A Red Deer-born actor is increasingly tapping into the world of professional acting having wrapped a couple of major film projects this past year.
Andrew McKenzie, 21, is enrolled in the acting stream of the Motion Picture Arts program at Red Deer College. And fortunately, he didn’t have to wait too long for key opportunities to break into the industry to come his way.
Last year he landed a role in the film I Think I Do which aired this past weekend.
Although he dabbled in acting in junior high school, it was during high school McKenzie found himself excelling in drama. It was then it also became obvious it was the most fitting career path. “It wasn’t until Grade 10 that I realized acting was actually what I wanted to do.”
After graduation, he studied the Meisner Acting Technique under Cindy Christensen at Calgary’s Playhouse North School of Theatre for two years along with ballet classes, circus training and voice lessons.
“I would say that Cindy’s greatest strength is in spotting those little inaccuracies where you stray from the truth,” he explains. “She has such a keen eye to be able to point those out that if you are willing to take the critique, you will grow.”
The Meisner Technique involves “Utilizing a number of exercises that puts an actor up against the different challenges they will face when they are doing their craft.
“Acting is the ability to live truthfully under the given imaginary circumstances. You really work through that statement step-by-step.”
His experience at the Playhouse North School of Acting was invaluable in his development as an actor, as has been the guidance he is receiving at Red Deer College. After he wrapped up studies in Calgary, he relocated back to Red Deer to study acting for film at RDC under Larry Reese.
He can’t say enough about the program. “As much as you want to pursue your career, they are right there beside you. Larry is the best advocate I’ve had for my career – he’s really there for his students.”
I Think I Do, which was directed by RDC alumnus Dylan Pearce, also stars Sara Canning (The Vampire Diaries), Mia Kirshner (The Black Dahlia) as well as accomplished local actors Lori Ravensborg and Larry Reese among others.
“It’s about these three sisters at different stages in life, and how they are dealing with love in its many forms.”
McKenzie plays the love interest of the youngest sister, played by Canning. Described as a romantic-relationship comedy, I Think I Do is also about “commitment, cold feet, the endurance of true love, the importance of family ties and the hard lesson learned that, try as we may, life simply does not go as planned.”
For McKenzie, tackling the part demanded a bit of a perspective shift.
“It was interesting – I had a conversation with my acting teacher about it, and I had to make a mental switch of ‘I’m not a student right now, I’m a professional’. It took a lot of bolstering up courage and perseverance when there is so much about the environment I wasn’t used to.”
In late 2010, Pearce had approached RDC’s motion picture arts staff about including students in his project. McKenzie auditioned for a small role, and later told producers he wanted to try for one of the larger parts. He sent in an audition tape and a few days later Pearce and other production staff drove to Red Deer to have McKenzie do a callback audition at his home.
“It was unnerving,” he says with a laugh. But nerves aside, McKenzie proved he had what it took to nail the role and production began in Edmonton in January of 2012.
McKenzie will also be appearing in Year After Year, a locally-produced film slated for release this spring. Directed by Dustin Clark, another RDC alumnus, McKenzie had to stretch creatively by singing in the role as well.
“He put 100 per cent into it,” he says of Clark. “That’s something that also inspires the team – when you see this director editing scenes at night after he goes home, and putting together songs for us to work with the next day.”
Meanwhile, McKenzie is looking ahead to a range of possibilities as his career unfolds. He’s working on a couple of short films plus writing a feature-length script with Katrina Beatty, a co-producer of I Think I Do.
“What I love about acting is that inevitably, it is this constant pursuit for truth and growth,” he says. “Having the privilege to explore something like that is just so worthwhile.”