A Whale of a time in Vancouver

Posted on Sep 11, 2019 in Commercials


Casting Director Kharmel Cochrane

Commercial: State Farm Insurance

The second longest haul flight of my career but arguably the most glamorous. At 4,707 miles, Vancouver is barely a hop and a skip compared to Cape Town’s 8,395 fifteen years ago. A mere two days’ notice from “VERY heavy pencil” to boarding a Boeing 787 and turning left.

Highlights of Air Canada’s Business Class:

  • Seats that offer verticality to horizontality at the press of a button, plus massages in three different lumbar locations.
  • Complimentary ballpoint pen and sponge-bag
  • Multiple offers of sparkling vino, port, gin and tonic (Canada Dry, of course).
  • Some of the best food I’ve ever tasted (including a cream tea at 40,000 feet above the Rockies)
  • Windows you can tint to your own level of ocular comfort.
  • At “bedtime” (6.30 pm BST), an über-attentive stewardess unfurls my blanket and tucks me in. What am I supposed to answer when she enquires “Is there anything else I can do for you, Mr Baker?” “What about a goodnight kiss?”

Arriving in Vancouver slightly before I left Heathrow, I am whisked to the Georgian Court Hotel with two other British actors I have never before met and who I am destined never to see again. Although fellow guests tend to be brash American folk off whale-watching in a cruise-ship the size of Manhattan, the staff become my new best friends at once. Headed by a cheerful gentleman from The Philippines called Genesis (“Thank goodness you weren’t called Exodus,” quipped I, “for you’d’ve left by now”) they watch my comings and goings with my bird-photography lens with genial mystification. But do I care?– No, for I am in a land where they serve maple syrup on limitless breakfast pancakes from 2-litre bottles.

Day 1

The really hard work begins. At Wardrobe, I model two suits, three shirts, four ties. There is then a pause for five hours whilst the client agrees the combo. Ample time, then, for unseemly and ribald behaviour with my co-conspirator, “Divinder [Pureval], that brown English fella” as he typed into my phone contacts.

The evening spent marvelling at the views from the Vancouver Look-out Tower.

 Day 2

On location (an oak-panelled room somewhere in the suburbs), Divinder interviews me in my guise as Conservative No-deal Brexit Minister refusing to answer a straight question. Our scene is in the can after an hour of comedy British improvisation and, with the American clients fulsome in their appreciation, we retire exhausted for an early luncheon, beer and gossip followed by an hour or two photographing white-crowned sparrows and bush tits flitting about a coach park. Too exciting, I know, but you don’t see these stripey-headed little beasts in the UK.


White-crowned Sparrow



Day 3

A ferry ride to Granville Island to photograph cormorants and seagulls against a backdrop of Downtown Vancouver’s deliciously homogenous silvery-grey apartment blocks.

Day 4

Snapped a heron amongst Canada Geese then met Seattle friends Kim and Mark for a cycle ride round forested Stanley Park. The highlight of the trip is the spectacle of three orcas cavorting thirty yards from the shoreline.

Divinder and I would have been even happier had not our scene been destined for the cutting room floor, but even in the absence of my substantial buy-out I must regard this as an away-break of a lifetime.