You may know him as Bradley in “Dirty Grandpa,” or as the voice of Black Panther in “Iron Man: The Animated Series.” But really, this Alberta, Canada transplant has us glued to our seats in Lifetime’s critically acclaimed drama, “UnREAL.”
Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman was adopted at just 12 days old. He delved into the world of modeling at the age of 16, and then moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada when he was 19 to further his career. While lunching with a friend in a downtown restaurant one day in 2006, he was approached by director Ron Oliver, who asked him to read for, “Shock to the System. “ He auditioned the next day and was cast on the spot.
BELLA caught up with the actor and model in between his travels. Find out what the very grounded and talented star had to say about life and his growing career…
Growing up in Rimbey, Alberta, what were some of the challenges you faced pursuing an acting career in a smaller city?
It was something I always dreamed I would do. The logistics of it were kind of complicated because I really had no example to go by. I just had to dig my way through it and find my way, meet the right people, start the right conversations, ask the right questions.
How did you get your start as a model?
I was enamored by the world of fashion but the first time it was offered to me as an opportunity or even a possibility, I was 16. My eyes had gotten very bright and I thought this could be a way to get out, to broaden my perspective of the world, meet all sorts of people, and use that as a ledge to get into the world of acting.
There seems to be a diversity to the movies you’ve acted in — from mystery to romantic comedy to science fiction. What’s your favorite genre for acting?
I really like broad, raw comedies like “Dirty Grandpa.” It’s not necessarily my type of humor to watch, but playing that type of humor is so much fun. On the flipside, I really like doing darker dramas and comedies. I did “Dear Mr. Gacy” years ago for HBO, in which I played the role of a male prostitute who escapes. I read the biography of John Wayne Gacy, watched documentaries, and spent time with actual male streetwalkers and drug addicts in Vancouver just to see what a day in the life of a character like this would be like. As dark as that was, there was something so deeply satisfying about it that I loved so much.
You’ve lived in both Canada and the United States. What is your favorite thing about each of them?
There are certainly events that were shaped by my growing up in Canada and things that were shaped by the US — New York, specifically.
We’re really blessed up in Canada, kind of sheltered in a way from things that seem simple but are actually very complicated, like gun control laws. We don’t have it at the forefront of our minds, like — “Oh is anyone carrying a gun? Could there be a potential of a mass public shooting?” When I spend time in major cities in the States, [however,] it’s very much at the forefront of people’s minds.
It’s the same with gay rights. For as long as I could remember, it has been legalized and broadly accepted [in Canada], so to come to America and try to comprehend the concept of things like gay rights has taken a long time for me to wrap my mind around. It wouldn’t have been until I moved to New York that I realized how naïve I was in many ways.
What’s your definition of beauty?
Authenticity and light.
Having voiced the character Black Panther in “Ironman: The Animated Series,” who is your favorite comic book hero?
The Black Panther, T’Challa, of course! I was still so young when I got that job. I felt like it was the best and the worst of auditions. Wakanda — where Black Panther, T’Challa comes from — is not a real African country, so I had to go in there and kind of wing it with this weird, generic African accent.
When I booked the role I was not familiar with the Black Panther, but I fell in love with him and started buying comic books and novels. Black Panther is a pivotal and groundbreaking character. To have a black male as a super hero, I can’t wait to see what he does next.
What career goals are you focusing on now?
Speaking about human rights is something I’ve always been very passionate about. To share my story and hopefully inspire others to share their stories and their truths is a message that is very important to me, and I would like to see spread far and wide.
Aside from that I love the art of conversation, so I would really like to start a podcast or an interview series. I’ve kept journals since I was about 12 years old; I just continued to go through volumes and volumes of them, and my favorite type of literature that I’ve always been drawn to are memoirs and autobiographies. I would really love to compile some volumes of my journals into a memoir at some point.
Sidebar: Catch Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman on Lifetime in season 2 of “UnREAL,” which has been honored by the American Film Institute as Television Program of the Year and nominated for three Critics’ Choice Awards. “UnREAL” continues to push the limits by giving a fictitious behind-the-scenes glimpse into the chaos surrounding the production of a dating competition program and tackling relevant matters of gender politics.
Photo Credit: Russ Lamoureux