Eli Goree might be the poster child for the cliché "when it rains, it pours." He seems to be standing in a positive deluge right now. Currently starring in two television shows – Da Kink in My Hair on Global and Soul on Vision – he's also filmed a guest role on Flashpoint and has his eye set on future feature projects.
"I don't think it would be too hard for me to get a Valentine this year, going to all these premieres and events," he joked during our pre-Valentine's Day interview, though I pointed out it doesn't sound like he'll have time for much of a social life. "Isn't that how it works?" he mock-sighed.
The former Street Cents host moved to Toronto two years ago to try acting full time. Ready to give up, Goree returned from a life-affirming six-month visit to West Africa to find himself up for an audition for Da Kink in My Hair. Even then, the path wasn't easy. After six call-backs he thought, "I don't think this is going to happen," he recalled. But happen it did, and Goree joined the sitcom for its second season.
On set, he met director Stefan Scaini who encouraged him to audition for his upcoming series Soul starring Keshia Chante. "So August 30 we stopped shooting Da Kink in My Hair and September 1 I started Soul, and in that one day I had to travel across the country," Goree said. "It's been a wild ride, and I was really happy and fortunate."
The performer calls his two roles "polar opposites. The way they dress, the way they walk, the way they talk, is so different."
Da Kink in My Hair's Malik, whose grandfather brings him to his aunt Novelette's shop to keep him out of trouble, had gotten involved with a rough crowd. "Nobody wants to give him a shot. But they see after a while that he has a really good heart and just needs a chance," Goree explained, describing the teenager as "very funny. He has a lot of one-liner commentary, always the one to give a zinger or the harsh truth to someone. He's got a lot of life."
His Soul character Samson, on the other hand, is "so reserved. He grew up in the church and sings in the choir. Everything inside of him is something he wants to keep control of, and it always ends up exploding out."
Goree himself comes across as funny and thoughtful. Recently invited to the Victoria Film Festival's SpringBoard panel as part of their top 20 most promising filmmakers in Canada, Goree spoke there about diversity in the entertainment industry.
"Some people see acting as a frivolous job, but I think it's so much more than that," he told me. "I think it's the responsibility and accountability of artists to guide society a little. We have the opportunity to show people where they're at, where they've been, and where they could go. It's not be to be taken lightly."
He thinks Canadian television still has a ways to go in terms of diversity, but "I think we're definitely getting better. I see shows like Da Kink, like Soul, like Little Mosque on the Prairie, and I see there's an effort being made there. I think the US is a few steps ahead, but I think we're fast catching up, and that's a good thing."