From the Street to the Screen

After Leaving a Career in Policing, Joel Lacoursiere
Found a New Role for Himself

Story by Matthew St. Amand
Photography by Nigel Dickson

Seated in a Windsor Police cruiser one Sunday morning, completing paperwork, police constable Joel Lacoursiere thought to himself: “There has to be more to life than this.” 

It was 2007, and Joel had been with the Windsor Police for six years. In his mind, he turned over a late-night scene from a few weeks before when he and his partner pursued a B&E suspect into a darkened alley. When the suspect stopped and turned midway up the alley, the constables stopped, wondering if the person was about to pull a weapon. Amid the multi-layered stenches of the alley, Joel detected the odor of gasoline. In the partial glare of a backyard light, the constables saw the suspect appeared to be soaking wet. The figure reached into his pocket. There was a flash of light—the suspect was suddenly engulfed in flames, standing before the constables like a human torch.

Joel’s partner tackled the burning man and they extinguished the flames with their jackets, saving his life. Turned out the man wasn’t breaking into homes. He was mentally ill and suicidal.

That experience and others similar stood shoulder-to-shoulder in Joel’s mind, like a jury presenting a verdict: You need to do something else.

“Within a month of that Sunday morning,” Joel recalls, “I put my house up for sale, resigned from the police force, and moved to Toronto to study stand-up comedy.” 

How did superiors and fellow police officers react to Joel’s new life plan?

“They were supportive,” he says. “It was like a jailbreak mentality: ‘Someone is escaping! If one of us gets out, we all do!” 

Soon, Joel received an audition notification from Humber College, where he applied to the “Comedy: Writing and Performance” program. 

“I auditioned for Joe Flaherty of SCTV fame, and Robin Duke from Saturday Night Live,” Joel explains. “Intimidating, to say the least!”

He passed the audition and was accepted into the program. It was a lesson in “careful what you wish for.”

“Stand-up comedy is all about performing,” Joel continues. “It was fun preparing material, but the two-week run-up to a performance was like presurgery anxiety. No turning back.”

Joel did ten three-minute sets during the program, enduring the ego-bruising aspect of stand-up that few audience members ever experience. 

Humber College also requires its comedy students to attend acting classes. That’s where Joel met acting instructor Lewis Baumander.

“Lewis said to me: ‘You can play a very convincing cop. Why don’t you go down this road?’”

Joel found acting a much better fit than the threshing floor of stand-up comedy.

After an apprentice period working as an extra in large productions, and acting in student films, Joel began landing roles in re-enactments shows, such as Ghostly Encounters, Cold Blood, and F2: Forensic Factor. 

“You have to understand, for me, acting is a hobby and an apprenticeship,” Joel explains. “Being a Canadian actor, I’m lucky to just make it onto the set. I have no illusions about becoming the next Liam Neeson.”

During these first years acting, he worked part-time as a police constable in Orangeville. Following that, Joel became a paralegal specializing in mitigating traffic offenses for trucking companies. 

“That’s my main focus,” he continues. “My business provides me with the means to have a life, and the acting is an enjoyable pastime.”

It’s a pastime that has seen Joel rise through the ranks, into better, more high-profile roles on television and in movies.

By 2012, he had accumulated enough screen credits to become a member of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA)—the Canadian trade union that represents over 25,000 members working in film, television, radio, and all other recorded media.

That year, Joel landed a speaking role in the blockbuster, Suicide Squad, where he portrayed “Cop At Rail Terminal.” 

“I was getting better at the audition process,” Joel says. “Suicide Squad was a cattle call. I showed up wearing a cop uniform and stood in the hall with a hundred other actors wearing police uniforms. We all auditioned for the director, David Ayers. I was called back three times before getting the role.” 

This was followed by speaking roles in TV shows, such as Warehouse 13, Urban Legends, and Nikita.  

Billboard advertising Shaw Media near Toronto’s Pearson Airport, 2010. Photo courtesy the Joel Lacoursiere Collection.

The roles kept coming, even as the COVID-19 global pandemic hit. During that time, Joel underwent more COVID testing than anyone outside the medical field and became a master of auditioning via Zoom, the video conferencing tool. 

Among his most recent projects, Joel completed filming the ABC Signature TV miniseries Five Days at Memorial, a drama about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The story centers in a hospital with no electricity and dwindling resources, filled with desperate patients, and exhausted caregivers. 

“I play a Search Team Leader,” Joel says. “My parts were filmed in a giant water tank in a parking lot somewhere in Hamilton. Lots of CGI will be added!” 

Joel also had a speaking role in the dystopian TV show The Handmaid’s Tale, where he had extensive interaction with the show’s star, Elizabeth Moss, and veteran actor, Bradley Whitfield. 

“They were both very gracious,” Joel recalls. “They came over and introduced themselves to me and thanked me for being part of the production. Later on, Brad asked me to run lines with him, which was pretty cool.” 

Joel’s most recent role is Kiley Guard in the Star Trek prequel TV series Strange New Worlds. “I was heavily disguised in prosthetics as the guard,” he says. “That involved my head being encased in hot latex for forty-five minutes, having a Life Cast mold made.”

In this role, Joel has lines with the actors playing Spock and the Captain. 

The ride has been enjoyable, once-in-a-lifetime experience, but Joel keeps things in perspective: “I have my day job, which I appreciate, and consider acting to be an exciting hobby. I’ll stick with it because I enjoy it. I may try acting full-time once I retire.” 

For more information about Joel Lacoursiere and his full acting resume, check out his page on the Internet Movie Database. 

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