What’s next for Canadian film and television star Jennifer Dale?
The Canadian Screen Award nominee dishes on a career that spans five decades, her favourite midtown haunts and her hotly anticipated show, What Would Sal Do?
Image: Getty Images/Ron Bull
Jennifer Dale has been part of the Toronto acting scene since the tender age of nine.
“I’ve been acting since I was a little girl. It was pretty fated. It was something I always knew I wanted to do,” Dale says.
Most recently, Dale has been working on What Would Sal Do?, an original Canadian TV series exclusive to CraveTV subscribers. In it, she plays Maria, a cleaning lady and the mother of Sal (Dylan Taylor, Rogue), an underachieving slacker who discovers he’s the second coming of Christ.
“What Would Sal Do? came to me as a divinely inspired show — once in a while as an actress you read a script that you know has your name on it, and that was definitely what happened with this project,” she says. “I play a completely unique and wholly unexpected character, who is a cleaning woman living in Sudbury — a single woman, middle-aged and still a virgin,” Dale says. “However, she has a 30-year-old son, and she tells him that he’s the second coming. Sal makes it his mission to do good works and gain followers to try to prove to his mother that her faith in him is warranted.”
Dale has been nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for her work on the show, along with guest star Ryan McDonald and writer, creator and executive producer Andrew De Angelis.
“I’m overjoyed to have been nominated for a Canadian Screen Award this year for my work on this show. I’m just absolutely thrilled about that,” Dale says.
With provocative themes, irreverent humour and a stellar cast (including Scott Thompson of The Kids in the Hall as the priest), What Would Sal Do? is sure to make a big impact when it premieres this month.
“I feel very blessed and grateful to have had the opportunity to play Maria, and I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen when people start to see it,” Dale says. “It’s a very unique concept. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen on television. I think we’re going to get some profound reactions one way or the other.”
Her first role was playing Baby June in a production of the musical Gypsy at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1965, the year that Ed Mirvish bought the theatre. To commemorate the place where her career began, Dale’s sister Cynthia (yes, the other Dale) recently bought her a red velvet seat from the theatre. “That was one of the greatest Christmas presents that anyone ever gave me,” she says.
Although Dale lives in Midtown Toronto now, the actress grew up on Markland Wood golf course in Etobicoke.
“We had a beautiful home on the golf course with a beautiful view of a creek. My father played golf on the course and my mother created a magnificent, award-winning garden that was her life’s work and devotion. It was a beautiful place to live,” Dale says.
While Dale was still a budding actress, her mother used to drive her downtown to rehearsals at the Royal York Hotel, which was still the tallest building in the skyline at the time.
“A world away, a lifetime away that was. I remember it well,” she says.
The actress has come a long way since then, playing roles in a wide variety of films and television series like Lost Girl, Saving Hope and Schitt’s Creek — in which she plays a businesswoman who’s renting rooms by the hour at Schitt’s Creek Motel.
“In the episode, I play a madam who is trying to organize rooms to be rented in the afternoons to conduct her business out of, which causes some consternation and difficulty for Eugene Levy’s character, who really doesn’t understand what I’m up to at all,” Dale says.
Aside from acting and writing (she is currently co-writing a piece), Dale enjoys hanging out around the St. Clair and Bathurst area, where she’s lived for almost 30 years.
“I really love the neighbourhood. It’s convenient for me, and it’s really developed over the years. I live very close to all the terrific restaurants and boutiques and food shops, sort of between Christie and Oakwood, and I take advantage of all of it,” Dale says.
Among her favourite local hot spots are Roast butcher, restaurants Pukka and Nodo and sister vintage shops Gypsy and Caravan. The Artscape Wychwood Barns is another of Dale’s most frequented destinations — the actor says the market on Saturdays is a community staple.
“We love to go and buy the wonderful organic produce from the local farmers. It’s such a wonderful sort of community event on Saturday mornings. You run into people you know, and it’s part of the weekend ritual, whatever the weather,” she says.
A cheat sheet to the local actress’s most recent on-screen roles
- What Would Sal Do? In her latest and greatest work, Dale is Maria, a cleaning lady who is mother to Dylan Taylor’s titular character Sal. Expect plenty of laughs from the new show.
- Lost Girl: Look for Dale on the Destiny’s Child episode of this cult show, where she steps into the shoes of The Leviathan.
- Saving Hope: In the fifth and final season of the show, Dale has a recurring guest star role, playing Dr. Alex Reid’s (Erica Durance) mother, Martha Reid, who comes back into Alex’s life.
- Schitt’s Creek: Dale plays a madam in the Rooms by the Hour episode, in which Eugene Levy rents rooms out to this local
- Suits: The actress makes an appearance as Gillian in the Blind-Sided episode of the adored show.
Another one of Dale’s passion projects is her weekly three-hour Italian session at the Italian Cultural Institute on Huron Street, where she brushes up on her language skills to honour her cultural heritage.
“That’s one of my passions because I’m originally of Italian descent. It became very important to me in mid-life to reclaim those roots more tangibly,” she says.
What’s next for this Toronto creative and culture buff? Dale will be acting in a small role in a feature film.
“The film is called Clara and will star Patrick Adams from the TV series Suits. It’s a beautiful love story about an astronomer who falls in love with an alien. The reason that it’s exciting for me is that it’s being produced by my son, Ari Lantos!”
Aside from this project, Dale says she has a few other ventures on the go, including a creative work inspired by a love of tango.
“I’m currently involved in two projects that are in various stages of development. We performers are extremely superstitious, and until something is in front of the cameras, we don’t like to give too much information about them,” she says. “But I will say that one of the projects I’m working on is inspired by a love of tango, and the other project I’ve been working on for many years as a co-writer and, if everything goes to plan, we will be shooting that in the spring.” Plus the actress says she’s always on the lookout for exciting new projects and any roles that tickle her fancy. Auditioning is still a large part of her schedule, and she says she devotes no small amount of effort and attention into the task.
“I live the life of a working actor, which means I’m auditioning all the time. The auditioning process is our work and requires a great deal of time and work and preparation and essentially, love.”
What Would Sal Do? premieres March 24 on CraveTV.