Lynda Boyd speaks her truth
Lynda Boyd has played some truly dynamic characters in her career – Rose from Republic of Doyle and roadhouse owner Randy on Tin Star chief among them – but no character in her filmography is as dynamic as the actress herself.
Take her origin story, which sounds like it was dreamed up in a television writers’ room: the youngest of eight kids who grew up singing and dancing, who went to theatre school (Studio 58 in Vancouver) and promptly quit because “these teachers are making you find things that make you cry and angry and I thought, ‘Oh, I thought we were supposed to act all this crap; I didn’t know we were actually going to feel it’” – and who joined a band and ended up in Tokyo, where she sang jingles and modeled and worked in a Roppongi bar called Maggie’s Revenge (owned by an Australian woman named Maggie) and who was set to sing back-up on a reunion tour with 1960s band The Jaguars when she popped home for a visit and broke her ankle playing basketball in Oppenheimer Park – and who decided in the wake of that ankle break that acting was the way to go after all.
Then there are Boyd’s passions, all of which stem from watershed moments in her life: mental health awareness (“I think everyone needs to be in therapy, and I think the more we talk about it, the better”); music; the nephew she adopted 25 years ago after her sister Heather died from AIDS.
There’s also her candor: about her age (“On the internet, it says I’m 53, but I’m actually 57; I wrote to IMDB and I said, ‘My birth date is 1961 and I know this for a fact because I am Lynda Boyd, so can you please change my birth date?’ They won’t do it, so I said ‘Fuck it’”); about plastic surgery (“I had a facelift when I was 42. I’ve had a ton of plastic surgery”); about her belief in the power of intention and the law of attraction.
Boyd has poured her passion and her candor into her performances. She’s wracked up dozens of credits since her first big on-screen gig (playing a woman who is propositioned by a mutant killer with fire-controlling abilities in an early episode of The X-Files). Besides the aforementioned Republic of Doyle and Tin Star, Boyd’s lengthy, genre-hopping filmography includes roles in Sanctuary, Arrow, The Age of Adaline, Supernatural, The L Word, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, and a Hallmark movie where she played Meghan Markle’s mother – as well as the upcoming feature film Love and Oatmeal (about a 20-something writer (Ben Platt) who's forced to temporarily take in his wildly unpredictable, mentally ill sister; Boyd plays their mother).
This week, Boyd will take to the stage for the first time in 14 years, in a production of Daniel McIvor’s Marion Bridge at the Kay Meek Centre. The play follows three sisters – a struggling actress, a nun, and a sister who never left home – who gather in the kitchen of their mother’s Cape Breton home as the matriarch is dying.
“No family is perfect; there’s always dysfunction, ” says Boyd. “Us coming together to deal with the fact that our mother is dying is the catalyst for a lot of past hurt being brought to the surface and hopefully resolved somehow.” Boyd will share the stage with Nicola Cavendish and Beatrice Zeilinger; Marion Bridge will be Cavendish's last play before retirement.
(Boyd’s first time on stage occurred when she was five-years-old and performed in a dance recital at the Vancouver Playhouse. She returned to that same stage last November to perform a satirical version of “Despacito” – entitled “Desperate Egos” – at the UBCP/ACTRA Awards. Says Boyd: “That stage was where I started my career, and it was pretty cool being on that stage after 50 years. Everything backstage is all the same as when I was a child”).
Boyd bonded with Cavendish on a Hallmark film in 2015. “Her character had this bakery, and it was a Christmas movie, but it’s August out in Abbotsford and it’s 37 degrees, so I have to come in from outside and brush fake snow off my coat and my hat and I’m having a hot flash underneath there because I’m going through menopause,” she chuckles. “We commiserated together.”
It was on that Hallmark set that the idea for this month’s production of Marion Bridge took root. “I said, ‘Nicola, I want to do a play,’ and she said, ‘Well, let’s do one together,’ and I just about died when she said that,” laughs Boyd.
Boyd portrays Agnes, a Toronto-based actress whose life was derailed when she was forced to give up a baby as a teen.
Boyd understands the complicated emotions swirling around teen pregnancy and adoption better than most.
“When I was in grade 10, they were introducing a more advanced sexual education curriculum into BC high schools, and my best friend’s mother phoned my mother and asked, ‘Are you going to let Lynda partake?’ And my mom was like, ‘Well, I’d rather they teach her than me having to talk about this stuff,’” recalls Boyd. “And my friend wasn’t allowed to go to the class, and she ended up getting pregnant a couple months later. They shipped her off, not to a convent, but out of town, so that the neighbours wouldn’t know that she was having a baby at 15.”
That friend was able to keep her baby and now has a 41-year-old daughter, adds Boyd – unlike her character in Marion Bridge, who “got to hold the baby for five minutes, and then they took her away, and that’s to me why my life has gone off the rails.”
Boyd has changed her tune about therapy since quitting Studio 58 all those years ago. She sought professional help after her sister died. “I couldn't shake my grief, even though I knew for seven years that she had HIV,” says Boyd. “The reality was, ‘I’m going to raise her son, and I can not get over my grief. I need help.’ That’s when therapy and medication started for me.”
Mental health advocacy is now central to her identity. “Mental health awareness has only just come to the forefront,” says Boyd. “It’s been covered in shame and stigma for so long. I have no qualms talking about it. If you had cancer, you wouldn’t be ashamed. You’d tell people, and they’d come to your aid.”
When the brother of Republic of Doyle co-star Marthe Bernard died by suicide in 2014, Boyd worked with Bernard, comedy icon Mary Walsh, and Newfoundland MLA Gerry Rogers on mental health awareness PSAs that are now shown in Newfoundland schools. “It’s broken open the conversation in Newfoundland,” says Boyd.
Don’t be fooled: Boyd isn’t all heavy conversation, all the time. She also laughs. A lot. Humour is a driving force behind The Diva Detectives, the series she’s developing with Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG-1).
Boyd first met Rothery in tap-dancing class when they were both teenagers. The duo’s concept follows two actresses – one wildly successful (played by Rothery), one not so much (played by Boyd) – who co-starred in a buddy crime show back in the 1980s and reunite years later to fight crime in the real world.
“The first thing I want to shoot is the opening credits to the original crime show: Teryl and me with giant wigs on, running through some back alley, and then we freeze and it’s like, ‘They’re mean, they’re hot, they’re The Diva Detectives.’”