Illustration by Brett Lamb/Torontoist.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
An essential quality of any hero is fearlessness. And that’s a damn good way to describe Toronto actress Tracy Wright—in her life, in her work, and in her death.
When news spread that Wright had succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of fifty this past June, she was instantly remembered for her biggest contributions to the theatre and film industries, including her work as one-third of the team behind the groundbreaking theatre group the Augusta Company (with Daniel Brooks and eventual husband Don McKellar), her original roles in Judith Thompson’s Lion in the Streets and Daniel MacIvor’s A Beautiful View, and films like Bruce McDonald’s TIFF rock drama Trigger.
We could go on.
People who knew her held her as a theatre and film demigod. As heartwarming as it is to see another workaholic lawyer/TV producer/CEO get inspired by another free-spirited hippie/poorly behaved dog/kid with jam all over his or her face, sometimes we just want to watch an ex-revolutionary hit middle-age (Monkey Warfare), an art curator mistakenly begin an online relationship with an eight-year-old (You and Me and Everyone We Know), or an off-the-wall conspiracy-theorist get kidnapped by cats (check out this clip of Twitch City, starting at 5:44). To many more, Wright was that adulteress in Kids in the Hall, or the Box Office Woman in McDonald’s (also) recent This Movie is Broken.
Wright, in other words, made a career off the odd, fringe, edgy people we don’t necessarily want to meet everyday but very well could (save for the renegade felines). With her wit and brutal passion for acting, Wright could have become a household name, sure, but as McKellar told the Globe, “I felt she had the career she wanted, in a way. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything that had a whiff of sellout to it.”
Wright carried that same unwavering integrity with her even at her most ill. We urge you to watch her performance in Trigger again, knowing that she was so sick the producers had to fund the shoots personally to finish in time. Or listen to her friends and family at her memorial describing a woman who put her loved ones before her own comfort. Or read this heartbreaking account of her final days by McKellar, who had only been married to Wright for six months when she died.
From her work ethic, right down to her so-uncool-it’s-cool “proto-hipster” style, Wright was the kind of actress we want them all to be: proudly local yet endearingly universal, approachable yet deep, tirelessly dedicated to her art yet a friend first and foremost, and always fearlessly herself. May many take her lead in 2011.