If you are nervous then it matters to you! Don’t let the nerves hold you back– as these nerves are a tell-tale physical and mental sign that what you are doing holds great importance!
As a part of my series about leaders helping to make the entertainment industry more diverse and representative, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Julian LeBlanc, CEO and Founder of the LeBlanc School of Acting, the #1 acting school for children and youth in North America.
Julian discovered his calling at the age of thirteen when he fell in love with the art of storytelling and dance, and upon graduation from the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria, BC, Julian found success in a number of television, short film, and independent film roles including beloved Hallmark films, “Haunting Hour: The Series,” “Hellcats,” “Kyle XY,” “Supernatural,” and “Wayward Pines.” Julian established the LeBlanc School of Acting in 2015 with the intention of creating an environment where youth actors could find themselves, sharpen their skills, and grow confidence. Under his expert instruction and unmatched skill level, LeBlanc School of Acting has quickly become a leader in the youth acting circuit.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Let’s start at the beginning. I grew up in foster care from the age of 3 to 18 years old. My foster parents are Heather and Paul Gallant and they are incredible human beings. I was really fortunate to be brought up with several amazing siblings, so naturally, I couldn’t help but want to be in the spotlight.
I started dancing in my teens and that was my first taste of the performing arts. From there, I was hooked. I discovered my love of acting at 18 years old while attending the Canadian College of Performing Arts and I fell in love instantly. I knew I needed to do more of it.
I was working as a youth acting coach for a while before I decided to start my own school, LeBlanc School of Acting. And the main reason I did that was that I noticed how often classes would be focused on adult actors, and even in those classes, you would only ever see script work! Of course, this is crucial for learning how to act, but I realized that especially for kids, they needed a more engaging and versatile environment to learn, so that’s where I came up with #TheLeBlancWay!
I knew I could do something about it, and focus on pinpointed areas of technique that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. It set us apart right away and it still does to this day. When launching LeBlanc, I invited the incredible Athena Russell to join the team. We have been an inseparable pair ever since. Today, Athena is my ride-or-die, my other half, as well as the Director of Operations of the school. She is pure oxygen to our school and we would not be the #1 acting school for children and youth in North America without her intelligence, her compassion, and her marvelousness as Director of Operations!
Together, we have had the amazing opportunity to work with superstars of the present and future and to be a “dream facilitator.” With countless students worldwide in 11 different countries, it is so incredible to be a part of the LeBlanc family and to do what we do. Teaching these kids and then watching them improve right before our eyes, and then taking it one step further and watching them book INCREDIBLE roles and live out their dreams, was more fulfilling than anything I had done before. There’s a real passion for me here, I love being able to support the next generation’s dreams! LeBlanc builds employable, working actors!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I would say that the most interesting and profound thing that has happened to me since the start of my instructing and business-owning journey has been the dramatic and sudden shift to pivoting online. Like so many other businesses during the start of the pandemic, we had to make the shift to online quickly. I remember the call between myself, Athena, and our incredible admin coordinator Steph, trying to decide what we should do as we had no other option and yet we had no idea of how it was going to go. It took a leap of faith, and yet here we are on the other side and it was the most rewarding shift that we could ever have done as a company.
Moving online has allowed LeBlanc to grow in ways that we only could have dreamed of. What we have learned and seen in the past two years of being a virtual school is that by shifting online we are now able to be inclusive in every sense. By being “digital” we are able to work with students in smaller cities who don’t have access to industry-standard classes like major cities do, we were able to work with students with mobility restraints or social anxieties who leaving the house could be challenging at times. By going “online” we created a safe haven for students of all ages to explore and learn in the safety of their own homes.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It may not be funny to others, but I find it funny reflecting now. Like so many performers in their early 20s — I assumed that I needed to make it NOW. I did everything I could to be an overnight superstar and I was hungry for success. Today, after being in this industry for over 14 years — I know it’s not something we can control. And looking back, I’m grateful that none of that happened for me overnight, because in all honesty, if it had — I am not sure if I would still be an artist today. Acting is a craft and it takes time. To have longevity, to make a living as an artist, to hone your technique — none of that can happen overnight, and it sure as heck doesn’t need to happen RIGHT NOW. I am so grateful for my journey–and yes — it may have taken a little longer than 21-year-old Julian would have liked, but it makes my soul burst knowing that this is just the beginning for me still in so many ways.
Ok, thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our discussion. Can you describe how you are helping to make popular culture more representative of the US population?
Our biggest priority at LeBlanc School of Acting is that we are always inclusive. We have students who come from all walks of life and backgrounds. We have young actors who identify as LGBTQ+, non-binary, and neurodiverse. We have students with disabilities. In 2022, if you’re a casting director and you are casting the role of an autistic character or someone in a wheelchair, there are absolutely no excuses to not cast a young, bright actor who lives those realities in real life and at LeBlanc, we’re training those very actors and their peers. No one is left out at LeBlanc.
Because we’re entirely online, we are able to reach a whole new audience of students. For students in small towns across the United States and around the world, they don’t have to move or travel to big cities like LA or New York which have traditionally been known as the destinations you need to go to in order to become an actor and “make it.” They just need an internet connection and a loving, supportive parent to enroll them in our school. Whether you are in Los Angeles, London, or Regina — everyone has a place at LeBlanc and we welcome them with open arms.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by the work you are doing?
At LeBlanc we believe in showcasing our incredible students in all of their achievements whether industry based or not. By doing this and shouting from the rooftops to our extensive network of industry professionals — we are creating and cultivating amazing network opportunities for them. For example, just recently one of our amazing long-time students, Naomi Tan (of Netflix’s Devil in Ohio) — caught the eye of a few prolific filmmakers here in Vancouver due to seeing her uniqueness and special flame showcased on our pages. Because of this Naomi was directly booked for two short film projects. Being a student at LeBlanc means being seen.
As an insider, this might be obvious to you, but I think it’s instructive to articulate this for the public who might not have the same inside knowledge. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important to have diversity represented in Entertainment and its potential effects on our culture?
In 2022 and beyond, children need to see themselves represented in movies and on TV. Look at the recent ripple effects following the release of the Little Mermaid live-action trailer. All of the videos of little black girls and daughters, celebrating seeing a mermaid on-screen that looks just like them. I dare you to not tear up watching those videos. We need more of that.
As I shared earlier, why are we casting people without disabilities to play those with disabilities when we have incredible actors who live these realities every single day that are capable of playing these roles?
Lastly, I’m proudly LGBTQ+. I’ve grown up watching beloved movies and television shows, where straight men play gay characters. But then you see gay actors get typecast to only play gay roles and it doesn’t make sense. We’re doing better, but I would LOVE to see more gay men playing straight men. It’s called acting — your sexual orientation or how you identify, should not dictate the type of roles you can play. Just like an American can play a British character, I’d love to see a world where our sexual orientation doesn’t define the roles we book.
Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do to help address the root of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
Recommendation 1: Creating a supportive framework for any type of artist. Not every artist works the same way and as an industry, we need to not operate under a one size fits all policy. Whether it be with direction, scheduling, or the way that a set operates — it is imperative that we allow for a creative space that supports the individual — whatever that may look like.
Recommendation 2: Visibility is power. The more that every human can see themselves represented on camera or in creative lead positions — the more achievable and real everything feels. Humans come in all shapes and sizes from all different types of backgrounds and ways of life — so it’s time that we are no longer only amplifying or showcasing such a small percentage of representation.
Recommendation 3: Openness. The industry needs to be more open to the superpowers and abilities that people with less representation have.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
To me, “Leadership” is defined as inspiring others to believe in themselves while guiding them toward a common goal. As a boss and instructor, I am big on inspiring my team and students to see the potential that is so deep within themselves. The more that people believe in themselves, well– the more that they can accomplish which I have seen firsthand with my incredible team at LeBlanc.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
#1: If you are nervous then it matters to you! Don’t let the nerves hold you back– as these nerves are a tell-tale physical and mental sign that what you are doing holds great importance!
#2: Self-care is a game changer. You can’t be good or useful to other people unless you like yourself enough or are fueled enough to be that way. Exercise. Eat your vegetables, and take the time to go on a walk. Pet your cat. Watch that horror movie. Take the time to meditate and get quiet. It is in these quiet and self-fulfilling moments that magic can appear.
#3: Set goals. It is almost impossible to accomplish things unless you have said them out loud, or written them down. Be specific, and read them every single day. The more you ingest these goals — the more likely they are to come to fruition.
#4: It’s not going to happen overnight and THAT’S OKAY! I like to remind myself in moments of self-doubt or frustration that where I am right now, is where I was dreaming I could be five years ago. It’s all part of the journey, and if you keep working hard and are authentic with all that you do — it’s not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when.”
#5: Even in hard or difficult times, try to find moments to laugh and see the joy in each situation. We have so few days on this planet and each and every single day is a blessing, so without joy and laughter (even in moments of unexpected chaos) — life becomes unbearable.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am incredibly passionate about the idea of inspiring people to take action on their fears and dreams. People tend to sit at home and never take action on what they aspire to have/be. When this happens they are plagued by thoughts of “WHAT IF?” and “WHAT IF I COULD?” I truly believe that there is nothing worse than regret. So my movement would be one of ACTION! TAKE THOSE ACTIVE STEPS TOWARDS YOUR DREAMS — no matter how small. When we take action our soul instinctually becomes inspired and our hearts brim with scintillation. When we as humans live our truths and GO FOR THINGS — that is when real-life magic happens.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Attract what you expect. Reflect what you desire. Become what you respect. Mirror what you admire.”
People have always been skeptical of what I wanted to do with LeBlanc as it was something that had never been done. I wanted to revolutionize training in a way that made it fun, innovative, and digestible for youth in a way that no one had attempted before. I wanted to create a safe space for the type of training that as a young actor I would have loved and needed– and let me tell you, in the beginning, I dealt with a lot of cynics. People flat out told us that it couldn’t be done, or that it wouldn’t work — and yet I sit here now seeing the length that LeBlanc and our students have grown over these past 7+ years and I am forever grateful that I didn’t listen to the naysayer. People will often try and keep you small. You just can’t let them.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have brunch with Madonna. Madonna is and forever will be someone who reinvents herself at every turn. I dream of having longevity like her and as an entrepreneur and actor being able to push the level of boundaries that she has. From the very start of her career, she has lifted up minorities and to me, there is nothing more inspiring than that. She is the definition of iconic in every way.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!
How Julian LeBlanc Is Helping To Make the Entertainment Industry More Diverse and Representative was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.