Actor Gabe Grey has called Mississauga, Ontario home for most of his life. But before that, he spent his childhood traveling the world. From his birthplace in Karachi, Pakistan, he moved within the British international school system to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand before settling in Atlanta, Georgia at age 11.
In Atlanta, Gabe faced a lot of racism over his Pakistani background. When his family moved to Mississauga when he was 14, he thought things would be different. But his school in Canada was divided into cliques, and Gabe became a loner and a drifter in the school, mixing with everyone but not really belonging anywhere. A talented clarinetist, he joined the high school band, but lost interest when he learned the band did not perform competitively, as he had been used to in Bangkok and Atlanta. Across the hall from the band room he saw the drama club practicing, and their passion and sense of fun stirred in him a love of acting that would come to define his future.
In university, he majored in biology. Always a good student, Grey planned to go to medical school, but eventually decided against it, to his family’s displeasure. Unhappy and working for a lab company selling pharmacy equipment, Grey began to question the direction of his life. Already working an office job at age 20, he had fast-tracked himself through his entire life, never taking a break. He was still pursuing acting as a side gig, but without much luck. It was a near-death car accident and being laid off from his job that finally pushed him towards seriously getting into the business. Armed with a severance package and a windfall sum of money from a government tax error, Grey set off to Los Angeles to take an acting class.
The next few years were rough on Gabe Grey. His dad tried to convince him to return to medical school, but Grey’s refusal to give up acting won out. He eventually ended up with a stage role on a sold-out tour across Canada. His first professional screen acting job was in an episode of the Canadian television series The Border, in 2008, and later he had a supporting role on CBC’s World War II drama, Bomb Girls. After the series was cancelled, two exciting things happened for Grey within a short time period. First, he was accepted into the Canadian Film Centre’s Actor’s Conservatory. Around the same time he had his big break: a role in Deepa Mehta’s Sikh gangster epic Beeba Boys. The timing wasn’t ideal, as it looked like he would have to choose between the two, but in the end he managed to balance the shoot with his six-month stint at the Conservatory.
Working with the award-winning director — and REEL CANADA favourite — would be a boon to any young actor’s career, but it was an especially great opportunity for Grey because playing a gangster in Beeba Boys was so out of his comfort zone for the actor who had previously been used to playing doctors, lawyers and other “good guys.” Beeba Boys premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival and screened in Mississauga as part of National Canadian Film Day in 2016.
Gabe Grey is not just a talented actor, he’s also spoken about the problem of racism in the film and television industries and the lack of representation for South Asian actors and actors of colour. He has also advocated for more complex roles for women in the Pakistani film and TV industries.
Gabe Grey can be seen in the upcoming Canadian films Becoming Burlesque, Away Home, and the thriller Hellmington, where he’ll appear alongside Canadian favourites Yannick Bisson (TV’s Murdoch Mysteries) and Michael Ironside (Scanners). We at REEL CANADA look forward to following Grey’s career for years to come, and are proud to have him as one of our RBC Emerging Artists.
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