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Only So Many Canadian Actors

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"from How to be Indie to Degrassi.. I just can't get rid of Dylan Everett"
Melinda Shankar, official Facebook page.

To the outside viewer (usually American), after you start watching a few Canadian-made shows, you start to notice something. Something weird. It starts getting odd when you're watching Canadian TV, and you start shouting "Hey! It's that Guy!"... every five minutes, at every actor.

That's where this trope comes in.


You see, in Canada, the government offers significant tax breaks and direct subsidies to Canadian-made TV shows, in exchange enforcing a "Canadian actors only" policy for the majority of roles. But there are only so many actors in Canada, especially young actors. The country already has a relatively small population to begin with (about 35 million, roughly a ninth of the US population), and when you narrow the actors down to a specific age group (between 15 and 30, like most of the ones below), and then combine that with the fact that Canada has become a very popular shooting location for American producers on a tight budget, you're only left with a tiny handful of actors. Additionally, most of these actors stay in Canada for the rest of their careers (though not always by choice). That said, some have managed to break out of it, notably Elliot Page, Aubrey "Drake" Graham, Michael Cera, Tara Strong and Cree Summer.


This isn't necessarily a bad thing — if anything, it becomes enjoyable to the viewer, and because of the frequent recurrence of these actors, there often isn't much Role Association.

We only picked Canada as an example because Canada, along with Malaysia and the United Kingdom, is home to a lot of tropers. But this trope can be found in any country with a small enough dramatic communitynote  where actors either prefer to stay in their home country or are forced to stay because of linguistic incompatibility with countries around them. You can also notice this in the some of the more niche branches (relative to film and TV anyways) of dramatic arts, there are only so many Mummers dancers, martial arts practitioners, puppeteers or Peking opera singers to go around.


On the other hand, the specific Family Channel Kid Com —> Degrassi path has become so well-trodden it's almost a subtrope of both this and Tom Hanks Syndrome. (Life with Derek was an unusual case in that many actors came from Degrassi to appear on the show in recurring roles - but sure enough, the reverse inevitably happened as well.)

Oddly enough, The Ocean Group, 9 Story Media Group, Fresh TV, WildBrain (formerly DHX Media), Nelvana, DiC Entertainment and Cookie Jar Entertainment (formerly Cinar) are also guilty of this trope, using many of the same actors in their shows, and some of the actors listed here have appeared in their shows as well.


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     Actors Commonly Associated With This: 

Note: Names in BOLD indicate that the actor has appeared on Degrassi. Names in ITALICS indicate that the actor is/has been a Stratford Festival performer. Names in BOLD AND ITALICS indicate that the actor has appeared in a R. L. Stine series.

     Media Commonly Associated With This 

     Examples From Outside (English) Canada 

  • In Australia, soaps Neighbours and Home and Away tend to, together, have at some point featured pretty much every well-known actor the country produces. Neighbours is particularly notable for having starred Kylie Minogue, Jesse Spencer, Dichen Lachman, Guy Pearce, Holly Valance and Delta Goodrem before they got famous.
    • Not to mention Academy Award winner Russell Crowe and character actor Alan Dale.
    • Blue Water High and H₂O: Just Add Water are examples for kids' TV, having collectively featured actors who've starred in everything from the Tomorrow: When the War Began action movie, to Power Rangers RPM, Dance Academy, The Pacific, and, of course, Neighbours.
    • Starting to happen in Britain too: regard the way an actor might have a successful run in one of the popular soap operas, such as Eastenders, leave the show or be written out, and then, after a decent interval to allow memories of the original character to fade, they'll pop up again playing an entirely new character in Coronation Street or Emmerdale. There appears to be quite a lot of this going on, although not quite to Australian levels. Yet. There is also the phenomenon of all the panel game shows where a seemingly small pool of panellists keep popping up on each other's shows, as if there's a well-established circuit. In between earning a living on all the panel shows, people like Phill Jupitus and Katherine Ryan occassionally find time to do a bit of stand-up comedy, and Lee Mack sometimes takes time out to appear in a sitcom...
    • With Irish actors, there's a growing number of productions that feature cast members who were either in Fair City or Love/Hate, especially the latter if the work is Darker and Edgier. Some productions also have actors who popped up on Father Ted.
  • The large number of panel shows (such as QI, Mock the Week, and 8 Out of 10 Cats) on British TV and radio relative to the number of British comedians means that some comedians can become semi-regulars and rotate through various shows and channels week in and week out.
  • Ever since American production companies have noticed the gorgeous landscapes and cheaper production costs of New Zealand, the collective acting pool of Australia and New Zealand has been getting a pretty heavy workout. Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, Power Rangers (post Ninja Storm), Legend of the Seeker, The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit are all known for this trope, and it's become a pretty fun game of actor recognition for American sci-fi/fantasy fans.
    • It becomes an even more interesting situation when you consider that, even without the assistance of Hollywood, it's not uncommon for both Australian and New Zealand actors to cross the Tasman for roles in both directions. You could easily make a game out of actor recognition.
  • This trope is even more obvious when watching movies, series and téléromansfrom Québec. The province has a unique pop culture and many successful actors and comédiens that are mostly independent from the rest of Anglophone Canada. However, there are only so many of them and thus, it is not unusual to see the same person playing two different characters on competing channels during the same week. And even then some Québécois actors have popped up in Anglophone Canadian films & TV series.
  • YouTube: Not too many actors are willing to take "a promise to appear on one of their own videos" as payment (Youtube pays the video creator a share of the ad profits, so people would often appear in each other's videos as a way of cross-advertising). It gives the impression that Felicia Day has been cast in pretty much every webseries in existence.
  • German/Austrian theatre is this. Pick any two big-name shows (to name a few: Elisabeth, Tanz Der Vampire and Mozart!) and you can't swing a conductor's baton around without hitting someone who's been in more than one production. Especially when it comes to the Viennese theatre scene, since the Raimund and Ronacher rotate actors and adore the All-Star Cast. For example, here are some people who have been in all three shows named above: Mark Seibert (Death - Count von Krolock - Colloredo), Thomas Borchert (Death - von Krolock - Leopold Mozart), Gernot Romic (Rudolf - Alfred/White Vampire - Wolfgang Mozart), et cetera.
  • Quite a few of the Icelandic cast members of LazyTown have also appeared in other Icelandic media such as Trapped or are members of Icelandic theatrical troupes.
  • Any TV or movie production filmed in Texas is this, especially when the local anime dubbing talent pool used by Funimation and Sentai Filmworks gets involved. Jason Douglas has appeared in The Walking Dead and Planet Terror, while Todd Haberkorn, Duncan Brannan, R. Bruce Elliott and Josh Martin have all appeared on Barney & Friends (Todd played Mr. Knickerbocker in Let's Make Music, Duncan did the voice of Barney at times, Bruce played Grandpa in "Grandpa's Visit" and Mr. Tenagain in "Having Tens of Fun!", and Josh suit-acted Barney from 1997-2006).
  • Any newer Nick Jr. show produced in the United States is probably going to have New York voice actors. Some examples include: Bubble Guppies, Butterbean's Cafe, Santiago of the Seas, and Blaze and the Monster Machines. Almost all the others have voice actors from California or more often Canada. The Canadian ones share voices with PAW Patrol as noted above. Some of the New York voiced-shows also tend to share voice talents with older Disney Junior shows, such as PB&J Otter.



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