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Q & A: A Canadian in Hollywood

"If there was a little more falafel in Trump’s America, there might be a little less Trump"

4 min read
caption Joe Cobden (left) in a scene from his short film, Cycles.
Joe Cobden
caption Joe Cobden (left) in a scene from his short film, Cycles.
Joe Cobden

Halifax actor and producer Joe Cobden has been in the business since the age of 11. He graduated from the theatre program at Concordia University, and has since worked on screen and stage in a variety of roles – acting, producing, editing and more. One of his more recent acting roles was in the movie Arrival, which has been nominated for eight Academy Awards.

The Signal spoke to him over the phone to find out more about his career and what’s next.

Q: How did you get started acting?

A: I was a busker, which I kind of fell into because my parents moved to Nova Scotia in 88 because my dad got a job at King’s. So I became one at a really young age — I was 11 — and was touring internationally.

Q: The past year has been pretty busy for you, including shooting Arrival. What was that like to work on?

A: That was a short shoot for me; it was only four or five days. We did more stuff that got cut, but I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve heard I’m barely in it at all, and that’s true of a lot of the actors who were in it. There was one guy who did three months of work and didn’t even make it in. And it was a nice gig. I normally wouldn’t take a gig that small anymore; it’s not a good look, but I was excited to see Denis Villeneuve at work and I think Amy Adams is interesting, so that was cool — and the script was fantastic. It was a small, insignificant gig for me and I’m glad to be in that company, but I’m barely in that company — like a tourist.

A: What do you have in the pipeline for 2017?

Q:  I’m working on an Instagram thing called TOOTH PIX right now. We’re trying to turn that into a series and that’s a bit of a journey.

I have a lot of stuff I’ve written grants for, or pitches for, and I have a kid’s show I would drop everything to do full-time — kind of a Mr. Dressup reboot. If there was a way to do that, I would for sure quit everything else and do that.

Q: So what exactly is TOOTH PIX and where do you want to go with it?

A: We’re thinking about making a show about Los Angeles.

It’s a really odd place, it’s kind of like the Internet; that’s the best way I can describe it. So to make a show that sort of has that feel is a weird thing to try to do. But I would definitely like to have a half hour where I can keep making sketches with my friends, set in the food industry, because the cool thing about food is that, certainly for a city that has a history of segregated communities, it kind of knocks that stuff down pretty quick. It’s like music that way, but even more powerful. We all need to eat and this is a rich city and people are more adventurous than ever before with the stuff they’re eating, and that means they go into different neighbourhoods. That’s exciting because I feel like if there was a little more falafel in Trump’s America, there might be a little less Trump.

I’m also really critical of food culture. I just think it’s gross and gluttonous and so f*cking disgusting that the homeless situation is out of control in this city and yet there’s line-ups for a French/Mexican mash-up bistro. I want to criticize it, I want to make fun of it and expose the pretensions and satirize its fetishes and I think it’s ready for that. It’s ripe for that.

Q: You mentioned earlier that you are hoping to get involved with the Canada 150 projects. What are your plans with that?

A: I think every artist in Canada put in for that grant. Mine was a series of short films that span the country from coast to coast and it’s like one guy driving home, basically.

It’s kind of like the trip; it’s kind of like High Maintenance. And we’ll see if I get it, but I’m conflicted about it. You know, that money — it’s a weird celebration. It’s a complicated and perhaps insensitive celebration.

I kind of think, maybe holy shit, we should spend that money bringing to light some other stuff. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. If I get the money, I’ll try to be responsible with it.

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