Filipinos are incredibly talented in the arts—whether it’s singing, painting, or acting.
Such is the case of Jane Gregorio—now more popularly known as Jane McLean.
An undeniable passion for acting
Young Jane moved with her family from Manila to Missisauga, Ontario before she was a year old. Like any typical Filipino immigrant family, Jane went to school and her family tried to get by one day at a time.
From the beginning, Jane always knew that her passion is acting. It was an undeniable affinity to the performing arts that urged her to do one-woman shows in their basement in front of her family. However, her parents persuaded her into getting a “traditional job.” To fulfill her parents’ wishes, Jane took a Canadian Securities Course and eventually took a job at Financial Concept Group in North York.
“I took a very traditional route,” Jane shared with The Tribute’s Toni-Marie Ippolito.
“I have been performing since I was a kid. I’ve always had a love of singing, dance, performance and all that stuff. I really didn’t pursue it apart from school and high school plays and community theater and so on and so forth. And when you come from a fairly conservative Catholic family, well it’s considered a hobby!” she added.
But pencil pushing was really not for her and the deep call of performing for an audience simply became too much to contain.
“I really felt like something was missing. And it took getting sick with an inner-ear cold infection that kind of knocked me out for a couple of weeks that made me realize, ‘Hey, I’m super young, I’m super healthy, why is this happening to me?’ And it was the stress. It was the stress of doing something that you’re not passionate about. So I really did a lot of reevaluating,” she recalled.
Jane took a risk and quit her job at Financial Concept and in 2001, she moved to California to enroll at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
“I decided to go to theater school and spent a year doing that. It was scary and I had a lot of people thinking that I was just crazy, but I did it anyway because I thought, you know, I have to live my life for myself,” Jane said.
This brave move proved to be beneficial in reaching for her dreams, as she landed roles for television (Terminal City, 24, Dexter, Defiance) and movies (The Time Traveler’s Wife).
‘Girl on TV’
Jane was beyond thrilled to play Masuka’s girlfriend in her favorite show ‘Dexter.’
“The whole setup was that I had serious anger management issues and by the last episode we were supposed to break up and we shot it… I had such a blast on that show… The fact that I was on that set—that I could play such a fun character—was the exciting part. And just to be part of a show that I’m such a huge fan of,” she said.
In an interview with Examiner.com, Jane shared her thoughts about her role as Tennety Olfin in Syfy Chanel’s ‘Defiance’ last year.
“I filmed two episodes. I’m a recurring character on the show and I play a politician that arrives on ‘Defiance’. Basically all of my interaction is with Grant Bowler’s character Julie Benz’s character,” she said.
“The creative people involved have invested a lot of passion. The sets are elaborate and realistic, which adds to bringing of the characters to life. You really feel like you’re there. Grant Bowler and Julie Benz are extraordinarily talented and professional. They’re an amazing and fantastic crew. Grant Bowler was fantastic. I kept trying to get him to blast out his Australian accent. I was impressed by how he stayed in character. They were a really supportive group and it has been a phenomenal experience,” she pointed out in admiration.
On being ‘Charisse’
About 6 years after the book’s launch, the movie adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s “The Time Traveler’s Wife” was released in 2009. In the movie, Jane played the supporting role of Charisse—Clare’s (Rachel McAdams) best friend.
As if the stars aligned specially for Jane, the movie director was in Toronto at that time to check locations for the shoot. Her manager—who was equally excited—urged her to go for the role and set up the audition.
“It was so serendipitous that we were both in Toronto, and they set up a special session to cast my character. I read the script but I hadn’t read the book at that time. I bought the book two years before, but I didn’t read it. I started to get really excited about it because the script is just phenomenal. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Okay, you are not reading the book until the deal is done,’ because I didn’t want to jinx myself!” she laughed.
Five-year-old spoiler alert: Jane got the role.
Some say that playing the supporting role is just as important as playing the lead. You have to be convincing, acting with conviction, without outdoing the main character. Your job as the supporting character should be to let the lead shine—a task that Jane did not take lightly.
“A lot of thought was put towards prior experiences of my own,” she shared when asked about her preparations for the role of Charisse. “Specifically those of my relationship with my sisters, you know, like the relationship that Charisse has with Claire. They’ve got a very strong sisterhood bond.”
Jane recalled shopping with Ron Livingston for Charisse’s wardrobe to get a better idea of her character. It was an activity suggested by the director himself.
Working with Hollywood star Eric Bana and fellow Canadian Rachel McAdams was a breeze, according to Jane.
“She’s wonderful. She’s a good Torontonian gal and super down-to-earth. She’s very, very approachable, very easy to work with and very, very generous. As an actor, you sort of dream of working with people like that because they really pull you in,” Jane explained.
“At first I was a little intimidated. I thought he might be a little bit intense,” she said about Bana. “But those were my perceptions because I watched him in Munich and Troy. But he’s a funny guy! And he’s wonderful to work with and very easy on the eyes!”
Aside from working alongside two Hollywood stars, Jane also met one of the producers of the movie—Hollywood heartthrob Brad Pitt.
“It was not as eventful as I thought it would be. It didn’t dawn on me that it was him,” she recalled. “We were already two weeks in and Eric and I were finishing up a last shot, and this guy comes up to me and he’s wearing a hat, and comes over and says ‘Hi Jane, I’m Brad, very nice to meet you.’ So I said ‘Oh, it’s very nice to meet you, Brad.’ So we finish our shot… and then it hit [me]: ‘Oh my God, I just met Brad Pitt. Holy sh–!’”
Jane is no stranger to the public’s not-too-pleasant perception of book-to-movie adaptations, so she put a lot of thought about playing such an important character from an international best-seller.
“Everybody views it differently because you base it on your own experiences. But I trusted a lot in the script. And the script is absolutely beautiful. It’s not exactly the same as a book, there’s a lot of stuff you have to be really crafty with how you develop it as a movie, because again you’re trying to condense what was 500 pages into two hours. And that can be very, very hard to do,” she explained.
Jane continues to live the life that she dreamed but she never forgot her Filipino roots. In fact, her Tagalog is still flawless. And when Ippolito asked her if she could time-travel anywhere, Jane answered without skipping a beat.
“I would love to go back to the Philippines,” Jane piped. “I was born there. I came to Canada when I wasn’t even a year old, so how fun would it be to go back to that time when you were a baby and you didn’t have a worry in the world? So, I think it would be great to go back and see through the eyes of a child, and open my eyes to new surroundings.”