From backup vocals to leading roles
North Toronto grad Rebecca Jenkins on working with Kevin Spacey and Sarah Polley
Rebecca Jenkins, singer and actor best known for her work in Bye Bye Blues and Sarah Polley’s Stories
We Tell, has always been a performer.
“I remember in Grade 6, I would find my friends and ask them to sing backup for fun. Up at the cottage, we’d make up plays — my sister and I were just remembering one we had written called Rob the Bob,” Jenkins says and laughs.
The North Toronto Collegiate Institute graduate never remembers taking drama class in high school, but she recalls singing in front of the whole school a couple of times.
Jenkins says she had a musical childhood.
“We had music around us all the time. We were always singing on camping trips, and my mom sang to us every night with her guitar,” she says.
After completing high school, Jenkins pursued a general arts degree with a minor in modern dance at the University of Waterloo, but after auditioning for
Cabaret and getting the lead, she says the choice was easy.
“I would say the moment onstage in Cabaret when we did our first dress rehearsal was when I fully understood what it meant to inhabit a character,” she says.
“It’s actually quite a shocking and magical moment when you are immersed in a role.”
Jenkins immediately switched her major to drama and left the University of Waterloo for the Vancouver Playhouse Acting School. However, after one year in Vancouver, she decided that program wasn’t right for her either.
From there, her career began to flourish. Jenkins was hired as Canadian singer Jane Siberia’s backup vocalist for four tours and several albums. She also toured with Toronto band the Parachute Club and co-fronted the band, Flying Debris with David Hines.
Around the same time, Jenkins was asked by a casting director to audition for Family Reunion, a CBC comedy, and she got the role as the romantic lead.
“That was the beginning of everything,” Jenkins says.
Her focus then became acting. Her breakout moment occurred when she was cast in Anne Wheeler’s Bye Bye Blues, a 1989 indie film set in the Second World War, as the lead character of Daisy Cooper.
She cites that performance as one of the ones she is proudest of.
Jenkins’s film and TV credits have continued from there, from playing Kevin Spacey’s wife in Darrow to Sarah Polley’s mother
in Stories We Tell, a documentary where Polley investigates the truth about her family history.
Throughout her career, Jenkins says she has always been interested in storytelling.
“You always hope to be, in any way, doing honest and truthful work that moves people or makes them laugh,” Jenkins says.
“That’s what art is for — it helps you through difficult times, and it helps you celebrate the things that are important, and, boy, do we ever need that right now!”
Jenkins has continued to sing, recently on a duet album Ernesto
and Delilah with Kevin Breit. She has also recorded three albums with her husband, Joel Bakan, who plays jazz guitar.
For now, though, aside from a project that is in the beginning stages with Sarah Polley, Jenkins has another skill to add to her resume.
“Starting Aug. 28, I begin acupuncture school,” as she plans to get her acupuncture licence.
Rebecca Jenkins has recorded three albums with her husband Joel Bakan