By Leah Hansen
English was not Philip Van Martin’s first choice. After high school, the actor had his sights set on a French-language university theatre program.
“Initially, Toronto wasn’t really on my radar, because I was very much a Francophone,” says Van Martin.
But he ended up at Ryerson.
His conclusion: “It’s one of the best schools in the English language in Canada and I was very fortunate to be able to train there.” Now, Van Martin is set to co-star in Le Théàtre français de Toronto’s production of Le Fa Le Do, which opens at the Berkeley Street Theatre on Oct. 23.
Even though he looks back on his education fondly now, his first year didn’t go as smoothly as he hoped.
“I was politely asked to take some time off after the first semester,” he said. “I took a year off, I travelled the world and when I came back, I was much more ready to do the work.”
There have been no major speed bumps since. In his second year, Van Martin had a role in the History Channel film Storming Juno, a role he says gave him a huge confidence boost as a young actor.
“The experience helped me gain some perspective and understand the professional environment.”
Since graduating in 2012, Van Martin has netted roles in three major productions.
Contacts he made at Ryerson led to his first role, after which he was invited to audition for Le Fa Le Do.
Van Martin stars as Julien, a young scientist obsessed with his work who makes a huge discovery.
The production encompasses several genres, including suspense, film noir, comedy, drama and political intrigue.
“I’m the most technical part of the play – the science in there,” says Van Martin. “There’s a kind of dark secret about this character that you discover throughout the play.”
The scientific jargon was a challenge for Van Martin, who stressed the importance of making his character believable.
“It’s been sort of a challenge wrapping my mind and my speech patterns around some of these sentences.”
Van Martin says being a young artist in a big city comes with its share of distractions and anxieties, whether it’s money or competition.
He stays grounded by remembering why he got into acting in the first place.
“I’m doing this because I love it, not because there’s any huge promise of money or this resounding, immediate success of any kind… It’s important to remember what you’re doing it for, and I think that’s the truth of any profession.”