Transcript of the interview with actress

Cynthia Belliveau
Star of the new CBC series
The interview aired on Monday, December 2, 1996 at 7pm eastern.
Conducted by Peter Anthony Holder,
the evening talk show host on
CJAD 800 AM, Montreal

CJAD: Cynthia, this is a departure for, because I think a lot of people will remember you for the many years you were on ENG as that, dare I say, bitchy Terry Morgan.

CYNTHIA: (laughter) Are you allowed to say that on the radio?

CJAD: Well, I think I just did!

CYNTHIA: (laughter) I've said worse on TV as Terry Morgan.

CJAD: So this is a bit of a departure for you.

CYNTHIA: Yes, it is, yes.

CJAD: Is this role closer to you then Terry was? I hope so.

CYNTHIA: Well, the think the thing about Terry was, was she was so much of a career animal. That was her life. Playing Honey Bailey is playing more of a well rounded woman. You know, she's a mother and a career woman. She loses a husband. There are so many more aspects of her life that you get to see that you really didn't with Terry.

CJAD: ENG was such a great show and it was on for five years and you had a good run on that program. If this were the United States, things would have happened for you after that show.


CJAD: But things really didn't did they?

CYNTHIA: Things are so different here, they really are. One of the things that was really driven home was, first of all, finishing the show and then going to an audition and sitting there with Sonja Smits and Cynthia Dale and all these people who had their own series were all sitting there together auditioning for something. It's like, oh God, it's sort of back to square one. But I remember when SIDE EFFECTS happened after STREET LEGAL ended the same time ENG did. SIDE EFFECTS was their next show. One of the actors from STREET LEGAL was cast in SIDE EFFECTS, Albert Schultz. And I remember actors saying how unfair that was. You know, they should be giving other people a chance. It's as if the attitude is, "you've had your shot, now get out, there's somebody else." There's not that momentum here in this country. It's kind of frustrating.

CJAD: So time moves along and it comes around to where you're auditioning for this role of Honey Bailey. How did that come about?

CYNTHIA: You know, it was just one of those auditions that I never thought a second about afterwards. I felt there was no way I that I would be case in this role. I felt that I was too typecast in the more glamorous kinds of roles. I didn't think people would see me this way. I knew I had done a good audition. It wasn't bad. It was just to convince people. But I don't think it did happen. And it didn't seem to take a lot of convincing. It's pulling out of me more my own roots and who I am. Who I really am, so I feel more connected to the role.

CJAD: So there's the uphill battle, I guess, of tackling a role or going for an audition that you don't necessarily think you would be suited for or typecast for. Now you have the role and you kind of have to replace AVONLEA.

CYNTHIA: Yeah, I don't really think of it so much. It's not like I feel I have to live up to something. I don't feel that so much. I hope that we can sort of stand on our own feet, you know, as something different then that, although, I think there is a lot of pressure to be like AVONLEA because it was so successful. If you saw the show last night, (premiere episode aired Sunday December 1st), it's very heavy. I mean, some awful things happen to Honey Bailey in those first episodes and its kind of a bit dark. We've had to really sort of....they're much lighter as we go along. I think people were wanting more of what AVONLEA was.

CJAD: Is there more weight on your shoulders as opposed to other things you've done like ENG, because you're the central character?


CJAD: I mean, you look this week and you're the cover of TV TIMES and TV GUIDE.

CYNTHIA: I was a nervous wreck this weekend, I really was. And I hadn't felt that way about anything else before. It does feel much more personal then anything else I've done and I guess that sense of carrying it know, it's such a scary thing to be reviewed in the public eye. (laughter), I can't tell you!

CJAD: Did you sit and watch the show last night?

CYNTHIA: I did. I had some very close friends over and we kind of watched it together. I had to keep leaving the room, (laughter)

CJAD: I didn't manage to catch the first hour, but I caught the second hour. It certainly has that stamp. We've had Kevin Sullivan on the program before. It certainly has the stamp of the type of work that his company is capable of turning out, and therefore it should have a very successful run. Are you prepared to do this character for several years to come.

CYNTHIA: That's so foreign to an actor. To think of anything long term. It's hard to know what I'm going to do tomorrow, (laughter). It's hard to look ahead. I just take it one day at a time.

CJAD: Now I have it on good authority. I was talking to a friend of a friend of a friend. Isn't that ominous? In between shows when you were not to busy, you worked on your house. Is that correct?


CJAD: And you did everything yourself.

CYNTHIA: Yes, I just cannot stop. I'm a creative person 24-hours a day. Not just when the cameras role. I have to be constantly expressing myself creatively. I particularly like interior design and art and those kinds of things. But man, I think if you are a creative person, even when you serve your dinner, the way you put it on your plate....I live my life passionately like that. I love beauty.

CJAD: So you did all kinds of things like carpentry and...

CYNTHIA: Yes, I knocked down load-bearing walls and stuck up support beams. I knocked down almost all the walls in the house and opened it right up. Made a larger bathroom. That's where I live, in the bathroom. In the bathtub most of the time, (laughter). I have a sauna in there. The kitchen...the main of floor sort of revolves around a kitchen, which I think is also one of the hearts of the home. The kitchen and the bathtub! (laughter).

CJAD: Now, is it true that you have a suspended table?

CYNTHIA: Oh, I have a.....boy! You're like Brian Linehan here. You've done your research! (laughter). I have old barn doors that are suspended from the ceiling and I have dishes and things like that from them. And you can actually get up there and swing on them if you wanted to as well.

CJAD: Was this something you did because you had a knowledge of this beforehand or did you learn as you went along?

CYNTHIA: I kind of learned as I went along. I wish someone had had a camera because I was standing there with a sledgehammer and this book. It was called BREAKING UP ISN'T HARD TO DO, (laughter). It's about breaking down walls. So I had that in one hand and the sledgehammer, and I was breaking down those walls, reading the how-to at the same time. My Father is a carpenter, and my Grandfather. They come from a long line of them.

CJAD: Oh, so it's in the genes.

CYNTHIA: And so I just assumed that I could do it.

CJAD: It's in the genes then.

CYNTHIA: It's in the genes.

CJAD: Getting back to the show. Again the new series that you're on is WIND AT MY BACK, which premiered last night on the CBC. I was reading somewhere that these stories are....I mean obviously you didn't live through the Depression, but you went to your Grandmother's....

CYNTHIA: Yes, both of my Grandmothers. They both said that it was really the story....when I told them the plot, they said it was the story of their lives. And I can't tell you, since it aired last night, the number of people who have called me and they all have a story that is similar to that. Somewhere, either in their background, either it happened to them or their parents. It was so common for children to be separated from their mothers, or brothers and sisters to be separated. They didn't have insurance. They didn't have things like that and you lost a husband, a woman had to go to work, and what was she going to do with her small children. That was such a common thing. It's so horrible from today's standards. And then with my one Grandmother, I was just leaving her house and she said, "what's the name of it?" and I said, "It's called WIND AT MY BACK." And I said, "you know that saying. 'May the road always rise to meet your feet'." And she pointed to the door and there was this placque beside her door with that saying on it. I had goosebumps running up my back. It just all felt very right. It has actually made me closer to my Grandparents through talking to them about their stories. You know, and then I am actually kind of living through what they went through, by playing that.

CJAD: In playing the role of Honey Bailey, you get to play a Mom and people always talk about the dangers of working with child actors.

CYNTHIA: Oh I know! (laughter) I was joking about that on set the other day, because I also have a daughter in the show who is just two and I'm carrying her around a lot. She steals scenes left, right and center. There was this scene with myself and Shirley Douglas where we're kind of reconciling this tough relationship that we have.....

CJAD: And Shirley Douglas plays your Mother-in-law, right?

CYNTHIA: That's right, my Mother-in-law who's a bit stern and takes the children away. She doesn't think I'm capable of looking after them. And finally we're having a bit of a reconciliation and I'm holding the little baby, Violet, in my arms, and she reaches over with her little tiny hand and put it on Shirley's shoulder and just rests it there and looks at her. And she just stole the scene. It was so beautiful! It was so perfect! Oh, God, that's true. Never work with children. (laughter). There's nothing you could possibly do.

CJAD: And your shooting schedule, I understand, is really kind of gruelling, isn't it?

CYNTHIA: Yeah, what you're seeing right now is the first season. We shot all of that on location and so added on to an already long day, which is usually fourteen to sixteen hour days, would be travel time. Anywhere from two to three hours a day travelling. So it was unbelievably gruelling last year. But this year they've built the entire town at the studio. They've got a backlot with all the exteriors and then the interiors in the studio, so we've saved that travel time, which has made this year quite a lot easier.

CJAD: So how many episodes make up the first season?

CYNTHIA: Thirteen.

CJAD: And you're already shooting the next season?

CYNTHIA: We only have two more to go in the next season. Ask me what happens, I won't tell you! (laughter)

CJAD: No, I won't ask. How many in the next season?

CYNTHIA: We've just done thirteen each for the first two season, so we're just finishing the second thirteen. Isn't that bizarre that we just aired and I'm almost done the second season.

CJAD: One of the things that always interesting about Sullivan shows is that they do very well overseas. Do you anticipate that not only your recognition factor will increase in Canada but also abroad?

CYNTHIA: Sure, I hope so. Yeah, it's true. ROAD TO AVONLEA, I think it was a hundred and....oh I don't know how many countries. It was over a hundred countries it sold, so yeah, that is something to look forward to.

CJAD: When people see you on the street, is there reaction mostly from the role you did in ENG? And how do they treat you from that? How do you think that will change?

CYNTHIA: Well people used to come up to me after ENG and talk to me about it and they would always say, "oh my God, you're not like her at all, you're actually nice." (laughter). I think people really do start to believe you are that character. And I think that's one of the reasons why I wanted to do this series, because this is so different from that. I think people start to think that you know, that's it's very easy. You're just playing yourself and that just isn't the case at all.

CJAD: When you first got into acting was this the direction you thought your career would take or did you have other plans or other things you wanted to do.

CYNTHIA: You know what, I not one of these people who grew up wanting to be an actor. I wanted to be a journalist, kind of like you.

CJAD: So with Terry Morgan you did both.

CYNTHIA: Yeah, that's right. That's one of the beautiful things about acting. When you can't decide what it is you want to do, you can be an actor, because you can be everything. I can try out being this and that. Actors are always scared of commitments I guess, and you don't have to commit to one particular profession. You can try everything.

CJAD: So how did you get sidetracked from journalism into acting?

CYNTHIA: I tell you, when that bug hits you, it is really powerful. When I was in university, I was working on a degree in English and philosophy and I started to take some acting classes just for fun, and started to perform in theatre there at school and it just hit me. It hit me hard. I know that's what I wanted to do. I think there is something too about acting that you can never, ever be finished. You can't ever be the best you can be. There's always more. And that really appealed to me.

CJAD: Well it certainly is an interesting profession and you've managed to luck out now with two very good roles, and as you say you're into your second season. Is there something you'd really like to do besides these two characters you've done that we know so well...or we certainly will know so well in a little while.

CYNTHIA: You know what I'd love to do now. I'd love to do a romantic comedy. Comedy was really what I started out doing. That's really my forte and it just so happens that the things I'm most known for are the furthest thing from comedy. But I'd love to get back to that.

CJAD: Well I bet your Grandmothers are very proud now.

CYNTHIA: Yes, both my Grandmother and my Grandfather on my Father's side, when they watched last night, they were crying through all of it. That was pretty neat. It's a pretty neat profession, you know, to be able to affect people. And as I say, to have people calling and bringing up their experiences and making them think about it and making them talk about things that happened to them. I think that's just an amazing thing. I feel really grateful to be part of that.

CJAD: Do you think there is a parallel, because let's face it, the economy isn't great. No, we're not quite in the situation where we were with the Depression.....

CYNTHIA: Oh, but some people are not really too far off from that. I don't know. Kevin Sullivan has some kind of innate timing sense or something, but there are so many single women with children trying to make it in the world. Trying to keep their families together. Trying to feed them. I just thought that this was something that people could relate to today. So much more so then some of the other shows that are on TV right now.

CJAD: In the first two episodes Honey Bailey has so much grit and determination to get her kids back and also to find a job in an era where there were no jobs. That kind of grit and determination. Is that part of the same make up of Cynthia Belliveau?

CYNTHIA: Yeah, that is. And that kind of work ethic. I had jobs from the time I was eight or nine years old. I always had a least a couple of jobs going. I had that kind of....I ethic, you could call it. I believe in working hard. I don't have stars in my eyes. Sometimes I think of determination or ambition as dirty words somehow, but....I don't know. I think whatever you do, you try to do the very best that you can at it. Whatever the outcome of it is, you know what I mean?

CJAD: Well it certainly is come good work and I'm sure the show will last a long time and probably be as successful, if not more than it's predecessor. Knock on wood.

CYNTHIA: Knock on wood! Okay, I'm knocking here too!

CJAD: And I thank you, Cynthia, for talking with us. Continued success.

CYNTHIA: Oh it was a delight. I appreciate talking to you.

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