“I’ve become a real nomad as far as travel goes,” says Torrance Coombs, the star of Reign, CW’s historical drama that chronicles the rise of Mary, Queen of Scots. “I like to roam; I don’t even know where home is anymore. I just go where the next adventure takes me.”
Thanks to the show, which has just been renewed by the network for a second season, Coombs’ recent adventures have taken him to Toronto, which stands in for 16th century France. According to Coombs, it works out well. “We shot the pilot and some exteriors on the west coast of Ireland, but our primary location is a studio about 15 minutes from downtown Toronto,” he says. “We also have a couple of farms we shoot on and some large forests with cliffs and lakes.”
And despite the frosty Canadian weather—“I’m from Canada, but the west coast where it’s warmer; I feel like I’m earning my Canadian badge by surviving winters here”—the actor has the pleasure of spending most of his time outdoors.
“My character’s the one to take off as soon as things get too stuffy or boring. As an actor, that’s fun for me because I don’t have to stand around and listen to people talk; I get to run off into the woods to ride horses and play with swords,” he says. “The trouble is that I’m always freezing.”
Still, even Coombs, who lives downtown and cites the Queen West neighborhood as one of his favorites, has to admit Toronto does a fine job of standing in for France 500 years back. Most of the time.
“We’ve shot a couple of times downtown—we shot in a church right by Eaton Centre Mall and a little bit at the university—but the traffic noise tends to ruin the sound,” he says. “The anachronisms are funny because everyone’s in period costume, even the hundreds of extras, but we’ll all be standing around with our iPhones out or drinking from a Starbucks cup. I’m used to it, though. I go in and out of the past every day, so it’s easy now.”