PREFACE

I’m standing beside a filing cabinet. To my right is the actor Charles Cioffi, and to his right is Ken Camroux, the actor playing the Senior FBI Agent, the part I read for and didn’t get. I got this weird part with no lines. All I do is smoke. On the other side of the desk is a young unknown actress with red hair. We are doing a low budget pilot for an obscure science fiction show about alien abduction, if you can believe it. Well, a gig is a gig. I’m getting paid. Scale, I think.

I’m feeling pretty dumb, just standing there like a statue listening to the red-haired actress talk about someone called “Spooky Mulder.” I look at the cabinet beside me, the top just below my shoulder. I think, ‘If this were really me, would I stand here as if I were part of the scenery?’ which of course I was. ‘What’s to lose,’ I think. So I stretch my elbow across the top of the cabinet, cross my feet, and watch the action from this new position, a praying mantis with a cigarette. An icon was born.

BEFORE

How things were when we are growing up is how they ought to be, now and forever. Southern Ontario in the forties is how life should be. It is an anomaly that the Muskoka Lakes are now full of boats. What’s right is that there should be no more than five boats go by in a whole day, pleasure boats all being up on blocks as a result of rationing. Or that dogs should run loose in the neighbourhood. That milk and bread were delivered by horse. That horse manure on Eglinton Avenue was normal. That movies in the brand new Nortown Theatre with pushback seats cost fourteen cents. That we listened to plays on the radio. That most middle-class families had household help. That there was no television, and certainly no computers, cell phones, internet, terrorists, security. The big ski area in Ontario, now called Blue Mountain, then called Jozo’s, boasted nine rope tows. And the giant ski area in Quebec, Mont Tremblant, had two chairlifts, one of which was broken. The speed limit was forty-two miles per hour and everyone had ration books. And kids walked to school. By themselves.

THE WORST LINE - EVER

An actor’s job is to bring little black marks to life. Unless it is a secret X-Files script, in which case the little marks are in red so they can’t be photocopied. But whatever the colour, the marks represent words written by a dramatist. When the words are beautifully written by a great playwright the words seem to fly unbidden from the actor. It is as if the scene is playing itself and the actor is merely a conduit. But what if the words are bad? What if they lack motivation, relevance, and truth? What does an actor do then?

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