Canadian actors who move South of the border to kick start their careers are a dime a dozen. Rachel McAdams, Mike Meyers, Michael J. Fox, Ryan Gosling, Sandra Oh – the list is endless. Newcomer, and fellow Canuck Richard de Klerk, who’s worked with Canadian director Carl Bessai twice in “Repeaters” and “Cole,” is following in their footsteps, while at the same time staking out an career as a producer, by serving as Vice President for his family production company Rampart Films.
“I’m an actor first and foremost,” said de Klerk on the phone from Vancouver. “I think having the company, working as a producer, it makes me a better actor. It’s an amazing thing to be able to do that.”
His production company produced his latest, “Repeaters,” which had its world premiere earlier this year at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). A violent thriller about three young recovering addicts who find themselves waking up to the same day as the last, “Repeaters” features an impressive turn from de Klerk as a psychopath who turns on his friends. It marks a complete 180 from his lead performance in “Cole,” in which he plays a shy unassuming small town guy, who tries to get the girl; an indication to the versatility of this young actor.
De Klerk, who now divides his time up between Vancouver and Los Angeles, was born in Vancouver but spent the majority of his formative years in Europe, and as a result holds a European Union passport.
“While living there I attended the American School of the Hague in Holland,” he said. “There I watched a lot of BBC, so I grew up watching shows like “The Black Adder” and fell in love with acting as a result.”
While he originally envisioned a career as a professional soccer player, de Klerk decided to pursue acting after moving back to Canada in his late teens.
“I figured acting was better for my needs in the long run,” he said. “I hassled incessantly to get my parents to put me into acting class, and they kept saying no, due to the tough nature of the business. ‘You don’t want to do it,’ they kept saying. I said ‘I love it, and I want to be in it.’ So they helped me out.”
Despite studying at Lyric School of Acting in Vancouver, de Klerk admitted that he’s not one to subscribe to any particular acting method. Instead, he stressed the importance of observing everyday life to shape his roles, and frequently travels as a result.
“The thing I love about being an actor,” he said, “is that you get to portray real life, and hopefully touch people’s lives.”
De Klerk is no doubt trying to touch more people’s lives by making a move to break into the U.S. market. So far, he’s on his way. Following its world premiere at TIFF in 2009, “Cole” was licensed to IFC’s Sundance Selects and made available on VOD in the U.S. to over 50 million subscribers.
“The whole thing is that Canada has 30 million people,” de Klerk explained. “The U.S. has around 300 million. Our collective market is a collective market – it’s a North American market. In order to reach the most people, you inevitably have to make a move to the States.”
As for what he has planned next, de Klerk is working on getting a documentary that centers on a charity in Holland completed for Rampart Films. Titled “Miles for Justice,” it follows two Dutch human rights lawyers and six Dutch marines sailing to different cities around the world. For every mile sail, they donate money to a charitable cause in the city they’re traveling to.
“I’m kind of stepping back,” de Klerk said with regards to his acting career. “In terms of what I’m going to do next, I have to be very selective.”