MACLEAN’S HONOR ROLL

Opening the mind

‘You have to learn how to open the doors of imagination — both your audience’s and your own'

ROSEMARY DUNSMORE December 31 1990
MACLEAN’S HONOR ROLL

Opening the mind

‘You have to learn how to open the doors of imagination — both your audience’s and your own'

ROSEMARY DUNSMORE December 31 1990

Opening the mind

‘You have to learn how to open the doors of imagination — both your audience’s and your own'

ROSEMARY DUNSMORE

Returning to Los Angeles from a two-day film shoot in Vancouver three years ago, Rosemary Dunsmore received a dismissive reception at the border. After telling a U.S. customs official that she was an actress, Dunsmore recalls, “the woman took my customs card, peered at me with her beady eyes and scribbled down: ‘One-way ticket. One suitcase. Actress.’ ” The official might as well have summed her up as “just another actress,” Dunsmore added with a smile. But, for Dunsmore, that description of her career defines a profession that means much more than simply entertaining or seeking celebrity. On the stage, in movies, on the television screen or teaching the craft to others, as Dunsmore does, she explains that her purpose in performing even a minor part is to open gates of awareness and to help people live fuller

lives. After 16 years practising her craft, Dunsmore this year pursued her purpose with an audience of almost a million people each week in her title role on the hit CBC TV comedy series MOM P.I. “I have never wanted to be a star,” she says, “just a better and better actress.”

Despite that, the Edmonton-born Dunsmore is a co-star in MOM P.I.—with Stuart Margolin, who plays a private investigator—as Sally, a plucky waitress and single mother of two who moonlights as an amateur sleuth. She has helped make the show a favorite of audiences and critics alike. And she says that, in turn, Sally has revealed the very private Dunsmore to the many fans the actress has won for her work in such productions as the 1983 one-woman play Single and the 1988 CBC TV movie Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel. “Sally’s the closest to me of any character I have ever played—her sense of humor, her sensibility,” says Dunsmore. “I watch my performance and I think, ‘Hey, this is me.’ ”

Like Sally, the actress says that she has often had to wait on tables to pay the bills. “It’s part of the entertainment industry,” she says lightly. Still, Dunsmore has not often had to depend on tips for her livelihood—despite a steadfast refusal to be tied down by the prospect of steady work in any single area of her field. Indeed, after five successful years in the early 1980s in playhouses across the country—including two seasons at Ontario’s Stratford Shakespearean Festival—Dunsmore abruptly exited the stage in 1984, because, she says, “I wanted to develop my craft in other directions.” And in 1986, despite receiving steady work—and critical acclaim—in such productions as CTV’s The Campbells and E.N.G.,Dunsmore moved to Los Angeles,“just to see if I could make it there.” The result: a string of credits in a variety of TV series, as well as roles in such movies as Tu>ins(1988) and last summer’s Total Recall.

Now, dividing her time between the Vancouver set of MOM P.I. and the Toronto home that she shares with her actor husband, Peter Dvorsky, Dunsmore also continues to devote herself to her second love: conducting acting workshops in both cities. “Teaching,” she says, “makes me feel so proud of my craft,” More importantly, it allows her to impart her philosophy of success to a new generation of hopeful actors. “So many kids just want fame and fortune,” says Dunsmore. “What I tell them is that, first, you have to learn how to open the doors of imagination—both your audience’s and your own. Then, if fame never comes—or takes a few years—you will still have been a great actor.”