THEY say there are no sure things in show business, but this feels a lot like it was simply meant to be.
Leigh Truant auditioned for, and landed, her first big TV-acting gig earlier this year, but the 18-year-old Winnipegger's part in the family-friendly Disney XD movie Bunks is a role for which she's been preparing pretty much her whole life.
"It's fair to say that this is all I've ever wanted to do," Truant said this week from Toronto, where she's enrolled in Ryerson University's performance acting program. "It's definitely because of my brothers -- when I was little, they were always filming with the video camera, making movies with their friends. I would always ask them, 'Hey, can I be part of your movie?' and they would always reply, 'No, you're our little sister; you're not cool.'
"So when they weren't looking, I picked up the video camera and tried to figure out how to work it. My dad showed me how to press record and standby, and I started making my own movies with my friends.
"We kept making them, and we got better and better at it. By Grade 8 or 9, I was really into it as a hobby, and I enrolled in every theatre production and every film project at school. Pretty soon, my parents began to realize that this was more than just a hobby to me."
Truant, a product of Linden Woods who began her formal film/theatre training while attending Shaftesbury High School, said her parents' support allowed her to attend acting classes in Vancouver and, a couple of summers ago, to take part in a month-long workshop at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.
"That was very intense; it was definitely one of the best experiences of my life," Truant recalled. "We basically got up at 6 a.m. every morning and went to school near the Universal Studios lot. We did audition classes, scene-study classes, monologue classes -- I had never studied those things in so much depth before. And on the weekends, we would go to the Universal Studios backlot and shoot short films that we'd been planning throughout the week. That was super-fun.
"I learned a lot; it was definitely life-changing. I gained a lot of experience in a short time."
Back home in Winnipeg, Truant received a call from local casting director Jim Heber, who recommended she audition for Bunks, which was scheduled to be shot here and in Kenora last summer. The light-hearted comedy-horror adventure, which airs Sunday on Disney XD (check listings for time), focuses on a pair of mischievous brothers (played by Dylan Schmid and Aidan Shipley) whose rule-breaking antics unleash a zombie-frenzied attack on an idyllic summer camp.
Soon after her audition, Truant got a callback and learned she'd landed the role of Alice, the boy-crazy half of a pair of inseparable BFF camp counsellors who eventually fall victim to the zombie invasion. Landing her first TV-movie role in a project filmed in her hometown made the experience extra special, she said.
"The first week, we were shuttled off to Kenora, where we shot on an island. It was really fun. I think it really set in that shooting-a-movie feeling for me because we were away from home and on location, living in a hotel and taking a boat to work every morning," she said.
"And then being in Winnipeg for the other three weeks was nice because I got to go home and unwind, but then I'd still have that professional environment to go to the next day."
Truant said her studies at Ryerson are focused mostly on theatrical performance, but her sights remain set on landing more TV and movie-acting work.
"Up until this point, all of my training has been for film," she said. "The reason I chose to do a theatre-study program isn't necessarily because I want to focus on theatre; I want to know what it's like to do theatre, and I want to know what it's like to do film. As an actor, I just want to be as well rounded as possible."
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