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
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.