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, so I feel like my entire youth was hearing education philosophy. The expectation was that we all perform. I was an 80s student, I wasn’t huge into it, but I love reading.

MP Anything exciting coming up for you?

JT I was just reading the next Revenge script. I don’t know how they do it, I take my hat off to the writers because they make the show so thrilling. Every single time the episode ends you’re like, WHAT?!