Jill Hennessy’s performance at the Rivoli today will bring back a lot of memories.
Twenty years ago, the popular Canadian actress, best known for her work in Law and Order and Crossing Jordan, used to earn her keep by standing outside the Toronto club, strumming a guitar and singing for spare change.
At the time, Hennessy hadn’t really thought of acting. An audition for the Broadway musical, The Buddy Holly Story, would eventually get her to New York and an enviable career as an actress.
Back then, her life centred around music and just getting the rent paid. During the past few years —- freed from the distractions of a hit TV show —- Hennessy has been able to refocus her talents on music. The result is her debut album, Ghost in my Head.
Hennessy, 41, laughs when reminded of her busking career back in the early ’90s: “Outside the Rivoli was where I used to play guitar for money. It will be such a luxury to actually play inside for money for the very first time.”
Hennessy was born in Edmonton, but was raised in several different cities in Canada as her family followed her salesman father from job to job — Calgary, then White Rock and Cranbrook in B.C., Burlington, Kitchener and Waterloo in Ontario. At the age of 18, she found herself living by herself in downtown Toronto and took to the streets.
Through the influence of her parents’ record collection, Hennessy’s musical tastes were formed listening to the songs of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot. Her new album follows that ‘70s singer-songwriter tradition.
“They’re songs that a lot of people can relate to,” Hennessy says in an interview with Metro.
“These are the images that have been haunting me for a very long time so I did find them necessary to put down.”
Canadian double threats
Besides Jill Hennessy, there have been several other Canadian crossover actors/musicians. Here are some other the noteable ones:
The Jagged Little Pill singer from Ottawa had the honour of playing God in Kevin Smith’s Dogma and is a regular on Weeds.
The lead singer of the ’90s rock band the Headstones is now the star of Flashpoint and Durham County.
One of the hottest music stars in the world got his start playing Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi: The Next Generation.
The Winnipeg WWE star has recorded five CDs as singer for metal band Fozzy.
The Great Big Sea singer played Allan A’Dayle in Russell Crowe’s recent Robin Hood.
Avril Lavigne The punk princess of pop supplied the voice of Penny the Possum in Beyond the Hedge. Her possum dad was fellow Canadian, William Shatner.
In 1968, Capt. Kirk released the LP The Transformed Man with ridiculous spoken word versions of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man.