Honouring outstanding performances this past year among ACTRA members, the 2017 edition of the ACTRA Awards (now in its 15th year) were held at The Carlu tonight in Toronto. The organization contains 22,000+ members and it negotiates contracts on behalf of its cultural workers. Its jurisdiction ranges from independent film production, commercials, radio and television drama, telephony, video games and web-based content. ACTRA ensures members have protected minimum wage standards and working conditions. Several of Canada’s most notable names in entertainment are a part of the organization.
It was a who’s-who of Canadian talent at the affair including man of the hour, Murdoch Mysteries’ Yannick Bisson who received the 2017 ACTRA Award of Excellence. Just last year he received the coveted Fan Choice Award at the Canadian Screen Awards, as a testament to his lasting popularity with over 60 credits over 35 years on his resume. He imparts a bit of wisdom to his peers, reminding them “There are literally hundreds of people on set at any given time to make actors look good. Be gracious, always.”.
The Cast of Kim’s Convenience were awarded the first-ever Series Ensemble Award, based on member votes. Its star Jean Yoon, who was fashionably-late to the Gala, won Outstanding Performance – Female and made an impactful statement in her speech. “I’m really proud to be working on a show about immigrants in a time of nationalist intolerance”, says Yoon. The Cast dedicated their award to all immigrant families, stating “You are here. You are welcome. And you are loved.”.
Aurora Browne, Carolyn Taylor and Jennifer Whalen of the Baroness Von Sketch troupe played hosting duties at the gala and in attendance were this year’s nominees: Grace Lynn Kung (The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger), Tatiana Maslany (Two Lovers and a Bear), Kari Matchett (Maudi), Jean Yoon (Kim’s Convenience), Joey Klein (We’re Still Together), Simu Liu (Blood and Water), Eric Osborne (Degrassi: Next Class) and Gord Rand (Orphan Black). Other notables present included: Kristian Bruun, Tantoo Cardinal, Wendy Crewson, Shawn Doyle, Kevin Hanchard, Art Hindle, Amanda Joy, Eric Peterson, Leah Pinsent, Julian Richings, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Kate Trotter.
Awards presented this evening (winners in bold blue), including the brand new Ensemble Award (members’ choice):
Nominees for Outstanding Performance – Voice
Lilly Bartlam (Dot) Dot., “Bring the Thunder” (Industrial Brothers) Linda Kash (Gina Falcone) Fugget About It, “Vagina’s Got Talent” (9 Story Media Group)
Pat Kelly and Peter Oldring (Various) This is That, Episode 406 (CBC)
Bryn McAuley (Suzi) Camp Lakebottom, “Ice Queen” (9 Story Media Group)
Scott McCord (Rudolph Mintenberg) Atomic Puppet, “AP vs Disastro II” (Mercury Filmworks)
Nominees for Outstanding Performance – Female
Brenda Bazinet (Judge Susan Reeves) Shoot the Messenger, “Careful What You Pray For” (Hungry Eyes Film & Television)
Grace Lynn Kung (Pam Naardlinger) The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger (Cinéman Films)
Tatiana Maslany (Lucy) Two Lovers and a Bear (Max Films Productions)
Kari Matchett (Sandra) Maudie (Small Shack Productions Inc., Painted House Films, Parallel Films) Jean Yoon (Umma) Kim’s Convenience, “Gay Discount” (Thunderbird Films)
Nominees for Outstanding Performance – Male
Simu Liu (Paul Xie) Blood and Water, Episode 1.8 (Breakthrough Entertainment) Joey Klein (Bobby) We’re Still Together (Achromatic Media)
Eric Osborne (Miles Hollingsworth) Degrassi: Next Class, “#YesMeansYes” (DHX Media)
Gord Rand (Det. Duko) Orphan Black, “The Redesign of Natural Objects” (Temple Street Productions)
Paul Soles (Joe) My 90-Year-Old Roommate (LoCo Motion Pictures)
Nominees for Series Ensemble Award
Baroness Von Sketch Show Kim’s Convenience
See some Snaps from the evening:
The Cast and Crew of ORPHAN BLACK, Nominees
Tatiana Maslany, Nominee
Yannick Bisson, 2017 ACTRA Award of Excellence Recipient
The Red Carpet was rolled out at Isabel Bader Theatre earlier this week. In-town were multiple Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain, Director John Madden and Canadian stars including Al Mukadam, Grace Lynn Kung and Raoul Bhaneja from upcoming Political Drama MISS SLOANE. The ensemble presented the Film together for the first time ever at its Toronto Premiere, hot on the heels of it being award second runner-up for the Audience Award at the Whistler Film Festival. The likes of acclaimed Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin also were spotted in the audience and we hear a much in-the-news Meghan Markle also was to attend. Made in Toronto here earlier this year, the Film centers on ambitious lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain) as she goes up against her most powerful opponent yet in the name of gun control. Her credibility goes under great scrutiny and she just might lose everything she has worked so hard to build.
Our David Baldwin and Siobhán Rich attended the Red Carpet for a chat with the Cast and Director on their experience making what will be known as one of the most thought-provoking Films to hit theatres this year.
JESSICA CHASTAIN (plays Elizabeth Sloane)
We ask Chastain, beautiful in a burgudy Givenchy gown, about her attraction to roles which balance a no-nonsense sensibility and a bit of vulnerability.
“I like playing characters which challenge the status quo. Elizabeth Sloane does just that. She is an over-prepared perfectionist, who is very flawed and still we root for her. How many times have we seen George Clooney play characters like this?”.
With recent changes on the political front in the United States, we ask Chastain what she wants Miss Sloane‘s audience to take away from the Film.
“There are so many issues in world today including the issue of Wage Gap. We used to think of it as ‘Why aren’t men paying us fairly?’. Research however has shown it is more that women don’t ask for more. Men are outgoing and for some reason women just aren’t doing the same.”. She adds, “I hope women can see from this that a woman can be ambitious, over-prepared and that it’s okay. Elizabeth is not a ‘B-word’, she is just successful.”.
This certainly wasn’t Chastain‘s first time in the City, having made four Films here. She currently is in-town filming Aaron Sorkin‘s directorial debut, a high-stakes Poker Drama, MOLLY’S GAME. We ask her about her love affair with Toronto.
“I just saw today a video from the Mayor of Toronto declaring me an honourary Torontonian!”, she rejoices. “I love Toronto crews. They are wonderful people who are wonderful at their jobs.”
JOHN MADDEN (Director)
Having worked together on 2010’s THE DEBT, MISS SLOANE reunites Director John Madden (THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE) and Chastain together once again. We ask Madden about the experience collaborating together once again.
“We have been trying to do it for almost ten years! I have watched Jessica‘s career unfold as I always imagined it would. She would send me scripts she was interested in and often I just wasn’t around. There has to be an exact alignment and when I read this script, I wrote back to her immediately. I told her ‘This is the one!'”.
We ask Madden about how MISS SLOANE might be perceived after the recent U.S. election.
“I don’t feel any different about the Film. I am startled by the reflections it’s throwing off. Gun Regulation is a very divisive and passionately-fought issue and I would stress this Film not about this issue. It more is a vehicle about political process and also the issue of Gender Politics.”. Madden says “Film collides with time, and environment defines and shapes an audience’s reaction in a different way.”. “We float free of exact circumstance here, Miss Sloane is a work of imagination, a fantasy. If a Film is going to be interesting, it should be contentious and I hope people go out talking about it and are engaged by it.”.
AL MUKADAM (plays Ross)
We ask the Canadian actor about what drew him most to MISS SLOANE.
“The script was a perfect document, it was an incredibly-smart page-turner. By the end of it, I asked ‘What kind of Movie is this?’. It felt like a Thriller I had to get to the end of.”.
RAOUL BHANEJA (plays R.M. Dutton)
We ask the veteran actor about his experience working with his A-List Co-Stars like John Lithgow, Sam Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg, in addition to Chastain.
“I have to pinch myself every time. I also enjoyed working with the Toronto actors too! It’s amazing when you get to watch these actors you admire up-close. I’ve been doing this 20 years. You can still learn.”.
We ask Bhaneja what drew him most to MISS SLOANE.
“After reading the script, I hoped so bad to be in it. It is outstanding first page to end.”. On working with Madden, he says “John gave us a lot of opportunities to do something on-screen. I love his Film MRS. BROWN. He is an incredible director and a leader and he believe it or not, used to teach acting at Yale. The way he sees the world made a lot of sense to me. You could say he is an Actor’s Director.”.
GRACE LYNN KUNG (plays Lauren)
We ask the Canadian actress seen recently on CBC Series InSecurity, stunning in Narces, how she prepared for her role in the highly-buzzed project.
“Lots of research. Being Canadian, I digged a lot into the American political system, the senate and the art of lobbying. It’s actually very ‘cloak and dagger’. People don’t realize that’s how things get done in Washington.”. On the auditioning process, Kung reveals “We didn’t get a full script, as it was kept under-wraps. We got a breakdown of the characters and actually all read the same set of sides. We weren’t sure which role we were reading for.”.
Kung has nothing but the highest praise for Chastain and her artistry. “Jessica picks roles with a meticulous eye. I would always watch her and ask ‘What is she doing? How is she doing it? What can I learn from it?’. She was there every day driving dialogue on every single page.”.
On Madden, she confesses, “I will work on anything John wants. My first audition he was there conducting. There is a beautiful chemistry among the cast and this comes from John‘s piecing together of everything.”.