This article was originally published in 2012
She was the worst auditioner in the world. Or so Jackie Burroughs used to tell her agent, Michael Oscars of Toronto’s Oscar Abrams Zimel & Associates.
Yet this didn’t stop the English-born Canadian actor from leaving a mark on the acting landscape that was unmistakably hers – particularly during her seven-season stint on Road to Avonlea as Hetty King, a role which saw her play aunt to a young Sarah Polley.
“She would get very angry with herself for agreeing to go in and audition for something,” recalls Oscars of the actor who he says, despite her success, was still insecure. “Inevitably, of course, even at her worst she still bested so many others. She was a force of nature. She was so unique and wonderfully gifted that when one saw her do anything, one was taken with her.”
Indeed, beyond Avonlea, the actor would play countless iconic roles in a career that started in 1966, including a Genie-winning turn alongside Richard Farnsworth as Kate Flynn in The Grey Fox, Mother Mucca in More Tales of the City and Further Tales of the City, and the Portia to Hume Cronyn’s Shylock in A Merchant of Venice at Stratford.
Yet to her daughter, Zoe Yanovsky, her turn as Maryse Holder in the film adaptation A Winter Tan was her most memorable work. Burroughs wrote, produced and co-directed and released the film in 1988, as well as brought it to the stage.
“A Winter Tan was very near and dear to her heart,” Yanovsky says, adding,”That was something where she read the book, wrote the script, and performed the monologues live on stage. The process took years.”
She died of cancer in 2010.
Adds Oscars, “Jackie’s. . . talent, her visibility and her great approachability allowed other actresses to think they could make a living in the Canadian industry against terrible odds, and to maybe do so without having to go to the U.S. to succeed. I think that her career impacted the industry in that there really is no one as unique as her for the moment in this country, and because of that, she is greatly missed.”