Standing on the crest of a hill on Oak Bay Avenue in the cold night, the streets are closed and quiet, but far from empty,
Tyler Cayman cruises down the hill on his skateboard again and again and again.
About 10 times – 10 takes, to use correct terminology.
It’s a life a kid could get used to, says the young Oak Bay actor who turned 11 at the beginning of September.
Earlier this year he spent seven days working on the sets of Gracepoint. He played basketball in a scene as Anna Gunn’s neighbour, did a photo shoot with veteran Nick Nolte and a scene at the school with David Tennant as the double and special skill actor for the child actor playing Danny, the young victim in the 10-part television drama filmed around Greater Victoria with a bulk of scenes shot in and around Oak Bay.
“But the most fun was when they shut down Oak Bay Avenue at night and had me skateboard down the middle of the street as Danny,” he said. “That was my favourite scene and thing to do.”
It helps that there was an assistant to take his coat at the top and replace it on his shoulders at the bottom each time for the trip back. It doesn’t hurt that the tales of craft services tables laden with food for every taste is true. A couple of firsts for Cayman were the cherry on top; he had his own trailer and was outfitted for his first wig as an actor.
“It hurt,” he said of removal with rubbing alcohol. But it’s still a story he tells with an animated grin. Gracepoint was his first foray into a larger project.
“I like acting. My mom’s on TV so I see a lot (of the business side) of it,” Cayman said.
“It’s the first time the whole family has been in the same thing,” said mom Tess van Straaten, known for her work on a local newscast and a role in the 2010 Lifetime film Bond of Silence. Her role as a busy mom on that film inspired Cayman to get into the field.
Working under their given names, Cayman, 11 and his brother Tate Henley, 7 have been acting and modelling since 2010 through the talent division of Coultish Management. The south Oak Bay brothers feature in a Lower Mainland mall campaign and swimsuit catalogue work for Nozone Clothing.
“I’ve had a commercial background,” said Cayman. The youth is also recognizable from an Island Farms yogurt commercial and a stint on Spooksville, a small screen series filmed in the Cowichan Valley last year.
“They’ve had one or two things every year,” says van Straaten.
While Cayman had the largest role in Gracepoint, playing double to the young victim in the plot, and with that the best possibility of making the cut, the rest of the family also has a shot.
“My whole family ended up being hired for Gracepoint,” the sixth grader said. “Everybody’s in Gracepoint, that’s hilarious.”
Henley, who attends Margaret Jenkins elementary, played one of the school kids while dad Travis Commandeur was in the traffic jam scene – in the family vehicle complete with kayaks strapped to the top – and van Straaten portrayed Gunn’s neighbour.
The chilliest, and maybe chillest, day on set for Cayman was spent barefoot and bare chested on a dock being faux-tossed in the water by Nick Nolte’s character for a photo shoot in Brentwood Bay.
“But, like when it’s raining and I don’t want to do my (Oak Bay News paper) route, you just do it. I’m providing a service,” he said. “(Nolte) was fun, but when it came time to work he was down to business.”
After his first real taste of acting with Gracepoint, Cayman’s sure he wants to continue, and has his parents considering shifting to the Vancouver talent pool.
“Getting into it and seeing what movie-making really is. I got to see everything I haven’t ever seen but have heard of,” Cayman said. “My mom and dad being behind me for everything is helping. I couldn’t do it without support.”
Henley’s fondest memories include a muddy soccer scene (he wasn’t a fan) and the craft services table (where he was a fan).
“Gummy worms,” are his favourite part of the experience, he says with a silly grin, “because they’re gummy worms.”
The lanky sweets are a part of what will likely become family lore.
“Tate’s in it for the money and food,” says mom.
The youngster was on the set of Gracepoint one day, availing himself of the craft services table after mom and dad had OK’d a healthy snack with one sweet treat. Henley created a plate of healthy food alongside a pile of gummy worms and walked back past David Tennant who plays a lead role in the series.
As the story goes, Tennant asked if he could have some. In perfect seven year-old manner, Henley just kept walking, ignoring the request.
Look for Oak Bay locations, your neighbours, council members, or your Oak Bay News paper carrier when episode one of Gracepoint airs tomorrow (Oct. 2) on Fox. The Oak Bay News and Oak Bay businesses are also hosting a premier party at the Oak Bay United Church at 6 p.m, tickets are $25 or $40 for two with the money raised going to the Oak Bay Fire Department.