-Words Lauren Kramer Photography Lia Crowe
At 38, Vancouverite Chelsea Hobbs is already an accomplished film and television actress whose credits include HBO’s Transporter, CSI: Miami, Lords of Dogtown and Make It Or Break It.
Chelsea, also a mother of four, is a talented actress who loves her work. But she also loves the fact that she’s not a Hollywood superstar. It means she can walk around Vancouver with her family without attracting much attention, and live the normal, grounded life she wants.
As a child Chelsea loved dressing up and putting on shows for family and friends. When she was eight, a family friend watched one of her performances and suggested she try acting.
“My parents had just divorced, and my mom thought acting would be a great distraction for me,” Chelsea recalls.
Over the next few years, she acted in over 100 commercials, among them advertisements for Barbie dolls and Sky Dancers toys.
The commercials helped pay for the lessons in jazz, tap, ballet, musical theatre and lyrical dance that Hobbs loved more than anything. At Vancouver’s Magee Secondary School she enrolled in a young artists program that allowed her to leave school at noon and dance for the rest of the day.
“It was competitive, and it held me accountable and kept me out of trouble,” she recalls.
However, scoliosis—a curvature of the spine—put an abrupt end to Chelsea’s dream of becoming a dancer, so instead, she began to focus on acting. By Grade 10 she was attending an actors’ studio program in Gastown, and interacting with other actors who were in their 20s. Her first leading role occurred at 16, when she starred alongside Bridget Fonda (niece of the renowned Jane Fonda) in Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen.
“I turned 17 on that set and it was a real coming of age experience for me,” she says. “I was filming alongside adults, working 12-hour days, travelling and shouldering the responsibility of carrying a miniseries. When you take something like that on, you grow!”
You also miss a lot of school work. Snow Queen took Hobbs out of the classroom for three months. Eventually, she homeschooled for the rest of high school, graduated and moved to Los Angeles.
It was 2003 and Chelsea’s agents and managers adopted the young, promising star, inviting her to stay in their homes. They drove her to her auditions and cared for her as if she were a family member.
“There are really good people in LA, and I was blessed,” she reflects. “There was a love between me and my agents early on. They believed in me and wanted to do everything they could to support my career.”
One of them, Jennifer Millar of Paradigm Talent Agency, remains Chelsea’s agent to this day.
Soon after moving to LA, Chelsea booked her first television role in a Fox pilot called Save the Last Dance. One role followed another and success came quickly and easily over the 11 years she lived in LA. Eventually she moved out of her agents’ homes and into an apartment in Hollywood.
Life as an actress in LA exposed Chelsea to all the social evils that ruin the lives of many Hollywood stars, she says. But luckily, she did not fall victim to any of them.
“My mom always scared me about the dangers of using drugs and it was really important to me that I not disappoint her or let her down,” she says. “At one point I dabbled in things, but I very quickly understood that it was not for me, and that the people who were around me at that time weren’t right for me either.”
At 20 she married and had her first child, a milestone that gave Chelsea new insight into her work.
“It gave me a new passion for my career, and I really began to appreciate everything more,” she says.
One of the roles she landed was the lead in the television show Make It Or Break It.
“As an actress that’s a role you dream about getting,” she confides. “The successes I had after becoming a mother have been the best of my career.”
When Chelsea was expecting her second child, she realized she was homesick for Canada and her family.
“LA can be a very isolating place, and I’d been raising my kids with no family around me at all, which can be very lonely,” she recalls.
With family support she was able to leave an unhealthy marriage and return to Canada to raise her family in North Vancouver.
“I loved being back in Vancouver, discovering myself as a woman on my own and raising my kids in a safe, beautiful place. It gave me a feeling of control over my life. And as an actress I liked being a bigger fish in a smaller pond.”
Chelsea knew she’d make less money in Vancouver than if she had stayed in LA, but money and stardom were not her motivation.
“I truly love living a normal life and being able to walk down the street without being hassled. Being back in Vancouver I could take a deep breath, do what I loved to do and have a family and the lifestyle I dreamed of.”
Acting remains a big part of her life, and she’s loving the roles she gets to play.
“I’ve developed a really beautiful relationship with Hallmark and am loving what this network has become as their material and storytelling changes. It’s been awesome to be a part of that,” she says.
Recently Chelsea starred in The Holiday Sitter, a gay romantic comedy where she played the sister of the lead character. In her most recent movie, Dream Moms, she plays a single mom who wanted to be a Broadway dancer but put aside her dreams in the name of motherhood.
“It’s a beautiful story about finding your passion again, and something I can really relate to,” she says.
Chelsea is remarried now and has a bustling family life, with children spanning ages one through 17. When she’s not working, she’s a full-time mom. When work calls, with its rigorous 15-hour-long days on set, it can be a major challenge to find a nanny who can fill in.
“But you just figure it out,” she says.
Chelsea is also learning how to use her voice to propel causes that are near and dear to her heart. After her last pregnancy, and a premature delivery that resulted in a two-month hospital stay, she became more interested in women’s health. She joined the BC branch of the Young Women’s Council and is also working with a Canadian fertility group.
“I’ve realized I can use social media to bring awareness to causes I’m really passionate about. And to have my kids see me do things that can help others makes me feel really good as a mom.”
For the next 10 years Chelsea hopes to continue acting, and to sell two series she has written.
“Being the person who decides what’s on the camera really appeals to me, so I want to work towards that,” she says. “But I also want to be the most present mother I can be to my children.”
When she’s not on set or packing lunches for the kids, Chelsea’s favourite thing to do is slip into her hiking boots and take to one of the many trails near her home in Deep Cove.
“I hike to a mountain top and look down at this beautiful place we get to live in,” she says. “That’s my meditation, my religion and my peace.”