Hamilton’s T.J. McGibbon stars in Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy

At only 13 years of age, Hamilton-based actress T.J. McGibbon has already amassed quite a resume for herself.

Credits so far include Magneto’s daughter in the X-Men franchise, the voice of Red Riding Hood in ‘Super Why!’, and most recently as Young Vanya in the Netflix hit series ‘The Umbrella Academy’.

A scene from The Umbrella Academy in front of a property in Gore Park. Media source: Netflix.

McGibbon comes from a family with creative roots. Her father’s side of the family is filled with directors, actors, musicians, and artists. The field of work appears to be in her DNA.

At age five, she taught herself to read chapter books and eventually her own scripts. “I knew I wanted to be on TV since a young age,” says McGibbon.

When she began to seriously consider acting, she spoke with her aunt who knew exactly who to send her to. Not long after, she landed her first gig on a TV series called ‘Lucky 7’ on ABC. The first episode happened to be filmed in Hamilton, as a matter of fact.

As the years went on, McGibbon continued to land small roles in various TV shows and movies until one particular audition changed her career’s trajectory. “I wasn’t even sure what I was auditioning for at first. I said my lines and they asked my mom to come in […] which was very unusual”.

McGibbon was then made aware that she was auditioning for the role of Nina in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’, eventually landing the character. That brought her face to the big screen and in front of millions of people.

A couple years later she auditioned to be part of Netflix’s original series ‘The Umbrella Academy’ based on the comic book series of the same name.

She was chosen to play the role of Young Vanya, who’s the child counterpart of the show’s lead actress played by no other than Halifax-born Ellen Page. To prepare for her role, McGibbon studied the comics for how she could transition herself into the older version of her character.

While filming TV series generally take longer than movies, McGibbon lucked out as the entire series was filmed between Toronto and Hamilton meaning she didn’t have to live in a hotel for weeks on end. Some notable local locations in the show are Gore Park, LIUNA Station, the International Village, Dyment’s Farm, and Gage Park.

A scene from The Umbrella Academy in front of LIUNA Station. Media source: Netflix.

A typical day on the set includes many hours of hair, makeup, and costuming. A travelling ‘set school’ is established at the shooting locations that’s mandatory for actors under the age of 18 to attend, ensuring they’re learning course equivalents to what children in a regular school curriculum would. A minimum of two school hours is required during the day.

McGibbon and her peers would do a few takes and then go to set school if the gap between shoots would exceed 30 minutes. This was one of the greatest challenges in the role, McGibbon admits, as she was forced to break in and out of character throughout the day. It certainly makes focusing on the subject at hand much more challenging.

The end result appears to have been well worth the struggle as ‘The Umbrella Academy’ has swept North America. IMDB currently has the show ranked #1 on its popularity meter with an IMDB user score of 8.3/10 and overall positive reviews from critics.

McGibbon will be starring in another role come August in the upcoming ‘The War with Grandpa’ featuring the likes of Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman, and Christopher Walken. Talk about being in good company!

When McGibbon isn’t on set, she’s busy advocating for affordable housing projects in the city. So much so that she recently became an Indwell ambassador and helps out by painting rooms and sharing projects on social media.

For a girl who has such a bright future ahead of her, it’s humbling to see how much she cares in the wellbeing of her fellow neighbours. McGibbon made it no secret that she loves being from Hamilton and I must admit, so are we.

It’s a prideful moment when we catch Hamilton in a show or movie, but it’s even more impactful when we see Hamilton-based actors on screen. And this is only the start for this promising actress.

You can follow T.J. McGibbon on Instagram @tjmcgibbon

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