Since the age of 4, Kara Duncan has been passionate about performing in the acting industry. After finishing her degree in Ryerson University with a bachelor of arts in dance, Kara has since been a beautiful and talented actress who can be seen in Full Out, Warehouse 13, The Young and The Reckless, as well as in the new series Pivoting where she will perform as Tanzy.
How did you come to start your acting career at the early age of 4?
I am originally from Toronto, Canada. I started dancing competitively at age four after watching my sister at the dance studio. I trained in Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Lyrical, Modern, Contemporary, Hip-Hop, and Acrobatics. I wasn’t very good technically at first but I was always a performer and I loved performing on stage and I always attracted the audience’s attention. I trained hard to hone my craft taking every dance exam and workshop possible and my technique was soon developed to the point where I was receiving various scholarships to dance camps in Canada and the USA. I always had a knack for theatrics and had good comedic timing. I then became known for my stage presence. Because of this, my parents put me in the Musical Theatre program at my dance studio when I was 8-years-old. At 10-years old, I got signed with an agent that saw me performing. I did commercials and guest-starred in TV sitcoms all while still dancing competitively throughout high school. Between acting, dancing, and singing, Let’s just say my social life was close to non-existent. But my passion for performing never felt like work and always felt rewarding.
What was the hardest part of growing up as an actress?
The hardest part growing up was not having a lot of time to socialize as everything was centered on Acting and Dancing. In the later years, it most certainly has not been a smooth ride. I was faced with a ton of adversity. Being a Canadian citizen not only was the immigration process difficult but there was a period when I couldn’t work until I received my permanent resident card. I also am the only person in my family that lives on the West Coast. So I had to sacrifice a lot for my dreams and goals. I had to sacrifice not seeing or spending time with my family, not watching my nephew’s growing up, missing out on birthdays, holidays, or special occasions.
How do you think your life differs from those who did not start their careers so early?
I feel like there’s never a “right time” to start. I have come across actors and actresses who have begun acting at a later age in life but they still have been successful. It’s truly never too late to start doing what you are passionate about. As long as you are committed and dedicated to it you can be successful at any age.
Why did you choose Ryerson University?
I wanted to move to NYC right after high school to get an early start in the industry but coming from a Jamaican household my parents were very big on getting a post-secondary education. I chose Ryerson University because of the reputable program they had in Performing Arts. I was so happy I listened and followed my parent’s advice because I learned a lot of things that helped shaped me to be the person I am today. It gave me more of a competitive edge once I graduated. I felt more grounded and confident in the artists I was becoming as well as gained a better understanding of how to balance life.
What project was your favorite to work on so far and why?
Oh! I have SO many projects that I hold so close to my heart and have learned a lot and have made lifelong friends. One that I enjoyed for example was West Side Story the international tour. That was my first big New York Production that I was not only able to be a part of, but also to travel! It was a yearling tour. We started in Germany visiting cities like Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Essen, Leipzig and also stayed in Paris for 5 months. Immersing myself in different cultures and environments is something I feel is important to personal growth. Also being able to travel for work is always an amazing experience. Some of the theatres that we performed in have been there for centuries. So being able to perform were some of the greats have performed as well as something special.
Have you ever thought of following any other careers such as dancing or modeling?
So I did dance professionally as I mentioned previously. Since I grew up as a dancer I was very involved in Musical Theatre so I got to do the best of three worlds: Triple Threat, Act, Dance and Sing! Since I am more focused on TV and Film now, when I get a role that requires the character to be a dancer, I get to dust off my dancing shoes! It’s great to have a dance background and dancers sometimes make the best actors. They can tell a story and draw in an audience only through movement and choreography. The dance will always have a special place in my heart and has made me the person I am today.
If you could choose one actor or actress to work with in the future, who would it be and why?
An actress that I would love to work with is Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchet, and Denzel Washington. I find them so fascinating to watch. The way they take on characters immediately draws me in. They have all had a theatre background too which is nice. To be able to work with these veterans would be such an amazing experience.
Did your whole family support your passion for acting and dancing?
My family and I are extremely close and not having them physically there was a challenge. They have constantly been a great support system and continue to encourage me in all my endeavors. They have been an amazing support system throughout my career. My mom and dad took me to every acting and dance class and my sister and brother always used to come to watch me perform. We were a studio family. When I moved to NYC my parents were scared for me to be in a big city alone but supported my vision. They helped me pack all my stuff from Canada and drove across the border and moved me into my first apartment in NYC. I am truly lucky to have them.
If you could change one thing that you did in the past, what would it be and why?
I wouldn’t change anything about what I have done in the past. I am a firm believer in learning from your mistakes and growing from them. Life isn’t always going to be smooth sailing but without risk, you have no story. So I tend to live my life with no regrets because living through the good times and bad times are part of your journey to get you to where you need to be. As long as you keep a positive mindset and stay the course, you will persevere.
What do you enjoy doing more, acting on stage or in front of a camera?
I grew up doing Musical Theatre on stage so that will always have a special place in my life. However, I am now focused on TV and Film and that’s truly where my passion is. To be able to play different characters on camera is something I have always loved to do. There is something special about the intimacy between you and the camera. It feels more raw but subtle where Musical Theatre is more expressive and needs a bigger projection. But anytime a musical pop up that I am interested in I will do it. For example, I did Mamma Mia at the Hollywood Bowl a few summers ago, and have performed in musical comedy skits on Jimmy Kimmel.
What was the biggest lesson you learned while acting that helped you in your career?
I also had to learn that life is not a race but a journey. To be in the moment and to trust the process and the timing of everything that life will unfold. I feel like we as humans set such a high expectation for ourselves where we expect our careers and/or life to be a certain way at a specific time or age. However, that is not realistic. While we are focusing on where we “think” we should be, we are missing out on where we currently are. And relishing in all the progress, we have made thus far. We are not being in the moment but rather focused on the thought of what we perceive to be a “failure” if we have not reached our goal YET. I say yet because it will always happen with perseverance, hard work, passion, and dedication. We just have to trust the timing. So while you’re aiming for whatever goals and ambition you have set, remember to enjoy the in-between moments because that’s where the magic happens. Stay in the present, stay humble, and stay grounded. Accepting rejection is another key element in this industry.
What is your biggest personal achievement?
I feel like I have had a lot of amazing achievements. Moving from a different country without knowing anybody was definitely one. I sacrificed a lot for my career and it’s always amazing when you see it paying off.