Smilin’Jack: The Jack Layton Story in production

From a media release:


  • Cameras Rolling on Smilin’ Jack: The Jack Layton Story

Veteran Canadian TV actor Rick Roberts is embarking on the role of a lifetime, playing the part of the political leader who captured the hearts of Canadians in the last federal election.

Roberts is playing Jack Layton in Smilin’ Jack: The Jack Layton Story, a made-for-television movie that began shooting in Winnipeg on August 5th. It’s a role he has enjoyed researching, and also found challenging to prepare for.

“It’s been a pleasure looking into the life of such a multi-faceted man. I’ve had to learn to speak Cantonese and French, and play the guitar. Jack Layton was an incredible athlete, and I like to lie on the couch – so this in itself has been challenging. The most intriguing part has been trying to embody his passion for life, his generosity, and his resolve to follow his vision in spite of overwhelming odds.”

A favourite with audiences for over two decades, Rick Roberts is arguably one of Canada’s most versatile actors. He stars in Michael McGowan’s latest feature Still, and Laurent Cantet’s Foxfire. His performance as Jim Jones was unforgettable in Three Days to Jonestown. Recent work includes guest starring on Saving Hope (CTV/NBC), Copper (BBC America), and Cracked (CBC). He has appeared in The Republic of Doyle (CBC), The Murdoch Mysteries (CTV), Crash & Burn (Showcase), and many other series and movies. He headlined An American in Canada (CBC), LA Doctors (CBS), and Traders (CBC), for which he received a Gemini nomination in 1998.

Joining Roberts is Sook-Yin Lee as Olivia Chow. A successful broadcaster, musician, actress, and filmmaker, Lee is one of Canada’s best-known pop culture icons. Playing the role of Olivia Chow is one that Lee personally connects with.

“I am humbled and honoured to be playing Olivia Chow, in a project that is near and dear to me. Just over a year ago my little sister Deanna was diagnosed with cancer, and I saw firsthand the kind of strength and courage it takes to live with the disease. Jack and Olivia were an amazing team in life, love and politics. They cut through bureaucracy and remained accessible to people. It will be a challenge for me to embody Olivia in all her beautiful complexity. I hope to serve her well.”

Sook-Yin Lee starred in the adventurous sex comedy Shortbus, which premiered at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, and earned her the 2007 Best Supporting Actress award from the International Cinephile Society. Lee wrote, directed and starred in The Brazilian, a chapter in the movie Toronto Stories. The 2009 film Year of the Carnivore is her feature film debut as writer-director. She also co-created its Genie-nominated score and concept album, Original Music From and Inspired by the Movie Year of the Carnivore, with Buck 65 and Adam Litovitz.

Also in the cast are Wendy Crewson (Air Force One) and Erin Karpluk (Being Erica).


Produced by Pier 21 Films and Eagle Vision Inc. in association with CBC Television, Smilin’ Jack: The Jack Layton Story follows the 2011 election campaign that began with Layton on crutches and down in the polls, to leading his party to its largest mandate since the party was formed. The movie also traces the love story between Layton and his wife Olivia Chow, through their years in civic politics and finally onto the national stage.

Smilin’ Jack: The Jack Layton Story is a co-production between Pier 21 Films and Eagle Vision Inc. Entertainment One will distribute the film. The script was written by Andrew Wreggitt (Mayerthorpe, Wrath of Grapes: The Don Cherry Story II), and the movie is directed by Jeff Woolnough (Copper, Wrath of Grapes: The Don Cherry Story II). Executive Producers are Laszlo Barna (Pier 21), Lisa Meeches (Eagle Vision Inc.), and Kyle Irving (Eagle Vision Inc.). Co-producer is Melissa Williamson (Pier 21), with Lesley Oswald as Line Producer.

The movie is being produced in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, with the participation of the Canada Media Fund; Manitoba Film and Music; the assistance of the Government of Manitoba – Manitoba Film & Video Production Tax Credit; the Canadian Film and Video Production Tax Credit; and the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credits.