Yvonne Lewis Langlois
Actress Erika Rosenbaum knows what she wants and has known from a very young age. “I told my mom that I wanted to perform when I was eight,” she recalls. “I think my line was something ridiculous like, ‘I want to be famous’,” she laughs.
On a damp evening in mid-November, she is seated at her kitchen table with her children gathered around. There is 11-year-old Jack Molloy Legault, 9-year-old Harriette Rosenbaum Legault, Matilda Rosenbaum Legault, who is 6, and Beatrice Rosenbaum Legault, who is almost 3. Husband and father, Matt Legault, is busy at the stove cooking supper.
To the casual observer, this could be any young family settling in on a school night; but, if one listens to the conversation, it becomes clear that all are professional performers. The three older children have appeared in movies, TV, and they do cartoon and voice dubbing. 11-year-old Jack appears in the Christmas hit, Home Sweet Home Alone. Matilda has appeared in musicals and a Netflix series, and Harriette was “on set” before she was born – Rosenbaum was expecting when she appeared in Smurfs 2, and the director decided to work “the belly” into the film and make her character pregnant. There is a lot of talent in the room, and it can be felt.
Rosenbaum was born in Ormstown and she attended Ormstown Elementary School (OES) and Chateauguay Valley Regional High School (CVR). “OES always had a strong arts program,” she says. “Mrs. Lawrence had a music program early on, and there was always a choir. Madame Schinck used to do a big dance program as well.” Neva Shelton’s dance school also gave her the chance to be on stage. “I sort of lucked out, being in a small town and having the opportunity to be on stage, sing, and dance,” she says.
Her father also is a lover of the arts. “We had Andrew Lloyd Webber playing in the kitchen when we did the dishes,” recalls Rosenbaum, who goes on to say that her parents were good sports to support her dream early on, when it could easily have been taken for a passing whim.
As much as her parents wanted to support her in her passion, they were unsure how; however, they made calls, found her a modelling agent, and she began to attend auditions, mostly for modelling. “I remember when I was about 9, I guess, when I had my first jobs, and I went to Desjardins Caisse Populaire with my parents and we talked about money, and they opened an account for me to start putting money away,” she says. Her parents took her to auditions for catalogue jobs and promotional campaigns. When she was older, they would put her on the Montreal bus to be met by her grandfather in the city.
Rosenbaum remembers with a smile: “So, my 80-year-old grandfather would be sitting in the waiting room with all the ‘stage moms’. He was a gruff old Jewish man who had a soft spot for his grandchildren. It was just a lovely way to cement our relationship.”
Confidence on stage
When she became a young teen, her gigs evolved, and sometimes included invitations to travel abroad. “That’s where we pumped the brakes,” she says, as that road would have taken her away from normal teenage life with its high school dances and school productions. Her parents stopped taking auditions for her. Rosenbaum concedes, “A foundation of proper training was probably going to serve me better. Those opportunities to leave came at the same time as opportunities to perform onstage here. I would have missed that.”
At CVR, she met teacher Lynn Harper, whose musical theatre program offered many acting opportunities. She continued to dance, saying that, in dance, “You put your heart out there without saying a word. That’s where my confidence on stage comes from.”
After high school she found an acting agent. “I knew exactly what I wanted,” she says. She turned down an invitation to attend the Meisner School in New York City due to costs; instead, she attended Concordia University in Montreal, where she got a degree in sociology. At the same time, she traveled to Los Angeles for jobs. “I wanted to have a family. I wanted to perform, but I wanted to have a life.” She adds, “I wanted to have it all.”
Somewhere in the middle of all this, Rosenbaum became reacquainted with the cousin of a good friend – Legault. “We met again after many years and clicked right away. We’ve been married for 12 years.” As she reflects on her choices, she says, “I might have had different opportunities in my thirties if I hadn’t had babies, but this is what I wanted. We just made it work.”
Kids on set
“The kids came to set before they were working on set,” says Rosenbaum. Then, her agent would offer roles up for the children. “We take it one opportunity at time and base it on their enthusiasm.” But, like her parents, she has pulled back on some roles that were offered to her children. When one came up that would require Matilda to go to Mexico for eight months to imprint with a baby jaguar, they turned it down.
Rosenbaum also notes that the actors’ union is very disciplined, shutting down filming when hours go into overtime. “‘Pumpkin hours’ are the limited hours that children can be on set (the children ‘turn into pumpkins’ when the go on overtime). They are professionals, but they are also children and therefore treated as such.”
After several years of searching for a country property, the family found a place in the Valley and moved during the first lockdown. Auditions can be done online, while work is often in Montreal. Living in the Valley has served Rosenbaum well. She says, “Everything I want to do, I can do here.”