“I feel like I need to book a sci-fi,” says actor Tanya Jade, before turning to flash the server a wide smile. She confides that she’s been looking forward to the glass of wine that lands in front of her—and it’s no wonder. Jade began filming in the early morning hours, and now the bistro’s sparkling chandeliers are warding off the dark. She looks relaxed and at home amid the dazzle.
“People are still ticking boxes,” she continues. “And it’s hard to box me.” Jade is explaining how her multicultural background—her mother is Singaporean, and she’s originally from Perth, Australia—can be a stumbling block when it comes to acting roles. “Casting wrote back that I was too ethnic, but not ethnic enough,” she says, recounting her first audition on Australia’s eastern coast, the country’s filmmaking hub. “I’ve been asked a lot if I’m Latinx. Or, my first time in L.A., someone asked me if I was mulatto. I had never heard that term before. I’ve been asked if I was Persian, Egyptian, East Indian.”
There’s an upside to not quite fitting in: “My agent tells me that my greatest superpower is I’m a chameleon.” Her resumé is proof, with a range of acting credits that include recent Vancouver television roles in The Good Doctor, Yellowjackets, Schmigadoon!, and Hellmark. “I go out for a lot of strong roles, which I love,” she says. “I don’t get seen for as many vulnerable roles as I would like to.”
Jade’s first-ever audition was on a dare—and to her own surprise, she landed it. “I didn’t want it to end, so I auditioned for another play,” she says. Her early work was on stage, and she eventually landed at the Atlantic Acting School in New York. “In one of my scenes study classes, I went from performing to truth. It was like getting first gear on a manual car. It was pretty phenomenal.”
That truth-or-dare nature also drives her to do her own stunts. She’s trained in a few martial arts—“I’ve always been a little scrapper”—and has a background in dance. Scuba diving, free diving, horse riding, and archery are just a few of her other extracurriculars. “I’ve always been a physical person. I didn’t realize how physical I was until I started acting. But with the dance background, fight choreography is very attainable for me.”
Considering all Jade dabbles in, it’s no surprise she writes and directs, too. Wallpaper, a short film she wrote, directed, and starred in, is on the festival circuit and has received accolades from the Canada Shorts Festival (Award of Distinction) and the Independent Shorts Awards (Best Female Director, Silver; Best Women Short, Honorable Mention). “As an actor, we read so many scripts,” she says, on the transition to directing. “I think instinctually we know how to make decisions on the fly really well.”
Jade’s multifaceted nature is reflected in her personal style—a kaleidoscope of texture, colour, and feeling. “I have a lot of elements of me,” she says. “I definitely dress how I feel.”
“Sometimes I’m punk rock. Sometimes I want to feel like a bombshell. I have a very strong boho side of me. I love colour. I love texture.” Much of Jade’s wardrobe is thrifted, although she does splurge on higher-end clothing. “I buy everything secondhand, so when I do buy new clothes, I have zero guilt.”
Jade has plenty to keep her busy, both on- and off-camera. But she still finds time for a moment of gratitude. “Having an Emmy-nominated show and an Emmy-winning show on my resumé right now is a great place to be. A very privileged place to be.”
Not content to sit back, she wants a hand in creating her own future. Jade’s next project is writing a feature film with the help of a Sundance Collab workshop. When I point out that she’s doing a lot of writing, she shrugs. “As a female actor, we get cast in a lot of roles that are not really fulfilling to the soul. So I wanted to at least help.”
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