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Graham Abbey: Actor, Director, & Artistic Director


Graham favours the theatre over film, explaining:


"I love connecting with people. Some great actor had said I didn't do film because I can't hear the audience breathe. I'm slightly addicted to that connection. I feel like I'm affecting something."


I had a fun conversation with Graham Abbey, an actor, director, and creative director. It's very clear that Graham loves his work!


Watch and listen to the conversation here.


Graham has been a leading actor and director at the Stratford Festival of Canada for

22 seasons. Selected Shakespearean roles include Romeo, Macbeth, King Henry IV,

King Henry V, King Henry VIII, Iago, Berowne, Jaques, Aufidius and Petruchio.


He has appeared in theatres across North America including two seasons at the

renowned Chicago Shakespeare Theatre with Brian Bedford in The Moliere Comedies

and School for Scandal.


On the film and television front Graham spent three seasons starring on the hit CBC

series The Border as Detective Gray Jackson and appeared in Frontier opposite Jason

Momoa. He has also appeared on several Canadian and US television series

including recurring roles on Murdoch Mysteries, Lost Girl, Covert Affairs, Republic of

Doyle, Rein and Warehouse 13.


Graham has starred in several feature films, playing opposite Sarah Silverman in

Academy Award nominated director Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz, Donald

Sutherland in Milton’s Secret, John Stamos in Secrets of Eden and Woody Harrelson

in Defendor.


Graham is the Artistic Director of The Groundling Theatre Company in Toronto and

The Festival Players of Prince Edward County.


He is also the CEO and Creative Director of GhostLight Inc., specializing in digital

classrooms and creative platforms for performing artists.


He holds an honours degree in Politics from Queen’s University where he was a

Rhodes Scholarship candidate.


SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR CONVERSATION:

  • Graham was planning to go to law school and completed his LSATs. He gave himself "a year to get acting out of his system", and after deferring his LSATs for a few more years, he accepted finally to stay in acting.

  • he was a child actor and singer in Stratford, Ontario, starting at the age of ten. He was part of musical theatre productions in high school and university.

  • "successful people in acting are often too naive to know the odds (when they get into it). If I knew more, I may have talked myself out of (a career in acting)."

  • the stage pays less than film or TV but it's more steady and has longevity.

  • stage acting requires putting out a great deal of physical energy.

OTHER TIPS:

  • "hard work puts you in the right place. There's a lot of right place at the right time too.

  • to succeed in acting, it's a combination of hard work + tenacity + being in the right place at the right time."

  • "to be successful you have to know you're addicted to creating. When the job ends, the creative energy has to go somewhere, so put it into other projects. People who are drawn to the arts, you'll be alright. For most artists you can't turn it off. It's where you have to be."

  • you need self confidence and self discipline to forge out your own career.

  • you need to manage your mental state. You're constantly in front of people and it's a struggle to maintain confidence in oneself.

  • there's insecurity with money. You've got to be comfortable with the swings.

  • you need to understand what you can bring to the business (for example, your singing voice) and be your own salesperson, understand what you're "packaging".

  • make a distinction between the fame and the enjoyment and desire to create.

FINAL ADVICE:

  • "be brave and bold!

  • you're going to fall on your face. But those are the learning experiences. As long as you get back up again. Those falls teach you so much. Fail. Fail again. Fail better and get back up again as an artist."

FAVOURITE ROLES?

  • Gray Jackson in The Border TV series

  • Henry V

  • Romeo.

Thank you Graham for sharing your stories and ideas with our audience!



This interview was taped during the COVID19 pandemic, June 2020.

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