Actor Alice Moran thought she was pretty cool while growing up in Red Deer — then at age 13, she moved back to Ontario.
“It was complete culture shock,” she recalled. Ontario girls “were so into clothing brands. They’d ask me, ‘What are you wearing?’ And I’d say, ‘Just a plaid shirt, why?’
“I had no idea I wasn’t cool in Ontario.”
Since leaving Alberta and her awkward years behind, Toronto-based Moran has been making sizable ripples in a big pond.
She’s toured North America as the lead actor in Spank!, a wildly popular show she co-wrote, loosely based on the 50 Shades of Grey book.
The 24-year-old is also nominated for three 2013 Canadian Comedy Awards: As writer for the Sexy Nerd Girl web series: As performer in the Throne of Games spoof for Toronto’s Bad Dog Theatre; and as a writer and star in Gale and Katniss, a Hunger Games send up for the Second City Network.
Moran has also appeared in Hungry, Hungry Games, another parody she co-wrote, which is beginning a U.S. tour. She portrays “an annoying girl” in Roland, a short film that just opened at the Toronto Film Festival. As well, she’s set to appear in an episode of CBC-TV’s Ron James Show this season, and on The Family Channel’s The Next Step show, depicting a rude store clerk.
(Is that cool enough for you, Ontario girls?)
Moran is buoyed by her recent successes — which are dramatically personified by the audiences of hundreds of screaming women, who have shown up to see Spank! in Springfield, Mass., Hartford, Conn., and Las Vegas.
But she admitted, “I still have a crisis of confidence at least once a week. Luckily, I can talk myself up pretty easily because you get ripped a lot in this industry. …
“You have to fake it until you make it.”
The entertainer was born in Ajax, Ont,, but lived in Red Deer between the ages of four and 13, when her parents were in Alberta for work reasons.
She recalled building her early comic foundations through plays at Holy Family School, and the Red Deer College summer video program, which she recalls thinking was “my favourite thing in the world.”
Her parents eventually moved the family back to Ontario, where after a bumpy transition, Moran immersed herself into more theatre and comedy.
She participated in the National High School Improvisational Games and took classes at Toronto’s Second City.
At age 18, she was hired as a writer for the renowned improvisational comedy group — a job she only left recently to tour the U.S. and Canada in the hit parody Spank!
“I love doing that show!” said Moran, who plays Natasha, a “non-sue-able” version of the book’s Anastasia. Her character is an erotic fiction writer who sends her husband and kids off to Disneyland so she can write her racy manuscript.
While the novel by E.L. James features bondage, discipline and sado-masochism, the musical stage show is made up of all-original, lawyer-proofed material that’s more burlesque than graphic. But audience interactions can make it more steamy, said Moran.
“The Montreal audience was pretty filthy!” she recalled with a laugh.
Moran is a fan of The Hunger Games series, but at first wasn’t sure how to play Katniss in the Gale and Katniss video that portrays the female heroine being completely oblivious to her cohort’s sexual advances.
She went for an over-earnest characterization, and later heard her Katniss likened to Elijah Woods’ big-eyed Lord of the Rings hobbit. “It came off really weird, but somehow it still worked.”
In the Throne of Games, a theatrical spoof of the book-turned-film series Game of Thrones, Moran plays both virginal Sansa Stark and sexy Daenerys Targaryen — an interesting dichotomy, she said, with a chuckle.
Moran is very excited to received three Canadian Comedy Award nominations, saying “I think industry recognition can only mean good things for me.” The winners will be announced Sunday at a ceremony in Ottawa.