Jade Carter didn’t find success in Los Angeles by accident — but it took a serious accident for the Ponoka native to find his passion for acting.
Growing up on a farm just outside of Ponoka, Carter said he dreamed of becoming a professional athlete in baseball, hockey or rodeo.
But that dream came to a crashing halt when he nearly lost his life in a farming accident.
It was July and a tractor needed to be moved the eight km from his grandparents’ farm to his parents’ property.
A then-12-year-old Carter took control of the wheel and headed down the road after convincing his grandfather he could handle the job.
He came to an intersection where he needed to turn left and Carter recalled doing everything properly — except he forget to turn down the hand throttle.
When he let out the clutch, Carter was unable to control the tractor as it sped forward.
He made the split-second decision to jump off the machine when it started to tip but was unable to crawl away before the tractor rolled on him.
First the hot, uncovered engine burned his skin. Then a line broke, spilling scalding oil everywhere.
Carter, now 35, said he only survived because another farmer just happened to be trailing a bit behind and rushed to get help.
The young boy’s left quadricep muscle was burned all the way through to the bone and doctors considered amputating the limb. His abdominal muscles were also severely burned.
Carter spent about three months at the University of Alberta Hospital and had the majority of his 12 major surgeries in that time, some of which involved replacing his burned muscles with healthy tissues from other parts of his body.
The one thing that made his hospital stay a bit more bearable was watching movies that the owner of the Ponoka video rental store graciously donated.
“I was able to just kind of lose myself watching these great late ’80s, early ’90s comedies,” Carter said recently from his home in Los Angeles, Calif., recalling classic John Candy, Eddie Murphy and Chevy Chase films.
“(They) took me away from all the pain.”
Still, the boy felt discouraged when he walked out of the hospital — something he was originally told would likely not happen.
“My mom saw that I was just crushed. I had no self-confidence. Obviously, sports were just taken out of my life. I didn’t know who I was and I was just a mess.”
His mom, who was involved with the local theatre group, begged the troupe’s director to give her son a role in an upcoming play.
It was then, playing a prince in the small comedy, that Carter learned he had a knack for the theatrics.
“It just clicked. I was a fish to water. I just loved it,” he said.
“And I saw how I was able to give (the audience) a break, even for just an hour, from their worries. So, I never looked back.”
Carter was active in drama during high school and majored in acting at Red Deer College.
He had an agent right out of college, but wanted more than four or five auditions a year. So Carter and his wife, Gail, sold their tanning business in Red Deer and made the move to L.A. in February of 1999.
Despite some initial challenges, Carter said things started to snowball after he got a local agent and joined the actors’ union. He landed his first gig, a role on the television show Hang Time, just a month after he moved south.
Since then, Carter has appeared on shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Malcolm in the Middle, Cold Case, NCIS and various soap operas.
He also received critical acclaim for his theatre work, with one review listing him as “Another powerful actor to be watched.”
Most recently, he appeared on the latest season of House, guest starting in an episode as a doctor who has a conflict with the title character.
But Carter said the highlight of his career so far was the reoccurring role he had on the television show Jag. He likened his character, the brother to the star of the show, as a “Russian James Bond.”
Carter was originally hired for only two episodes but was called back to reprise the role repeatedly over four years.
“I love that it’s different every single job I do. It’s completely different. The characters, the scripts, the relationships, that’s one of the things that I love,” he said.
Carter has currently taken the male lead in the film Love or War, which he said is similar to When Harry Met Sally.
And he’ll start working on the lead male role in the zombie film Love in the Time of Monsters in May.
He’s excited to work on both films, which have dramatic and comedic elements.
“In life and in film, in storytelling, whenever you have a dramatic moment, look for the comedy in it. It only helps to serve each other better and make it better. Because that’s what life is. There’s a little bit funny and sad.”
It’s a lesson that Carter — an avid traveller who has run two marathons in L.A. and recently started working as a video editor — says he learned early in life.