“Is it snowing in Vancouver right now?” Jason Priestley asks. He has clearly heard about all of the winter hubbub going on in his hometown, and is maybe not sure he believes it just yet.
Though it is not snowing at this exact moment in time, inches still sit piled up on side streets and driveways. “There’s snow on the ground, wow,” he says, over the phone from Los Angeles, where one can only presume the weather is warm and sunny and perfect. “That is not like Vancouver, that’s awesome. Is the city just shut down?” When he hears that his interviewer’s recycling wasn’t picked up last week because of the ice, Priestley bursts out laughing: “Vancouver doesn’t do well in the snow.”
He knows this because he grew up here; and his laughter does not come from a place of schadenfreude, but rather a place of pure disbelief that inches of unmelting white stuff cling to Vancouver’s streets—streets he used to rule.
Priestley is best known for his role as Brandon Walsh on the hit 1990s teen drama Beverly Hills, 90201, and the irony of it all is that the guy whose face became synonymous with California is actually Canadian. And now, he is being honoured in his native country with a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame (the broadcast for which airs Dec. 19, 2016 at 9 p.m. ET on Global). “It was a huge honour and it was an amazing experience,” Priestley says. “My career began in Canada, and I’ve worked a lot of my career in America, but there’s been a shift of late where a lot of the industry has been shifting out of California and going other places. And a lot of the work seems to be going back to Canada, so for me it’s been really nice to be able to go back to Canada and work there a lot more these days.” Since that fateful zip code, Priestley has kept busy both acting (Call Me Fitz, Tru Calling) and directing (Saving Hope, Working the Engels).
While he says that “the filmmaking process is the filmmaking process no matter where you go in the world,” he finds there is a difference in the energy when working on home soil. “That feeling you have in Canada, it’s palpable,” says Priestley. “People who don’t live in Canada, when they land in Canada and when they’re there, whether they’re working or on vacation or whatever, I think that they pick up on the energy of the people, and what it is that Canadians exude. And I think that that’s part of what it is that makes Canada a special place.”
So while it was a Los Angeles television show that gave him his big break, and though he still calls Los Angeles home, Priestley will always have a place in Canada’s heart (and not just because he is part owner of Black Hills Estate Winery in the Okanagan). The Great White North is in his blood, and now his name is etched on the Walk of Fame in Toronto. It might not be as big as Hollywood’s, but it’s ours, and so is he.
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