I’m With Her

Wendy Crew­son, the award-win­ning ac­tor and pro­ducer, has been praised for her roles in Canada and the United States and hon­oured for her act­ing, her con­tri­bu­tions to the Cana­dian Film In­dus­try and her hu­man­i­tar­i­an­ism. She can be seen in the up­com­ing fe­mal

DINE and Destinations - - COVER STORY -

Adam Wax­man: As with many suc­cess­ful work­ing ac­tors in Canada, you’ve not only had to stew­ard your ca­reer but also the film in­dus­try as a whole.

Wendy Crew­son: Cre­ativ­ity stems from a love of place and a de­sire to com­mu­ni­cate. Mine is here in Canada. When the CRTC re­duced the amount of Cana­dian con­tent broad­cast­ers had to pro­duce, we went from hav­ing 12 one-hour TV dra­mas to hav­ing none. I be­gan my gov­ern­ment lobby ef­forts, and ef­forts to sup­port Cana­dian cul­ture, be­cause our coun­try needs its cul­tural voice. ACTRA had a big part in de­vel­op­ing this aware­ness and call to ac­tion. We were in dan­ger of los­ing ev­ery­thing. Now we’re world class in front of and be­hind the cam­era; we have huge in­fra­struc­ture; we have a sup­port­ive gov­ern­ment that gives us sta­ble tax cred­its that al­lows pro­duc­ers to come to On­tario know­ing they can com­plete their projects here. How­ever, we still have a long way to go in terms of do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion.

AW: What does that mean to you?

WC: What brings us to­gether as a na­tion are our cul­tural in­dus­tries. It’s the fab­ric of who we are. When we look at the sea change in the world to­day, we un­der­stand the im­por­tance of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with each other. It’s im­por­tant to reach out across the lines that could di­vide us and bridge them through our sto­ries. We see our­selves in each other through our sto­ries. It is vi­tal at this time that we have some­thing that joins our val­ues and our ideas of who we are. With­out that, we are sub­ject to any­body else’s val­ues and ideas.

AW: What can we do to safe­guard that?

WC: We have to make sure we vote cul­ture, al­ways. You have to look at the plat­forms of any gov­ern­ment and ask “Who is sup­port­ing Cana­dian cul­ture? Are they ac­tu­ally do­ing some­thing about it?” We have to make sure the gov­ern­ment ap­points some­one to head the CRTC who isn’t just look­ing at how busi­ness might process bet­ter, but how it can pro­tect our cul­ture and our artists. Make sure that’s on the plat­form of your party, and ask your politi­cians “What are you do­ing to sup­port Cana­dian cul­ture?”

AW: At what point in your ca­reer did you feel an evo­lu­tion from per­sonal am­bi­tion to pa­tri­otic artist? WC: Play­ing Sue Ro­driguez [in The Sue Ro­driguez

Story] was trans­for­ma­tional for me. It was the be­gin­ning of my po­lit­i­cal in­volve­ment. I walked into that role not know­ing about ALS. Through her story and the un­der­stand­ing that I came to know, I could speak out and say some­thing. Peo­ple who are go­ing through the ex­pe­ri­ence, not just the pa­tients, but the fam­i­lies, are over­whelmed with the dev­as­ta­tion of that dis­ease. I gained aware­ness and I had a voice. At the same time some­one reached out from Betty’s Run, and asked if I would be a pa­tron of the run, which got me in­volved in ALS Canada. I am al­ways so hon­oured to be in­volved in that.

It was also the first time I played a woman that I re­ally felt was heroic. She had to go up against the Supreme Court of Canada, and with such courage through dev­as­tat­ing cir­cum­stances, to push for­ward her fight for physi­cian-as­sisted sui­cide. That gave me con­fi­dence, and in­spired me to look for roles where there was a strong fe­male voice, be­cause that’s what we need to see. You can’t be what you can’t see. Girls and women need to see them­selves as lead­ers.

AW: Are there more op­por­tu­ni­ties for women in Cana­dian film to­day?

WC: We are at a trans­for­ma­tional mo­ment right now. Fund­ing agen­cies have guide­lines that 50 per­cent of direc­tors and writ­ers have to be women. When you have women in those po­si­tions, it means the parts that women play change. As you change that per­spec­tive be­hind the cam­era, so you see it in front of the cam­era. That has been one of my fo­cuses at ACTRA as well. It takes con­certed ef­fort to turn an in­dus­try around and make it more in­clu­sive, but in Canada we have made tremen­dous steps for­ward.

Dress, Azze­dine Alaïa, The Room, Hud­son's Bay Com­pany, Toronto. 18k yel­low gold and pavé di­a­mond ban­gle and 18k yel­low gold and sap­phire polka dot rings, Mind­ham Fine Jew­ellery, Toronto.

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