Cover Story: Adan Canto

The Designated Survivor star dishes on his shared love of music with co-star Kiefer Sutherland and the perks of living in Rosedale


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Actor and musician Adan Canto

Running through the Rosedale Valley with his wife and new puppy, the actor Adan Canto feels something like bliss.

Audiences will know Canto from the hit TV series Designated Survivor, in which he stars alongside Kiefer Sutherland in the show where a terrorist attack kicked off season one. 

Canto, who is originally from Mexico alongside the Texas border, is at the precipice of the start of season two, and has survived his share of tumultuous times. 

An actor, musician and lifelong denizen of the warm weather, Canto made Rosedale his home when Designated Survivor began filming in Toronto last year. 

This fall, audiences will keep a close eye on his character, Aaron Shore, the disgraced former chief of staff fired from President Kiefer’s cabinet about halfway through the first season. 

Meanwhile, Canto is figuring out how to make Canada feel like home. He says there’s nothing like taking a run with his loved ones in his new neighbourhood to make him feel fully connected to the community. It’s therapy, he says, in running shoes.

“There’s a six-mile loop right beside the ravine and I pass the old train station and the LCBO, and I don’t know when it happened, but I know how it felt — I felt like I was the luckiest person on earth,” says Canto, 35, who married his co-star from the short film Before Tomorrow, the actress Stephanie Lindquist, this past June. “We were lucky to choose a great neighbourhood, and it feels like the city but with the gift of seclusion at the same time. I relax and feel calm.” 

Relaxation is an increasingly diminished commodity for Canto, who’s been an in-demand rising star since the early ’90s when he was a child actor. 

Since then, he’s made L.A. his home and now spends his time in Toronto while shooting. 

Canto’s vibrancy fuels his edgy performances in not only Designated Survivor, but also in his other projects, like the Netflix series Narcos; the unsettling Fox show The Following, with Kevin Bacon; and his breakout role in X-Men: Days of Future Past, which he made in 2014. Whatever the vehicle, Canto adds an intelligent, dangerous intensity to the proceedings. 

“I grew up bi-culturally. I went to school in the States and came back home to my family, and what ignites me is not resting on the surface of things. I’ve seen the impact [of lives disrupted] and feel the need to have conversations and encourage people to understand even the most complicated issues from both sides,” says Canto, whose passion comes through in even the most casual conversations.

A sounding board for Canto has been his co-star in Designated Survivor, Toronto native­­ Kiefer Sutherland. Sutherland, obviously, has been a movie star since the 1980s and has much in common with his highly charged co-star. 

Both men bring an intensity to their performances; both love playing music and take their appreciation for live performances and recording seriously; and perhaps most importantly, both have a political consciousness. Sutherland’s grandfather, Tommy Douglas, brought health care to Canada, and Canto considers himself lucky to count Sutherland as a friend. 

“We share our songs and our feelings about the process of the evolution of music, and that’s been a huge link for us,” says Canto, mentioning that he’s travelled with his wife on several occasions to watch Sutherland perform. 

“He’s having such a great ride right now, with both the show and his music, and it’s great that we have this link, because he’s done this for so long so successfully, and it’s always a real benefit to hear his advice.” 

Apart from bonding with Sutherland, Canto has been spending time discovering his neighbourhood’s hidden gems such as the running trails, coffee shops and terrific food. His favourite thing to do is grab Stephanie and their dog, Dolly, which they got from a Toronto shelter, and hit the Evergreen Brick Works on the weekend. 

“Dolly is the Canadian of our family since we got her here, and we take her absolutely everywhere we go,” Canto says. “Dolly’s been a great way for us to connect with everybody in our neighbourhood, and when we go to Cafe Belong in Brick Works, everyone knows her and completely ignores us!”

Canto says he’ll sometimes eat at Cafe Belong five times a week and that he appreciates their farm-to-table food. “It’s just the best — really delicious — and my wife and I, we do love to eat,” says Canto, adding that the running in Rosedale helps him stay fit for his roles after enjoying so much of the local cuisine. “Really, just spending time in Rosedale with Dolly and running the trails makes things feel special, like we’re lucky. It does feel like we truly belong.” 

These days, Canto oscillates between Los Angeles, Mexico and Rosedale, living his life between projects and doing his best to educate audiences while they’re entertained. He has no problem with big-budget Hollywood fare like X-Men, and like all young actors, he appreciates the opportunity to work. However, Canto is forever writing screenplays with his wife and admiring talented filmmakers, especially the Oscar-winning Mexican auteur behind Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu.

“We’ve created a sense of place here in Toronto, and I’m happy to approach life one day at a time and give everything I do 100 per cent,” Canto says. “I like to collaborate with everyone around me and I’m excited because I believe season two of Designated Survivor is great. But the truth is, as long as we’re encouraging people to listen to one another with some sort of compassion, I feel like I’ll be doing my job.” 

Season two of Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on CTV and CTV Go starting Sept. 27. 

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