Actress talks about culture, auditions and success

Emerging actor and former York student Amanda Brugel talked about the effect of her mixed background on her career in a story on May 14. Adopted at an early age, she was made aware of both her ethnic and family identities. “Growing up I was never allowed to discount any facet of my heritage or lineage,” Brugel said. “It’s important for me to treat every aspect of my background equally. My father is African-American, but I’ve never met him. I was adopted by the man I speak of as my father, who is half-Jewish and half-Indian. My mother was born in England and made her way to Canada, so there is this eclectic mix of cultures and histories.”

Unlike many in the television and film industry, Brugel’s road to "the biz" was initially relatively easy. Coaxed by a drama teacher to try out for the school play, Brugel landed the lead role, playing Anne in Anne of Green Gables. With the offer of a full scholarship, she was soon at York University, flexing her theatrical muscle with other young visionaries. But after leaving, Brugel quickly realized that the multicultural, insulated world of campus theatre bore little resemblance to the global stage.

“After my first two jobs, for the next five years there was almost nothing,” Brugel said. “During that time it was difficult, especially when it came to auditioning. Agents would see my colour and not understand why I spoke a certain way. In a lot of cases it would be from casting directors, and often African-American female casting directors. There was this thinking that a girl who grew up half-white, half-Jewish, all over Canada, couldn’t relate to certain black roles or to the plight of ghetto.”

One night while debating whether to continue with her acting career, Brugel’s then-boyfriend (and now fiancé) confronted her with a stark realization. “My fiancé looked at me and said, ‘Well you say that you are going to leave the business but when have you ever really been a part of the business?’…So I came up with a business plan and started taking my auditions more seriously. I began to market myself and got my Web site going, I just changed the way I looked at the business side of things.”

Brugel’s new approach has had tremendous results. Her new energy has grabbed the attention of casting agents thrilled by the unique flavour she brings to the screen. Since her transformation, she’s landed plum gigs including a recurring role on the CBC-TV series "MVP".

On air

  • Gordon Shepherd , director of York’s Centre for Research on Earth & Space Science, spoke about Canada’s 50 years in space, on Kitchener’s CKGL Radio May 15.
  • City-TV’s Breakfast Television and a number of local radio stations reported on the international conference of bee experts at York’s Keele campus May 14.
  • York student Joseph Encada, who won an entrepreneur award for a successful candy company that began as a business plan for his course work, was featured on CTV’s “ Canada AM” May 15.