Everyone always knows the names of the stars when they’re famous. You constantly hear about the happenings in their lives through social media or film and television announcements, but do we ever really stop to think about where these stars come from? And how exactly they have managed to climb their way up to the places they are today?
Here is a list of 13 famous actors you may not have known were actually born in our very own Alberta, Canada.
1.Nathan Fillion (Edmonton)
Though today we probably know him best as the smooth-talking Richard Castle on TV, Nathan Fillion was indeed born in Edmonton, Alberta and attended both the Concordia University College of Alberta and the University of Alberta for his education. He dabbled in theatre sports with Rapid Fire Theatre before moving to New York, where he starred in the soap opera One Life to Live as Joey Buchanan, earning him a nomination for the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actor in a Drama Series. He then decided to move to LA and was promptly cast in Spielberg’s incredible Saving Private Ryan. In 2002, he was cast in his iconic role as Malcolm Reynolds in the cult classic show Firefly which rocketed him to fame, earning him many awards, as well as a chance to reprise the role in the film sequel Serenity. He has played the titular character of Richard Castle in the police procedural Castle since 2009 and has also provided voices for many of the Halo games.
2. Evangeline Lilly (Fort Saskatchewan)
This Lost star was born in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta before moving to Abbotsford, BC with her family. First discovered as a model by an agent while walking the streets of Kelowna, she had several small, non-speaking roles in shows such as Smallville and Kingdom Hospital. This then led to her audition for the role of Kate Austen in J.J Abrams hit show Lost, Abrams casting her immediately upon seeing her audition tape. She played the role for the following 6 season run of the show and earned her a Golden Globe nomination. She went on to star in the Academy Award winning film The Hurt Locker not long after. She has since starred in many blockbuster films, playing the original character Tauriel in two of the three Hobbit films, opposite Hugh Jackman in Real Steel and most recently as Hope Van Dyne in Ant-Man, a role which she will reprise for the Marvel sequel Ant-Man and The Wasp (slated for 2018), the first Marvel film to feature a female hero in the title.
3. Michael J Fox (Edmonton)
Best known for his role as the quirky Marty McFly in the Back to the Future trilogy, Michael J Fox was in fact born in Edmonton, Alberta. His family moved across various Albertan cities in his youth before finally settling in Burnaby, BC where he attended Burnaby Central Secondary School. Fox has an incredible film and TV career spanning all the way from the 1970’s to today, starting most notably with his role as Alex Keaton in NBC’s Family Ties which ran for 7 seasons and won him 3-time Emmy’s and a Golden Globe. During his time on Family Ties, he was also cast as Marty McFly in the first Back to the Future film, having to make negotiations with his producers and go to extremes with his rehearsal and shoot schedules in order to film the movie. He would have to work from 10am – 2:30am the next day to make the time to do both projects. He then went on to do the following two sequel’s to the first film. He has more recently starred in the lead roles in shows such as Spin City and The Michael J. Fox Show (based loosely around his life). He has been battling with Parkinson’s Disease since 1991, creating The Michael J. Fox Foundation to help further research in curing the disease and writing the book Lucky Man on his experiences.
4. Tricia Helfer (Donalda)
Tricia Helfer was born in Donalda, Alberta. You haven’t heard of it? Good, neither have I. Finding Donalda on the Alberta map was harder than Battlestar Galactica finding planet Earth for 4 seasons. Prior to her breakout role as Cylon Number Six in Battlestar, she was raised working on her family’s grain farm, and attending William E Hay Composite High School in Settler, Alberta. One of the most recent works you may have seen her in is the popular TV show Suits.
5. Eric Johnson (Edmonton)
Another Edmontonian, Johnson started his acting career early at the age of 9 when he was enrolled in the local theatre company Stage Polaris. He got the chance to play the younger version of Brad Pitt’s character in the 1994 film Legends of the Fall, which was filmed throughout Alberta and BC. He got his breakout role in 2001, playing the role of Clark Kent’s rival Whitney Fordman in the show Smallville, and then went on the star as Flash Gordon in Scy-Fy’s Flash Gordon. He has also had recurring roles in the shows Rookie Blue and Alcatraz. In 2013, he was cast as Dr. Everett Gallinger, the talented young medic who is Clive Owen’s protege in the Cinemax drama The Knick, the show being renewed for a second season. He will be playing the role of Jack Hyde in the sequel film to Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker which is slated for 2017 and will be reprising the role for the third film Fifty Shades Freed in 2018.
6. Cory Monteith (Calgary)
This singer/actor is surprisingly, yep you guessed it, Albertan. Born in Calgary, Alberta, before moving to Victoria in BC, Monteith had a rougher childhood, at one point dropping completely out of high school before he had his rise to fame. Moving to Vancouver, he had small roles in many TV shows such as Smallville, Supernatural, Stargate Atlantis and Flash Gordon. He also had minor roles in the films Final Destination 3 and Whisper. In 2009 he sent in an audition tape of him singing “Can’t Fight This Feeling” which landed him the role of the adorable but naive quarterback Finn Hudson in the hit TV show Glee. He played this role for 4 seasons, all the way until his death in Vancouver in 2013. The show did a memorial episode to pay tribute to both Montieth and his character Finn in October 2013. He was also featured in an extended tribute at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards along with four other actors who died.
7. Tommy Chong (Edmonton)
Comedian, actor, writer, director, activist, musician, you name it, Tommy Chong has probably done it. And not only that, this iconic figure was born in our very own Edmonton, Alberta. Moving to Vancouver, Chong got his start in the music industry going through several different band revisions before settling with a group called Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. After a successful stint with them, he moved on to pursue comedy, creating Cheech & Chong, a stand- up comedy duo with his friend Cheech Marin. The two found a wide audience with their stand-up routine’s and wrote and starred in several films. Though very successful, the two soon split due to creative differences and Chong moved on to actively pursue a formal acting career, quickly landing the role of Leo in the sitcom That 70’s Show. He has created, written, directed and acted in many films and TV shows since then, his most recent credit being the voice of Yax in Disney’s box office hit Zootopia.
8. Genevieve Blechner (Edmonton)
You may not know her name right now, but this rising star is definitely making her way into the limelight of the TV world, and quickly. Born in Edmonton, Genevieve moved with her family to Vancouver where she studied acting courses with the Vancouver Youth Theatre, going on tour with them as their youngest actress in the cast. She was scouted not long after by a talent agency in Vancouver and has been frequenting in television ever since. She had snagged a recurring role in the Battlestar Galactica spin-off Caprica, as well as the role of Fox in the CW series The 100. Most notably, she has been portraying Madison on Lifetime’s award winning dark comedy UnREAL, reprising the role for the second season and possibly the third as well.
9. Melissa O’Neil (Calgary)
Born in Calgary and originally a contestant on Canadian Idol, this star was the first female winner on the show and has ventured into various aspects of the industry since. Though she may not have as many credits as some of the other stars around her, O’Neil still managed to land a lead role on the Canadian Sci-Fi series Dark Matter, playing the part of Two, one of the crew members with no memories. The show was renewed for a second season, which premiered of July 1st, 2016, with O’Neil once again joining the cast. We’re looking forward to what she will do next with her career.
10. Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (Edmonton)
Edmonton born, and raised in Rimbey, Alberta, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman started his career in the industry as a fashion model at the age of 16, shooting with numerous fashion brands. Alongside modeling, he also began to explore his options in the acting field, making quite a name for himself among the LGBT community. He has starred in numerous films such as Dirty Grandpa, and has had a recurring role in Stargate Universe. He has been working alongside fellow Edmontonian Genevieve Buechner on Lifetime’s UnREAL, portraying Jay, one of the gay producers on the reality tv show.
11. Jessica Parker Kennedy (Calgary)
Turns out Albertan actors can even be pirates! This Black Sails star was born in Calgary and has accumulated a large number of credits over the years. In television, she has played the villian Plastique in Smallville, Natalee in MTV’s Kaya, and Melissa in The Secret Circle before landing her role as Max in 2013, one of the leads in Black Sails. She will continue her role as Max for seasons 2 and 3 of the show. She has also starred in the film 50/50 alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, and In Time with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried.
12. Elisha Cuthbert (Calgary)
You may recognize this name from the long running series 24, Elisha Cuthbert is also an Albertan! Born in Calgary, she moved to both Quebec and Toronto in her youth before moving to LA at the age of only 17. She started as a model when she was 9, carrying this into her older years before diving into acting. After her move to the US, she was cast in the role of Kim Bauer, setting the tone for the rest of her career. She continued into her film career with small roles in Old School and Love Actually, before her first film breakout in The Girl Next Door as the beautiful Danielle. Since then, she has gone on to star in numerous film and television series, such as Happy Endings and most recently the Netflix series The Ranch with Ashton Kutcher.
13. Erica Durance (Calgary)
The last Albertan on our list, Erica Durance was born in Calgary and raised on, of all things, a turkey farm in Three Hills, Alberta. She was trained as a classical singer in her youth and then moved to Vancouver to fully pursue her acting career, starting with small background roles and eventually working her way up. She was cast as Lois Lane in Smallville, playing the character for 7 years and earning several nominations for her portrayal. In 2012, she was cast in the lead role of Dr. Alex Reid in the medical drama Saving Hope, the show finishing it’s fourth season this year and being renewed for a fifth. Durance is also a producer on the show.
We hope you enjoyed this list! Know about any other Albertan stars not on the list? Mention them in the comments below! Also check our our other Alberta list: 7 Amazing Big-budget Movies & Series Filmed in Alberta