Elise Canning had an opportunity to combine two of her loves – soccer and the stage – this summer.
The Antigonish student garnered a role in the CBC sitcom Mr. D, which stars St. F.X, alumnus Gerry Dee.
“I had no idea what I was getting into,” the Grade 11 student at Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School said, with a laugh.
After seeing the invitation for a high-school age soccer player on the Antigonish Celtics Soccer Club website, Elise’s mother said the role suited her and that she should take a chance.
She noted the call for actors described the opportunity as an ‘extra.’
“To me, an extra is, just out of focus in the background,” Elise explained.
“I didn’t know that I would, actually, have to be a big part of it.”
After making contact with casting, to her surprise, a script arrived at her house.
“I didn’t think I had to talk or anything,” she said.
Elise read the script and learned her lines, before travelling to Halifax for an audition.
“They also had me record a tape of my soccer skills, which I had to send to the producers,” she said.
They soon called to inform her she got the part.
In July, with her mother and aunt, Kim Crawford, she returned to the Nova Scotia capital for shooting, becoming ‘Tanya’ – her name in the episode – for two days.
On the first one, they filmed the soccer sequences, which created some challenges, including Elise having to wear a different set of cleats.
“They weren’t great (laughing),” Elise said, “and the ball was really light.”
“It was really stressful because there were all these crew members lined up and a whole team of people watching me do something, but it was fun,” she added.
Noting she was unsure of how much she could reveal, Elise explained Dee, a teacher at the fictional Xavier Academy (homage to his alma mater) takes over as coach of the girls’ soccer team.
“Tanya is the best one there – she is his star player – and he runs into obstacles along the way,” Elise said.
She described the whole experience as “really fun.”
The CBC series is shot at Citadel High School, in downtown Halifax, which is located near the QEII Health Sciences Centre.
“We had to stop every once in a while, when the ambulances went by,” Elise recalled.
On the second day, filming moved inside the largest high school in the province.
“Everyone there was so nice. They were super, super helpful and so welcoming,” Elise said of the Mr. D crew.
She noted, while taking a moment to search for an appropriate words, they were “totally not judgmental.”
“They just wanted to make sure that everyone was happy and comfortable. Again, everyone was so nice,” Elise added.
That ‘everyone,’ included Dee – the creator and star of the sitcom.
“It was funny because my Dad (Rob) was in his phys. ed. class [at St. F.X.] and my Dad would always be like – ‘that’s my friend Gerry’ – and we would make fun of him; say that Gerry doesn’t remember him,” Elise said.
“I was talking to Gerry, when I was on set, and he was asking if I knew so and so, and so and so, from Antigonish. I said ‘no,’ but said he might know my Dad.
“He had no idea who has was, which I thought was funny,” she added.
More to come
It wasn’t Elise’s first acting gig, having taken the stage with Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre and Music of the Night productions, along with performances during the New Glasgow Music Festival.
“I have dabbled,” Elise said, trying to downplay her acting work, while reminding the opportunity came about because of her soccer connection.
She has shared the stage with soon-to-be Neptune Theatre artistic director Jeremy Webb, as part of his FAST show – The Chuckle Hour, while also performing in the Family Stage production of Honk!
Roles in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar, with Music of the Night, are also on her artistic resume.
“It’s totally, totally different – theatre and television,” Elise explained, when asked if the latter is something she would like to do more of.
“I, kind of, thought I knew what I would be getting into because I had done some acting, but it was so different.
“You film everything multiple times, from different angles. I guess I knew that from the way they show it on television, but it was weird seeing it and learning how many people it takes to put this whole thing together,” she added.
Elise noted the crew encouraged her to do more TV work.
“I would like to – it was a really, really great experience,” she said.
Although she is still, more or less, a couple years away from finishing high school, Elise has thought about her future aspirations.
“I really like books – literature – so I was thinking of studying English,” she said, while noting she hasn’t made any concrete plans.
“I don’t know, yet, where I am going to go with that.
“Hopefully, I can fit acting, somewhere, in the picture and, maybe, soccer too,” she added.
Elise’s Mr. D appearance – episode eight of the ongoing seventh season – should hit TV screens in mid-November.
Mr. D airs Mondays, at 9:30, on CBC.