Film / Reels

From Franklin to Farley

In conversation with actor, Noah Reid

Tom Ue: Browsing through your credits on IMDB, you have had quite a career!  I have to ask this: how did you get involved in acting?

Noah Reid: I guess I just always liked performing. As a kid, there's nothing better than being able to make people laugh and applaud you, so I loved the theatre. I think my first real role was Oliver in the musical Oliver at the tender age of six, and it was incredible. The people, the costumes, the audience, the girls, all that attention...I never wanted to do anything else.

T.U.: Tell us about voicing the iconic character of Franklin the Turtle.

N.R.: I read the Franklin books as a kid, and those books are such a big part of Canadian children’s literature, it was so cool to get to be Franklin. I was nine when I started, and I got to miss a day of school a week to go hang out with friends and record a TV show. I still see it on TV every now and then to listen to what I sounded like as a kid.

T.U.: What goes on behind the scenes of a recording?  Do you just read from a script or do the episodes evolve in the recording?

N.R.: You read from the script and they do the animation after, which gives you the freedom to change the line if necessary. I've done shows that were the other way around, and you have to match your voice to an animated mouth that is already moving, and it's ridiculously hard.

T.U.: Has your work and years of training in voicing prepared you for the challenges of this film musical?

NR. In a way I feel like I was training for this film all my life. My childhood was spent acting, singing and playing hockey, so this is truly the perfect project for me.

T.U.: In addition to being an actor, you are also an accomplished musician who wrote the music for Parfumerie.  Tell us about your music career.

N.R.: Yeah, I missed something on that list of stuff I did as a child. I also play piano. I started when I was 5 and eventually stopped taking classical lessons, because I was avoiding them and not practicing. But I found after I stopped taking lessons, I started to play a lot more, playing along with whatever song was in my head and eventually starting to write. At the Stratford festival last year I picked up an accordion for the first time for a production of Three Sisters and I fell in love with it and wrote the music for Parfumerie for accordion and fiddle.

T.U.: What’s on your ipod now?

N.R.: A lot of Dylan, a lot of Waits, some Wilco, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, and a bunch of old bluesmen.

T.U.: Let’s talk more about Score: A Hockey Musical, which was not only selected for the Toronto International Film Festival but actually opened it!  How was your TIFF experience?

N.R.: It was really all packed into a couple of days for me, those being the opening night and the weekend after the opening. I was shooting a pilot for SyFy network called "Three Inches" and had to shoot on every other day. But I had a great time at TIFF while I was there. It was kind of a whirlwind, but I saw some great movies, met some great people and introduced my dad to Ron McLean, which is one of my prouder moments in life.

T.U.: Is this your first one?

N.R.: Yep, first TIFF. Which is shameful because I grew up in Toronto. But a pretty good way to go for the first time.

T.U.: Tell us about working with director Michael McGowan.

N.R.: I would do it again in a second. Such a cool guy. The whole thing is his brainchild, and he has his hands on all the strings, but he's trusting enough to let you do your thing. He told me that if you have the right people for the job, then the job gets done well, and it's awesome to work with a director who is so open to what you want to do with a character.

T.U.: What was the set environment like?

N.R.: Oh man. We played shinny at lunch. Mike's kids were always there; we would go out and watch the Olympic hockey after wrap sometimes; often couldn't get through takes because we were laughing so hard. I've never been on a better set in my life.

T.U.: What did your audition entail?

N.R.: I went in and met Mike and Avi, our producer, read my scenes and sang a song (Stan Rogers "maid on the shore") and then mike asked me if I could skate. And I said yeah, I've been skating all my life. And he was like "yeah we'll see". I feel like he'd been burned before by an actor saying they could just to get the gig, and so we played one on one on an empty pad at UCC and I lost. Mike says I threw the game to get the gig, and I'm prepared to go along with that story.

T.U.: Tell us about your experience with hockey.  Did you improve in it during the production?

N.R.: Probably my hands improved. Just trying fancy moves over and over. When I played, I was a defenseman, so my hands were never cultivated in a beauty-goal kind of way. I was nervous about the hockey, but I had so much fun on those days. It's as close to the NHL as I’ll ever get.

T.U.: Did you get to improvise, or were all of the songs written and choreographed beforehand?

N.R.: We recorded the songs the week before we started shooting, and there were a few choreography rehearsals for some of the bigger numbers, but there were times when the actors got to throw in their own tricks, try a different joke or reference. Didn't need much of it, mike's script was already funny.

T.U.: What was it like starring in a musical with a legend like Olivia Newton-John?

N.R.: Pretty unforgettable. Such a nice person to be around, positive and supportive and just interested in making something cool and having a good time. And reducing the carbon footprint. I will never have anything but good things about Olivia.

T.U.: You also performed widely in theatre.  How does acting for the stage differ from acting onscreen?

N.R.: I feel like film acting is more controlled, more reduced. On stage, your performance has to reach a whole room of people. On screen, it's more about what you're thinking. And looking good. The audience is so much closer to you, you don't have to project, and often the less you do the better. It's great to get to switch back and forth between them, because they are such different mediums. I haven't had as much experience in front of a camera, but I think it's hard to beat a live audience.

T.U.: Are there any funny stories about the production that you would like to share?

N.R.: The day I met Walter Gretzky, Eddie Shack and Theo Fleury was pretty awesome. All of them had great stories, about the game and everything else. I guess that's not that funny. It was funny for me.

T.U.: Having voiced Franklin and now tackled a musical and, in fact, a hockey musical, what is next for you?

N.R.: Well, I wait and see if "Three Inches" gets picked up, and look for the next thing. I'm also involved in a workshop at the Stratford Festival for a new play.

T.U.: Thank-you so much for your time, Noah!

N.R.: My pleasure, thank you.


About the Interviewer


Tom Ue is a doctoral student at the Department of English Language and Literature at University College, London, where he researches on Shakespeare’s influence on the writing of Henry James, George Gissing, and Oscar Wilde.


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