Interview with Tod Fennell

Orcasound: You got your first professional action gig at the age of 7 and have been working in the industry since. How were you able to avoid all the pitfalls that other child actors have fallen victim of?

Tod: I was blessed with incredible parents and mentors throughout my early career and youth. I stayed really active in both my community and with my friends. Martial arts and my parents' lifestyle gave me the discipline and perseverance to pursue my goals, whatever they may be. I enjoyed all the benefits of being a child actor while understanding that it was a job, there was work to be done, and I was committed to doing it to the best of my abilities.

Orcasound: Seriously, how did you make the transition from child to adult actor?

Tod: It's been quite the journey. The transition from child to adult actor mirrored my real life transition. I've always tried to be as method of an actor as I can, even at a young age. Like most actors, I really put myself in the position of the character and try to get totally lost in his theoretical life. If I'm not, or too aware of my actual self during a scene, I know I need to focus harder. That being said, it's essential to fully understand what it is to be an adult in order to portray one in a project. I was extremely lucky to be cast in key roles at the right time which gave casting agents as well as the audience an opportunity to see me as a grown up. I played a bank manager in "The Spiderwick Chronicles" as well as a suspect in "4400".

Orcasound: Do you think having parents who were working in the arts (dance instructors) led you to becoming an actor?

Tod: My parents had a huge influence on my becoming an actor. They always told me that I could be or do absolutely anything. They treated acting as the legitimate profession that it is, never emphasized a back-up plan and reinforced my belief that I would be a successful actor if I wanted it bad enough and was ready to work for it. They were both successful dancers, choreographers and entrepreneurs. As I watched my dad growing up, I saw how he just moved from one project to another, or even job to job seamlessly learning what he needed to get the job done along the way. He always taught me to finish what I started to the best of my abilities then on to the next one! And my mother had that "anything's possible" spark about her. She didn't just chase her dreams her whole life, she caught them. Both of my parents have been my primary supporters, instructors and my inspiration.

Orcasound: With your schedule how often are you able to teach acting at your parents dance studio, Dans'Atout?

Tod: Since my mom passed away in May of 2008, the studio has been under Melanie Beaudet's management along with my help. I'm usually there for the first week of the first month and whenever else we need some extra help around the studio. Luckily, the classes are at night during the week, so I can be there unless I have an evening shoot or something out of town. The studio's such a positive place and I grew up there, so it really doesn't feel like work. It's like a reset button when life gets hectic.

Orcasound: You have a black belt in karate. How did you get into it?

Tod: I started when I was 5 years old. I loved the Ninja Turtles like everyone else in the world born in the 80s. My mom asked me if I wanted to do stuff like that and I said "Hell yeah!". I continued training at the same school till I was about 15 when I got my black belt. Then I went on to try out other styles like Kenpo and Wushu. What's crazy it that I got to do the voice of a character in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game by Ubisoft.

Orcasound: Based on your karate skills, it must have been a dream of yours to star in a kung fu film like you recently did in "Wushu Warrior".

Tod: Wushu was what I've been waiting for my whole life. I got to cross something off my bucket list at 23 years old! I got a trip to Shanghai; I was PAID to train and got the opportunity to combine my two favourite skills from childhood. It's when I realized that I really did have a dream job and that this was what I truly wanted to do for the rest of my life. It also gave me the confidence in the knowledge that I really could do anything if I put my mind to it.

Orcasound: What was it like to film in Shanghai ("Wushu Warrior")?

Tod: Shanghai is a beautiful place! And the people are incredibly friendly, the whole cast and crew were very patient with my attempts at Mandarin. Shooting the movie was an adrenaline ride from start to finish. We worked 13-14 hour days and shot tons of action scenes. I also got to work with wires for jumps and falls, another dream come true. I was exhausted and towards the end of the shoot, it was tough to walk up a flight of stairs in the morning, but the director (Alain Desrochers) kept our eyes on the prize. He inspired us and was giving his 150%. There's a scene on the dock where I'm training shirtless, it looks really cool but you can't see is that it was close to freezing outside and it was raining. We did tons of take and I was trying like hell not to shiver. There were only 6 of us from Quebec on the project, so there were some very strong friendships built in 6 weeks and my French actually got better in China even though I live in Quebec. The whole thing was surreal.

Orcasound: You seem to be an animal "expert". It seems to me that you have not appeared in a film or commercial without an animal being involved. A goat in "Blue Mountain State", being the voice of a rabbit in "Alfred Hedgehog", a cat in a Canadian Tire commercial, a chimp in a commercial, and every episode of "Lassie" for YTV. Have you carved out a niche for yourself in the industry?

Tod: Ah! The animal thing. I have no idea what's up with that! Your guess is as good as mine. I've been trying to figure it out too. It's weird because even recently on "Blue Mountain State", there were four of us who could have grabbed the goat and the director was just like "So Tod, you're gonna grab the goat, k?". I thought to myself…"Of course, who else?"

Orcasound: What is coming up for you?

Tod: Well, right now I'm working on my 0-1 permit to be able to audition for work in the U.S. There are some Brault & Martineau television commercials airing right now, I recorded a radio commercial for Desjardins Insurance and had a photo shoot last week for a pharmaceutical company. I love this career 'cause you never know what's around the corner. It's a surprise every time my agent calls. One day, I could be in a sound studio in the old port of Montreal and the other, flying to Vancouver to shoot a science fiction show. However unpredictable this industry may be, it's the life I chose and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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