Calgary actor Jarod Joseph plays tech-savvy professor in new police drama, Sight Unseen

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There is no official marker for when an actor goes from newcomer to veteran. It’s not like there is a graduation ceremony.

But Calgary-born actor Jarod Joseph says he seems to have made that journey with the new Canuck cop drama, Sight Unseen, which debuts on CTV on Jan. 21. He plays Matt Alleyne, an easy-going, tech-savvy professor and devoted best friend to the show’s troubled protagonist, a former homicide detective named Tess Avery (played by American newcomer Dolly Lewis)

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As with many of his past series – Joseph has had supporting or recurring roles in The 100, Once Upon a Time, Mistresses, Saving Hope and You Me Her and played one of the leads in the cop drama Rogue – Sight Unseen has an ensemble cast.

“I’ve grown a lot, I’ve learned a lot,” says Joseph, in an interview from Vancouver. “I’ve never really been the older actor on set or the veteran on set and I am in this in a lot of ways. I have a position to play in that regard to make the ship go.”

Since leaving Calgary for Vancouver in 2007, Joseph has built a solid career with a slow but steady climb from extra, to bit parts and finally starring-role status, which has included playing romantic leads in a series of Hallmark Christmas TV movies.

In the first few episodes of Sight Unseen provided to the press, Matt is depicted as a close friend to Tess and one of the few in her inner circle who knows that she has been diagnosed as clinically blind. In the first episode, Tess quits the force after her sight loss almost gets her partner, Jake Campbell (played by Daniel Gillies), killed in the line of duty. Tess is too stubborn to reveal her condition, despite Matt’s urgings that she should tell her partner the truth. Matt convinces her to take advantage of a service that provides a remote seeing-eye guide to help her, which is how we are introduced to Sunny Patel. Played by fellow Calgary expat Agam Darshi, Sunny forms an immediate bond with her occasionally reluctant client. While she is 3,000 miles away – in the grand tradition of homegrown cop dramas, the metropolis where the show takes place is never specified or even identified as Canadian – she forms a quick bond with Tess, which provides the high-concept premise of the show. It turns out Sunny is not only a true-crime buff but is also agoraphobic. Nevertheless, through the magic of technology, she becomes Tess’s “sight” as they set out to solve a violent kidnapping in the first episode. 

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“It took a minute to wrap my head around it,” Joseph says. “The first thing you think when you hear ‘blind cop’ is ‘How?’ As more of the pieces came together, it was about how she does it and it became a really feasible concept to me. I’m sure a lot of people who are interested in the show will have that first thought: ‘How does that work?’”

The series was created by sisters Karen and Nikolijne Troubetzkoy – with another Calgary expat, Orphan Black creator John Fawcett, serving as executive producer and directing some episodes – and partially inspired by Karen’s own experiences with sight loss. Producers consulted with experts to ensure an authentic representation of the sigh-impaired community. Lewis, a New York-based New Jersey native who is also a jazz singer, is sight-divergent.

Playing a professor is just the latest role where Joseph gets to play a well-educated professional. In certain circles, he is probably best known for playing Gus/Billy in the ABC fairy tale mashup cult series Once Upon a Time. Gus was a mouse based on a character from Cinderella. Billy, a mechanic, was Gus in human form. But over the years, Joseph has also played a detective in Rogue, a lawyer in the L.A. Complex, a high-school teacher in Coded, and a doctor in Saving Hope. In real life, Joseph admits he wasn’t very “scholarly” while growing up in Calgary. He dropped out of Bishop McNally High School at the age of 16. In a recent episode of American podcaster and Once Upon a Time aficionado Bill Meeks’ Where I’m From, Joseph spoke for more than an hour about his early life in Calgary, although he revealed that he moved around quite a bit in his youth. His teen and early adult years apparently included plenty of drinking, occasional fisticuffs and plenty of delinquency. But he excelled at sports, particularly hockey and baseball. These days, he keeps ties to his hometown by working with the Calgary Flames designing a line of T-shirts, hoodies, hats, and other apparel that features the hockey team’s logo.

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But while working in construction in the early 2000s, he also developed into a full-fledged film and television buff. Friends eventually convinced him to try his hand at acting and he left for Vancouver in 2007. For a few years, he studied acting and mostly landed work as an extra. His 2013 role in the first season of the police drama Rogue as young detective Nicholas Fleming was his first lead role.

As with most actors, Joseph hopes his new series has a long life. He sees lots of potential for multiple seasons of the drama and depth in his character.

“I would say it’s the first character I’ve played that is closest to me personally. I wouldn’t say it’s because of any specific attributes but maybe in temperament,” Joseph says. “So it wasn’t a huge deviation for me to play Matt because I have a lot of Matt in me.”

Sight Unseen debuts Jan. 21 on CTV.

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