How Vancouver’s Brightest Stars Got Their Big Breaks


The Lower Mainland’s most recognizable – and homegrown – talents have unique tales of success

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Sarah Chalke

Actress Sarah Chalke first found fame on Canadian television as a reporter – of sorts. At the age of 12, Chalke popped up on the Knowledge Network production KidZone, as one of a number of young voices shedding light on current events and news stories of interest to teen viewers. Her big break came in 1993 when she beat out other hopefuls to replace series regular Lecy Goranson on the top-rated sitcom Roseanne. The performer-swap led to an at-times confusing, on-again, off-again relationship with the role that would see the two actresses alternating appearances throughout the show’s run, resulting in frequent tongue-in-cheek punchlines. Exclaimed Roseanne Barr’s main character upon being told teenagers are confusing, “Our daughter Becky was gone for a year and, when she came back, we barely recognized her!” Chalke’s television success has only continued of course with a long-running gig on the critically adored Scrubs, significant storylines on Grey’s Anatomy and How I Met Your Mother as well as a recurring role on Cougar Town.

Seth Rogen

Seth Rogen is a quintessential Canadian: generally unassuming, frequently charming but often quirky. A major UK newspaper even asked its readers what exactly he is: “A producer? A writer? An actor?” They finally settled on “Super-Seth.” Prior to becoming a Hollywood hit, Rogen was a student at Point Grey Secondary – for a time. There, he drafted an early version of the hit film Superbad with writing partner Evan Goldberg but dropped out of classes after meeting filmmaker Judd Apatow and making the decision to move to L.A. Under Apatow’s tutelage, Rogen tread a thin line between leading man and behind-the-scenes talent. He scored an Emmy nod for his work writing on Da Ali G Show and enjoyed critical acclaim – if not ratings success – on Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks before finally claiming the marquee with his above-the-title turn as a pothead-turned-expectant father in Knocked Up.

Carrie-Anne Moss

Born on the West Coast in 1967, Carrie-Anne Moss didn’t spend much of her young adult years in Vancouver. After graduating from Magee Secondary, she set off for Spain at the age of 20 to pursue modelling. Time at acting school in L.A. was next on her calendar, just before her big break on a short-lived arm of the Beverly Hills, 90210 franchise. The glamorous – and often melodramatic – Models, Inc. debuted in 1994 to rather savage reviews but it laid the groundwork for Moss’ eventual ascent to film stardom as “Trinity” in the blockbuster The Matrix. Since wrapping the sci-fi trilogy, she has worked steadily in film, with turns in the Oscar-nominated Chocolat, Christopher Nolan’s haunting Memento and the Canadian independent Snow Cake, for which she received a 2007 Genie Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Grace Park

There must be something in the water in Kerrisdale. Like fellow Magee grad Carrie Anne-Moss, local beauty Grace Park has also made a fine living with roles in the world of science fiction and beyond. Park studied at UBC, receiving a degree in psychology, and then stepped into an acting career, toiling away with small roles in locally shot television hits like Dark Angel and Stargate SG-1. In 2003, she caught a break – a big one – after securing the role of Lt. Sharon Valerii in Battlestar Galactica. First appearing in the miniseries while producers tested the television waters for the reboot, the character returned for a lengthy five-year run when a regularly scheduled series was greenlit. Roles on American Dad and CSI followed, before warmer climates came calling. Her current home on the hit procedural Hawaii Five-0 is secure, having reached the 100-episode milestone recently and still ranking among the top 30 series on television.

Joshua Jackson

Joshua Jackson is a familiar face on TV – thanks to his star-making turn as the adorably goofy Pacey on Dawson’s Creek and his work on the J.J. Abram’s hit Fringe. The actor has been well-employed with high-profile gigs for two decades but the one-time Kitsilano Secondary student’s big break came after just a handful of roles. His first film experience is noted as the Vancouver-shot Crooked Hearts, starring a slew of other young stars-in-the-making, including Noah Wyle and Juliette Lewis. Jackson tackled musical theatre next and a casting director for one production connected him with the behemoth William Morris Agency in Los Angeles. With that, he shot and he scored with major roles in the Disney hockey-comedy The Mighty Ducks and its sequel, D2. In the years following, he’s amassed impressive credits including turns in the film hits Cruel Intentions and Urban Legend as well as a 2010 Genie for his lead role in the Canadian independent One Week and a role on the dark, new Showtime drama The Affair.

Pamela Anderson

Pamela Anderson’s big break has become stuff of B.C. legend. After attending high school in Comox, the then-22-year-old headed to a BC Lions game with friends and – quite literally – became a larger-than-life star in a day, courtesy of the Jumbotron at BC Place. After a shot of her cheering from the stands in a form-fitting Labatt’s shirt set the crowd ablaze, her modeling dreams took a marked turn toward celebrity. By that fall, she was on the cover of Playboy and enjoying small roles on Married…with Children and Charles in Charge. The latter appearance resulted in romance with the show’s star and then-teen-heartthrob Scott Baio, who would later air their dirty laundry by blaming the demise of the relationship on Anderson “going Hollywood” and electing to undergo breast augmentation. Anderson played up her bombshell image on her first major television role as the “Tool Time” girl Lisa on the highly-rated ABC comedy Home Improvement and, one year later, she would dawn a now-iconic red bathing suit to become one of the world’s most recognizable faces – and bodies – on Baywatch.

Ryan Reynolds

Before he was a superhero hunk, Vancouver-born Ryan Reynolds was a gangly teen on Hillside, the YTV soap set at a fictional high school of the same name. Filmed in Vancouver for its first season, the show featured the usual angst and struggle of teenage life on the small screen. The exposure led Reynolds to other locally filmed gigs on series including The Odyssey and The X Files. In 1998, he secured the role that would bring him widespread recognition with the series Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place. By season three, the show had rather inexplicably lost the pizza place locale of the title – and then, shortly, its home on the ABC schedule altogether. Reynolds had nothing to fear. He of course went on to portray the romantic lead opposite a pre-Oscar Sandra Bullock in the comedy smash The Proposal and the famed title comic book hero in The Green Lantern.

Kristin Kreuk

Like many young women raised in the late ’80s and early ’90s in Vancouver, Kristin Kreuk was a fan of Aritzia and even modeled the clothing store’s wares on red carpets once she hit it big. Her road to well-documented high style started rather unexpectedly when a casting call for the CBC drama Edgemont was sent to her high school. She auditioned – along with thousands of other hopefuls from across the province – and scored a prominent role on the series. Kreuk put aside plans to attend SFU after landing a second major television gig, this time opposite none other than Superman himself. Starring along side Tom Welling on the WB fan favourite Smallville, Kreuk embodied Lana Lang for seven seasons. She has since left behind the small town superhero to find love in the Big Apple on screen, with her People’s Choice Award-winning work on the CW’s retelling of the ’80s romantic-drama Beauty and the Beast.

Cobie Smulders

Modelling almost ruined the possibility of a career in media and entertainment for Vancouver-born Cobie Smulders. The brunette beauty has often noted her disdain for superficial criticism and was relieved to discover depth in the craft of acting when she transitioned from her earlier pursuits on the fashion runway. She planned on studies at the University of Victoria, but a summer spent abroad at London’s Academy of Music and Dramatic Art changed that. A number of Vancouver-based TV series spotted her talent early on, including Smallville and Tru Calling, but her first major success came in 2005 with a recurring role on the acclaimed lesbian-leaning drama The L Word. In an example of major synergy, she secured her place in television history on the long-running Emmy-winning hit How I Met Your Mother that very same year.

Alexander Ludwig

Now living full-time in L.A. as he attends school at USC, Vancouver native Alexander Ludwig was every tween’s favourite villain when The Hunger Games hit theatres in 2012. The Vikings star’s path to that recognizable success was not an arduous one. Following the moderate reception of the 2007 fantasy flick The Seeker, the actor’s big break arrived in the form of a $100 million box office smash just two years later. Race to Witch Mountain, a pseudo-re-boot of the 1975 Disney classic Escape to Witch Mountain, co-starred Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and featured a 17-year-old Ludwig as one half of a pair of alien-powered siblings. Oddly, the actor’s next two big screen projects are similarly-titled releases: Final Girl, a thriller co-starring Abigail Breslin, and The Final Girls, a horror-comedy headlined by Nina Dobrev and Malin Akerman.


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