Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Jabar Bains is an international teacher turned actor. With studies at the Toronto Academy for Film and Television and ongoing work at EVN Film Studios, he’s always actively working on an ever-expanding resume of acting roles. He has starred in commercials for McDonald’s and Google, and he’s slated for an appearance on Crave Bell TV’s Late Bloomer. He even starred in the internationally acclaimed short film Flames.
What was growing up in Toronto like?
Growing up in Toronto, specifically in Rexdale, was a rich tapestry of diverse experiences that significantly shaped my journey, both as an individual and as an established actor. Born in 1991, I navigated the vibrant and multicultural landscape of Rexdale, an area with its unique challenges and triumphs. Growing up in a low-income community with a mix of community housing, I was exposed to a melting pot of cultures, contributing to a mosaic of influences that would later inform my approach to storytelling.
In the elementary classroom, the diversity was striking, with nearly 20 different cultures represented. This exposure at a young age fostered an appreciation for different perspectives and narratives, a valuable asset for an actor. Despite the struggles and hustle evident in the community, there was an unspoken understanding that we needed to support each other. This sense of unity became a source of strength, emphasizing the importance of community and the bonds that tie us together.
Living in Rexdale, with its challenges of gang violence and robberies, taught me the importance of solidarity and the necessity of having each other’s backs. The older individuals in the neighborhood took on a protective role, fostering a sense of safety and belonging. This early exposure to both the harsh realities and the warmth of community laid the foundation for my understanding of complex characters and the nuanced narratives that make storytelling compelling.
Growing up in Toronto, I quickly learned that each of us possesses a unique gift to share with the world. This realization, coupled with a love for telling stories, became a driving force in my journey towards becoming an established actor. The neighborhood’s emphasis on sports, where my prowess as the fastest runner earned me respect and recognition, instilled values of discipline and determination that translate seamlessly into my career in the entertainment industry.
Toronto, with its diverse and dynamic backdrop, not only nurtured my artistic sensibilities but also instilled in me the importance of resilience, community, and embracing one’s uniqueness. These lessons from my formative years continue to resonate in my work as an established actor, serving as a reminder of the rich tapestry that has shaped both my artistry and my understanding of the human experience.
How would you describe your family? What kind of influence did they have on your outlook on life?
My family has been the cornerstone of my life, shaping not only my outlook but also influencing the core values that guide me, both as an individual and as an established actor. Growing up, my parents worked tirelessly in minimum wage jobs, with my father driving a taxi for 32 years and my mother dedicating 23 years to factory work. Their relentless work ethic and commitment to providing for the family taught me the power of hard work and the importance of seeing tasks through to completion.
From my father, I learned the art of multitasking and the ability to tackle a myriad of responsibilities in a single day. His role as a social worker and support system in the community underscored the impact one can have by actively engaging with and supporting others. My mother, on the other hand, instilled in us the values of honesty, integrity, and kindness. Her selflessness, epitomized by her willingness to prioritize others over herself, left an indelible mark on my character.
My older sister served as both a role model and mentor, providing invaluable guidance through life’s transitions. Meanwhile, my younger brother and I, born just 11 months apart, engaged in friendly competition across various sports, fostering a spirit of teamwork and hard work that continues to resonate in my professional pursuits as an actor. Our family dynamic was unique, with our home often accommodating relatives immigrating to Canada. The experience of growing up in a crowded space, captivated by the powerful storytelling of the older generations, became a defining aspect of my upbringing. Even without a dedicated bedroom until middle school, the sense of family, connection, and shared narratives provided a rich foundation for my appreciation of storytelling—something that deeply influences my work as an actor today.
My grandmother, who played a pivotal role as the head of our extended family, instilled lessons of kindness and the importance of standing up for oneself. Her love and support, declaring that she was in my “gang,” provided a sense of security and belonging. My grandfather, with his small yet meaningful gestures, created lasting bonds through simple acts like trips to the mall or visits to Santa Claus.
As I reflect on my journey as an established actor, I attribute much of my work ethic to my father and the kindness I aim to embody to my mother. Their lessons, combined with the love and support of my extended family, have become integral to my identity and the way I approach my craft. Even as I navigate personal and professional challenges, the enduring values instilled by my family guide me, reminding me that everyone carries unseen struggles, and kindness remains a powerful force in connecting with others.
Are there any favorite actors that you admire and look up to?
Certainly, as an established actor, I have profound admiration for fellow actors who have not only left an indelible mark on the industry but have also been a source of inspiration for me throughout my career. Denzel Washington, Al Pacino, and Tom Hanks stand out as actors whom I deeply respect and look up to.
Denzel Washington’s ability to embody diverse characters and his transformative performances have always captivated me. Beyond his acting prowess, Denzel’s motivational messages have been a guiding force in my journey as an established actor. His words resonate with me, providing encouragement and perspective in the ever-evolving landscape of the entertainment industry.
Al Pacino’s authentic portrayals have significantly influenced my own acting style. His commitment to authenticity, never veering into contrived performances, aligns with my belief in the power of genuine and immersive storytelling. Pacino’s approach, where he fully immerses himself in the characters, resonates deeply with my own dedication to portraying roles in a way that feels authentic and true to the character’s essence.
Tom Hanks, known not only for his incredible talent but also for his kindness and generosity, is someone I aspire to emulate. His reputation as a kind soul who is always willing to help, regardless of status or cost, mirrors the way I choose to live my life. As a school teacher, I draw inspiration from Hanks’ approach to making others feel seen, safe, and comfortable. It’s a principle I incorporate into my interactions with students and colleagues, fostering an environment where everyone’s voice is heard and valued.
In essence, these actors, Denzel Washington, Al Pacino, and Tom Hanks, serve as beacons of excellence, versatility, and kindness in the industry. Their influence transcends their performances on screen, shaping not only my approach to acting but also my values as an established actor committed to authenticity, motivation, and creating a positive impact both on and off the screen.
What led you to explore a career in acting in the first place?
From a young age, I recognized the profound impact that storytelling through film and television had on bringing people together. Life’s hectic pace often meant limited time for genuine connection, but the magic of a movie or a compelling TV series provided that rare opportunity for shared experiences. It became a source of escapism, allowing individuals to temporarily escape the challenges of their own realities. This realization fueled my desire to be part of something greater, to contribute to the enchantment that binds people through the art of acting.
In essence, my journey into acting was shaped by a passion for crafting narratives that resonate universally. I wanted to create moments that linger in the hearts and minds of audiences, moments where they could collectively escape, laugh, cry, and feel a profound connection. Becoming an actor was not just about pursuing a career; it was about cultivating the ability to weave stories that transcend individual experiences and touch the collective soul. It’s the pursuit of that shared magic that continues to drive my dedication to the craft.
Did you experience any challenges or hardships along the way?
Certainly, my journey in the acting world hasn’t been without its share of challenges. Balancing a full-time teaching career while pursuing a doctorate in education added an extra layer of complexity to my path. Engaging in acting classes concurrently was a demanding yet invigorating commitment, requiring a delicate dance between my academic pursuits and artistic aspirations.
In the early stages, the lack of familial support posed a significant hurdle. My family, understandably concerned about stability, initially couldn’t envision the potential success in the unpredictable realm of entertainment. Striking a balance between the academic world and the unpredictable nature of the entertainment industry was a delicate tightrope walk. It took time for them to see the fruits of my labor, and only as my presence in big films and television series became more apparent did the skepticism begin to fade.
Witnessing my work on billboards, commercials, and prominent projects became a turning point. The tangible success and visibility allowed my family to appreciate the dedication and resilience that had gone into building a career in acting. Now, their once-muted support has transformed into unabashed pride, and they eagerly share my accomplishments with their friends.
This journey has been a testament to the importance of perseverance, self-belief, and the willingness to defy conventional expectations. It’s a reminder that the road to success in the entertainment industry, like any other, is often paved with challenges that, when overcome, become part of the rich tapestry of one’s story.
How would you describe your star turn as the blue wrestler in the short film Flames? What can you say about the film’s significance, both for audiences and for you as an actor?
My role as the blue wrestler in Matthew Manhire’s short film Flames was a profound exploration of self-expression and liberation from oppressive forces. The film delves into the struggles of two young men, portrayed by Jabar Bains and Akshat Sharma, as they confront their draconian grandfather’s expectations and desires.
What makes the film significant is its poignant portrayal of a silent yet powerful rebellion against despotic control. The sparse use of dialogue amplifies the visual narrative, allowing the audience to witness the internal struggle faced by the characters. As the blue wrestler, my character engages in a beautifully choreographed wrestling routine with his counterpart, seamlessly transitioning between wrestling and dance.
The symbolic significance of the film becomes evident as the draconian grandfather, played by Ramesh Sangani, attempts to exert control through obscenities, creating a constant tug-of-war with the liberating music that accompanies the dance sequences. The cinematography, mirroring the hypnotic movements of the characters, captures the intimate rhythm and strained movements that seek to break free into verbal articulation.
The turning point in the plot, marked by a surreal moment of freedom, is accompanied by fire, smoke, and distant sirens. The music, now taking control, drowns out the harsh ugliness of the old man’s legacy, symbolizing a triumphant escape from oppressive forces.
Flames transcends its narrative to speak to an intersectional experience, addressing the challenges faced by those who navigate the complexities of being Asian, immigrant, masculine, and non-conforming within systemic frameworks that resist and oppose deviations from normative expectations. As an actor, being part of this film was not just a role; it was a meaningful contribution to a narrative that resonates with diverse audiences and encourages dialogue about societal expectations and the pursuit of authenticity.
You starred in commercials for the Google Pixel 6 and McDonalds. What is it like to shoot with these companies?
Shooting commercials for both Google Pixel 6 and McDonald’s has been a remarkable journey, especially considering my humble beginnings in non-union settings. The transition from smaller, non-union productions to major union-backed projects has been nothing short of transformative.
In the earlier non-union sets, the contrast is stark. The pace, resources, and attention to detail on union-backed productions like those for Google Pixel 6 and McDonald’s are on an entirely different level. The experience has evolved from being a background presence to a more prominent role, with all the perks that come with it.
On these larger productions, the process is elevated from the very start. The moment I step into the trailer for wardrobe and makeup, there’s a sense of professionalism and meticulousness. It’s a “wow” moment, realizing the level of detail and care that goes into every aspect of my appearance. The collaboration with skilled makeup artists and wardrobe stylists is a testament to the dedication these companies have to ensuring every detail aligns with their brand image.
Being seen on set is not just about the role but also about the entire experience. The trailer becomes a sanctuary, a place to prepare and focus. The collaborative effort of the crew, from the director to the cinematographer, contributes to creating a seamless and visually captivating production.
What stands out most is the sense of community and shared dedication on these union-backed sets. The camaraderie among the cast and crew is palpable, fostering an environment where creativity flourishes. Working with renowned brands like Google and McDonald’s not only elevates the project’s scale but also allows for a deeper connection with the audience.
In essence, the transition from non-union to union productions has been a fulfilling journey, marked by the privilege of being part of major campaigns. It’s a testament to the growth and opportunities that can arise when one is dedicated to the craft, and it underscores the importance of embracing every step of the journey in the world of acting.
Do you have a favorite memory from working on set?
Certainly, one of my cherished memories from working on set is from my principal role in the series Late Bloomer. This experience was not only a lot of fun but also highly exhilarating, featuring intense action sequences that truly ignited my passion for high-intensity acting.
One standout scene involved stealing a laptop and navigating a thrilling chase. The rush of adrenaline throughout the shoot was palpable, and every moment felt like a dynamic exploration of my craft. It was an opportunity to delve into the character’s world and push the boundaries of my own abilities.
The real magic, however, happened when I had the chance to interact with the audience. The memory that stands out the most is the first time someone recognized me for my previous work and expressed how my performance had touched their heart. It’s those moments of connection and impact that make being an actor truly special. To know that my work resonates with people on a personal level, hitting them in the heart, is incredibly rewarding and serves as a powerful reminder of the influence storytelling can have.
Moreover, sharing the set with someone I admired from my own childhood, like Jus Reign, added an extra layer of fulfillment. It brought the experience full circle, showcasing the collaborative and interconnected nature of the acting world. Working alongside someone who had been an inspiration to me as a kid was not only a testament to my growth but also a reminder of the transformative power of storytelling.
In essence, this favorite memory encapsulates the joy, thrill, and fulfillment that comes with being an actor. It reinforces my commitment to continually push my boundaries, embracing high-intensity roles that fuel my passion and drive to elevate my acting game with each new project.
What has been your proudest moment as an actor so far?
My proudest moment as an actor thus far has been the profound journey of self-discovery and emotional liberation that I’ve undergone. Growing up in Toronto as an Indian, raised by immigrant parents, the cultural expectations around expressing emotions were rigid. The ingrained notion of “being a man” and not showing vulnerability became a barrier that I carried for years.
It was through a personal commitment to my craft and a relentless pursuit of authenticity that I began to dismantle these emotional barriers. YouTube tutorials and journaling became essential tools in my quest to tap into my emotions and allow myself to be vulnerable, breaking free from the societal constraints that inhibited genuine expression.
The realization that I had been wearing masks and constructing emotional walls to shield myself became apparent only when I stepped into the world of acting. It was a transformative experience that not only allowed me to explore the depths of my emotions but also compelled me to confront and shed the layers I had built over the years.
Breaking through those walls and allowing myself to be vulnerable became a cathartic process. Acting, in many ways, became a lifeline, helping me rediscover my humanity. I learned to embrace and express emotions in the realest and most genuine way possible. My first scene in acting school, where I could authentically cry and connect with my scene partner, marked a significant milestone in realizing the depth of vulnerability I could achieve.
As an established actor, my proudest moment is not just about specific roles or accolades but the personal growth and emotional authenticity I’ve achieved through my craft. The ability to tap into my emotions, to cry, and to connect with the audience on a visceral level has become a source of pride. It’s a testament to the transformative power of acting and the profound impact it has had on my life, allowing me to feel more human than ever before.
Is there a screenwriter or a director who you would love to work with in the future, and why?
Absolutely, there’s a visionary storyteller and creator I would be thrilled to collaborate with in the future, and that is Mindy Kaling. My admiration for Mindy stems from her standout performances in the hit TV series “The Office” and extends to her current impactful work. What sets Mindy apart is not just her undeniable talent as an actress but also her prowess as a screenwriter and creator.
Mindy Kaling’s unique voice and ability to infuse humor with depth make her a standout figure in the industry. Her work transcends conventional boundaries, showcasing a keen understanding of human experiences with a touch of levity. Having been a fan of her work in The Office, I’ve witnessed her evolution into a trailblazing figure who champions inclusivity and provides opportunities to newer actors.
Collaborating with Mindy Kaling would be a dream come true for any actor. Her commitment to diversity and giving opportunities to emerging talents aligns with the values I hold as an established actor. It’s not just about working with a seasoned professional but also contributing to a creative environment that fosters growth and innovation.
Beyond the allure of her creative genius, Mindy’s collaborative and supportive approach to the industry makes her an ideal partner. The prospect of being a part of projects that not only entertain but also push the boundaries of storytelling under her guidance is incredibly exciting.
In the world of acting, aligning oneself with creators who share a vision for authentic and diverse narratives is key. Mindy Kaling embodies these qualities, making her a director and screenwriter I aspire to collaborate with. Working with her would not only be an artistic endeavor but also a chance to contribute to a legacy of storytelling that reflects the richness and complexity of the human experience.
How did your role in Late Bloomer come to be? Walk us through the casting and filming process.
The journey to securing my role in Late Bloomer was a unique and rewarding experience that began with a request from my talent agent. Initially asked to be a reader in Punjabi and English for the TV series, I eagerly accepted the opportunity. Little did I know that this seemingly routine task would unfold into a significant milestone in my acting career.
As a reader, I immersed myself in the audition process for various roles, offering me a valuable learning experience. Acting alongside numerous talented individuals, I absorbed insights from each audition, continuously refining my craft. What started as a supportive role evolved into an unexpected opportunity for me to showcase my own abilities.
After three days of serving as a reader, an actual role emerged that aligned with my talents. My agent submitted me, and I promptly submitted a self-tape audition. This transition from reader to auditioning actor marked a pivotal moment in the casting process, showcasing my versatility and commitment to storytelling.
The casting director and showrunners, having witnessed my dedication and unique ability to embody diverse roles during those three days, recognized the potential for something more. The trust that was established through this collaborative process became the foundation for them to confidently offer me the role.
Filming Late Bloomer alongside accomplished actors, including the likes of Jus Reign, was not only a professional achievement but also a testament to the power of building relationships within the industry. The experience emphasized the importance of being adaptable, seizing unexpected opportunities, and showcasing one’s capabilities even in seemingly peripheral roles.
As an established actor, the lesson here is the significance of every opportunity, no matter how seemingly small. Being open to diverse experiences, whether as a reader or in any supporting capacity, can lead to unexpected breakthroughs. It underscores the importance of consistently bringing one’s heart and soul to storytelling, establishing trust with industry professionals, and ultimately contributing to the collaborative art of filmmaking.
What can you reveal to us about your appearance in Late Bloomer? In what ways was this a pivotal moment in your career?
My appearance in Late Bloomer holds a special place in my heart, not only due to the significant role within the series but also because it allowed me to collaborate with someone I admired since childhood—Jus Reign. As a child, I used to share Jus Reign’s videos with my mother as a way to bond and bring laughter into our lives, creating a connection through humor.
Filming a TV series alongside Jus Reign was not just a career milestone; it was a personal triumph. To stand shoulder to shoulder with someone who had been a source of joy for me growing up was surreal and immensely fulfilling. It demonstrated the transformative power of storytelling and how it can come full circle, connecting people across different stages of their lives.
The scene in Late Bloomer was particularly high-intensity, requiring physicality with elements of running, jumping, and dodging while delivering lines. This presented a unique challenge that allowed me to push my boundaries as an actor. It was a pivotal moment where I proved to myself, once again, that I could handle the demands of a dynamic and challenging scene. This realization, combined with the satisfaction of working alongside seasoned professionals, further solidified my confidence and commitment to the craft.
Moreover, the experience reinforced the importance of continuous growth and resilience in an actor’s journey. It’s a reminder that each project, especially one with personal significance, contributes not only to career development but also to the ongoing evolution of skills and capabilities.
As an established actor, this episode in Late Bloomer serves as a testament to the enduring power of storytelling, the joy of collaboration with admired peers, and the continual pursuit of excellence in every performance. It’s a reminder that our journey in the industry is a series of interconnected moments, each contributing to the narrative of our careers and the collective tapestry of the entertainment world.
Do you see the show as a sign of even better things to come? Any hints as to where your career might go next?
Absolutely, appearing in Late Bloomer has undoubtedly been a positive sign and an exciting chapter in my career. Reflecting on this experience, it has reinforced my passion for storytelling and the collaborative process of creating meaningful narratives. The show has not only allowed me to showcase my skills but has also opened doors to further possibilities and connections within the industry.
Looking ahead, I see this as a stepping stone to even better things. The success and impact of Late Bloomer have fueled my desire to explore diverse roles and collaborate with talented individuals from different backgrounds. I have a genuine interest in other countries, cultures, and experiences, which has always influenced my approach to acting. Embracing this curiosity has been a source of inspiration, enabling me to bring authenticity to my roles and connect with audiences on a global scale.
As an established actor, I’m committed to continual growth and pushing the boundaries of my craft. While I can’t reveal specific details about where my career might go next, I can assure you that I am actively seeking opportunities that challenge me and allow me to contribute to compelling stories. Whether it’s exploring different genres, working with esteemed directors, or participating in international projects, I am excited about the prospect of embracing new challenges and expanding the horizons of my career.
In essence, Late Bloomer serves as a catalyst for even better things to come, encouraging me to remain open-minded, curious, and dedicated to the art of acting. The journey ahead holds the promise of diverse and enriching experiences, and I am enthusiastic about the opportunities that will further shape my career in the dynamic world of entertainment.