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5 Famous Actors Raised in the GTA

Toronto is a bustling metropolis renowned for its landmark buildings, lively streets, and waterfront skyline. Canada’s largest city is among the most diverse in the world. The home of the CN tower and Toronto Maple Leafs is also home to these celebrities who were raised in this large cosmopolitan backyard.

Stephan James

Stephan James is best known for playing the role of Julian Williams in the Canadian hit TV drama Degrassi: The Next Generation. Having starred in several Canadian TV series, he became famous, winning a Canadian Screen Award for best actor in his role in the 2016 movie Race. In the movie James portrayed the role of Jesse Owens, an American track and field athlete who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games. James also starred in the ABC family special 12 Dates of Christmas with Amy Stewart and Mark Paul Gosselaar. 

His other remarkable achievements include acting in Barry Jenkins’ acclaimed drama If Beale Street Could Talk, based on a James Baldwin novel. He also portrayed the role of Walter Cruz in the Amazon series Homecoming, for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination. James’ philanthropic interests include establishing a non-profit called B.L.A.C.K. Canada with his brother Shamier Anderson. It showcases and supports black talent across Canada. His most recent work is the Apple TV Plus series Surface, where he plays the role of Thomas Baden, an undercover police officer. 

Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves is quintessentially international. He was born in Beirut, Lebanon, to an English mother and a native Hawaiian father who is half Chinese. He moved to Toronto after his parents divorced. Reeves and his sisters grew up in Yorkville with a nanny caring for them most of the time. Reeves’ passion for hockey made him a successful ice-hockey goalkeeper at De La Salle College, an independent co-educational Catholic college in Ontario. 

His aspirations for being a professional hockey player quickly fizzled out at 15. Soon afterward, he decided to get a green card through his American stepfather and move to Los Angeles. Reeves’ early appearances in Toronto included stunts as a correspondent for CBC’s youth television program Going Great. He also played in local stage productions like Brad Fraser’s Wolfboy and Romeo and Juliet at the Leah Posluns Theatre in North York. 

Considered one of Hollywood’s most hard-working and well-liked actors, Reeves has launched several big-screen hits like the 1999 movie The Matrix and its sequels. His acting career includes successful roles in movies like SpeedDracula, and John Wick, an action-packed thriller that won him a big audience in 2014 and was followed by several sequels.

Iman Vellani

Best known for her role as Kamala Khan in the Disney Plus series Ms. Marvel Vellani came to Canada when she was a year old. The 20-year-old actress lives in Markham, Ontario. Before becoming popular on the Disney series, Villani’s aunt forwarded her the casting call for Ms. Marvel in September 2020 when the Pandemic first started. After rigorous in-screen testing and interviewing on Zoom, she got the role. Sana Amanat, the co-creator and executive producer of the series, was impressed by her performance and her fondness for Avengers.

Vellani success with Ms. Marvel led her to appear in the subsequent documentary film A Fan’s Guide to Ms. Marvel about the production of the series featuring interviews with her and the production team. Vellani has several upcoming collaborations with Disney Plus, including voiceovers for the animated series What if…?

Simu Liu

Simu Liu started his Canadian acting career in the CBC’s TV series Kim’s Convenience, in which he played Jung Kim, one of the leading characters. The Chinese-born Canadian actor won a Game Changer’s and People’s Choice awards for his role in the movie Shang-Chi and the legend of the Ten Rings in 2021. His early on-screen appearances included working as a stuntman in movies and music videos like Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim and Avicii’s I Could Be the One. Immigrating to Canada from China at five, Simu was raised in Mississauga, Ontario. 

Liu is a talented writer; he has written and produced for both television and films. He appeared in several episodes of the Omni TV crime series Blood and Water. He later made subsequent appearances in series like Taken and guest starred in others like The ExpanseBad Blood, and Fresh off the Boat. His early pitches include writing for the second season of Blood and Water, contributing as a story editor and writer for an entire episode. His short film Meeting Mommy was selected as a semi-finalist at NBC’s Universal Short film festival. 

Dan Levy

Dan Levy takes a lot after his father, Eugene Levy. The famous Canadian actor is known for his work in the popular Canadian show Schitt’s Creek, which he co-created with his father, Eugene. Born in Toronto, Levy began his career as a television host on MTV Canada. He won several Primetime Emmy Awards for his work on Schitt’s Creek, including best outstanding supporting actor, director, and writer for a comedy series. His most notable achievement includes writing and producing his own MTV Christmas special. 

Like many other Canadian actors, he made his debut appearance in the Canadian TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation, playing the role of a film producer. He appeared in the 2012 movie Cyberstalker and the 2013 comedy-drama Admission with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. His acting career took off in 2013 when he formed his own production company with his father, Eugene. His first pilot project was a TV series with CBC, which resulted in Schitt’s Creek, in which he played the role of David Rose.

David Messiha | Staff Writer

Spring 2024

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