A funny thing happened on the way to the theatre.. .Actor Todd Talbot was heading to rehearsals of the Stanley Theatre's production of High Society a few years back when his phone buzzed to life. The voice on the other end suggested that it was time Talbot's two worlds collided.Talbot had spent 25 years working as an actor and for almost as long he'd been building a real estate career "on the down-low."There's a joke about what you call an actor with a bottle of champagne. The answer, of course, is a waiter. It's a stereotype with which Talbot is well acquainted.
"If you're an actor and you're seen doing something else it somehow insinuates that you're not successful as an actor," he says.While his evenings were spent persuading theatre audiences to invest in his character, his days were spent investing in properties - but he kept his real estate life secret.
As is the fate of most secret identities, Talbot's alter ego slowly become public knowledge until he was the "de facto real estate guy in the acting community in Vancouver," he recollects.
It was because of that reputation he got the call.
They were looking for a real estate agent who could play a real estate agent on TV to co-host Love It or List It Vancouver.
The spinoff, co-hosted by The Bachelor survivor Jillian Harris, asks homeowners who have grown disenchanted with their dwelling to renovate or relocate.Despite a professed addiction to HGTV shows, Talbot had never pursued reality TV. "I had huge hesitation," he admits. "How would (doing the show) impact my ability to go and do Taming of the Shrew at Bard on the Beach?"If he had been offered a role on TV that involved extolling the virtues of spray-on hair or dating Flavor Flav, Talbot would have passed - but this was steady work.
"My actor's mind looked at it and went: 'This is a big, long gig that pays better than theatre.'"With a second child to support and his gut leading the way, Talbot blindly threw himself into the show and his worlds collided.
"It kind of engulfed my life a little bit," he says of the show's first two seasons.With 26 episodes each season, the show is perpetually in production, ruling out theatre for the time being.
"Hopefully I'll be able to exercise that muscle somewhere down the road," Talbot says.The actor, who was once presented by his family with a Motor Mouth t-shirt, speaks quickly - his verbosity peppered with humour and the relentless optimism of someone who can barely see dark clouds past the silver linings.However, Talbot is quite candid when discussing the challenges of keeping Love It or List It Vancouver fresh without deviating from the show's defining formula.
"It's the blessing and the curse of show," Talbot says of the show's format. "It's a challenge in every episode because you go, 'Really? Are we dealing with another: I don't want to leave my neighbourhood?'"Vancouver's multitude of interesting locations has helped, he says.
"I think the Vancouver production, as opposed to the Toronto one, has managed to find its own legs and find its own personality."Much of that personality is supplied by the homeowners, all of whom bring a different energy and allow for a creative way to tell the same Budget vs. Location story.
"You always end up in that conversation. You can't not," Talbot says with a chuckle. "Unless you're (Lululemon founder) Chip Wilson, there's a compromise to be had."A resident of Lions Bay, "poor man's West Van," Talbot is aware of what a compromise can produce."I couldn't afford the house and the view that we have in West Vancouver or on the west side of Vancouver, for that matter," he says.
Love It or List It Vancouver, somewhat inadvertently, also chronicles the "destructive trend" of maximizing square footage at all costs in building mansions, notes Talbot.
"I really wish people would consider the environment that they're putting the house in as much as they consider the function of the internal elements of the house," he says. "I shudder to think what the city might look like in another 25 years."
Talbot has talked of doing another show in the lifestyle genre or even hosting a game show.
"For me, life is about making sure that your soul is filled with the things that you're passionate about."Love It or List It Vancouver is currently accepting applications for Lower Mainland homeowners to appear on season three. To apply visit: bigcoatproductions.com/be-on-tv.
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