CANNING - Ava Peill remembers her first taste of stardom well.
She was still in elementary school when she landed the lead role in Paper Hearts, a 2008 short film shot in Halifax.
“One of my favourite memories was the little sweets table. As a Grade 4, I loved my sweets. They had an unlimited amount of whatever we wanted,” the Canning resident recalls with a laugh.
“I felt like a little star.”
The sweets table may not have the same appeal it once had, but 17-year-old Peill is still enjoying every opportunity she has to get in front of a camera.
She’s appeared in two short films, commercials for the 2010 Olympics and two television shows shot in Halifax.
She scored a recurring role as private school student Lori on CBC’s Mr. D, starring comedian Gerry Dee, in 2012.
“My first episode was completely ad lib. It wasn’t even planned,” she says.
“With ad lib you’re on the spot and you have no idea what the other person is going to say, so you really have to listen and you have to make up something really good.”
The off-the-cuff approach came naturally for Peill, who completed acting workshops in Halifax and New York.
Her ability to go off script - or without script - helped her stand out early on in her Mr. D days.
“It was my first day on set and I was a background character and they said, ‘We want you to talk,’” she said.
“That was a huge accomplishment because they never do that.”
Mr. D’s summer filming schedule has made it possible for Peill to balance acting with school, part-time jobs, sports, dance, sailing and horse riding.
“It is absolutely incredible. It’s my favourite job. People are so nice there.”
Some of Peill’s Mr. D highlights date back to episodes when a famished Mr. D eats lip balm in front of Lori, or the focus turns to Lori’s character having a crush on the quirky teacher.
“That was probably one of my favourite scenes because I got to give him some sass,” says Peill.
Peill admits her dream role would entail portraying the ultimate mean girl. She played a nasty character in an episode of former CityTV comedy series Seed in 2013, and she hopes to see Lori’s feisty side make a return in future episodes of Mr. D.
“She used to be really sassy. She’s kind of leveled off a little bit and she’s kind of a teacher’s pet. I hope to bring back some sass.”
Mr. D airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on CBC.
An industry in repair
Peill, a Grade 12 student at Horton High School, intends to enroll in a Bachelor of Science program after graduation. She loves acting, but feels a career in the medical profession would offer more prospects considering recent developments in Nova Scotia’s film industry.
“I haven’t gotten one audition in the past eight months, and that’s extremely rare,” she says.
She attributes the sudden changes in the industry to the provincial government scrapping the film tax credit, an incentive offering a significant rebate on production costs, in the spring 2015 budget.
“Last year I was cast in three different movies and they all came crashing down because of the film tax credit.”