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Acting on instinct

Greyston Holt balances the bright lights with island life
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- Words Sean McIntyre Photography Kristine Cofsky

Actor Greyston Holt always wanted to visit Hungary. Not only does he have family roots in the country, but the land-locked Eastern European nation has become an increasingly popular tourist destination, famed for its rich cultural heritage, great wine and iconic thermal spas.

Greyston was fortunate to finally make the trip this past winter—although it meant adopting a thick Hungarian accent and posing as a corrupt national police officer accused of murder.

“It was a really special trip, and they really showcased the city in the show, so to be filming in all these historical buildings felt surreal,” Greyston says in a recent interview near his home on Salt Spring Island. “It was one of those pinch-myself moments.”

He adds: “For this one, I was a little more excited, because I was playing a Hungarian, speaking in a Hungarian accent, shooting in my motherland, and so I was a little more excited and apprehensive because I wanted to do the role justice.”

Greyston’s performance as David Papp in FBI International, a popular television crime drama, aired in March and received solid reviews from critics and, perhaps most importantly, Greyston’s extended family in Canada and back in Europe.

Travelling to far-flung destinations happens to be one of the perks of being an actor, and it’s something Greyston never really imagined for himself when he was on the cusp of graduating from Gulf Islands Secondary School on Salt Spring Island. Back then he needed an additional arts credit to graduate, and he chose Drama 12 on a whim.

“We did a Chekhov play, and I had an amazing time,” Greyston says. “It kind of surprised me.”

When a family friend said she had a relative who worked as an agent in Vancouver, Greyston arranged a meeting. The pair hit it off immediately, and Greyston was off to Vancouver following high school to take shot at stardom.

The duo has been working closely together ever since.

“I took that high school class but didn’t really take much training. I learned from experience and did it my own way,” Greyston says. “I couldn’t have done it without Kathy Carpenter, my agent. She really understands me and my process.”

The BC curriculum sheet for Drama 12 states that acting is a way of sharing traditions and cultures, offers a dynamic way to express oneself, has the power to transform perspectives and can provide opportunities for creativity, innovation and collaboration. Yet the most profound and relevant of these core competencies may be that “growth as an actor requires perseverance, resilience and reflection.”

Greyston recalls his early acting days in Vancouver as “bit parts with one line here and a couple of lines there.”

He took whatever he could get, supplementing his income by working nights at a coffee shop and playing in a series of punk rock and heavy metal bands.

“For me personally, I was just eager to get credits on my resume and eager to gain some credibility,” he says. “I sort of went with it, but when you’re just scraping by on bit parts, you often wonder if it’s ever going to happen. You wonder: ‘Am I going to be that guy who’s always going to be waiter number two?’ When I took that class in Grade 12, I never thought that this would be a career, but one thing led to another, and it then became a viable career option.”

The future became a whole lot clearer around 2005, when Greyston landed a role as the son of a serial killer in a Canadian crime drama called Durham County. Once hired, he was flown to Montreal, put up in a hotel and given a per diem to work in a fun and inspiring environment.

“It was so not big-time, but for me it was big-time, and it was a really well-written series,” he says. “The actors were all so incredible, and I learned so much through osmosis. Those bit parts lack the character arc and it’s tough to feel creatively fulfilled. When I booked this series, I had a really amazing character arc and really got to dig my teeth into the role. I think that’s when I truly got the acting bug.”

Fast-forward two decades and Greyston has compiled an impressive collection of television and film credits, including most recently Netflix’s The Night Agent, one of the platform’s most-viewed series of all time.

Most recently, he has been nominated for a Leo Award for Best Actor in a Dramatic Performance for his leading role in House of Chains, a 2022 TV movie about a couple who imprison their six children.

During the COVID pandemic, Greyston and his partner, actor Cristina Rosato, moved to Salt Spring, where Greyston grew up and still has family. The two are now the proud parents of a one-year-old baby girl.

Living in the Gulf Islands, away from the stress of the city, yet only a short float plane ride from work, has helped him craft a career and home life balance that’s hard to beat. Changes in the acting industry that began even before the pandemic mean actors don’t need to be available for in-person auditions at a moment’s notice.

“When I started this journey as an actor, you had to be centralized around an acting hub,” he says. “You had to be in Toronto, you had to be in Vancouver, LA or New York to really make a go of it. You had to be in the room, especially if you’re establishing yourself as an actor,” he says.

“Luckily, we’re way past that now. Everything is online, so that gives us the freedom to be wherever we want to be. As long as we have an iPad and a little tripod, we can keep in touch. We came to the realization that it’s best just to live where you want to live, and we are both fortunate to have jobs where we can do that.”

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

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