April 3, 2016

Spotlight on Mishka Thébaud

Mishka Thébaud
Mishka Thébaud

Mishka Thébaud graduated from York University in 2013 with a BFA in Acting. The graduating class of the acting conservatory took part in the Theatre Ontario Showcase, which helped Mishka to get an agent right out of school. He landed his first TV audition for a principle role on a show called Played. Since then Mishka has mostly been working in television, starring in shows such as Schitt’s Creek, Saving Hope, Republic of Doyle, Defiance, and Murdoch Mysteries. He has also had a recurring role in Season 2 and 3 of Bitten. Mishka recently performed in his first film, Crossfire, as a supporting actor and the movie is set to air this year. You may catch him back on stage this April in YPT’s Scarberia (Young People’s Theatre).

Do you have any advice or tips for York students just about to graduate? about to join the job market?

Say yes to everything! Audition for it all, even if it’s something you’re not crazy about. When I look at how I audition now compared to 3 years ago, the difference is huge. Also you never know what other projects these people are working on, and your audition might land you a role in something entirely different that you are excited about (happened to me!). If you’re really looking to get into Film & TV, then one thing that really helps is getting exposure from casting directors. Look them up and send them an email or a personal card offering to volunteer yourself as a reader. Being a reader for a casting director has opened many doors for me—it’s definitely the best thing I’ve gone after and said yes to. It did take some luck though, seeing that they responded to my email one year later, so be patient! The last thing I’m going to add is to practice your craft as often as you can. Take classes, workshops, and if you can’t afford those, then find some scenes or monologues online and work on them. A lot of people complain about how expensive it is to constantly train as an actor, but it honestly doesn’t have to be. Perform at the monologue slam for practice and for free, submit a monologue or scene for free to the cast it talent website where they have a showcase every month. Do some scenes with friends, or create your own work. There are endless ways to keep at it, so keep exploring and find what works best for you.

Mishka Thébaud in Bitten
Mishka Thébaud in Bitten.

What did you NOT get taught at York that you wish you had been taught?

Well I do wish there had been more options available to us for acting on camera. I know it’s a theatre program, but you learn a lot from doing both. I think they compliment each other in many ways, so it’s useful to experience both sides. The toughest part of film for me to adjust to was the blocking. You have one practice run and then you go right to shooting the scene, and you have all these marks to hit. Balancing all of that with actually acting the scene is pretty daunting when it’s your first time. It would have been nice to experience that in school. Another thing I wish we had been taught more of was how to deal with the anxiety and stress of auditioning. There have been times where no matter how long I took preparing my sides, the next day in the room my nerves would take over and I’d forget everything. It’s a mental game and you need a certain confidence, almost a cockiness to get over that hump. I’m continuing to research ways to help with the anxiety and it’s helping immensely. I think it would’ve been useful to learn some ways of coping with that kind of pressure during my time at school.

Did connections, friendships, relationships you made at York help you afterward?

Absolutely, it’s already scary enough going out into the real world and feeling like a tiny speck in the industry. Those connections I took with me out of school were very helpful. It’s always nice to see someone familiar in the industry, and to work with people you’re already comfortable with. There have been numerous times now that someone from York has contacted me for a role or an audition. I feel the connections I made brought me more opportunities and that goes a long way when you’re still so new to most of the industry. There have also been times when a York connection of mine has passed my name onto someone else or I’ve met someone on a project who went to York and it serves as a great icebreaker. In the end, any connection you make with someone in your job market can go a long way.

Mishka Thébaud in Bitten
Mishka Thébaud in Bitten

Do you have any advice or tips for York students just entering the department?

If your heart’s not in it, find something else. Take advantage of that first year to try a little bit of everything in the theatre department and really see what you like most before you decide which area you want to stream off to. Apart from that, if the passion is there and the motivation is there, then don’t take that time for granted. If you’re in the conservatory, you get the opportunity to focus on your acting without much time for anything else. I wish it were like that in the real world, and if you become successful enough it can be. But at York I really took advantage of that, I literally put everything I had into the work and passed on a lot of parties. With that drive, I was able to strengthen many different parts of my acting and by the time I got out I really knew what my strengths were. I used my training time to learn how to tap into different emotions and sides of myself truthfully. I actually felt well equipped for this job market once I got out of school because of the time I was given to practice my craft. So my advice is to let the passion drive you, and no offense to the professors, but don’t do anything to please them. Focus on you and what you need to improve, and above all, have fun doing it.

What was the most valuable thing you learned while studying in Theatre at York?

Well for one thing, I learned that I really love to act: I wasn’t sure before then. It hit me around the middle of second year and I just knew. After that, I think the most valuable thing I learned was discovering I could continue to improve each year. I pushed myself to tap into certain emotions or a state of being and would challenge myself to go there again and again while keeping it truthful. Each time something clicked, it was exciting, and it still is because the process is forever ongoing. But it was very valuable for me to learn that each time I discovered something new I could continue to go deeper with it.  I had a clear goal in mind of what I wanted to do after school so it was very beneficial to know that while training.