Wendy Crewson on acting, chatting with Justin Trudeau and why she loves calling Rosedale home
Getty Images/George Pimentel
After 35 years of acting onscreen, Midtown’s Wendy Crewson is still humble when she talks about her career.
“It’s so good to be working!” she says with a laugh. “I mean, what a blessing, I tell ya!”
Crewson has a recurring role as Dr. Dana Kinney on CTV’s supernatural medical drama Saving Hope, which airs its fourth season finale on Feb. 14.
Without giving spoilers, Crewson says it’s safe to say there will be a bit of a cliff-hanger in the two-hour episode. As for the Valentine’s Day show date, “There’s a lot of love in Saving Hope, so there’s bound to be some of that. It’s a really beautiful finale.”
And Crewson does hope that her character, Dr. Dana Kinney, might have romance in store in the future.
“When you get to a certain age other things become important. But I think it would be nice to see her involved with somebody. Because I find that, as I get older, my relationships certainly become more interesting. As you mature, you become more authentic in yourself.”
Crewson adds the show has a large female viewership, and women want to see themselves at all ages and stages. She feels fortunate that showrunner and writer Adam Pettle provides her with heartwarming scripts.
Dr. Kinney is one of several doctor roles Crewson has played, including Dr. Packard, on the series 24, and her first film appearance in The Doctor. Not to mention, Crewson’s grandfather was a doctor.
“I love playing doctors, and I always channel my best friend, who is a doctor in Oakland. She was head of the emergency room at Oakland Children’s Hospital for many years, and of course, it’s the centre of gunshot wounds. She dealt with the most horrific of things in that emergency room,” Crewson says.
In her current role as Dr. Kinney, Crewson finds herself at the fictional Toronto Zion Hope Hospital where much of Saving Hope is filmed.
With the filming based in Toronto, Crewson gets the chance to enjoy more time in her Rosedale three-storey home. Earlier parts of her career involved shoots in Los Angeles and other parts of Canada.
Described as an Edwardian Tudor, Crewson has put a lot of thought into the interior design of her home. Her living room has a Sultanabad carpet, hybrid glass table, Anjou pear-coloured walls and a painting of a nude reclining woman over the fireplace.
“Remarkablely it [the nude] is not [the first point of conversation]. And because the room is so overwhelming with other things, it becomes that detail that people rarely notice until they’re five minutes into the room and suddenly go, ‘Oh! It’s a nude!’ ” she says.
Her children were “horrified” at first by what they thought of as pornography in the living room. They later adjusted, and the nude happens to make its way into the back of family and guest photos and even Christmas cards.
Referred to by the family as the “Grey Gardens” for its constant upkeep, the almost century-old house was built in 1919. Entertaining at home is one of Crewson’s favourite activities.
“The parties here are spectacular, and it has beautiful flow, and I always love having huge groups over. I do a big event for the actors’ union every year,” she says.
Crewson is thankful to be filming in Toronto as it gives her a chance to enjoy her hometown, something she couldn’t do as often in the early part of her career.
When filming many of her feature film appearances (Air Force One, The 6th Day, The Santa Clause), she often found herself on set in various cities across North America.
Now that she’s home in Rosedale, Crewson enjoys walking down the ravine to the Brick Works and up to Mount Pleasant Cemetery, especially in the summer.
“The red-winged blackbirds are all out, and there’s turtles in the pond, and the trees are so beautiful, and all the wildflowers are out. It’s really quite spectacular that we have this jewel in the middle of the city.”
Now in the later part of her career, Crewson’s accolades are starting to add up. Last December, she was honoured with a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame and previously she has won multiple Gemini Awards as well as the ACTRA Award of Excellence.
One of those Geminis was for her leading role in At the End of the Day: The Sue Rodriguez Story in 1998, about a woman with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Crewson continues to be active in the cause. She is involved with Betty’s Run, the largest ALS fundraiser in Canada and attends in Calgary annually (except when working on location).
“It changed my life in so many ways, doing that part. I think for the time that role really led me to a depth that I hadn’t explored before,” she says. “It made me aware of compassion and also the idea that in this position of somebody that might be somewhat recognizable that you also have tremendous power to bring visibility to a cause and what a privilege that is.”
Most recently, Crewson co-hosted a special episode of The Social for Bell Let’s Talk Day, on Jan. 27, to raise awareness of mental health. The episode includes a special conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The discussion with Trudeau touches on his family’s struggle with mental health — his mother Margaret is bipolar — and government policy and funding in this area.
Prior to The Social, Crewson had met Trudeau in Ottawa on Parliament Hill and at film events in Montreal and Toronto. The experience of being on The Social, and his openness, made her feel proud to be Canadian.
“We talked about how important it is to open up the discussion, to remove the stigma around mental health and to make sure that people know that they can reach out and that they can talk to each other,” says Crewson.