A photograph of Tedra Rogers
Tedra Rogers | Photo credit: Elijah Silva

Tedra Rogers

A life altering event shifted this artist's path from dancer to actor, writer and producer

Stephen Hunt

Tedra Rogers’ mother was sure she was going to be a boy, so she settled on a name — Theodore — only to discover she’d given birth to a girl. “My mom really liked Teddie as a nickname specifically but hated Theodora,” Rogers says. “She thought it was too dramatic, which was really funny now that I’ve become an actor and I work in performing!” 

Rogers grew up in Calgary training to be a ballerina, which led her to a stint in New York at the age of 16, training with the iconic Joffrey Ballet School.

What was it like to live in New York City at 16? “Intense. Really cool. Very special,” she says, “but being a 16-year-old, having to haul bags of groceries on the subway, and up six flights of stairs to get to your apartment, and having six roommates — I could have done without six roommates!”

One of the perks of her dance study, it turned out, was an acting class at the iconic HB Studios, where the alumni includes Oscar-winners Robert De Niro, Jack Lemmon, Whoopi Goldberg and F. Murray Abraham. Little did she know that acting class was also a preview of the next chapter of her creative life. “That was when the (acting) ball kind of started rolling,” she says. “And I did really enjoy it.

“But I had never considered an acting career. From the outside, it seemed so inaccessible,” she adds. “I would have never made this move had I not had something really change the path I was on.”

That something happened two years later in Calgary, when her vehicle was rear-ended by a truck with such force that Rogers was told she couldn’t dance anymore. She was 18. Once she recovered, acting became the focus of Rogers’ creative life. That led to parts on a number of TV series and films, including Super Girl, Firefly Lane and Cruel Summer.

It also led to an opportunity to star in Here and After, a time-travel romance shot in black-and-white by Calgary director Shaun Crawford with a local cast and crew during the pandemic. In it, Rogers plays Arora, whose daily life comes with a unique twist: she wakes up a day younger every single day.

That means on the day in question — the day she meets Ray, her husband — she is aware that it’s the last day they will spend together. “She’s very focused on it going right,” Rogers says, “because she knows that they (Arora and Ray) live this big, beautiful life which she’s already experienced and he’s about to enter into. So it’s a very fun, very special little film.”

Here and After was shot at a variety of locations in Calgary and area, including the Big Rock erratic near Okotoks and the Leighton Art Centre. For Rogers, who is based in Vancouver, it was a thrilling opportunity to come home — and a reminder that the southern Alberta film and television palette extends beyond period westerns.

It was also a time-travel journey for an actor playing a time-traveling character. “It was sort of like a fever dream, it was so heightened,” she says, “and I think it was so interesting going back to shoot at all of these locations that were so special to me (as a child) because it felt magical and really meant to be. So in the film, Calgary itself really is a character,” she adds. 

At the 2021 Calgary International Film Festival, Here and After won the Audience Prize for favourite made-in-Alberta feature — and was nominated for Rosie Awards for both Rogers (alongside people like Heartland star Amber Marshall and Jann Arden) — and Thomas Romero, who plays Ray in the film.

In early December, Rogers was back in Calgary for the Stinger Awards, which celebrate the best made-in-Alberta independent films. Which circles the conversation back to that CIFF screening in 2021: how did it feel attending a screening of your film in the city you grew up in?

“I was really, really fortunate,” Rogers says. “My grandparents got to come and see me do the full red carpet — and that was my first time being the lead in a feature film and seeing myself for a whole hour up on the screen.”

A photograph of Tedra Rogers
Tedra Rogers | Photo: Quinn Eastwood
TRANSITION

It’s weird to talk about roles with an actor because they play them for a while and then they move on to playing someone new. In Rogers’ case, it was a move to Season 2 of Cruel Summer, a U.S. series where, among other things, she was asked to transform into a blonde. “It was fun, I enjoyed it, the shots from the show looked fantastic, but my hair was so fried!” she says.

Since the season wrapped, she has returned to brunette, and says her natural curls are making a comeback of sorts. “I don’t know if I would do it again,” she adds, “but I loved doing it for the show.”

Now Rogers has to reinvent herself again, because the reality of an actor’s life is that there’s a certain Groundhog Day quality to it: you wake up every day and have to start over and find a new gig. And that’s on the good days, when there is no pandemic or actors strike.

But if all the years of dance training did anything to help Rogers with her film and TV creative life, it did instill a discipline and willingness to grind, every day — qualities that can’t be underestimated in a business that breaks your heart as much as it makes dreams come true.

“Once I got a handle on this and I felt like I knew where I was going in my career with acting, I was like, OK! What else can I do?”

She started writing and producing. “I have two short films I’m hopefully looking to shoot in the new year,” she says. “And actually I really want to come back and shoot in Calgary because shooting Here and After was such an incredible experience.”

About the Storytelling Project

The Storytelling Project raises awareness about Calgarians who, by living creative lives, are making Calgary a better city, effecting positive change and enriching others’ lives.

Have a story to share? Email us at submissions@calgaryartsdevelopment.com.

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