Sarah Canning was born in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, the daughter of Wayne and Daphne Canning, and was raised in Sherwood Park, near Edmonton, Alberta. She competed as a figure skater in her childhood and early adolescent years, and became interested in theatre as a student at F.R. Haythorne Junior High. Canning starred in several stage productions while attending Bev Facey Community High School, and acted in shows at her hometown stage at Festival Place.
Canning made her professional acting debut in George Orwell's "1984" at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton at the age of 18. She began studying general arts at the University of Alberta, and considered going into journalism. Still interested in performing, Canning left university and moved to Vancouver at 19, to pursue a career in acting. She graduated from a year-long acting program at the Vancouver Film School.
Canning found an agent and began acting in television series and in TV films produced in Vancouver. She worked in a restaurant and would take time off to film. Her first role was playing Nicky Hilton in "Paparazzi Princess: The Paris Hilton Story" in 2008. In 2009, she guest-starred on "Smallville" and "Kyle XY," and starred in the based-on-real-events TV movie "Taken in Broad Daylight" as Anne Sluti, a 17-year-old girl who is abducted by a demented criminal (James Van Der Beek).
Canning filmed a television pilot for The CW series "The Vampire Diaries." She then starred in the feature film "Black Field," directed by Danishka Esterhazy, a gothic 19th Century period piece. Canning shot the drama in May 2009 near Tyndall, Manitoba, Canada for close to 20 days. She played Maggie McGregor, the older of two Scottish sisters struggling take make their way on the Canadian Prairies. The film premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2009. Three weeks after filming "Black Field," Canning got the news that "The Vampire Diaries" had been picked up as a television series.
Canning co-starred on "The Vampire Diaries" as Jenna Sommers, the aunt and guardian of Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and her younger brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen). Canning was the same age, or younger, than her fellow cast members who played high school students. Makeup artists and the wardrobe team worked to make her look older than she usually did. Canning also downplayed her Canadian accent for the role. Her character's love interest, Alaric, was played by Matthew Davis.
Canning appeared on the second season of "The Vampire Diaries." Her character was killed in the episode, "The Sun Also Rises." As of 2011, Canning was working on a short film noir, and shooting a Lifetime Network film in Vancouver, "Hunt for the I-5 Killer." She is also interested in writing and directing. As of September 2010, Canning was co-writing a love story set in the Western time period. She signed on to play the lead in the Canadian horror film, "Blitzed."
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