At the beginning of 2008, I switched critical beats at the Toronto Star with movie critic Geoff Pevere. Pevere took over the Books Columnist role and I became, along with Peter Howell, one of the two movie critics at the Star. It seemed to me an interesting challenge after 18 years of reviewing books.
In March of 2008, however, the Toronto Star made an across the board offer to its employees of a voluntary separation payment (VSP) for those who wished to leave at the end of June, 2008. For me, in effect, this was an offer of early retirement, which I decided to take in order to pursue other interests, chiefly writing books. I accepted the offer with mixed feelings - one of which was certainly gratitude to the Star for all the years in which I worked for that newspaper in the capacity as books columnist.
In January of 2010 I was present in Vancouver, along with fellow jury members Andreas Schroeder and Vicki Gabereau, at the presentation of the British Columbia National Achievement Award for Canadian Non-Fiction — Canada’s largest non-fiction prize — to journalist Ian Brown for his book, The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Search for His Disabled Son.
In January of 2011, I was again present in Vancouver, this time in my capacity as Chair of the jury for the British Columbia National Achievement Award for Canadian Non-fiction. My fellow jurors were Alma Lee and Noah Richler. We presented the award to John Vaillant for his book, The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival.
This stint as literary juror has not been my only contact with the book world. Since the fall of 2008 I have been writing a column entitled "Open Book” for the National Post. It consists mostly of reviews and appears every Saturday. I have found the experience of writing the column to be rewarding in many respects, and I am thankful to my past and present editors at the Post, including Sarah Murdoch, Mark Medley, Benjamin Errett and Emily Keeler, for helping to make it possible.
In 2009 I began a new career as actor, joining the AAB Talent Agency headed by the frequently sardonic and always incisive Warren Beatty. He is no relation to the Hollywood actor.
It is not a good time to be a television or movie actor in Toronto. The American film productions that have found their way to Toronto in recent years have been deterred by the strong Canadian dollar. Still many "re-cons" — a.k.a. docu-dramas, or reconstructions of dramatic, true life events, often of a criminal nature — are being produced in Toronto. A major requisite for actors in these productions is that they bear a strong physical resemblance to some true life individual involved.
Acting ability is also a help.
The following are some of the roles I have played in the last couple years.
In the episode entitled "The Ivy League Murders," part of a series entitled Cold Blood, I played German-born Professor Half Zantop, a Dartmouth professor who was stabbed to death by two psychopathic students. As well as portraying the aimiable and trusting professor prior to his demise, I was called upon to emit blood-curdling screams and to imitate a corpse, lying for hours on a carpet, my face smeared with corn syrup and food colouring. I gave it my all.
For "Stay at Home Ghosts," another true life episode in the series Ghostly Encounters, I played a wraith named Wilber. He was, or is, a benign character as far these ectoplasmic beings go, and I enjoyed bringing him back to our dimension. In the episode, a little girl named Penny moves with her family into the house inhabited, or haunted, by my character. The episode synopsis reads, "The ghost of a former resident protects Penny in times of trouble."In my first movie role, I played a grizzled prospector named Felix Hernandez in a film entitled Fire Watch, produced by Cinegraphe, a Quebec company. The story is based on a true incident of a fire watcher in British Columbia who disappeared and has never been found. The locale was switched to Quebec, but the outlines of the story remain the same.
I also appeared in a mildly controversial public service message in aid of cancer research entitled, "Save the Boobs!" There is no need to go into the details of my role.
I played Sir Christopher Cockerell, inventor of the hovercraft, for an episode in the series Inventions That Shook the World.
I also played an irate customer in a corporate training video for Canadian Tire. Among other scenarios, I found myself standing in line as the clerk spent endless amounts of time chatting with the customer in front of me. In very convincing fashion, I groaned, rolled my eyes, looked at my watch, etc. It was not a stretch.
In an episode entitled "Murder in Paradise" for the series Dual Suspects II, I played John Ireland, the father of a rape and murder victim in Hawaii. His experience with the crime and the police investigation lead him to become an influential victims' advocate.
In 2011 I played a mad dentist in the shoot of an episode of "Murdoch Mysteries" entitled "The Invention Convention." The episode has since been aired a number of times in the popular series.
I also played the judge in an episode of the series "Dead Guy Walking" entitled "Stalked by a Cop." In the accompanying photo, courtesy of Robert Nolan, the man on my left is Brian Carleton, a fellow cast member who plays a defense attorney.
In an episode entitled "Nightmare on Chestnut Street," in the series "Paranormal Witness" I played a deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church, whose aid is being sought in the fight against some nasty supernatural beings haunting a house.
Any television or movie producer who sees this Web site and thinks I might be a good possibility for his or her new project, by all means call Warren at AAB Talent Management (416-594-0222). He will be happy to take your call.