Toronto actor stars in new series backed by Trailer Park Boys comedy legends

Before Jennifer Spence became a regular on multiple popular sci-fi series and now the lead of a new comedy series from the team behind Trailer Park Boys, she was just a kid testing the waters in a community theatre play in Toronto.

“We did The Crucible, and I met a bunch of other great young women as well — it was a nice group of people to have my first experience with,” she says. “I remember thinking, ‘OK, this is what I want to do. I want to be an actor. I don’t care if it means I’ll be broke; I just love it.’”

The community theatre play was her first attempt to get herself ready for “the professional world of acting.” After that, Spence went full speed ahead on her acting career, despite plenty of moments of discouragement, she says. As an Asian actor (her mother is Japanese and her father is British), Spence says there weren’t many role models for her to look to growing up.

“Watching TV, I didn’t see a whole lot of people who looked like me,” she says. “I don’t remember being too fazed by it, but when I started auditioning, I realized it was more difficult to land roles. They’d say it was open ethnicity — but there was no way they’d actually cast an ethnic person for the role.”

Spence started out landing bit parts on movies and TV shows alongside stars such as Jennifer Garner, but soon her career took on an interesting shape — sci-fi star. Her first ever multi-episode arc was on the American science fiction show The 4400, and soon after, she landed her breakout role: Dr. Lisa Park on SGU Stargate Universe. One of a few series in the Stargate military science fiction universe, her popularity on the show led her to a lead role on Canadian sci-fi series Continuum, a recurring role alongside Eric McCormack on Netflix sci-fi series Travelers and eventually a starring role on British crime drama Traces.

So how does the darling of the science fiction genre make the pivot to comedy with The Trades, a new series from the team behind the award-winning Trailer Park Boys? Spence says the cast made the switch easy for her.

“It just felt right. I was blown away by the calibre of talent I was working with. They were all personally funny, not just funny on set!”

The Trades, which premiered on Crave at the end of March, follows a blue-collar community working on a refinery when Spence’s character, Chelsea, steps in as the new site manager from head office.

Spence says the comedy is her kind of humour — raunchy and edgy. “I just loved the script from the beginning. I said, ‘Thank God for material that makes me laugh out loud,’” she says. “It felt very authentic; it was a world that I wanted to know more about.”

This being the first “corporate” role Spence has played, she says she translated her own excited and nervous energy into her character’s as the new boss on the block. “It was a fun challenge to play.”

In a career that is often feast or famine, as Spence says, The Trades sticks out as a positive experience filled with genuine camraderie among the cast and crew. “It can get easy to second-guess yourself,” she says. “But my husband put it nicely — actors are compelled to act. We have this pathological need to tell stories and be a part of something.”

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