Friday 10 March 2017

Dog River Denizens - Janet Wright

(Emma Leroy)

Janet Wright was a highly thought of veteran of stage and screen. Her roles were varied and she featured in many classic productions opposite some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry. She can be seen in McCabe and Mrs Miller with Warren Beatty and The Perfect Storm with George Clooney. However, it is in her role as Emma Leroy in Corner Gas that she won our hearts and for which she will be remembered by so many around the world.

Janet Wright was born March 8th 1945 in Farnborough in the county of Hampshire, England. Her family immigrated to Calgary, Alberta in Canada when she was just one year old. They eventually moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where Janet grew up with her sisters Anne and Susan and brother John.

All four siblings entered into the theatrical profession. Janet was a main stay of the theatrical circuit both performing and directing in almost every major theatre company in Canada. She took lead roles in many of the country's top venues including the Arts Club Theatre, The Neptune Theatre and Vancouver Playhouse. She created many memorable performances in diverse roles. Particularly notable was when she performed with both her sisters in the play "Les Belles Soeurs" at the Stratford Festival in Ontario. The three sisters gained marvelous reviews for their performances in what was considered the best production of the years season.

“Janet was an artist on an uncompromising search for the truth in all its unvarnished beauty,” said Stratford Festival Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “She was a profoundly talented actress, director and ‎champion for the importance of the arts. I will never forget her passion and forever be inspired by her commitment to our work.” 

Janet had such a range that she was able to play a diverse selection of characters. In the following interview Janet discusses her preference of role and her career. 

Janet won great praise during her career for her insightful and masterful direction, including the Stratford Festival productions of Juno and the Paycock and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
She also directed versions of several important productions such as Glengarry Glen Ross, Mabel Leaves Forever and Dancing at Lughnasa for various theatrical companies. 

Janet also directed many productions for Persephone Theatre Productions, a company that she co-founded with her sister Susan and director Brian Richmond in 1974. They chose the name Persephone after the goddess of fertility and the fruitful earth as tribute to it's home in Saskatoon and as a metaphor for a company that is capable of artistic growth and change.

Even with such a great body of work behind her Janet did not consider herself famous and did not seek fame or recognition. It was when she took the part of Emma in Corner Gas that she suddenly found herself being recognized in the street and having people laud her work on the show. 

Janet knew that the show was special and was pleased to be working so closely with her old friend Eric Peterson. Eric played Oscar Leroy, Emma's husband, soul mate and constant pain in her neck. There on screen chemistry is undeniable and a highlight of every episode. The bond between the characters was easy to place on screen as the two actors had been friends since meeting in Saskatchewan when Eric was 18 years old.

Emma and Oscar often come across as Mother and Son rather than Husband and Wife. Emma is often the voice of reason that is needed to put Oscar in his place when he is being overly willful towards his latest scheme or project. Oscar will get all riled up about something as crazy as butterflies and Emma will tell him, in no uncertain terms, he is being a doofus. It is an odd on screen relationship, but the one shared by the actors, two long time friends behind the scenes that really helps make it believable. In fact the relationship between cast members and the bond that seemed to grow between them all over the course of six season really shines through. Janet often mentioned in interviews how the group developed a closeness that only helped enhance their performances. This is very much evidenced. Janet's portrayal and delivery of Emma's snappy brand of wit and her interactions with other characters are often the highlight of an episode

Quite often Corner Gas cast members often find themselves working with each other on other projects. Filmed in the middle of the Corner Gas run on air, Janet was cast opposite Gabrielle Miller and Fred Ewanuick in "Love and Other Dilemmas". A comedy of errors, the story follows Ginger Shapiro (Gabrielle) who, despite being eight months pregnant, has been robbed and kidnapped, is determined to get to her wedding. She even has her Grandmother's curse to deal with!

Janet sadly passed away 14th November 2016. She will be forever ingrained into the hearts of every Corner Gas fan. Over six seasons and a movie she made us howl with laughter. An indelible record of the talent of such a versatile and wonderful actress.

For a full list of Janet's T.V. and film appearances click the picture below. 


Janet Wright 1945 - 2016