Leo Contest Finalist Actor Interviews: Andy Thompson & Balinder Johal

Casting Workbook had the pleasure of sitting down & interviewing actors Andy Thompson and Balinder Johal, who were runners up in our recent Leo Awards ticket contest. They both submitted acceptance speech videos that moved many of Vancouver’s casting directors.  We knew that there was more to their stories, and we had to find out what.

Below, Balinder and Andy share their acting inspirations, struggles and advice.

balinder johal interview casting workbook

Watch Balinder’s acceptance speech here.

1. Your submission was so heartwarming! What inspired your submission?
I thought to myself, I’m still acting, and available for auditions… why not! I was wondering what to say, and I thought back to 2008 when I won a Leo Award, when I had to make a speech. It was supposed to be 30 seconds, but ended up as three minutes. Everyone was moved by it, and I tried to make a shorter version of that one with my entry.

2. When did you first begin acting?
My first acting gig was in 1990, with my first speaking role being in 2008. In 1991, I started taking training, to work in mainstream film. I took different workshops for 7-8 years, while working as a teacher at VCC. Remember, back then, the Indo-Canadian actors group didn’t exist. I’ve been acting for 25 years now, and will do it as long as I have life.

3. You’ve had an extensive career. What inspired you to begin acting?
Once I did my first educational film, I knew I wanted to continue. In India, I used to act in plays… I never thought of being on camera at all! I come from an age and culture where I only saw one religious movie when I was in high school, though I did many play competitions in India. When I came to Canada, my acting was put on the back burner. I got my Masters’ in education and taught high school and math and science at VCC. There was seven or eight years during which I was teaching, going to acting class and performing. After a while, I realized I could leave teaching, and so I did. I will always be an actor so long as I can walk and talk!

4. What has been a challenge in your career?
It was hard to balance.  I was teaching, learning and acting whenever the chance came. I would tell the school “I’m doing the role”; they would hire a substitute, and I would go to auditions. It’s hard for an Indian actor who starts late in life. It was always a challenge to do it all, and learning was a different kind of challenge. I started going to acting classes in 1991, and I still go; I always keep exercising my craft. I left my comfortable teaching job with stability and security to act.  I have a lot of dedication.

5. How do you handle disappointment in the industry?
There aren’t a lot of roles that are artistically satisfying. I’ve never been asked to be a doctor, teacher, or counsellor. I would feel so comfortable doing these roles, but I’ve never been offered them, despite my history as a teacher in both math and sciences. I feel the industry can be restrictive on what they offer to me, as an Indo-Canadian woman.

On a positive note, I have done Indian short films, and people have written roles for me. I was on Sanctuary, and they re-wrote my role, which lasted six days as a guest star, instead of one. I was also invited by Deepa Mehta to guest in her film Heaven On Earth, a role that gave me a nomination for a supporting female actor in 2009. She also asked me back to be in Beeba Boys, her latest film.

My challenge is not bouncing back from rejection, it’s actually getting auditions. I don’t get 10 auditions in a year, but I’ve performed in 30 feature films, 14 short films, 13 educational videos and 16 TV series.


andy thompson casting workbook interview

Watch Andy’s acceptance speech here.

1. Normally you get a script, and props are set up. How did you put your submission together?
I knew that given the time constraints it needed to be comedic, but at first I had no idea what I was going to do. Frankly, I considered not doing it at all if I couldn’t come up with a good idea. I spent a bit of time imagining what I could do, and realized I wanted to get an actual Leo award in the shot, and that got me thinking about who had one that I could borrow. I knew that Gabrielle Rose had won multiple Leos. We were working on a film together at the time. Then I had this idea that the awards would not actually be mine, that I would be in her awards room, and thought, ‘What if I was a staff member at her house, and I was having a fantasy about winning them myself?’ I asked her if she would be interested in doing it with me. She agreed!

2. Gabrielle Rose was a really good sport!
There was definitely a collaborative nature in the room when we shot it. I knew I wanted to get caught fantasizing with her awards. She came up with the line, ‘I asked you to dust them.’ But we couldn’t find a duster. I suggested we change the line to, ‘I asked you to polish them,’ and we were able to find those basic props in the spur of the moment.

3. What challenges you in your acting career?
Something I’ve been doing of late is giving myself the challenge of doing something every day to develop my acting career and practice. This could range from auditioning, teaching, writing, chatting with my agent or working out. The idea is to do one thing a day to continue developing my craft.

4. Do you have any advice for actors on how to bounce back from a bad audition?
What makes an audition bad? Not getting the role? Or not giving it your all? Always be mindful that audition results do not necessarily have anything to do with you. Perhaps they were looking for a different physicality, ethnicity, or other characteristics that do not relate to your talent. Of course, there can always be days that you might not be bringing your “A” game, but ultimately you can control that. What you need to do is ask yourself why you didn’t give it your all. Can I learn from it? What will I do differently next time? The ultimate failure is repeating the same mistakes and not learning.

5. Do you have any advice for actors concerning time management skills?
Get them! Time management is important in all aspects of life. I think of things in short, medium and long term time frames. Many young actors don’t schedule their lives, which surprises me. You absolutely have to organize your life in some way. I don’t make any promises without writing them down. You learn the hard way if you say yes to meetings, and can’t make them. To me, my life revolves around Google Calendar.

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