Bryn McAuley

MA graduate | Global Governance

What do cartoon characters Caillou, Harriet Turtle from Franklin, Mavis from Hotel Transylvania, and dozens more have in common? They were all brought to life by talented voice actor Bryn McAuley - who is also a master’s graduate in Global Governance at the University of Waterloo.

Bryn McAuley

Bryn’s classmates didn’t realize there was a celebrity among them until they started to wonder why she kept returning to Toronto for work. When they looked her up online, they found her twenty years of acting credits.

How did she manage to juggle her work on three animated series with grad student life? Bryn said it helps that she absolutely loves acting. “It’s such a departure from the academic world, and particularly global governance, which can be depressing. So, acting is just pure silliness and fun because I do cartoons. I think loving both of those things enormously makes it easier to balance.”

Voice acting is much more flexible than on-camera acting, Bryn explained. “In animation, you’re working from an hour to four hours. On camera, you’re working sixteen-hour days.”

Wanting her to have a normal high school experience, Bryn’s mom forbade her from auditioning on-camera. This helped protect her time. And, as Bryn later learned, her mom’s rule also helped spare her daughter from other industry challenges. “The on-camera world is actually very hard on women. My friends were going on crash diets, changing their hair, trying to do anything to make themselves more desirable and I was caught in that trap as well. I took a big hit on my self-esteem and it also took me away from the academic and intellectual side of myself because the industry is inherently superficial.”

Bryn’s animation work is a much better fit. “I make you smile, I’ve done my job,” she said. She loves playing Shirley Squirrley on the television series Top Wing, whose voice is similar to Quills from Numb Chucks. “They’re really goofy, and give me a lot of room to just be wild.”

Which of her characters is most like the real Bryn? “For me, Mavis from Hotel Transylvania was really easy to act – to access. She is bossy. She is ambitious. She has big plans. And she’s a try-hard person.”

These traits that Bryn shares with Mavis serve her well as a student and an advocate. As an undergraduate student, Bryn got involved in the Ryerson Lifeline Syria Challenge, matching Syrian refugee youth with Ryerson students as their mentors. “I got to know about fifteen families really well and it really… was a very life-changing experience.”

Caillou cartoon

Caillou is one of many characters Bryn voiced during her twenty years of acting. 

Aware of her interest in helping refugees, one of Bryn’s professors steered her in the direction of Waterloo’s Global Governance graduate program. It really stood out for her because of the internship component and the fellowship with Global Affairs Canada. Bryn also appreciated the program’s small classes and the personal attention the students get from their program co-ordinator - who, she says, makes them all feel important. In class, “the level of discussion is so high that everyone comes to class prepared.”

Bryn was part of a smaller group of students whose focus is on migration. “I’m particularly interested in the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States and the rise of border-crossers – people who’ve been crossing irregularly.” She plans to take a policy approach, looking at the benefits and consequences of that policy and whether or not Canada should maintain it.

Asked what she would like to be doing five years from now, Bryn doesn’t hesitate in her response. “I think I will be working in activism and advocacy. Either environmental causes or migration causes. Or maybe a combination of both. Who knows?”

While her acting experience has helped strengthen her confidence and fearlessness, one of Bryn’s goals as a graduate student was to be able to express more complex ideas articulately. “And I think it’s helping,” she said.

Bryn’s advice to students thinking about applying to the Global Governance program? “Definitely apply. Work as hard as you can to get your grades up, and work on your writing.”

photo credit: Robin Cimitruk