Like many kids who pursued a career in the arts, Sébastien Bertrand found himself initially at odds with his mother when he announced his intentions. An overachieving high school student with a knack for math and sciences, he could easily have fast-tracked his way into medicine or any other high-earning profession. Though she recognized his passion for performing, his mother feared the endless rejection and empty bank accounts that are so often a reality for actors. She even tried to use his interest in George Clooney’s long-running medical drama ER to reorient his ambitions.
“I remember her saying, ‘You love that show. You could be a doctor. Why don’t you do that instead?’” the Ottawa native says. “I just said I’d rather play one on TV.”
Perhaps since his career panned out so well, his mother no longer frets over his choices. Since graduating from the University of Ottawa, he’s spent much of his 13-year career writing and performing for television. Despite that, he remains passionate about the stage, which is why he’s particularly excited to have landed a role in the Théâtre Français de Toronto’s production of Les Précieuses Ridicules (The Precious Young Ladies). First staged in 1659, Molière’s satirical comedy follows two young women from the provinces who’ve arrived in Paris hoping to land well-off husbands.
Bertrand plays the Marquis of Mascarille, a layered role certain to put his acting chops to the test. One of the men the young women hope to hook up with, the character is a low class valet who’s convincingly weaselled his way into high society by pretending to be a nobleman.
“The Marquis is a real playground for an actor,” Bertrand says. “There are so many different ways to interpret him, which is rare and exciting but also sometimes daunting. In theatre school, we spent a whole semester doing scenes from this play, but I never thought I’d get the chance to play the part onstage. It’s a good feeling. Scary at times, but good.”
Though it wasn’t part of his reasoning for pursuing a career in the arts, his chosen profession also provided a safe space to come out. Studying theatre meant meeting plenty of older gay actors and directors, who served as an inspiration for the kind of life he wanted to lead.
“The arts are generally more open and accepting than other fields,” he says. “Going to theatre school definitely shaped who I am today. It’s a safe place to discover and be who you truly are.”
“Wow,” he adds with a laugh. “I sound like I’m on an episode of Glee or something.”