Actor and musician Stephen Joffe on his steady rise to fame

Birds of Bellwoods' lead singer and Alias Grace actor on his path to success and North York routes


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Joffe met two of his bandmates in high school

Image: Samantha Hurley

For Stephen Joffe, lead singer of Canadian band Birds of Bellwoods and actor in upcoming miniseries Alias Grace, performance has always been something he couldn’t back away from. 

“It just feels good, to put it in the simplest way. It’s just so much fun. It’s the best feeling in the world,” Joffe says. Ever since he auditioned for his first movie at age five, Joffe has been constantly performing. He did mostly film until high school at Earl Haig Secondary School, where he got the chance to do a Canadian Stage play.

“That’s where it started.… It stopped being magic for me and started being a scientific formula. I was able to quantify what made a good performance.”

From there, Joffe made the decision to go to National Theatre School in Montreal and never looked back. 

After a workshop with Judith Thompson, Joffe was brought in to audition for her play The Crackwalker. The play addressed heavy issues like addiction and domestic violence, and Joffe describes the play as “necessary.”

“I think that’s the responsibility of art, and it’s what I try to do with all my work — make those dark parts of ourselves and of humanity not so scary and something that we can talk about and witness,” he says. 

Joffe says the play led him to his role in Alias Grace — writer and producer Sarah Polley watched him onstage and decided to bring him in to play Jamie Walsh.

“The career built from the opinions of others … that’s the worst part.”

Joffe says he was intimidated at first on the set because he was surrounded by so many actors he had grown up respecting. 

“But as soon as I got to know them, I realized we’re all just people, and we’re all trying to do the same thing. We’re all just trying to figure out how to make a piece with meaning,” he says

Joffe has now turned his attention to his band, and its roots go all the way back to his time in high school, where he became friends with two of his bandmates, Adrian Morningstar and Kintaro Akiyama. He says it was only when his friend convinced him to sing onstage at a bar, while at theatre school, that he realized performing music was something he loved. 

“Being in that moment, it’s a chemical thing. You have an audience full of people beaming that energy toward you, saying, make this special. And you get to be the conduit of that.”

Joffe isn’t ignorant to the demands of the job, but he says he’s committed to it now. 

“The insecurity, the inconsistency, the career built from the opinions of others … that’s the worst part.” 

But he also acknowledges the importance of his job, saying, “One of the coolest things that we can do is present perspectives to people that do not fit into their lives but present it in a way that creates empathy.”

Birds of Bellwoods is going on a three-week October tour across the East Coast and Ontario. 

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