The Gleaner
Arts & Life

Ormstown performer scores ‘perfect role’ on iconic TV show

Callan Forrester

Proud Valley viewers were thrilled to heartily applaud “one of our own” on television recently. Sarah Booth grew up in the region and has gone on to make a career for herself as an actor in both Canada and the United States. Not long ago, she starred in an episode of the popular Canadian TV show, Heartland.

Booth came to Ormstown with her family when she was four years old. She attended Ormstown Elementary School and Chateauguay Valley Regional High School (CVR). When she was partway through high school, CVR resurrected its Performing Arts department, which offered opportunities to pursue music, acting, and dance.

Before this program was reintroduced, Booth didn’t know she had such a passion for performance. As a child, she knew she enjoyed it based on her time doing ballet at Neva Shelton’s dance school but didn’t suspect that it would become her career. But when she was cast in CVR’s production of Fame, she says she immediately fell “hook line and sinker” for the stage – and she knew she had to make this something she could do for the rest of her life.

After her time at CVR, Booth attended Dawson College’s Pro-fessional Theatre program in Montreal. When she graduated, she booked a role on a French soap opera which she worked on for a few years before moving to Toronto. Though a move to Toronto is a common step for many Montreal actors, Booth had trouble booking work while she was there. “You have to start your career over!” she exclaims. Eventually Booth and her husband, Gavin Michael Booth (who is a film writer, director and producer), decided to make the big move to Los Angeles where they lived for six years.

 

Actor Sarah Booth got to use skills she started developing as a child for her role in a recent episode of CBC’s Heartland. PHOTO Courtesy of Sarah Booth

 

Earlier this year, Booth won a role on an episode of the newest season of the long-running Canadian TV serial Heartland. She describes the show as “iconic” and says she has auditioned for it many times over the years. This time, however, something felt different from the other auditions. “I saw the breakdown of this role: French Canadian, rides horses, does liberty work. I grew up doing dressage, so I had a good handle on all that stuff.” It seemed like the perfect part for Booth: “I thought, if there’s one, this is the one that I would really love to book.”

The only person who was possibly more excited about this gig was her mother, Annie Hansen, a superfan of both horses and Heartland. Booth feels as if her mom was training her for this role her whole life; she has been involved with horses for as long as she can remember because of Hansen’s love of horses. “I started riding before I could walk, I was at a horse show every weekend; growing up I had a pony in my yard,” she says. On the set of Heartland, Booth says she had an absolute blast and got to use many of her skills.

Filming the show during the pandemic came with a whole set of challenges. Everyone was tested every 48 hours and was always required to wear a mask on set. Many sanitation measures were in place to ensure everyone’s safety, since a positive COVID test meant a two-week shutdown. Booth admits that at first it was “a little overwhelming. But once you get into the habits of ‘masks off’ right before you shoot, ‘masks on’ right after, it just kind of becomes another layer to the day.” She says the whole crew made everyone involved feel safe.

Working in Canadian television has become exciting in recent years; Booth credits shows like Kim’s Convenience and Schitt’s Creek for this positive shift. “I think there are a lot of young voices being hired in the writers’ room [who] represent our generation and what’s going on in our country right now,” she says. Canadian TV appears to be developing its own voice and branching out into a new, fresh era.

Booth is currently involved in the filming of a TV series in Montreal, which is based on the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novel series by Louise Penny (which contains a whopping 17 books).

To any students who are interested in pursuing a career in TV or film, she says, “If you’re curious about something, go for it!” She emphasizes the importance of creating one’s own work and opportunities as she and her husband have done (and continue to do). Especially when you’re young, she says, that’s the best way to get your name “out there.”

Booth’s episode of Heartland can be viewed online on CBC Gem.

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