By Amanda Macdonald
In his third year at Ryerson Theatre School, Chad Connell was given a red clown nose.
“It definitely made the jokes that I was going to clown college all the more true,” he says.
Connell was one of roughly 29 people accepted into Ryerson’s theatre school in 2002. Now an alumnus, he has a long list of nonclown credits to his name – from Degrassi: The Next Generation to Suits, White House Down to, most recently, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
At age 10, Connell realized he wanted to become an actor and has not deviated since. Despite a handful of education options, Ryerson won Connell over with its reputation, central location and degree, along with a chance to study under former program chair Perry Schneiderman. Though the experience was overwhelming at first, Connell adjusted and formed close bonds with the other students by the end of his second year.
“I was so career-oriented that it was frustrating for me to be in school. Even though it was the medicine I needed, it was hard,” he says. “It’s silly, but I wanted a piece of paper – not that you show anyone your degree in audition rooms.” One of Connell’s latest auditions landed him a role as Lambert, the blue-haired demon in Mortal Instruments:
City of Bones, the first in a series of film adaptations of Cassandra Clare’s young adult novels.
“I was sitting in the waiting room painting my nails black, putting eyeliner on,” said Connell. “I knew it’s what they needed to see and that if I just walked in wearing a Lacoste polo my chances might be on the slimmer side.”
While the role is not a sizeable one – nor the first time Connell has had blue hair (he sported a blue fauxhawk in his first year of university) – Lambert’s death is the catalyst of the series, as the main character Clary Fray is exposed to a gang of demon hunters after witnessing his murder.
“The significance of the character I play never diminishes because of that,” explains Connell.
The biggest challenge Connell faced with the movie was making an impression on-screen in such a limited amount of time. “Why did I have 850 hours of voice class and 900 hours of speech class to play this part that doesn’t have lines?” he asked himself. But when watching the final product, Connell felt that he succeeded in making an impact.
While Lambert was a fun role for Connell, the actor is drawn to darker roles that show a person’s internal struggles. Through film, he says, viewers can explore the life and problems of another person, if only for a few hours.
The first time Connell had a trailer of his own on set was the moment it had become “real for him.” He’s living the life he dreamed of as a little kid.