Actor & Director from Ontario, Canada

“My name is Connor Jessup; I’m 13 years old from Toronto, Ontario. I am about to embark on a two week scientific expedition to the Canadian Arctic”. That’s certainly not something you hear every day. Those sentences marked the beginning of Connor’s first blog post as a participant on the Students on Ice 2007 Arctic expedition from Churchill, Manitoba, to Iqaluit, Nunavut. While most of his friends were at summer camp, Connor – one of SOI’s youngest ever participants – was engaging in an experience “with that familial feel to it, but with more purpose.” Now 21 years old, Connor is working as an actor and director. This rising star has appeared on hit shows like American Crime, and recently directed a film called Boy which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015.

The Expedition Experience

Connor says he led a relatively sheltered childhood, but the Arctic voyage broadened his mind. Having the opportunity to interact with people from all over the world, while learning about a variety of subjects, had a huge impact on him during formative years. One expedition moment that stood out to Connor was the ship’s stop in Pangnirtung. While visiting this small town situated in a stunning fjord, Connor had his first taste of raw seal meat and trekked 22km through Auyuittuq National Park to reach the Arctic Circle. 

SOI expeditions emphasize experiential learning, and this being out of his comfort zone has also contributed to improving Connor’s skills as an actor. Recently he worked on the popular drama, American Crime. Surrounded by professionals at the top of their game was both terrifying and stimulating, but he learned a lot “through osmosis” and quickly came to enjoy the challenge.

Realizing Goals & Ambitions

In the years since his expedition, Connor has furthered his career as an actor. Although he started acting professionally in 2005, at the age of 11, he landed his first big role in October of 2007. At this time he began an eight month stint in Australia acting on the kids show, The Saddle Club. Soon after that he began working on Falling Skies, a series he would be involved with for six years. His first movie, Blackbird, won an award at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and was used as teaching material at the Canadian Film Centre (CFC). One CFC student ended up casting Connor for their film, Closet Monster, which won numerous awards at the international level.

“All the other seminal experiences in my life were built around my career...to have one that was rooted in real things, real people, real concerns, I think was very healthy and helpful for me at that age.”

Making a Difference

Most Students on Ice alumni have Geoff’s motto of “flexibility is key” ingrained in their heads. This shipboard lesson has helped Connor stay afloat in what he describes as a defeating industry. As an actor, Connor has had to deal with a lot of rejection and disappointment over the years, and has had to learn to overcome his own fears. He uses his experience to advise young actors how to cope. He advises up-and-coming performers to be adaptable, work hard, don’t worry about uncontrollable factors, and have fun.

Looking Ahead

“The word, plan, scares me”, he says. After a hectic past few months, Connor is ready for a break. He is also a filmmaker – one of his shorts was screened at TIFF – so he will take some time off to pursue this avenue to a greater extent, as well as explore writing.

"I remember it feeling incredibly inclusive, and everyone was very welcoming and supportive and nurturing. I just remember that, despite how cold it was, it being a very warm experience."