Albert Nassrallah

Photography by Sean Sisk

Albert Nicholas Nassrallah spent most of his childhood in Ottawa, where he discovered his passion for acting amidst a culturally rich upbringing and a penchant for entertaining.

He followed his dreams to Los Angeles, where he spent his early career in audition rooms, like most aspiring actors. It was a spontaneous decision to shave his head and change his look that proved pivotal; the Ottawa native began booking for roles, and found himself landing a career-defining part on Airbender: The Last Avatar.

We caught up with Albert to discuss his journey to acting, his experience as part of the Avatar Franchise, and his favourite things about coming home to Ottawa.

Photography by Sean Sisk

What was your childhood like?

It was definitely a cultural mishmash! I grew up with a Lebanese father and Vietnamese/French mother; both well travelled. They made a point to bring my sister and I on many trips when we were kids, to expose us and open our eyes to how vast and different the world is. My father also worked for Foreign Affairs, so when I was about 4 or 5 we spent a year in Brussels, Belgium. Ottawa was certainly on the more quiet side, and yes the winters are harsh (although I associate that with snow days, skating on the canal, and Beavertails!), but I think it was a great place to grow up. I have some fond memories and long lasting friendships.

How did you know that you wanted to pursue acting? Who were some of your biggest inspirations?

I always wanted to be an entertainer, even at a young age. My parents say I used to be a jokester–the clown of the family–and that some teachers would encourage them to consider steering me towards theatre because I was so at ease performing in front of people. My first recollection of performing is doing a show in fifth grade. I felt so alive! However, that idea was put on the back burner until much later in my life. The desire never went away though. I grew up watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, so Will Smith was definitely a huge influence for me. Even outside of that show, I’ve loved him from movies like MIB and Bad Boys, to The Pursuit of Happyness and Seven Pounds. Of course, many actors have been a source of inspiration throughout the years. Most recently, I would have to say Miles Teller.

Tell us about your journey to landing your first big role?

It took a while! I had been auditioning for a good five years before I finally started seeing a hint of hope. My friend and I would call it the curse. I just couldn’t catch a break. I always received the same feedback: ‘Yeah, he’s good… just wrong for the part.’ ‘He just doesn’t quite fit in.’ There seemed to be a disconnect between how my reps were marketing me, how I presented myself, and how casting perceived me. It wasn’t until I shaved my head, on a whim, that things started to align. Sometimes it takes something a little drastic to shake things up. It allowed me to finally book a gig on Supernatural, and things sort of snowballed from there.

Photography by Sean Sisk

Tell us about your experience filming for Avatar: The Last Airbender. What has it been like to be a part of this historic film franchise?

Being part of this series was so fulfilling! I have to admit that I had no idea how big this adaptation was going to be when I first booked the gig. After binge watching the anime I ended up becoming a huge fan. There were so many cool aspects to filming: having fight choreography and overall movement rehearsals, working with practical fire effects, the opportunity to have a small fight sequence next to Dallas Liu (Zuko), who’s an absolute badass at martial arts. Plus, I got to work alongside the amazing Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. I give him a lot of credit for giving me the space, support, and encouragement, to deliver what was required for this role. The feedback and love from fans has been overwhelming, in a good way. I could go on about the great things but suffice to say this show delivered a lot to remember, as well as a milestone for me: being able to attend a premiere and walk the red carpet.

What’s next for you?

I’ve actually been given the opportunity to step behind the camera and produce a production. It’s still in the very early stages of pre-production, so not much information to give out yet, but I’m excited for it! Producing and directing are definitely things I’ve wanted to explore, as I believe they create longevity in an actor’s career. This project will be a great stepping stone in that direction.

If you could choose three bucket list accomplishments you have for your career, what would they be?

1. Star in a James Bond movie. 2. Star in a Broadway play. 3. Have a production company and produce films with friends,like Adam Sandler but different genres.

When you come home to Ottawa, what are some of your favourite things to do and places to go?

For me, Ottawa is very much a pause from all the noise from the film industry, just keeping it low key with family and friends is all I need. It’s very grounding. Plus I make sure to get my fix of Shawarma Palace! Anyone from Ottawa will understand why; and for those who aren’t, just make sure you don’t miss it if you ever visit.

What’s your best advice for aspiring actors looking to follow in your footsteps?

Always remember why you set out to do this and be mindful of bitterness. Not everyone will attain success, or the level of success they may aspire to have, right away. Those are few and far between. The majority of actors are in a marathon, and bitterness can sometimes creep in when things aren’t going exactly the way they envisioned. Avoid comparing yourself to others, especially on social media. That can be pretty soul crushing. Find ways to stay passionate and keep learning new skills that could help you in your favourite genre. For example, get some fight training if you want to market yourself for action movies. Lastly, don’t stop living your life in fear of missing out.

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