Tupper credits his father for helping him stay grounded as his career ascends. When he sent his dad a photograph with his name next to Meryl Streep’s on the Big Little Lies call sheet, his father replied, “Yup, she’s not sending that picture to her friends.”
Tupper’s aunts are more effusive. “One called and said, ‘I’m so proud of you, Jim!’” he recalls. “It’s like a miracle to them.”
His miracle has been three decades in the making. Following his Concordia studies, he obtained a master’s degree in theatre from Rutgers in New Jersey.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, he performed in some 50 plays. He was a member of Circle Repertory Company in New York and featured in several off-Broadway plays such as An Actor Prepares and After the Rain.
Tupper retains fond memories of his student days at Concordia’s theatre program. “I remember every single teacher I had,” he says. “It was a very exciting, terrific program. It was like spending three years in a womb, where we were allowed to grow as artists and as people.”
Given the competitive nature of show business, what allowed him to break out? “For me, it was a little bit of vulnerability, a little bit of technique, a little bit of stamina, a little bit of heart and sticking with it,” he says.
Concordia’s home base also nurtured his creative talent, Tupper says. “I think it’s a really special environment. The pressure is not the same; we have the freedom to explore in Montreal.”
Tupper remains close to his Canadian roots and he keeps a Montreal home. “I try to spend as much time as I can there,” he says.
His children with ex-partner Anne Heche — son Atlas Heche Tupper and stepson Homer Lafoon — are exposed to Canadian culture such as Toronto Raptors games and trips up north.
He maintains a friendship with Canadian actor Sandra Oh, a graduate of Montreal’s National Theatre School of Canada, with whom he acted in Grey’s Anatomy. “Sandra is a great actor,” he says.
“My generation of Canadian actors has done extremely well in America. There’s one of us on almost every single major television show.”
Tupper is happy to connect with fellow thespians when they reach out. “My door is open to any Concordian or Canadian actor who direct messages me on Instagram — I will help them,” he says. “I’m very proud to be a Canadian and I want to help others make it, too.”