Some celebrities are such fixtures in our cultural landscape, it’s easy to forget (that is, if you ever knew to begin with) that they aren’t actually from the US.
Sure, an accent can be a dead giveaway for Aussies and British celebs, but what about the English-speaking stars who hail from the United States' northern neighbour? To the untrained ear, it’s not always easy to tell.
In no industry has the influence of Canada been more welcome than in entertainment, and the country of mounties and maple has given Hollywood a steady influx of handsome men named Ryan and other super talented folks that have made an enormous contribution to film and music. And while there are certain people you will never forget are from Canada, like Justin Bieber or Celine Dion, there are others who might just surprise you.
Canada, of course, is not the only country whose A-list exports get mistaken for other nationalities. Many of the biggest entertainers on the planet were born or raised in totally unexpected places. Queen frontman and rock legend Freddie Mercury, for example, was born to Persian parents on the East African island of Zanzibar, and raised in India before settling in England - that’s quite a heritage.
So to save you straining your ears to differentiate about from “a-boot,” read this handy guide to 13 celebrities you never knew were from Canada, and 10 famous faces who hail from somewhere totally unexpected altogether.
23 23. Actually From Canada: A Heartthrob Called Ryan
He might be the face of La La Land and a former child star of the Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse Club, but Ryan Gosling was born in London, Ontario. The actor was educated in Canada before dropping out of high school at age 17 to pursue his acting career in Los Angeles.
Ryan Gosling doesn't often get personal but says growing up in Canada gives him a unique perspective on life in Hollywood: "I think it was very helpful to grow up in Canada, or in a small town," Gosling told CBC News in Los Angeles. "I think if you grow up here, it might be hard to remember that there's a world outside of it."
22 21. Actually From Canada: Another Heartthrob Called Ryan
Ryan Reynolds - the other famous Canadian Ryan - was born in 1976, in Vancouver, British Columbia, and though he started his acting career in kids' shows, he is now best known for playing the Marvel “Merc with a mouth,” Deadpool.
Reynolds may have relocated to the US, but his roots are still firmly planted on Canadian soil. The star recently revealed to Elle magazine what his most Canadian attribute is, and his answer is very, well, Canadian: “You may be able to dig up a lot of sources who will deny this, but I’m polite. Generally, I care for other people. I always say ‘excuse me,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘I’m sorry.'”
21 20. Actually From Canada: Model, Actor And Activist Pamela Anderson
She embodied the ultimate Malibu beach babe in the hit show Baywatch, but Pamela Anderson was actually born in Ladysmith, British Columbia, and was raised in Canada. In fact, she was the first baby born on the 100th anniversary of Canada's official founding, having been born on July 1, 1967, and was given the title Centennial Baby by the local press, which kind of makes her super Canadian.
Anderson started out her career in commercials, before being approached to do her first cover for Playboy Magazine. After this, she moved to Los Angeles - and the rest is history.
20 19. Actually From Canada: Superbad Freak And Geek Seth Rogen
Actor, filmmaker and comedian Seth Rogen was born and raised in Vancouver, where he became a regular on the comedy circuit while still in his teens. He landed a supporting role in Judd Apatow's series Freaks and Geeks while still living in the city, before making the move to Hollywood.
Rogen is a proud Canadian and fun fact alert - he’s the voice of Vancouver and Toronto's transit system. He said of the honour: “I have a lot of pride in being Canadian and to be ingrained in the culture of Canada is something that I am happy about.”
19 18. Actually From Canada: Everyone’s Favourite Friend - Matthew Perry
Although the super popular and long-running sitcom Friends was based in New York, Perry, who played the role of Chandler Bing, was raised in Ottawa and is known to be huge hockey fan.
Perry was born in the States, but his mother was the former press secretary to former PM of Canada, Pierre Trudeau, so he's got that dual citizenship happening. Plus he shared the most Canadian story of all to Jimmy Kimmel as he recounted, with some regret, a day in fifth grade when he and a fellow 10-year-old beat up the younger Justin Trudeau, Canada's future PM. Awkward.
18 17. Actually From Canada: Leading Lady Rachel McAdams
This gifted actor has a lot in common with Ryan Gosling – they were once in a relationship, they both starred in the movie The Notebook, and were both born in or around London, Ontario.
Raised in a small town, McAdams was directing children's theatre productions through her teenage years, and intended to take Cultural studies at the University of Western Ontario before being persuaded by her drama teacher that a professional acting career was a viable option. New York soon beckoned, as did a fabulous career in film. Her teacher couldn't have been more right.
17 16. Actually From Canada: Ace Funny Man Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey, probably one of the most popular comedians in America, was born in Newmarket, Ontario. Trying to provide for his family, he dropped out of high school and started to work full-time. He also performed stand-up comedy before being noticed and relocating to LA.
Best known for comedic and dramatic film roles in movies including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Truman Show, and The Mask, Carrey has not forgotten his roots and has publicly spoken of his admiration for the country: “"I just got back from Vancouver and I keep hearing this: 'Canadians are so nice, Canadians are so nice,'" he told Bill Maher: "They can be nice because they have health care.”
16 15. Actually From Canada: Captain Kirk Himself - William Shatner
After decades of being associated with the iconic role of Captain Kirk in the Star Trek franchise and living in the US, many people don’t realise that William Shatner is, in fact, a Montreal native.
This does lead to surprised faces on customs officers: "I love to go through customs in between Canada and America, because the Canadian customs officers always look at my passport and say, without exception, 'I didn't know you were Canadian,"' Shatner told one reporter.
15 14. Actually From Canada: 24 Star Kiefer Sutherland and Famous Dad Donald
The legendary veteran actor Donald Sutherland is practically considered Canadian royalty. The star of Don’t Look Now and M*A*S*H was born in Saint John, New Brunswick and graduated from the University of Toronto with a double major in Engineering and Drama.
Although he was born in England, Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland (yes, that is his full name) has dual citizenship on account of his famous Canadian kin and was once named the fourth most powerful Canadian living in America by Canadian Business Magazine. We're guessing the other top spots were occupied by Ryans.
14 13. Actually From Canada: Country Music Royalty Shania Twain
What could be more USA than country music? Seriously, we literally can’t think of a thing, which is probably why it comes as such a surprise to learn that country superstar Shania Twain was actually born Eilleen Regina Edwards in Windsor, Ontario in 1965.
Famously unimpressed by much, Twain lived in Canada until the nineties before her music career exploded and - like all good country stars - headed to Nashville. These days, however, she lives in Corseaux, Switzerland.
13 12. Actually From Canada: Comedy Genius Mike Myers. Yeah, Baby
Comedy hero, and star of Wayne’s World and Austin Powers, Mike Myers is from Toronto. A staunchly outspoken and proud native of Canada, Michael John Myers was born in 1963 in Scarborough, Ontario, where they have since named a street named after him.
Myers attended school in Scarborough and began acting in TV commercials when he was eight. After graduation, he was immediately accepted into Toronto's Second City Comedy troupe, a training ground for comedians like John Candy, Martin Short and Dan Aykroyd.
The son of English parents, Myers reportedly holds citizenship for Canada, the U.S., and Britain. Groovy, baby.
12 11. Actually From Canada: Sandra Oh, Canada
Golden Globe winner and Emmy nominated actor Sandra Oh is best known for her role as Cristina Yang on the ABC medical drama series Grey's Anatomy, set in the United States. This year, she also became the first actress of Asian descent to be nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her performance in Killing Eve.
She’s come a long way since growing up in the suburbs of Ottawa and her achievements were acknowledged by her hometown in 2013, when Oh received the key to the city of Ottawa, Ontario, from Mayor Jim Watson.
11 22. Actually From Canada: Back To The Future Hero Michael J. Fox
He might have played the USA high schooler in both the Back To The Future franchise and Teen Wolf, but this acting legend was born in Edmonton, Alberta, and grew up in various cities and towns across Canada.
The Emmy-winning actor - whose popular TV and film credits also include Family Ties, Spin City, Rescue Me and The Good Wife - holds dual citizenship to Canada and the USA: "My reference for everything is my Canadian background,” he told CBC News.
"As far as contrasting to my Canadianness, I always feel very connected to Canada. I couldn't be prouder of Canada.”
10 10. Totally Unexpected: Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong'o (Mexico/Kenya)
Ever since Lupita Nyong'o hit the big time, winning a Best Supporting Oscar for her role in 12 Years A Slave, the entertainment pages of Kenya and Mexico have feuded over which country gets to "claim" her.
The Black Panther star was born in 1983 in Mexico City, but her parents are of Kenyan origin. The actress grew up in Kenya, but at age 16 her parents sent her to Mexico to learn Spanish. Confused? Don’t be. Nyong’o put the debate to rest herself: "I've seen the quarrels over my nationality, but I'm Kenyan and Mexican at the same time. So again, I am Mexican-Kenyan and I am fascinated by carne asada tacos."
9 9. Totally Unexpected: Charlize Theron (South Africa)
If you’ve ever seen the Oscar-winner in an interview, you’ll know she speaks with a US accent. But don’t let this fool you, Charlize Theron is South African and proud.
Born in Benoni, she grew up in an Afrikaans community, where few people spoke English. She only became fluent in English by watching TV after moving to the USA in her teens.
She told GQ magazine, “I love my country. And it’s very hard for South Africans to believe that, because I left and speak in an American accent,” adding, “I have a very, very strong connection to my country and to its people.”
8 8. Totally Unexpected: The Vampire Sheriff Of Louisiana (Sweden)
Alexander Skarsgård might be best known for playing vampire Eric Northman in True Blood, a 1,000-year-old sheriff of Louisiana, but the actor is, in fact, very Swedish.
Born in Stockholm, he’s the son of Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård (Of Mamma Mia and Thor fame) and landed his first lead role in the Swedish television production Hunden som log (The Dog That Smiled), aged just 13.
Skarsgård is a fan of Swedish football and supports Hammarby IF, a club based in his birth city.
7 7. Totally Unexpected: Born In Ukraine - Mila Kunis
Bad Moms star Mila Kunis was born in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, formally part of the USSR, and emigrated to the US at the age of seven, not speaking a word of English.
It’s a subject she’s discussed at length with interviewers in the past, recounting the tale of her family being forced out of in fear of persecution from the state’s anti-Semitic stance. These days, however, the actor, who is married to Ashton Kutcher, identifies very much as with America and has since said she feels no connection to her country of birth.
“[I went to Ukraine] two months ago, for the first time. […] It was trippy,” she told Net-a-porter.com. “There’s a part of you that wants to feel something towards [the place]. I had nothing. We landed and Ashton was like, ‘No?’ [and I was like], ‘Yeah, nothing. I got nothing for you, babe.'”
6 6. Totally Unexpected: SATC Star Kim Cattrall (Liverpool, UK)
Kim Cattrall became an icon as Samantha Jones in Sex and the City, earning her five Emmy Award nominations and a Golden Globe win. With her character being a fully-fledged Manhattanite, it's no wonder everyone assumes she's from the States. But Cattrall was actually born in Liverpool in the UK and remains to this day a proud Brit and supporter of Liverpool F.C. football team.
But that’s not all. Her family emigrated to Canada when she was a baby, so she has dual British-Canadian nationality. Though she returned to live in England for a time when she 11, she returned to Canada and moved to New York in her teens to embark on an acting career.
5 5. Totally Unexpected: Dr House Is A Brit
Inspired by Sherlock Holmes, House is a show about a grumpy but brilliant US doctor and it catapulted its lead actor, Hugh Laurie, to international fame. His accent was so convincing, in fact, that many viewers didn’t even realise that Laurie is actually English. The show’s director didn’t even twig, to begin with, and was so adamant that Dr. House be played by someone from America, he’d even stopped considering any audition tapes from British actors entirely.
Before landing the role of a lifetime, Laurie was already a household name in his native UK, where he was known for comedy performances in shows such as Blackadder and a A Bit of Fry and Laurie, alongside his former comedy partner Stephen Fry.
4 4. Totally Unexpected: The Genre-Defying Nicki Minaj (Trinidad and Tobago)
Rapper, singer, songwriter, model, and actress Nicki Minaj grew up in Queens, New York, but spent the first five years of her life in Trinidad and Tobago.
Born in Saint James, Port of Spain, Minaj lived with her grandmother on the Caribbean island before moving Queens to join her mother. After leaving school, she did a few odd jobs before focusing on music and working on the mix-tape circuit. But she was turned down by almost all the major recording labels before multi-platinum rapper Lil Wayne scooped her up to join his Young Money crew in 2009.
In less than two years, she rose to the top of the Billboard charts and became a bonafide star.