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From Whistler’s underground to the big screen

Former Whistlerite Jesse Arthur Carroll stars in Smoke Eater, screening at the Whistler Film Festival on Dec. 4
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Jesse Arthur Carroll plays a firefighter in the short film Smoke Eater, screening at the Whistler Film Festival on Dec. 4.

Hindsight, they say, is 20/20.

For Jesse Arthur Carroll, who has worked as a stand-up comedian, voice-over actor, and screen actor, that’s meant he can connect the dots between his years in Whistler to his current life in New York City.

If you lived in the resort from 2011 to 2014, you might remember him from Maxx Fish, where he was manager and ran a comedy night.

“Honestly, I look back at that time with such fondness,” he says. “I partied like I was on tour with Mötley Crüe—I was running a nightclub, but I don’t know if I’d be here if I didn’t do that. When I was running those comedy nights, I had all these Aussies coming up to me saying, ‘You’d kill in Australia. You’ve got to come’ ... [Performing in Australia] eventually brought me back to Vancouver to get back into acting. It was the start of the long journey to get me to New York.”

You could follow any one of those interesting threads to learn more about Carroll’s compelling career, but one that people love to ask about is voice-over work.

It all started as he entered his late 30s and realized his nightclub-running days might not last forever.

“It’s hard to sustain when you get to be an old guy like me,” he says.

With some acting experience under his belt, he happened upon an instructional YouTube video about “how to get voice- over work from home” and looked into it. Intrigued, he went all in, purchasing high-end recording equipment and teaching himself both how to use it and how to edit.

“The first month I made maybe $50 to $100,” he says.

But then he signed up for various audition websites and began applying for every voice-over gig he could find.

“I did 20 to 30 auditions a day,” he adds. “That made me so much better. It took about 200 auditions or so, but then [the gigs] started to roll in after that.”

These days, you can find his voice on more than 500 different credits, everywhere from advertisements for Nintendo, Amazon, Walmart and Toyota, to the narrator of the TV series Backroad Truckers.

After finding success in that niche acting realm, Carroll realized he wanted to get back into acting on screen—for which he had gone to school in Vancouver in the mid-2000s.

“In order to get to the level of acting I wanted to, I knew I needed to go down to America. That’s what made me want to make the transition,” he says.

While he got his American work visa through an audio post-production studio and continues to work in that realm, he also started studying acting at New York’s Terry Knickerbocker Studio, where everyone from Sam Rockwell to Natasha Lyonne and Emmy Rossum have all been coached.

“He was the top coach in the business,” Carroll adds.

While you can find Carroll’s acting chops on display in a range of places—including streaming Christmas movies this season like Mingle all the Way, Christmas Pen Pals, and Christmas on Holly Lane, as well as several Hallmark movies and The Imperfects, streaming on Netflix, he is also starring in a short film making its Canadian debut at the Whistler Film Festival on Dec. 4.

Smoke Eater, set in 1981, chronicles the day of a young girl who shadows her mom as the only female firefighter on the force.

Carroll plays Kurt, a firefighter who appears to be a good guy on the surface, but takes a less likeable turn.

“It was shot in Langley in two different fire departments,” he says. “It was neat because the firemen were actually there and there were a couple of calls while we were there ... They’re serious. I talked to one of the guys when they were hanging out between shots and as soon as that alarm went off, they were gone.”

Working with Kaylah Zander (who plays the main character), her on-screen daughter Maria Frazer, and director Gloria Mercer was a highlight, he says.

“They were so collaborative and open to ideas,” he says. “They had their own vision, but they were accepting of mine ... I didn’t want to play Kurt like he was a villain, which he is, but that was too obvious. I thought it was more true to reality that he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong.”

Catch Smoke Eater at the Whistler Film Festival on Sunday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre.

The festival runs in-person from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4 and online until Jan. 2. For more information or tickets, visit whistlerfilmfestival.com.

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