Canada —that hockey-obsessed, maple-sugaring, snow-savvy nation — is known for being the land that launched a thousand legendary comedians (Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Martin Short, Mike Myers) and famous singer-songwriters (Neil Young, Sarah McLachlan, Celine Dion, and, yes, Justin Bieber). But there are plenty of celebrities people don’t even realize hail from the Great White North.
Here are 12 performers who were born, raised, or have family above the 49th parallel.1. Seth Rogen: Rogen grew up in Vancouver with parents he describes as “Jewish socialists” who met on a kibbutz in Israel. At 13, he started doing stand-up comedy in Vancouver, and three years later, Judd Apatow cast him in the cult-favorite but quickly cancelled “Freaks and Geeks.” That role led his family to move to Los Angeles, where Rogen has become one of this continent’s most bankable funny men, starring in hit comedies like “This Is the End,” “Pineapple Express,” and “Knocked Up.”
2. Sandra Oh: Born in the suburbs of Ottawa, the “Grey’s Anatomy” star nearly missed her chance to pursue acting. After winning a four-year journalism scholarship to college, she fought her Korean-immigrant parents to study drama instead at the National Theatre School in Montreal. Last year, Canada’s capital honored Oh with a key to the city. “You can own the key to the city, to whatever city you live in, if you are responsible for a life well lived,” Oh told her hometown fans.3. Keanu Reeves: After Reeves was cast as the half-Japanese warrior in 2013’s “47 Ronin,” some fans were surprised to learn that Reeves’ father is partially Asian (Hawaiian-Chinese). More were surprised to learn that Reeves is actually Canadian. Born in Beirut, Reeves moved to Toronto as a young boy. Describing his schooling, Reeves has said, “I had a great upbringing in Toronto … There was really no racism, there were no class distinctions; it was a great cross-section of kids from first grade to eighth grade.”
4. Rachel McAdams: Arguably one of the reigning queens of the romantic comedy, McAdams grew up in St. Thomas, Ontario, where her mother was a nurse and her father a mover. Her time in Hollywood requires her to have an American green card, but she’s kept her Canadian citizenship and still calls Toronto home. “I’ve had the opportunity to travel and live elsewhere, so I don’t wonder what it would be like to live somewhere else,” she’s said. “I really appreciate the opportunity to come home and have something familiar. I have community.”5. Carly Rae Jepsen: Jepsen, who burst onto the music scene with “Call Me Maybe,” the summer anthem of 2012, hasn’t forgotten her roots. Raised in Mission, British Columbia, the Grammy nominee established a scholarship fund last year to benefit arts students in her hometown. That’s fitting for Jepsen, whose big break was thanks to countryman Justin Bieber, who signed her to his label, hyped her on Twitter, and lip-synched her infectious single on YouTube.
6. Michael Bublé: Son of a British Columbian salmon fisherman, this multi-platinum crooner actually spent his teenage summers working as a commercial fisherman. As a 17-year-old, Buble won first prize at the Canadian Youth Talent Search. His career didn’t take off, however, until he was invited to sing at the wedding of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s daughter in 2000. More than a decade later, Bublé is a four-time Grammy winner and one of Canada’s most successful musical exports.
7. Emily Van Camp: The star of ABC’s campy primetime soap “Revenge” grew up in Port Perry, a Toronto suburb. At 12, she left home for a Montreal ballet school. After following her sister into acting, Van Camp became a breakout TV star at 16 with the WB teen drama “Everwood.” Since then, she hasn’t looked back. “I think I knew I would never go home when I left, which is sort of weird for a child,” Van Camp said. “I loved my hometown, but there was always a part of me that wanted to do these crazy things.”8. Cobie Smulders: For a short time after quitting teen modeling, Smulders studied marine biology at the University of Victoria in her native Vancouver. She gave that up for acting, eventually landing the role of Robin, a Canadian-American newscaster, on CBS’s beloved “How I Met Your Mother” (which just aired its weepy series finale March 31). Smulders, who’s also a key supporting player in the “Avengers” franchise, hasn’t given up her national identity. “I like to bring it with me wherever I go,” she has said about being Canadian. “It’s always in my back pocket.”
9. Nathan Fillion: Fillion, star of ABC’s hit crime drama “Castle,” grew up in Edmonton, Alberta and attended the University of Alberta. He left western Canada for New York in 1994 to act in the soap opera “One Life to Live,” and then moved to Los Angeles, where he became a fanboy favorite, starring in two Joss Whedon shows, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly.” In between acting gigs and fandom conferences, Fillion says he still manages to visit his parents, both English teachers, twice a year back in Alberta.10. Evangeline Lilly: For six engrossing seasons, Lilly played the survivor of an airplane crash stranded on a mysterious Pacific island. That’s a far way from Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, where Lilly was born, and Abbotsford, British Columbia, where she was raised in a strict Christian home. One of the stars in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Lilly originally entered acting to help pay for tuition at the University of British Columbia, and “Lost” was her first speaking role.
11. Anna Paquin: Canadians may quarrel with the Kiwis concerning Paquin’s true heritage, but no one doubts her talent. The star of HBO’s vampire series “True Blood,” and Rogue in the “X-Men” franchise, Paquin moved from Winnipeg to New Zealand when she was four. Seven years later, she became the second-youngest actor to win an Oscar, for her unforgettable supporting performance in “The Piano.” She returned to Canada to film “Fly Away Home,” but there her parents split up, which she’s described as “the unhappiest moment of her life.” Let’s hope now that she’s a mom herself, she doesn’t hold that against her homeland.12. Ryan Gosling: You probably know he’s Canadian, but we couldn’t help but include him! Gosling, who made waves 10 years go with his on- and off-screen romance with Rachel McAdams, was actually born in the same Ontario hospital as his “The Notebook” co-star. Unlike his ex-love, Gosling, the son of a traveling salesman, didn’t stay put. He grew up throughout Ontario, and at 12, he moved to Florida to perform on the Mickey Mouse Club. For a time, he even lived with castmate Justin Timberlake. Despite all the moving around, the Oscar nominee treasures his Canadian childhood. “Canada’s a really beautiful country and it was nice to grow up in such a multicultural place where racial differences never really entered my mind,” he’s said. “I went to kindergarten with people of every color of the rainbow and my first crush was on an Indian girl.”