30 celebrities you might not know are Canadian
Everybody knows that celebrities like Justin Bieber and Celine Dion are from Canada—their names have practically become synonymous with our neighbors to the north, particularly when we’re playfully poking fun at the stars. But America—and Hollywood in particular—is full of many other Canadians. They live here, work here, and play here, and yet many of our biggest stars hail from the Great White North.
The circumstances that brought them stateside are unique, but they often involve the same themes of following their dreams and trying to make it big. Actors often head toward Hollywood or New York City to catch a big break, leaving their Canadian hometowns in search of fame. Athletes might come to the U.S. to attend a university for more exposure and to increase their chances of being recruited. Scientists and entrepreneurs often follow similar paths, either heading to a prestigious university or beelining to Silicon Valley to pitch their startups.
Once here, burgeoning stars typically assimilate fairly easily. Sure, there’s the love of maple syrup and diehard hockey fanaticism (and some of these cultural assumptions are true), but culturally Canadians and Americans have much in common. They speak mostly the same language (outside French-speaking Quebec); they eat lots of the same foods, and many of the cultural references are the same. Socio-politically, Canadians follow Europeans more in terms of things like free education and universal health care; however, the overall structure and ideas of the countries are alike.
For these reasons, it’s no surprise that these Canadians celebrities blend so seamlessly into the American landscape, often working for years or even decades without most Americans knowing where they’re from. To honor our great neighbors to the north, Stacker has put together a slideshow of 30 of the most interesting celebrities you may not have known are Canadian. Look to see which ones you knew, and which ones you might have guessed.
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Originally famous for her role as Cristina Yang in Shonda Rhimes’ ABC drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” Sandra Oh has found more recent fame in the U.K. hit “Killing Eve.” Before becoming a well-recognized Hollywood name, she grew up in a suburb outside Ottawa in Ontario, where she took ballet as a child.
Long before he starred in “The Matrix,” mega-celebrity Keanu Reeves grew up in Toronto, a city he moved to at age 5 with his family after they left Beirut, Lebanon—his original birthplace. Like many Canadians, he played hockey as a kid and in 1986, he was cast as a French-Canadian goalie opposite Patrick Swayze in one of his early films, “Youngblood.”
Born in Fort Macleod, Alberta, folk crooner Joni Mitchell is so deeply associated with American folk music that most people don’t know she is originally from Canada. In fact, she got her start busking on the streets of Toronto before moving to the United States.
Lorne Michaels’ name is practically synonymous with New York City given that he’s been running “Saturday Night Live” since 1993. But the comedy producer is actually from Toronto (he was born on a kibbutz in what’s now Israel and immigrated), despite his knack for American humor.
The “Baywatch” beauty, who gained worldwide celebrity playing C. J. Parker on the popular '90s lifeguard drama, is originally from the Great White North. In fact, she was discovered at a British Columbia Lions football game when she was recruited by Labatt’s beer to be a spokesmodel after her picture was displayed on the stadium screen and fans cheered, prompting officials to bring her onto the field.
Born in Brampton, Ontario, Michael Cera first began his climb to fame when he played George Michael Bluth in the hit TV show “Arrested Development.” He starred in the Judd Apatow film “Superbad” in 2007, taking his celebrity to a new level. In 2014, he released a music album on Bandcamp with a quirky tongue-in-cheek bio reading: “Michael Cera was born in Canada in 1988 at the tender age of zero.”
Toronto-born stand-up comedian Russell Peters, who earned himself a Peabody Award and an Emmy for his work on “Hip-Hop Evolution,” was ranked by Forbes as the third-highest paid comedian in the world in 2013. The Canadian comic boasts the title of being the first ever comedian to land a Netflix special. He’s sold out the Scotia Bank Arena (formerly the Air Canada Centre) four times, one time selling over 16,000 tickets in two days.
Did you know that Captain Kirk is actually Canadian? Beloved sci-fi icon William Shatner, who played the leader of the USS Enterprise on the original NBC “Star Trek” series, is from Montreal, Quebec. His first role was in the 1951 Canadian film “Butler's Night Off,” and he has a star on both Hollywood Boulevard and Canada's Walk of Fame.
Hailing from London, Ontario, this heartthrob moved to Los Angeles before his 18th birthday to chase his dreams of becoming an actor. With over two dozen movie credits, the star of “The Notebook” has credited his home country for his worldview. “I love being Canadian,” he told Hello! “I think growing up in Canada gives you a world perspective that I certainly enjoy.”
Ryan Gosling isn’t the only star of “The Notebook” who has origins in the Great White North. His costar Rachel McAdams is also from Canada. She got her start working in Canadian productions such as “Perfect Pie” and “My Name Is Tanino” before catching her Hollywood break opposite Lindsay Lohan in 2004’s “Mean Girls.”