Toronto 10-year-old to make big-screen debut at TIFF with buzzy movie


Toronto 10-year-old to make big-screen debut at TIFF with buzzy movie

One of this year’s most anticipated Canadian movies at TIFF will have one of the festival’s youngest-ever actors at its premiere.

Ten-year-old Sebastian Singh of North York will be on the red carpet at the debut screening of Clement Virgo’s Brother,” the first of what will likely be many such moments, given his burgeoning career trajectory for the young performer.

“Brother” is adapted from David Chariandy’s novel, winner of the Writer’s Trust Fiction Prize and Toronto Book Award. Sebastian will be seen playing the younger version of Lamar Johnson’s lead Michael when the movie unspools at the Princess of Wales Theatre on Sept. 9.

Sebastian is pretty chill for someone with such a busy season ahead.

“I’m mostly looking forward to seeing myself in the movie,” he told the Star in an interview just before his weeknight bedtime. The glitz and glamour of TIFF take a back seat to seeing the fruits of his latest acting labour, as far as Sebastian is concerned.

“I’ve been acting my whole life,” he told me. “Actually, my dad put me in acting when I was a baby. I didn’t really have a choice.”

He laughs about this. No matter how talented Sebastian may be and how excited Ryan and Cheryl Nelson-Singh were over him landing this role, his education comes first, they say.

“While on set, both he and his movie brother received tutoring from a teacher to ensure they kept up with their school work and did not miss any hours,” Cheryl explained in a followup email.

Even while staying on top of school, Sebastian has been well trained, including about keeping projects he’s involved in close to his vest. When I gently prodded him for more details aboutBrother,” he adorably stuck to a familiar-sounding line of it being “the story of these two brothers in the early ’90s where a mystery changes the course of their lives forever.”

“Brother” is touted as one of the more powerful films screening at TIFF due to its depictions of racism and police violence against Black Canadians at the time in Scarborough. Definitely not suitable for an actor who enjoys watching cartoons like “Zombies 3” and theIce Age” series on Disney Plus.

Sebastian’s mother stressed, “I will not allow (Sebastian or his twin sister Ava) to participate in a story that does not align with our morals, values, ethics or beliefs. That said, we value creative expression and the importance of storytelling.

“While this captivating story may not be Sebastian’s lived experience, it is a reality experienced by many Black youths in the city. We are humbled and honoured to be a part of this important storytelling.”

Cheryl and Ryan work with Sebastian to help him prepare for his roles. They pre-read scripts and provide background and historical reference as they coach him on his lines. In the case of “Brother,” Sebastian’s character and his older onscreen brother witness violence. His parents filtered the script, not overloading Sebastian with content too mature for him, and broke down his character’s profile to help Sebastian understand the story.

After meeting him, I am confident Sebastian has the maturity even at his young age to handle the finished product he’ll see on the screen. Sebastian agrees: “I think I’m prepared for that.”

“Brother” is Sebastian’s first cinematic effort, but it’s not his first time in front of the camera. He’s been in an episode ofSuits” and a made-for-TV movie entitled “Left for Dead: The Ashley Reeves Story” with Lindsay, Ont. native Anwen O’Driscoll. He has even has produced and co-written a sci-fi short with his family, “H.E.N.R.I.”

So his IMDB page seems sure to grow, although when asked what’s next, he replied like the veteran he’s becoming. “I can’t say anything about them yet,” before innocently adding, “I think I want to focus on acting.”

He did admit that it’s his dream to star in a superhero movie, specifically Spider-Man. If Marvel is looking, down the line, for another promising Canadian in the mould of Simu Liu or Iman Vellani, they may want to keep their eyes on one Sebastian Singh.


The Star’s librarian Astrid Lange and film critic Peter Howell have compiled a list of children who have appeared in buzzy movies at TIFF over the years:

  • Brooklynn Prince (2017) was six years old when she filmed the role of the precocious Moonee in “The Florida Project,” and was seven when she came to TIFF as its main star. It was also Howell’s favourite film that year.

  • Keisha Castle-Hughes (2002) appeared in “Whale Rider” at age nine.
  • Alex Etel (2004) was nine when he starred in Danny Boyle’s “Millions.” He turned 10 on Sept. 19, 2004, five days after the film’s premiere at TIFF.
  • Jacob Tremblay (2015) was nine when he appeared in “Room.”
  • Sloan Avrich (2014) was 10 when she starred in the short “Red Alert.” The Star dubbed her the “youngest honouree at a TIFF party.”
  • Roman Griffin Davis (2019) was 12 when he appeared in “Jojo Rabbit.”

  • Richie Merritt (2018) was 14 when he appeared in “White Boy Rick.”


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Credit: Toronto 10-year-old to make big-screen debut at TIFF with buzzy movie