Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Sure! I was born and raised in Montreal. My family hails from Trinidad. Aquarius, protected by the Amethyst. I’m a lover of music, food, and laughter. Mascots also fascinate me. Movies are magic. I’m inspired by light. By feelings. By New-Ness and nostalgia. I’m a big people watcher. And juice. I love juice.
You were first interested in acting at the age of 6. Were you confident even at that point that you’d make a career out of it?
I’m not sure “confident” was in the blood at that age, as I used to have a pretty severe stutter/stammer until I was about 8 or 9 years old, but I definitely knew that nothing was going to stop me in pursuing my hopes and dreams. Obstacles can become play-things with the right mindset.
You graduated with honours from the Professional Theatre program at Dawson College. How did your time there prepare you for life as an actor?
Not everyone who goes to theatre school has the same experience, but I can honestly say that Dawson gave me a solid base with which to create from. I had some incredible professors and teachers who pushed me further than I knew I was even capable of going. Even though several of them taught different techniques and styles, I like to think of it like a buffet: you learn to pick and choose what works for you as an actor, and you take that and stick it in your bag of tricks.
How important was your role as Manny in “How She Move” to your career?
Hugely important! My experience on this film changed my life at the time, and forged friendships that still firmly exist to this day. Rutina Wesley is killing it. Dwain Murphy – killing it. Tanisha Scott, Cle Bennett, Kevin Duhaney- killing it! (And please google them all if you don’t know. Folks need to recognize their greatness)
Also, True story: years ago, there were auditions for this massive Musical production of ‘The Lord Of The Rings’, which was a co-production between companies in the UK and Canada. Some friends and I slept outside overnight to be the first ones in line to audition. Morning came, and I was indeed the first in line, went in, sang my face off, and was asked to come back the next day for a callback *and that they would call me later to let me know what my time would be*. A few hours passed. No call ever came in. So, I just showed up early the next day and the casting director’s assistant greeted me with, “hey, you’re just on time”. (Say whaaaa!?) I had a few callbacks, sang my face off some more, travelled back and forth between Montreal and Toronto, danced/sang my face off, (I was up for Sam / Gimli) made it right to the very end (10 rounds of callbacks in total!) – and didn’t book the show. The very next week the same casting director who was in charge of TLOTR show called my agent and said something to the effect of “a project just arrived on your desk that Tristan would be great for.” That project turned into “How She Move”. Had my audition, one call-back, booked it, and the rest is history. Moral of the story: sometimes Showing Up and being ready is the most powerful thing you can do. Show up. I can trace almost my entire career back to that one audition. Crazy right?
You played the first black male lead as Adéwalé in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series. How cool was it to step into the video game world as such an important character?
Well, It’s as incredible as you may think it is. I have worked on eight Assassin’s Creed game titles to date. Most notably in three of the games, I am Adéwalé (full voice and performance capture), and I also play the roles of Taharqa, Agaté, and Jumao in the franchise. I love the way gamers show love. Especially the way they’ve reached out via social media. I have been sent some incredible gifts (drawings paintings, cookies with my face and character on them!…) it’s such a loving community. And Assassin’s Creed fans Go. Hard. I love it. I’ve worked on about 45 games in total. Lots more to come… maybe very soon…
Do you play any video games yourself?
I sure do! Some of my childhood favourite memories are watching my brother Brandon and cousin Nigel play Contra or River City Ransom on NES, and not being allowed to actually play because I was so terrible. Things have changed. Hahaha
You’ve starred in over 70 plays and musicals. How do those experiences differ from your film roles?
Theatre will always be my home base. Sustaining a performance for 2+ hours in front of a live audience has no comparison. On a film/TV set there is a lot of “hurry up and wait” that goes on, and then when called upon you need to be ready and deliver. On stage we might rehearse for up to two months, run the show for one or two months, and be paid (what we’re owed, but) minimally. On camera, there is often very little to no rehearsal (there are exceptions), work either extremely long of short days, and make enough to last you a few months. Very different beasts.
What can you tell us about your role as Damien Sanders in the medical drama “Nurses”?
Sure. Damien is the head charge nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital. I take care of who will be on what station, and lots of charting. During season 1 Damien has a connection with each of the 5 rookies. Think of him as having the military rigidity of Gordon Ramsay mixed with the tough love of Iyanla Vanzant.
You also have a role in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. What can audiences expect from this film?
This is a feature film directed by Lee Daniels (Empire, Precious) starring the amazing Andra Day as the title character. It goes into the life and times of the famous singer, and what led to her success and her trials and tribulations. I play a reporter named Mr. Green who challenges Billie Holiday on her views of what it means to be a role model for young black people at the time.
You’re producing a new show called, “The Summit”. What can you tell us about that project?
What I can currently say is The Summit will be very different from anything you’ve ever seen before. Mixing comedy with genuine real life conversations and adventures, we’re working really hard to bring something fresh and new to the table. Stay tuned.
What advice would you have for aspiring actors/actresses?
Take your work seriously without taking yourself too seriously. Love what you do, or don’t do it.
What’s your life like off-set?
If you look up/listen to the song “Complicated Melody” by India.Arie, that’s me.
Let the readers know where to find you online.
@tdlalla (IG & Twitter) or tristandlalla.com