Student juggles academics and acting
BY REBECCA KENDALL
March 18 was a special day for 20-year-old U of G student Jocelyn Lai, but if the call placed to her parents' home in Richmond Hill was any indication, she was taking it all in stride. Asked if she knew why this reporter was calling her, she said she had no idea and was taken off guard when queried about her role in the Disney film Ice Princess, opening that day.
Geared to a young audience, Ice Princess is about a girl named Casey who is torn between fast-tracking to Harvard and pursuing her dream of becoming a champion skater.
“It was a fun movie to do,” says Lai, who plays the role of the glamorous and at times not-so-nice Tiffany, one of three elite skaters on the U.S. National circuit who help Casey develop her skills.
“She has a close relationship with her father, who is always there supporting her,” Lai says of her character. “But he puts a lot of pressure on her and is always wanting her to do better. She's at a point where she is no longer skating for herself but is skating to please her father.”
She says the movie, filmed in Toronto, accurately depicts many of the issues amateur skaters must grapple with on their way to becoming professional. Lai started skating at age five but chose to abandon the sport three years ago because she realized she didn't have the unwavering discipline and drive necessary to make it to the top.
She says she met some highly accomplished skaters during the filming of the movie, including those cast as body doubles and world champion Michelle Kwan, and left reassured that she had made the right choice.
“I have so much respect and admiration for these girls. They have their goals and they're so determined, and nothing is going to get in their way.”
Lai, a third-year biomedical science student, has been juggling acting and academics since she signed with Toronto's Margo Lane Talent at age 13. Since then, she's been involved in a few Canadian productions, including the Space Channel's Space Odyssey, YTV's System Crash and CBC's Must Be Santa, as well as commercial work for companies such as Tim Hortons, Rogers Cable, Sprite and Fidelity Insurance. She also spent four years as a member of the NBA Raptors junior dance pack. Her role as Tiffany in Ice Princess is by far her biggest and most notable performance to date.
Training and rehearsals started just as Lai was wrapping up her finals last April.
“I had to book off one day on the set to complete my last exam,” she says. “The experience was awesome. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I met people who were so talented, and the entire production had such a great feel. It was the perfect summer job.”
Her preparation consisted of two days a week of ballet and three hours each day on the ice with coaches who weren't afraid to push her until they got the results they wanted.
“It worked out for the best because I did all my own skating in the movie, with the exception of one jump, and I ended up getting in really great shape. All the training really paid off, but it was hard.”
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for the young actress. On March 13, she walked the red carpet at the film's Los Angeles premiere. “It was so cool,” she says, although she admits she found the photographers a bit intimidating.
Deciding between a career in film and a career in medicine has not been easy for Lai.
“Because I'm in school, people think acting is a side thing. When I originally started school, school was sort of a side thing. I want to be a pediatrician and I'm working toward that, but at the same time, I'm pursuing acting outside of school and making a connection to film acting.”
Lai says she'd like to pack up and move to Los Angeles to get more exposure, but it's just not feasible.
“I have a degree to finish, my family and friends are here and I love it here. I'm being really grounded about the whole thing.”
University of Guelph | Guelph, Ontario, Canada
| N1G 2W1 | Tel: 519-824-4120
University of Guelph