This grad isn’t a dropout (he just plays one on TV)

by Megan Martin

Dillon Casey, BSc’05, has been acting since childhood, but the Oakville native says he has always felt like a bit of an outsider in his profession.

After all, few actors hold university degrees in two distinctly different disciplines (environment and economics). His father is even gently nudging him towards a third degree (in law).

In Global TV’s new medical drama Remedy, Casey portrays Griffin Conner, a med school dropout who has seemingly squandered his considerable academic potential. Now working as a hospital orderly, Conner’s father and sisters are all respected doctors or nurses.

Casey’s own university experience wasn’t nearly so checkered. A heart-to-heart with his father put him on the road to McGill.

“It was a long conversation with my dad that prompted me to come to the University,” says Casey. “He put such a high value on education and to him, McGill was just the best. And he was right. Looking back, it was one of the most important and influential decisions I’ve ever made.”

It was at McGill where Casey says he learned to not only work hard and dedicate himself to the task at hand, but also to develop a balanced approach to life.

“Coming from a different city, my first year was a little rough and lonely because I didn’t really make any attempts to engage with other students or get involved in any way,” he says, “which is something a lot of students can probably relate to.”

At the beginning of his second year, Casey took an entirely different approach; he joined as many activities as he could, including intramural hockey and squash. He even got involved in helping to organize McGill’s winter carnival.

“I learned a really important lesson that year: you get back what you put in. It’s something I carry with me to this day,” says Casey. “If you don’t make an effort, and step out of your own private bubble, you’re going to miss out on a lot of beautiful things in life. Once I opened up, my years at McGill were the best of my life. I still miss it”

Casey continued to act while he was at McGill. After completing his undergraduate science degree in environment, he pursued a master’s degree in economics at the University of Toronto. By the time he wrapped up his second degree, he decided to move to Los Angeles to focus on acting.

The notion of being a full-time professional actor makes Casey laugh. “I still think that’s a bit of a funny title," he says. "I didn’t even think of myself as one until someone called me a 'professional.' I think in a way that’s because, like a lot of actors, I’m scared of feeling comfortable.”

Casey has become a familiar presence on TV screens in recent years, playing regular or recurring roles in series such as M.V.P. (as a promising young hockey star) and Nikita (as a stalwart, kick-ass Navy Seal). He also appeared in the film The Vow with Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams.

Despite the steady work, Casey says he takes nothing for granted when it comes to future acting gigs. And he wonders, from time to time, about following a different path.

“It’s not exactly a stable profession. There are a lot of ups and downs, and even when you’re involved in a great project, you always have to be thinking of what you’re going to do next. Most people with an education opt to develop a stable, fruitful career rather than embrace the uncertainty that comes along with acting, so I feel like I’m constantly a bit torn in that respect.”

On the other hand, his background is what he says gives him an advantage when it comes to portraying a wide range of characters.

“I’ve always been a normal guy, I’ve had to work for everything I have, and I think that gives me a priceless outlook,” Casey says.  “I haven’t spent my whole life being privileged and trying to imitate reality; I’ve been living it instead.”

Remedy, which debuts on February 24, costars Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars, Flashpoint) as Conner’s father, the chief-of-staff at the hospital where Conner works. His sisters are played by Sara Canning (The Vampire Diaries) and Sarah Allen (Being Human).

“They’re ashamed of him, but have to keep him around,” Casey says of the strained relationship between Conner and his family. “It’s great because it’s not just a medical show; the exploration of their family dynamic is extremely interesting and relatable.”

Apart from his work on Remedy, Casey and his brothers are also working on a script they recently sold to Wild West Productions (Vince Vaughn’s company), and are hoping to begin filming this summer.

“And after that, well, maybe my dad will get his wish and I’ll decide to apply to law school,” Casey says. “But I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.”

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