25 Famous People You Didn’t Know Were Canadian
Some of America’s national treasures actually hail from our northern neighbor. For Canada Day, July 1, let’s celebrate these celebrity Canucks!
Canadians are known for being modest, so maybe that’s why we don’t hear much about their accomplishments, like these 20 things you never knew were invented in Canada. And that goes for people we didn’t even realize are Canadian, too. For example, did you know Killing Eve‘s Sandra Oh is originally from Nepean, now part of Ottawa, Ontario? On her recent Saturday Night Live hosting gig, she joked, “It’s hard for me to accept compliments because I’m Canadian, and in Canada, you cannot brag…so the Canadian response to a compliment is, ‘Sorry.’” But the Golden Globe-winner deserves all the praise she gets—even in her home country, where she was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2011. “Being a Korean Canadian growing up in Canada, being a Canadian living in America—there’s always this slightly outsider point of view, which I really try to embrace,” the Grey’s Anatomy alum told Vogue.
Canadians love to make fun of themselves for how much they apologize, and Detective Pikachu‘s Ryan Reynolds, born and raised in Vancouver, is no exception. “Little known fact: Canadians are born with a black belt in apology,” Reynolds tweeted. But in seriousness, he feels most at home in the wilds of British Columbia. “That, to me, is my ideal version of heaven,” Reynolds, who narrated Great Bear Rainforest, a nature documentary about the Canadian habitat, told the Vancouver Sun. “It is when you move away that you really realize what you are missing. More than anything I find I just long for it all the time. I’m lucky to shoot the Deadpool movies in Vancouver, so I get to take my kids out and experience as much of British Columbia as possible.”
Canadian crooner Michael Bublé hails from Burnaby, British Columbia, just outside of Vancouver. And he’s always stayed close to his Canadian roots: Bublé is an owner of the Vancouver Giants hockey team and is moving to a newly completed mansion in Burnaby across from his elementary school (he previously had a home in West Vancouver). After his son underwent successful cancer treatment, Bublé thanked Canadian fans on the Canadian talk show The Social. “This is the biggest chance I’m going to have in my country to tell people,” he told the show’s hosts. To the camera, Bublé said, “Hi Canada, I can never fully explain to you in words how much your love and your support means to me and my family…I was excited to be able to come here to really tell you how much I love you and how proud I am to be one of you.”
Could a dystopian vision as dark as The Handmaid’s Tale really have come out of such a pleasant country as Canada? Beyond her most famous work, now a hit TV series on Hulu, author Margaret Atwood has also written about Canadian identity in literature. Atwood was born in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. “We always did a lot of traveling, so I saw a lot of Canada at a very young age,” she told Canadian Geographic. “I first went to the Arctic in 1975, and I started traveling in the eastern part of it in 2003. We’ve been going up there quite a lot ever since. It’s a stunning part of the world. You’ll never think about the planet in the same way again once you’ve been there.” (By the way, if you like ice, check out what it’s really like to sleep in an ice hotel in Quebec City.) The prolific Canadian writer will be publishing a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments, in September 2019.
Growing up in London, Ontario, The Notebook and Doctor Strange actress remembers some very chilly Halloweens. “It’s so much colder [than the United States], it’s like minus five degrees, so it changes the costume a bit,” McAdams told Conan O’Brien. “You have to put your snowsuit on—I was a fairy princess with a turtleneck.” (Maybe the frigid temps are why Canada goose jackets are so expensive?) But the fame-shy actress still lives in her home country, now in Toronto. “That’s everything for me, for my sanity,” she told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s CBC News about balancing out her Hollywood life. “I need to be around my family and my friends, and just come home. I feel like it recharges my batteries and I love being here.”
McAdam’s Notebook co-star and ex-boyfriend Ryan Gosling also hails from Ontario. The former child actor, who made his big break on Disney Channel’s The Mickey Mouse Club, hasn’t forgotten his roots: He stopped by a local coffee shop at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, after which the owner called him a “well brought up Canadian boy.” Gosling told CBC News of his Canadian upbringing, “I think it was very helpful to grow up in Canada or in a small town. Because I think if you grow up [in Hollywood], it might be hard to remember that there’s a world outside of it. But I always felt like I had something to go back to.”
Before coming to America, comedian, actor, writer, and director Seth Rogan got his start doing stand-up in his hometown of Vancouver. Because his father was American, he always had dual citizenship. Yet, “I definitely associate with being Canadian much more than being American,” he said in an interview. “I was in Canada until I was 18 so you’re always, ‘Wow, that happens here?’ As long as you’re [in America], there’s still new weirdness to uncover.” Like what? “I still say some things Canadian, like pencil crayons: They say colored pencils [in the U.S.], which is so weird,” he told Hello! magazine. “And parkade: In Vancouver, we call parking garages ‘parkades.’” Another weird thing: Canadians drink milk out of bags. The actor is also now the voice of the Vancouver and Toronto transit systems. “It was a hilarious and an incredible honor,” he said. “I have a lot of pride in being Canadian, and to be ingrained in the culture of Canada is something that I am happy about.”
Baywatch actress, model, and animal rights activist Pamela Anderson grew up on Vancouver Island. Coincidentally, she was born on Canada Day, July 1, 1967, on the centennial of Canada’s founding in 1867. Because of her role as a California lifeguard in Baywatch, many people may associate her with the Golden State, even though she didn’t move to Los Angeles until her twenties. “People say I’m the ultimate California girl, which is funny, being that I’m Canadian,” she told Esquire. Her Canadian childhood best friend is still her best friend today.”She works for the DMV in Canada and has this very normal life, and she has the same problems that I do; it’s just all relative,” Anderson says. “She’ll be like, ‘This girl in the office did this horrible thing to me!’ And I’ll be like, ‘Did you see The Enquirer?’”
The beloved actor and current internet darling, now starring in John Wick: Chapter 3, Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe, and Toy Story 4, actually grew up in Toronto. His Toy Story 4 character might give viewers a clue to his nationality: Reeves voices Duke Caboom, a Canadian stuntman toy complete with maple leaf costume. Director Josh Cooley told reporters, “We went after Canadian actors, and he was the first one on our list. I’m so thrilled that he said yes.” Reeves revealed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon that he got his start on the Canadian kids’ show Going Great. “It was really fun,” Keanu says of his kid-on-the-street interviewing gig. But his penchant for silly improvisation—like pretending a cute teddy bear attacks him—might not have been what the directors had in mind. “They fired me after the first year,” he laughs.
Like her How I Met Your Mother character, Robin, actress Cobie Smulders comes from Canada. “The funny thing about Robin becoming a Canadian was that [the show’s creators] liked that I was Canadian and thought it was exotic, which is the very first time I’ve ever been called that,” Smulders told Canada.com. But she hopes the depiction of Robin’s sometimes outlandish Canadianism wasn’t offensive to her countrymen. “My prayer and my hope is that all Canadians think that it’s funny and are complimented,” she said in another interview. The Avengers actress—soon to be seen in next season’s ABC series Stumptown—grew up in Vancouver, which she calls the “Bahamas” of Canada due to its milder temperatures compared to the rest of the country. Maybe that’s why it’s one of the most popular travel destinations in Canada.