Jacky Lai is a young actress who has gone against the grain to pursue her passion and career.
Back in her hometown of Toronto she had stability in family, friends and a career in developing small businesses. But Lai realized that acting could no longer remain a back pedal as a hobby so she had to kick things up to another gear. She made the move out to Vancouver in 2014 and hasn’t looked back since.
She found a guest starring role in Ransom (CBS) which premieres early 2017. The drama about an experienced crisis and hostage negotiator is an international co-production between Canada, USA, France and Germany and is filmed in Toronto. Lai also landed the role of Riley, a party girl with a wild streak, on Beyond (Freeform). The supernatural drama centers around a man who wakes up from a coma with supernatural abilities. It’s expected to premiere in 2017 and finished filming in Vancouver this summer.
What got you interested in acting and how did you first pursue it?
I saw a posting for a modeling job on Facebook and applied. I booked the gig and at the photo shoot, I met my first agent. Looking back, there has always been this pull towards acting but it took a lot of courage for me to pursue.
What went into the decision to move to the West Coast to fully immerse yourself in the craft?
I was very distracted in Toronto and after a break-up, I felt this ‘now or never’ feeling. I called my agent at the time to discuss the idea of moving to Vancouver and once I got off the phone, I booked my ticket and left the week after.
How are Vancouver and Toronto’s film & television industries similar and different?
Toronto is a big city, people come and go and it can feel a bit more competitive. Whereas Vancouver has a community of artists who are passionate and really supportive. The two markets are completely different, so depending on who you are as an actor and what you have to offer, you’ll have a different experience with each city.
What’s your favourite TV commercial you’ve worked on as an actor?
The one for Ontario Lottery Gaming. It was my first union gig and I was really excited. I had a lot of fun running away from the human (aka Giant) robot.
How did you first get into modelling?
Through Facebook. I replied to a post for a modeling job and met my agent. After that, I worked with more people in the industry and started getting referrals.
What’s your favourite ad campaign you’ve worked on as a model?
I’d say Marc Anthony. It was really glamorous and I was working with the best of the best.
Does your character Riley on Freeform’s Beyond share any traits with you?
Riley is the type of girl you want at your college party. She loves a good time and will always make sure everyone around her is having fun. I think what we have in common is how much we enjoy seeing the people around us happy. She’s adventurous, sarcastic and a little outspoken.
What was it like to shoot a guest role on CBS’s Ransom back in your hometown of Toronto?
Surreal. I was able to celebrate my Dad’s birthday with my family, hang out with my best friends, roam the city aimlessly and took in the fact that I was in my hometown, working, ACTING. It was an incredible experience. One of the most demanding roles to date, but it pushed me and just made it that much clearer how much I love what I’m doing.
Advice for aspiring young actors?
The world and especially this industry is going to build you up and break you down in every direction. You have to know in your heart that there is nothing else you’d rather do because it will not pay off until you’ve earned it, so be prepared to work hard.
Interview by: Amar Mirchandani @amarmirch