Heartland Hearthrob Graham Wardle
Toy dinosaurs. That’s the bit of career kismet that paved the way for 23-year-old actor Graham Wardle. Cast in a Mattel toy commercial at the age of six, Wardle’s inability to properly put the dinosaur together landed him the gig, as well as a future in acting.
“I had to put bones on the dinosaur, and if you put a bone in the wrong spot, it would shake,” recalls Wardle with a smile. “Well, they set me up with the wrong piece, so when it started to shake, I lost my mind and flipped out. It worked out, I guess.”
From dinosaurs to megastars, B.C. native Wardel has since been seen on both the small and silver screens, including roles on The X-Files, Supernatural, The Outer Limits and, most notably, In the Land of Women, starring Meg Ryan.
Now at home in Calgary as one of the stars of CBC’s Heartland, Wardle counts the Millarville-filmed family ranch drama as his true big break. “It’s my fourth year now, and what I’ve learned here is immeasurable,” he says. “It’s been the most incredible growth period for me, both as an actor and as a human being.”
Being both an idealist and a pragmatic realist, Wardle has no intention of being just another pretty face in a myriad of celluloid.
“I’ve always said that I’m going to do a lot of things with my life, and I plan on it,” he says.
If you weren’t doing this right at this moment, what would you be doing?
A little bit of everything. More travelling … Lots more reading … I’m fortunate enough now that I’ve been doing the show for a while. So, financially, I would be able to take a break. And once the show is over, that’s probably what I’ll do; take a year to do a whole bunch of reading, and maybe go back to school. And build my own house. That’s something I’d be really excited to do — build my own house. Being an actor, most of your work is subjective. Building a house is completely objective. When it’s done, it’s finished, it’s there.
How do you like Calgary?
I think it’s great. It does rain, but then it’s over in half an hour — and the sun is out most of the time. I really like it. When I first came to Calgary and was on set [in Millarville] … I never really experienced silence before. I sat down and heard nothing except for the wind in the grass. It was amazing how calming that was.
What’s your typical day on set like?
Wake up about 6 a.m., shower, get ready, hop in a van that picks me up right outside my apartment, then an hour to set. Do a scene, have a scene off, do another scene. Eat lunch, come home, review my lines for the next day on the way home, eat dinner, do more lines, go to bed and wake up to do it all over again.
Who do you admire in show business?
Sean Penn. As an actor, as a director and also as someone who speaks politically about what’s on his mind. I find that a lot of people in Hollywood keep their mouths shut about their political views, because it could damage their career, which I think is the opposite of what someone in the limelight should be doing. They should be expressing themselves and saying what they think, and people should not hold them up as a superhero — they should say, “They’re people; they have opinions, too.” Also, as a career choice, [Penn is] an actor and a director, and I really enjoy his movies. I like how he will search for truth. It’s inspirational.
How would you explain your personal sense of style?
I feel like it’s a combination of past experiences and lifestyle. I guess I would be a relaxed “westcoaster” with a passion for athleticism.
What do you look for when you shop?
I buy clothes that I think I would feel good in. Or if I like the colour. Something relaxed. I’ve always been someone who likes to wear shorts, ‘cause I like to be able to move. If I could live anywhere, it would be on a beach in Hawaii. I also buy clothes that I could run in if I wanted to … I also like to wear [politically] charged T-shirts — things that make you think or question.
Do you like to shop?
I don’t shop too often. It would be more of a “my shirts have holes in them, it’s time to shop” kind of person. My image is only semi-important to me, because I’m an actor. If I weren’t an actor, I would probably be a hermit reading books in the woods somewhere.
In case of fire, what would you grab out of your apartment?
You know what’s hilarious? The fire alarm just went off the other week, and that’s the exact thought I had — what should I grab? I shut off my computers, I took my keys, grabbed my iPhone and left. I was walking down the street, thinking, if this burns to the ground, and I never see anything in that apartment ever again, what would that feel like? It would kind of feel liberating, and it would be a fresh start. Yeah it would kind of suck, ‘cause there would be a lot of stuff I would lose, but it would give me a new perspective on possessions and belongings … OK, maybe I’d grab my camera and film it.
You wouldn’t mind losing everything?
There is a famous picture of when Gandhi died that showed his possessions, and there were only a few things — glasses, and like a pen, and some clothes, I look at the impact that man had. He didn’t need a lot to do a lot. Possessions, yes, they’re useful, make life easier, more comfortable, but not necessary.
Is there anything that you’ve splurged on recently that’s been worth it?
I bought a pair of boots, and they are apparently supposed to last a few years. They are Daytons, and made in Vancouver. They are leather and tough, and I thought, when I bought them, I’m going to have these boots for a long time. And that was a good feeling. They were expensive, but justified by knowing they weren’t disposable. I was going to buy an iPad, but I thought, no, I don’t need it. I am a gadget guy, but recently started shying away from that. I’m trying to make a transition back to discovering more practical things. I went out and built a pigpen at my friend’s farm the other day, to learn how to, and learn basic building skills.
Is that something that’s of value to you?
I saw on the Internet the other day that father-to-son knowledge being passed down in this generation is [being lost]; there’s not much practical knowledge being translated anymore. Practical knowledge and skills are being lost. So I said to myself, I don’t want to be the weakest link, and I want to have something to pass on to my future son. My dad passed along a lot of technical and some practical knowledge, but mostly technical knowledge because he works with computers. And what’s happened is, now I know a lot more than him about Macs and computers, but that’s the kind of knowledge I won’t be able to pass on, because my kids will have something completely different.
Is there something you’d never be caught dead wearing?
The Tapout clothing line, or Ed Hardy. The aggressiveness and energy of those brands is excessive and unnecessary. I would never wear them.
Are there any fashion trends you wish would come back?
I love the ’80s. I think it’s a ridiculous decade, that’s why I like it. You can’t help but laugh.
Do you have a fashion pet peeve?
When someone wears something just purely for attention, rather than [as] an expression of self.
OK, the girls want to know. Single?
Yes, I am. [Smiles] So far it’s been a great time to focus on myself, and grow as an individual. You know that saying, “you can’t love someone until you love yourself”? I think that’s so true. Yeah, being single sucks sometimes, but I know that when I meet someone now, I will be ready, and not have my own shit to work out.
Is the eventual goal a wife, kids, white-picket fence?
Maybe not the white-picket fence, but the rest is something I would like. I also have a real desire to learn how to live off the grid a little. Grow my own food, be connected to where I am. WhenI was growing up, I was so removed from where my food came from, where my clothes were made … I would like to explore a new way of living that takes into account those things. I would also love to one day say to my kids, “I built this house.”
Where do you think you’ll be at 35?
Probably married. Maybe. But who knows? Plus, I’d like to be involved in many different artistic ventures, and building things, whether that be houses or pigpens.
Restaurant: The Coup
Band: Sigur Ros
Song: One More Time by Daft Punk
Last song downloaded: Rutten by Skream
Indulgence: Countless hours on YouTube
YouTube video: Double Rainbow
Car: Tesla Roadster
Book: Wonderland Avenue by Danny Sugerman
Actor: Jim Carrey
Actress: Zooey Deschanel, Kate Winslet
Movie: American Beauty and Inception
Director: Darren Aronofsky