As the story often goes, Rossif Sutherland was initially reluctant to join the family business. In case his surname doesn't tip you off to what that line of work is, Sutherland's lanky six-foot-five-inch stature and sonorous voice, inherited from his actor-father Donald, might. Credit for his handsome, dark looks goes to his French-Canadian mother, Francine Racette, the soulful actress best known for Louis Malle's masterful 1987 film Au revoir les enfants. And his siblings all play some role in the entertainment industry, either behind the scenes or in them.
Such an impressive family tree would suggest Sutherland's growing star status was a given, but the 37-year-old actor jokes that, despite a brief regular role on ER early in his career, he's allergic to Hollywood. Being the son of you-know-who – not to mention a brother of Kiefer – made him more of curiosity than a hot commodity on the audition circuit. "They had no use for me so, after a while, I had no use for them," he says, sounding more relieved than aggrieved. "I'm sure it's the same in all lines of work; that need to feel like you belong somewhere, that you're somewhat appreciated."
Born in Vancouver, raised in Paris and schooled at Princeton, Sutherland now calls Toronto home. Every summer, he spends a few humid days in the city under layers of jacquard and fur, reprising the character Nostradamus on the set of the period series Reign. He and his girlfriend live quietly in Parkdale and seldom hit the celebrity circuit. Instead, he goes where the work is, from project to project with barely a pause in between. "I had a lot of catching up to do and it's only starting to change now; people are starting to embrace me a little."
This fall alone he's back as The Sandman in the sci-fi series Haven's final season and has a small role in Hellions, Bruce McDonald's new Halloween horror film. He's the lead in River, Jamie Dagg's harrowing debut feature, shot on the fly in Laos, about an NGO doctor turned fugitive. In his most high-profile role to date, Sutherland plays a sniper in Hyena Road, opening in theatres October 9. Director Paul Gross's drama about what happens when one reaches a moral crossroad, focuses on the story of Canadian troops imperilled by Taliban attacks in Afghanistan.
In the small-budget River, he's onscreen almost every minute. "We were always on the run and on the go and I had to be ready at any moment," Sutherland says. "I never got to leave character. It was an exhausting place to be." When he returned from that shoot, he admits he had to jump right into another film because he didn't want his girlfriend to see the state he was in. He escaped to the Canadian woods and Backcountry, a thriller about a romantic camping trip that turns into a grisly test of survival.
Like his father, who just turned 80, Sutherland shows no sign of slowing down as an actor. A restless cinematic work ethic just runs in the family.
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