Stewart back on TV with Francis

Julie Stewart hasn't been on the screen much since her debut as Paula in the cbc miniseries Chasing Rainbows. She's been doing a lot of theater outside Toronto, including Pygmalion at the Globe in Regina and at the Shaw Festival....

Julie Stewart hasn’t been on the screen much since her debut as Paula in the cbc miniseries Chasing Rainbows. She’s been doing a lot of theater outside Toronto, including Pygmalion at the Globe in Regina and at the Shaw Festival.

But neophyte director Jane Thompson has brought her back to the screen, first in the short drama A Letter From Francis, for which she received a 1993 Gemini nomination, and later in the feature film Coming of Age.

After what she describes as an ‘intense’ experience working on Chasing Rainbows, Stewart says she felt more comfortable working in theater.

As a young director, Thompson had a different agenda, says Stewart. ‘She relied on what I had to offer as an actor. Generally, people (directors) don’t want to give actors too much space,’ she says.

In A Letter From Francis, Stewart plays Claire, a nun who lays down her habit for good when the church resists reform. In addition to having a nun and a priest in to talk to the cast, Stewart prepared for the role by reading the Bible, some articles about the Vatican that appeared in the New Yorker and the writings of Ann Copeland, author of Second Spring, the short story from which A Letter From Francis was adapted.

Stewart says she derived most of her inspiration from Copeland’s work. Copeland, herself, was a nun who left the church. Through her research of the character, Stewart says, ‘I was able to forget myself.’ KM