I’ve spoken to many Canadian actors who augment their incomes—and fill hours between gigs—by waiting tables in a restaurant. Why not? With flexible hours, it makes total sense. But shining shoes? That was a new one for me.
That’s what Juno Rinaldi was doing when she landed the role of Frankie Coyne on Workin’ Moms. The Vancouver native was trying to make connections in Toronto with casting agents—and having zero luck—and was working in the city’s underground mall system when she was hired by Catherine Reitman. With Season 4 of the CBC comedy heading into production for a winter return, we sat down with Rinaldi during the Banff World Media Festival, where she hosted the Rockie Awards International Program Competition.
Catherine Reitman has always had this vision for what the show would be. Did you ever think that you would be beginning Season 4?
Juno Rinaldi: No. Honestly, I feel like the last four years of being on the show has completely changed my life in a way. Before I started the show, I was shoe shining in the PATH, in downtown Toronto …
JR: I was shoe-shining shoes in the PATH [at Penny Loafers Shoe Shine Company] in downtown Toronto, and auditioning. Nobody knew me because I’d come from Vancouver. It was a different transition, so I was trying to make some connections. But none of the casting directors would see me because they didn’t know who I was. I had a body of work but nothing that was super splashy.
Then, getting this job, I had to send in a self-tape and then I got to get in the room with Catherine. Then actually booking the gig really changed everything for me. So then I went back to the PATH a year later and they had a big ad of Frankie and Jenny all just in Union Station. I was walking through those doors with my big mug on it, where I would go to shine shoes.
I speak with to so many actors and actresses, writers, directors that are trying to break in L.A., that are from Toronto, and say, ‘I can’t get a break in L.A.,’ so it’s interesting to speak to somebody from Vancouver that was having a hard time breaking in Toronto. But I have learned over the years how different those thousands of kilometres can be for people when they’re auditioning.
JR: Absolutely, very, very, very different. I think, for me, I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. So, in Vancouver I was so supported. They saw me go through theatre school, and they saw me grow up in the business. I had a very clear idea of who I was and what I could do. Then when I moved to Toronto and nobody knew who I was. So that was kind of a nice, sort of fresh start in a way, just change it up.
Being given this opportunity … I love Frankie. I love the writing. I love everything about it.
Did it strike you from the beginning this is something different?
JR: Yeah. From the first read, when I got the sides. I was like, ‘Oh, shit. This is funny. This is good.’ Yeah. You read a lot of stuff as an actor for all your auditions, that you’re like, ‘Yeah. I could make this work.’ Or you’re like, ‘Geez, this is going to be a tough one,’ or, ‘This is really great,’ or, ‘Oh, shit. I think this is amazing, but I don’t know if I’m the right fit.’ But reading those Frankie sides, I was like, ‘This is like a glove. This fits, for me, like what I wanted my whole thing.’
It’s interesting the way that Frankie has evolved over these seasons. The breakup with Giselle, now with Bianca on the scene. She’s been through so much in this short amount of time. As an actor, obviously, you love it when a storyline is shaken up. You get to play with different people in a different sandbox.
JR: I’ve gotten to play with so many people. Olunike Adeliyi as Giselle, Aviva Mongillo as Juniper, who I love. We have a lot of great chemistry, her and I, and Tennille Read as Bianca. Frankie’s really gotten that option to try and figure out where she fits. It’s all of us, too, trying to find a community or family. When it looks a little different, like after the breakup with Giselle it looked different, so she’s really trying to figure out where she fits. Now she’s got this relationship with Bianca where it has the religious bent on it.
We were talking about this [recently], ‘Would you stay with somebody if you had such fundamentally different beliefs?’ So, that’s kind of the question, I think, for us moving forward. I don’t actually know the answers to what’s happening to Frankie. That would be an interesting thing. Is this something that the two of you can see eye to eye on?’
Season 4 of Workin’ Moms returns in winter 2020 on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.