Entertainment
Calgary native Devon Weigel performs with Hollywood heavyweights in October release The Big Year.
courtesy Ed Araquel

Devon Weigel's "big year"

Former MRU theatre student appears in film alongside Jack Black and Owen Wilson

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Devon Weigel is probably known best from her days as Tanya on the mid-2000s Canadian teen drama Falcon Beach. That might make her sound like she's fading out, but in reality, she's both a fresh and seasoned actor, director and playwright.

Weigel is "homegrown talent" -- born and raised in Calgary and currently living only an hour's plane ride away in Vancouver. Just like you and me, she doesn't "miss scraping ice and snow off [her] car in May."

Unlike you and me, however, Weigel has an acting resume that would make any Calgary actor envious. She has worked on the legal dramedy Fairly Legal, the children's show The Fairly OddParents, Smallville, Supernatural and 2006's John Tucker Must Die -- and she can now add The Big Year to that list.

The comedy, released on October 14, tells the story of three friendly rivals who decide to spontaneously embark on a year-long quest to spot the rarest birds in North America, which doubles as a journey of self-discovery.

Filming allowed Weigel to hang out with the likes of Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, but Weigel stays humble as she reflects on the experience.

"I have such a small part in the grand scheme of the movie, but they would come up to you [the] next day and say, 'Oh, Devon, I really enjoyed that scene yesterday. That was really funny, you made me laugh," and give me a pat on the back.' "

So, what does Weigel choose to reveal about the mysterious world of making it in acting? Step one: go through a drama program and make sure to stick around "seven days a week, all day, either in classes or working on productions."

Practice makes perfect, and feeling perfect builds confidence, according to Weigel, who attended the drama program at Mount Royal University and was also involved with Calgary's Company of Rogues actors' studio.

Company of Rogues co-founder and instructor G. Christianne Hirt Shaw had a profound impact on Weigel, and Weigel went back to her for training after graduating. Vancouver, for all its acting studios and coaches, didn't present "the level of quality" Weigel knew was possible from her days here in Calgary.

But for film and television, Calgary is not the place to make an acting career. So, Weigel presents step two: move.

Toronto has more of a reputation for film, whereas Vancouver leans toward television projects, she says. For her, "the decision kind of came down to, in the end, to the connections . . . through my teachers at Company of Rogues and Mount Royal with an agency . . . in Vancouver."

It really is about who you know, and it doesn't stop there.

"It's so easy to become isolated in this business and just sit there and wait for the phone to ring, but you cannot," Weigel warns.

It's not about using people, she says, but about finding ways to have everyone work together and benefit from it. Often, it's also about spontaneity -- and just doing it.

"Those are the best kinds of projects, where you just come up with some idea and you're not exactly sure it'll work out and you just kind of dive right into it."

Okay, step three? Know that you'll get rejected 99 times out of 100. Have faith in yourself, commit, don't "half-ass things or you'll just find you wanna quit," says Weigel in her quirky Canadian accent.

And step four: keep working on making adjustments between genres. Auditioning for a dramatic role requires a different style than comedy. Eventually, you'll need to figure out where you fit in.

"It's really important in this industry to know . . . what you're sellin'. "

Apart from her hometown roots and tried-and-tested advice for other actors, there's one more reason to love Devon Weigel.

"I'm still rooting for the Flames, and y'know, people shun me, but what are you going to do?"

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