A VERY COOL ODD SQUAD

September 19, 2017

 

  Comedy is a delicate thing. Celebrated Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean is famous for saying “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” The obvious humorous point is that comedy seems light but it takes immense work to make it look that natural. There’s a bit of truth to the assumption that you either have it or you don’t when it comes to comedy but even for those who “have it” it takes rehearsal to master the timing necessary. This fact makes actress Jaeda LeBlanc’s performance in “Odd Squad” even more impressive due to her young age. J.J. Johnson directed her in “Odd Squad” and states, “Jadea is a natural great actress. This is of course evident by watching any of her performances. I had seen her prior dramatic work and was impressed but this ability didn’t mean she would be right for Agent Oriele in the show. Jaeda has a talent for comedy and I say this because it's difficult to find adults or kids who understand how to be funny in a comedy. Her timing is excellent.  She knows just how long to pause for effect and when to deliver her line for the biggest laugh. The ability to use comedy as a tool is the same as being agile in sports or quick at math; some people are just naturally more inclined to be good at it…and Jaeda is definitely one of those people.”

  While Ms. LeBlanc has been vetted as a serious actress in a number of dramatic TV and films roles in productions such as: Saving Hope, Real Detective, and the upcoming The Death and Life of John F. Donovan (starring Kit Harington, Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, and others), this in no way confirms her abilities as a comedic actress. A dramatically (no pun intended) different side of Jadea’s abilities and talent is exhibited in the PBS distributed “Odd Squad.” True to form for PBS, the show provides humorous entertainment to a youth demographic with a serving of education added. Odd Squad is a comedy kid show that teaches kids to resolve problems by using math. The show follows agents Otto and Olive, who work for a government agency run by kids. The agents are given cases by their “bossy” boss Ms. O and they have to solve the problems by using math. The agents use a tube system to travel to the locations where they have to solve problems. Sometimes they have to investigate weird and strange things that might seems hard to solve but the agents always find a solution. LeBlanc’s portrayal of Agent Oriele exhibits a manner of speaking in sweet tones but with a hint of doubt that causes the audience to wonder if her intentions are duplicitous. In one episode, Oriele is determining which team she will send to Cloud Town to deliver a crystal orb to Unicorns. The story sees her taking measurements and using a pan balance to compare and balance weight, a method for the show to educate while still engaging its viewers. Any actor will tell you that this requires a great deal of skill to not become overly obvious with intent and Jaeda handles it perfectly.

  Switching from drama to comedy is akin to a musician performing a Bach concerto and then playing a rock & roll gig afterward. It can take a lifetime to develop and master either skill but some individuals have an inherent ability to absorb and expound on the styles they perceive. When it comes to LeBlanc’s acting sensibilities, she concedes that there is a certain amount of genetic predisposition in her skill. She relates, “I think it comes from my parents. My mom and dad always try to make funny jokes when they meet someone new, just to break the ice. I often do the same thing, because it works. People tend to be more relaxed and comfortable around you when you are not afraid to joke or make light of yourself. I remember my dad picking me up from first grade and making funny faces and acting like a clown when he would pick me up. All my friends would laugh with me and the next day they were all waiting by the window with me, anxious to see what my dad would do. I guess it became really natural to me to be funny because I associate it to my dad. It’s a sign of affection and communication to me.”

 

  Revealing her awareness and understanding of the subtleties possible in comedy, Jadea adds, “I discovered that my style of humor is a mix of silly and lighthearted, and I also learned how to execute different types such as shameless, quirky, and sarcastic humor. All these different styles make people laugh but it depends on how your character is written and what comedic attributes you want to give it. It helped me realized that it’s okay to show shame and embarrassment when it comes to comedy because people need to feel and see that your character is believable, otherwise they won’t laugh. It’s very important to stay still so people can focus on the joke, because it’s all about rhythm, timing, and pace. In comedy it’s important to keep with the script.” This last statement is perhaps the most revealing in terms of Ms. LeBlanc’s maturity concerning comedy and a reason for her success with it. Her respect for the comedy writer and the shaping of the structure of the lines to achieve the desired outcome proves that she is cognizant of the trust in this relationship, a benevolent skill for any actor.

  Comedy is no joke. “Odd Squad” boasts a plethora of awards as proof. The program won 4 Daytime Emmy’s and was nominated for more. Accolades from the Canadian Screen Awards, Leo Awards, and the Television Critics Association add to the recognition and attention this show has received with only three years of production so far. Jaeda is ecstatic about the program’s success with both critics and the public. In recent years, television has become the choice of many exceptional actors as more varied types of roles are afforded them. For LeBlanc, whether it’s acting beside Academy Award winners in a dramatic film or beside other young actors in a comedy television production, these are all simply a way of her doing what she loves most and is so exceptional at doing. 

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