Saad Siddiqui (BA 2007) could have been intimidated on the South African set of Inescapable: a young actor in a big part in a high-profile Canadian movie opposite Marisa Tomei and Joshua Jackson. But the 29 year-old calmly stared down his big break. Maybe it was because the Pakistan-born and Toronto-based actor knows he could have mopped the floor with any of his better-known co-stars – he’s a fourth-degree black belt in tae kwon do.
Siddiqui credits kung-fu stars Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee with getting him interested in acting. He took up martial arts after the death of his father in 1995, when he was 11 years old. “I think I was trying to fill in something missing, to have an instructor who could teach me in the way that my father did. I [still] need coaches and structure. I thrive under that.”
Siddiqui’s martial arts talent took him around the world (he won a silver medal at the Junior Olympics), but the globetrotting wasn’t a big adjustment. Because his father worked as a civil engineer, his family moved a lot, and by the time he was eight he’d already lived on three continents. He eventually settled in Maryland, where he started acting. But another passion spurred by his father led him to enroll in political science at U of T. “My dad did a lot of humanitarian work,” he says, “so it was always something I wanted to do.” Juggling term papers and auditions proved extremely gruelling, but “I think that’s where doing martial arts and sports helped,” he says. “They taught me balance and discipline.” Toronto wasn’t a bad place for an aspiring actor, either.
Cut to a few years later and Siddiqui’s popped up on popular television series such as The Listener and The Border and had a bit part in David Cornenberg’s Cosmopolis. Though Inescapable may provide Siddiqui with that “big break,” the actor doesn’t mind the settled feeling that’s creeping into his life; this inveterate wanderer has just purchased a condo in Toronto with his fiancée.
“I’ve now been in Toronto longer than anywhere I’ve lived, and I feel like it’s home.”
A U of T lab is working with actors, writers and directors on how they could harness AI and other emerging technologies to generate new ideas and – just maybe – reinvent theatre