What was it like for you growing up as a kid?

That's the best way to grow up! (Ha ha.)

Well, I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a rather nice area of Toronto (just west of Yonge Street, between Eglinton and Lawrence for all you Toronto aficionados). I say lucky because my family rented a flat from my grandmother, otherwise we couldn't have afforded it.

The neighborhood was composed of wealthy business owners on the one hand, and intellectual types—doctors, professors, etc—on the other. This unusual demographic was well reflected in the local high school. The rich half would go on international skiing trips during winter break—so many that by January the school hallways looked like the orthopedic ward. The intellectual half amused themselves by insulting each other in pseudo-Latin: “Get the plumbum out of your posterior!” I wasn't rich, so I fell in with the “smart” crowd—by default as much as anything else.

That was my “city” life. My other experiences, possibly deeper and more profound, took place a few hours north, on the family's original 200-acre land grant in Parry Sound District.

I really had the John Denver thing going there during my early formative years: “Talk to God and listen to the casual reply.” There's nothing like being surrounded by a zillion square miles of virtually uninhabited forest, lakes, and granite-mica schist to make one realize that the Creative Forces of the Universe are a lot bigger than you are, and that to accomplish anything you have to work with them.

Sometimes I'd almost “go native” with it. I was heavy into “communing with the forest creatures.” With practice I actually developed quite a good wolf call. I'd walk into the forest in the late evening, and give out with a few of my best renditions. Responses were easy to get; my call would be quickly echoed by a whole pack of wolves. But I wanted more than that, so I'd keep calling. Then it would happen: a single curious wolf would amble down the mountain to see who and what I was. When I saw those two bright yellow eyes staring at me out of the blackness, then I knew that I'd been granted the honor of sharing consciousness with the forest's most intelligent creature, if only for a short time.

That's quite a contrast: urban jungle and total wilderness.

Yeah. Between those two we had a small hobby farm thirty miles north of Toronto. My dad always visualized himself as this “gentleman farmer” type, so he finally bought one. The whole place was straight out of Green Acres, but I did learn a lot about planting, watering, harvesting, wood chopping, chainsawing, small engine maintenance and repair—and repair, and repair, and repair.

So how did you get started in acting?
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players...
—William Shakespeare,
As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7

For me, that pretty much covers it. As long as I can remember, I've been intrigued by the craft of acting. As a typical child of the 1960s, I watched a great deal of television, but I hardly ever watched the show—I watched the lighting, camera angles, and editing cuts. But mainly I watched the acting. I studied the various techniques and styles of the different actors, the vocal inflections and the “micro-gestures” in their facial expressions that they would use to convey specific internal states. I intuitively felt that I could do pretty well at acting. I could easily visualize myself doing it.

Then one day in my early twenties I came across one of those “we need new faces” ads run by a Toronto talent agency. I even remember the ad copy: “You could be the next Farrah, Johnny, or Merv.” (Am I dating myself or what?) I made an appointment, and they taped me reading some dramatic scenes and some commercial copy.

I must have done better than most of the respondents, because they called me back a few days later and sat me down with both the head of the agency and the professor of the affiliated acting academy. Convinced that I was concealing some vast theatrical experience, they looked me in the eye and said, “Now Lloyd, why don't you tell us what you've done?” Eventually convinced that I'd done nothing beyond studying other actors in movies and TV, they invited me to immediate representation by the agency and training at the academy.

If I had any talent, maybe I came by it honestly. Recognize the address 1063 Avenue Road? Probably not. During the 1970s, that address was the unofficial Mecca of North American Comedy. At one time or another, all of the following people either rented that house, lived there, or just hung around a lot: Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis, John Candy, Bill Murray and his brother, Mike Myers, Martin Short, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin, Catherine O'Hara, and film producer/director Ivan Reitman (Animal House, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Beethoven, Dave, Private Parts, Six Days Seven Nights).

What's any of that got do with me? For over twenty years I lived one and a half blocks from Avenue Road. Everyone from that particular neighborhood of north Toronto seems to develop the same style of humor. It's basically a local variation of the legendary “dry Canadian wit.” Must be something in the water. I probably could have been really good at comedy, but I had a misspent youth hanging around the libraries. All those guys would work up their sketches in that house before performing them down at the Old Firehall Theatre at 110 Lombard Street. By the way, it was a little-known fact that that theatre was located next door to the city morgue—convenient if you “died on stage.”

Not to mention that Toronto is the “Los Angeles North” of the film industry. Hardly anyone realizes how many major motion pictures are shot there, because they always disguise the set to make it look like a U.S. city. But if you watch carefully, you can catch the occasional overlooked Canadian flag or red mailbox in the background.

Of course Toronto is not free of problems as a film location. A film crew once “redecorated” a Toronto street to resemble a seedy section of New York City. During lunch break, the Toronto street cleaners came along, picked up every scrap of paper and trash, and washed the street with high pressure water jets. I doubt that messing the street up twice was in the film's original production budget.

Did you do any acting in Toronto?

Yes, but not as much as you'd think, considering how long I lived there. After some local voiceover and commercial work, my agent got me a spot in the 1979 made-for-TV movie, Torn Between Two Lovers, a two-night location shoot at the Toronto airport. It was non-speaking, but I did get to work closely with George Peppard. I even bumped into him in one of the scenes. He impressed me (no pun intended): an excellent actor, perfectly professional, but very courteous to everyone on the set, including the dozens of Extras.

So what have you been doing since moving to Tidewater?

Since moving to Virginia Beach, I've been studying at the prestigious Zarro Acting Academy under Academy Award® winning director Antonio Zarro, and graduated in early 2001. I work with several agencies, covering most of the east coast film and television venues: Hampton Roads, Richmond, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and of course Wilmington, North Carolina.

I've appeared in several TV series at New Dominion Pictures, had supporting parts in some local independent movies, performed in a couple of community theatre productions, and in the Hampton Roads Shakespeare Festival live on an outdoor stage. It's one of the mysteries of my life how I've done so much better over a short time in “Nowhere, Virginia” than over decades of living in a major film center like Toronto. Oh, well. I'm sometimes tempted to think it may be the “big fish in a little pond” syndrome, but modesty forbids; there are many, many very talented actors in this region.

What types of role do you typically get?

Because I'm such a distinct “long blond hair” type, I'm usually cast as either a bad guy or homeless man. But I have played a wide variety of contrasting characters, including a leading role as an attorney on a national cable channel.

Which roles do you most like to do?

I like just about any role; I enjoy the challenge of broadening my range. But I especially enjoy doing pieces that are set in a different time period—medieval, Shakespearean, eighteenth century—back when “long hair” types were part of mainstream society. Those pieces also offer roles that simply don't exist in the present day: medieval monk, executioner, French aristocrat.

The costumes and makeup are usually more striking in period pieces, too, especially in a Theatre production. And I might get to deliver a few lines in a foreign language, or make use of some unusual accents or vocalizations, which are sort of a specialty of mine.

But you can't let yourself get hung up on the fact that it's a different time period and costume style. Everything on stage must be real and familiar to you so that it will be real to the audience.

What are your long range goals?

To work with the top people in the industry and make good film. When done well, Film is the most powerful creative medium of expression the world has ever known, and I'm proud to make a contribution to it.

In that case, do you ever think of pursuing your career in New York?

Nah. Not my style, although I have done Comedy Improv at the world famous New York Comedy Club. I went there for an audition, but they liked me so much they asked if I'd like to do the evening show with the regular cast. I'll gladly run up to “the city” anytime they want me.

But if I move anywhere, it'll be to L.A. I spent two weeks in Los Angeles several years ago. I decided at that time that L.A. was my favorite city in the world, and I've never changed my mind. The whole place has this characteristic aroma: a unique combination of tropical foliage and automobile exhaust. What an aphrodisiac!

But seriously, I loved the whole “energy” of the place. Woody Allen has said that the only cultural advantage of Los Angeles over New York is that you can make a right turn on a red light. I disagree. Sorry, Woody.

How about trying Toronto again?

Cold. Snow. Snow. Cold. Astronomically high consumer prices and taxes. Higher than L.A. in many cases, and that's saying something! Besides, I lived there for decades and nothing much happened. I'd gladly go there if I were booked on a specific shoot, but not just to look for work.

Do have any advice for other actors?

It's difficult to be specific, since the discipline of Acting is such a personal craft. Just remember that the human animal never stands still: if you're not moving forward, you're slipping backward. Each of us has a comfortable style, or “shtick,” that we do pretty well, but don't settle for that. Stretch yourself; broaden your range.

And in any audition or performance, try to have a good “energy”: an energy that is “open” rather than “closed,” that says “yes” rather than “no.” Make the choices. Take the risks. Go for it! Acting—like life—begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

So we'll be seeing you in the movies?

Hope so.