Isabel Kanaan will debut on Air Farce for its Canada 150 special on July 1 on CBC.
When Isabel Kanaan first arrived in Canada as a 16-year-old from busy and tropical Manila, Philippines, she found her new Toronto suburban home quiet and cold — despite landing in the middle of August. “I refused to take my sweater off because I was cold,” she says with a laugh. It took time for her to adjust, but her natural talents as a performer and comedienne helped her through. She is a Seneca College Acting for Camera and Voice alumna and Second City graduate, and now is the newest face on the very Canadian show Air Farce, making her debut on the show’s Air Farce Canada 150 special on July 1, 2017, on CBC.
What was your initial transition to Canadian life like?
Coming from an overpopulated city like Manila, I found the quiet deafening in the Toronto suburbs. I really only started getting used to Canada when I went to university in Toronto. The diversity, the busy life, the noise — they felt like home. I haven’t adjusted to the cold though.
Did you always dream of becoming an actor? A comedienne?
I was always a performer. I was practically singing when I came out the womb and caught the acting bug in high school. I knew I had to be a performer.
As for being a comedienne? Making people laugh came naturally to me and my acting teachers would comment on how I could find the comedy in anything. I took their notes to heart and started taking comedy seriously — ironically.
Has performing helped you in your immigration journey?
Definitely. I wasn’t truly myself until I started pursuing comedy and acting. I would meet people and hide behind the facade of what I thought a “good assimilated immigrant” was. When I started performing regularly, I became comfortable in my own skin and in myself.
Canada isn’t known for its large movie and TV industry. What are opportunities like for a performer of Filipina heritage?
I’m not going to lie, it’s tough. There’s not much content out there written with Filipinos in mind. That’s why we create communities where we can showcase our stories and skills. I, for example, am part of the new collective creation unit of a Filipino-Canadian theatre company, Carlos Bulosan Theatre, and recently co-wrote and performed in our debut piece, Anak. We are constantly creating new stories and expanding our network so that we can keep working as Filipino-Canadian performers.
What does it mean to you to be part of such a Canadian show as Air Farce? And especially for the Canada 150 special?
When I initially moved to Canada, it took me a while to get comfortable being myself in a new environment. Being part of Air Farce Canada 150, I get to be my goofy self in front of the whole country! Canada prides itself in its multiculturalism and I am living proof of that. I am so grateful to be on Air Farce — and that Canada has accepted me.