Toronto-born actress Jessica Steen portrays the “genetically enhanced” Dr. Julia Heller. It is a key role in the one-hour drama that focuses on the adventures of a group of survivors after they crash-land on an Earthlike planet 22 light-years away. But before signing on for the show—whose stark landscape is filmed in and around Santa Fe,
N.M.—Steen says that she seldom watched science-fiction entertainment. “I was never a Trekkie,” she says, referring to the fans of the immensely popular Star Trek series. Instead, says Steen, she was drawn to Earth 2 for another reason—its strong environmental message. On the show, the crash surg vivors had originally set out on their | expedition because a mysterious syndrome g was fatally ravaging humans bom or raised u on space stations orbiting a planet that was no longer habitable. “In the future of Earth 2, it is clear that we have blown it on Earth 1,” says Steen. “Then, we get a second chance on a new, pristine planet. I hope we can convey that sense of awe and wonder—and people will begin looking around the environment as if they too were seeing it all for the first time.”
SCANDAL FROM THE PAST
It is a harrowing tale from Canada’s past. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Ideal Maternity Home near Halifax, lorded over by the firebrand midwife Lila Young, made millions of dollars from illegal adoptions—and created a scandal involving child neglect, improper burials and medical malpractice. But in Butterbox Babies, a two-hour movie that airs on Jan. 8 on CBC to TV, Susan Clark portrays Young as a complex and idealistic woman who, 3 as the Sarnia, Ont.-bom actress describes her, slowly turns into a “mon| ster.” That, perhaps paradoxically, is what brought the Los Angeles-based ö Clark back to Canada to star in the movie, produced by Kevin Sullivan 1 of Road to Avonlea fame. In Hollywood, the Lila Young story “would never 2 have been done this way,” says Clark. “In the States, it would all have been 3 about woman as victim—lose a breast, lose an ovary, lose your mind. But this woman,” she adds, “loses her soul. And that’s intangible.”
Writer Karyn Monk says that she has taken chances for most of her life. She has won roles in such big-name musical-theatre productions as Annie, Fiddler on the Roof and Guys and Dolls and held down a high-profile, high-pressure job as director of advertising for Canadian fashion legend Alfred Sung. In 1992, Monk resigned her position with Sung to take yet another chance—writing a historical romance. The result is her first novel, Surrender to a Stranger, which is being published this month. Set during the French Revolution, it follows the adventures of a rogue hero known as the Black Prince. Monk, 33, spent 18 months doing research to make sure the novel’s setting is as historically accurate as possible. Still, the Toronto-based author says that she has encountered plenty of people who think that the historical-romance genre lacks credibility. “They consider it fluff and just discount it without giving you a chance.” Such stem critics, says Monk, should loosen up and give the book a chance. She adds, “It’s not like I have Fabio on the cover or anything.”
WHY UNICORNS NEVER DIE
Singer Will Millar has led the folk group The Irish Rovers for more than 30 years. Bestknown for raunchy drinking songs like Wasn’t That a Party, the Rovers took a gamble in 1968 and released what was for them an unusual song—The Unicorn. Its lilting tune and storybook lyrics appealed to children and adults alike and it quickly became their biggest hit. “It was pretty interesting, including it on an adult album,” says Millar, now 54 and living on Vancouver Island. “And people still remember it. We always get requests for that song.” While Millar still tours each year with the Rovers, who have re-
leased a total of 15 records, he also knows a good thing when he sees it: his solo efforts have centred around children’s projects. His recently released third solo album is called The Keeper and includes such songs as Waltzing with Bears and The Tree Planting Song, as well as a new ballad about the mythical homed horse. Millar says he finds it “delightful” to work on tunes for the under-10 crowd: “There really is something special about working on songs that children will hear—and maybe remember—another 30 years from now.”
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