From a small town in Saskatchewan to the bright lights of Hollywood North, Trevor Lerner is now one of the busiest actors in Vancouver. Over the last few years, Lerner has amassed quite a number of credits playing the big bad guy to the big teddy bear, in both film and TV. BAHM Magazine recently caught up with him and asked him a few questions about what he thought contributed to his successful budding career.
At what age did you get bit by the acting bug? What made you passionate about acting?
I was 4 years old and saw Star Wars in the movie theatre when it was first released in 1977. I oddly remember that day like it was yesterday. The back seat on the Ford Pinto was super-hot from the summer heat. Trying to get my dad and brother to sit in the front row, so we could be close to the action. They refused and let me sit by myself and they sat a few rows back. I sat there for 2 hours not breathing or remembering to blink. From that moment on I knew I wanted to do that.
When did you decide to act full-time? What helped you make that decision?
The exact date is a bit of a grey area. I studied in college, moved to Australia in 1999 to try and get into the Star Wars prequels Episode II & III, then bummed around the industry for a long time just dabbling, until a hospital infection in 2009 got me right back on course. So, I guess you could say I went full-time in 2012.
Are you in a union? Tell us why you are, or aren’t, in a union. What are the pros and cons of joining a union?
I am a very proud union member since I qualified in 2014. I am in the union initially as I saw it as a step in the journey of being a professional actor. I thought that if you wanted to be taken seriously, you needed to be in the union to show you could do the job, and do it well. I still think that, even though there are some very talented non-union actors out there. Personally for me, I appreciated the benefits that the union provides, i.e. Medical/Dental, retirement plans, protection on the set, insurance, and just having someone have your back when something sketchy happens on a production, or having someone to track down residuals.
Tell us a bit about your early drama classes. Tell us a bit about your acting education post high-school to today.
I went to the University of Saskatchewan with the intent of going into a Pre-Law program and took a drama class as, what I thought would be an easy credit. I was very happily mistaken in that thought pattern. I discovered that I really disliked the political science portion of my classes and the moment I stepped foot into the class acting space in the Drama Dept…I felt at home. I spent a few years studying under some of the best professors in Canada and performed a lot of main stage and secondary stage shows. It was definitely a redefining period of my life.
What was your first big break? Is there anyone you want to recognize that helped you break into the industry?
My first real big break was in a Lifetime Movie of the week called Far From Home. I got to meet and become friends with a superstar of an actor named Aleks Paunovic. We had to play best friends since high school and within an hour on the set, folks were asking how long we had known each other for as we got along so well.
Growing up in a small town in Saskatchewan, how does it feel to be playing the princess’s father, Tom Markle, in the movie about in the biggest love story of the decade, Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance?
It was pretty awesome to say the least! That role got me onto Entertainment Tonight in LA, which was a bucket list moment from when I was a kid watching Mary Hart and John Tesh on TV! It was pretty neat to be in a film that was seen all over the world!
In your role in The Murders as father Sadie, who was murdered, there is a scene where you are speaking to a female detective about making mistakes. Your performance was riveting as you brought us to tears as we felt you take us to depths of anger, despair and pain. How did you prepare for this role?
That’s a funny story. I remember reading the script for that scene when I got the audition, and I literally wept uncontrollably, as it was really an emotional and well written script. Then, I went to the audition and was prepared to shed those same tears, but something happened. My eyes were dry as a fart, no tears whatsoever. Then the casting director, Tiffany Mak, said. “YES! Of course! He wouldn’t be crying now 15 years after it happened! He would have already had that cry 15 years ago!” Booked it.
You have done some very good work in current and popular TV series of late. Supernatural, The Twilight Zone, The Bletchley Circle San Francisco. You have also been in many shorts, how does this play into the long term plans for your career?
I am a firm believer and supporter of our local film scene here in Vancouver. The indie films and shorts are a fantastic way to help develop our local aspiring filmmakers and actors. It also gives the actors a chance to perform roles they usually don’t get to, which once they are added to our demo reels, casting directors can see that we can do much more that they thought!
What is your preference? TV? Film? Other?
I am a full-on tweener. I love the scope of films and the character and story development of a TV series. I have been lucky enough to book TV Pilots where I would have been a series regular or heavy recurring character, but not so lucky that those TV pilots were picked up by the networks. Just bad timing. Currently I have a great role on a Netflix series called Virgin River that will be out soon, and hopefully will get to come back in season two for more fun!
We see that you do a lot of film and TV. Why are you not doing more theatre?
To be honest, due to my disabilities that came about from the medical issues in 2009, I am not 100% sure that I can perform on the theatre stage anymore without having what I call a brain fart and forget what my next line is. With film and TV, I have trained myself to be near perfect with my lines, and since we are filming the same portion of the script over and over again, there is no pressure of the live audience. You can’t yell “CUT!!” on a theatre stage and just do it over again lol.
Tell us a bit about your agent and/or management?
My agent is Tyman Stewart and his team Kendra Naka and Ciara Cook. I have dreamed of being represented by Tyman since I moved out west almost 20 years ago, and have finally earned my place on his roster.
You’ve amassed quite the accomplished resume throughout the last few years. What is your favourite TV show that you’ve been on and why? Favourite movie and why?
Well now, that’s like trying to name your favorite child! I treat every job like it’s the first and last one I will ever have, so I really have to say that each one is really special in its own way. There have been a few where I got to work with childhood heroes, so they will always have a super special spot in my heart.
Who are some of your favourite fellow cast members? What production were you working on? Why were they your favourite co-stars?
I recently got to work with Tim Matheson, Annette O’Toole, Alexandra Breckinridge and Martin Henderson on Virgin River and that was super cool! Tim Matheson was someone whose films kind of raised me in my youth, with Animal House, 1941, and Up The Creek! And Annette fulfilled a HUGE Superman film and Smallville fan boy moment.
We’ve seen you play a few bad guys in the past. Do you think your physical appearance helps you or hinders you, when you’re seeking a new role?
I guess one of the odd perks of the medical issues from the past was my thyroid being damaged and gaining 100lbs in 2 months. It gave me a unique look that helped me land a lot of fun roles, some mean, some comedic. Currently, I’m on a mission to drop the weight and try to expand the types of roles I can audition for. The chubby big guy roles are still around, but I think I could work a lot more if I had more options. I do love playing both sides of the coin. The bad guys are fun because I’m really a big teddy bear in real life, and the funny teddy bear roles are great because I just have to be myself!
What advice would you give to someone thinking about entering the industry with regards to education, representation, and their location (where they live)?
Definitely baby steps. We all have that dream of being a star and that won’t happen overnight. We need to earn it every day. I advise to start with trying to be a background performer or an extra as it also known. That way you can get a real inside understanding of how the business works on set. For some folks it’s a real eye opener and they either love it or think this is way to repetitive and boring. Then you can meet fellow actors on set who are also doing background work, and they can educate you further. The Vancouver Actor’s Guide is a fantastic resource for finding solid classes and leads to the local talent agencies. Try to get some training with an acting class, do some short films if possible and build up a resume and demo reel, and then try to find an agent. I would also say location is pretty important as I made a mistake of staying on Vancouver Island when there wasn’t a lot of work there. Times have changed a bit, but if you can move to the Vancouver area, do so. And live close to a bus route or Skytrain station!
What’s the secret to getting great auditions? What advice would you give aspiring actors when they do land an audition?
Baby steps again. You will be earning a step in your career with each audition. What I mean is that I see an acting career as having many different levels to it, like stairs or plateaus. You start at the bottom and try to climb to that first step or level and when you get there, you need to earn the right to stay there as well as earning the next step up. Each audition you get is special, regardless of how many lines it is or for whatever kind of production. A lot of the time you are not only auditioning for that specific role, but the casting director may see something in you that they may want for a completely different production down the road, so do your best each and every time.
Anything else you want to promote or mention?
I can say that there are a few great shows coming out soon, Currently there’s Virgin River season one on Netflix, with season two just being announced as well. On February 1st, A Valentine’s Match on the Hallmark Channel is something I have a small but fun role in. On February 20th, a new TV series called Tribal premieres on APTN, and I am a Guest Star on one of the episodes.
Where can people contact you and where can readers follow you?