Tag Archives: actor

Meet Mary Kennedy, funny lady extraordinaire!

The first show of Danforth Comedy Festival introduced me to a very funny lady – Mary Kennedy.  And yes, she is one of those Kennedys. The headlining comic has performed all over the States (once a dyed in the wool Bostonian, now LA is her home) and appears regularly at Flappers Comedy Club, The Laugh Factory in Los Angeles/Long Beach as well as at the Comedy Store LA/La Jolla, Comedy Chateau, The Ice House and The Improv. From the minute she took the stage at Socap Comedy Theatre, Mary had me in stiches. Not only is the 23yr veteran of stand-up comedy  hilarious, she’s a multi-talented actor who’s worked on stage, tv and big screen. I reached out to Mary for this interview and I learnt she’s even more than all that….Mary, congrats on your appearance at the Danforth Comedy Festival. You had only just arrived from L.A. when you took the stage that first Friday night – did you enjoy the welcome to Toronto from the audience and do you enjoy participating in festivals such as the Danforth Comedy Festival?  I love Toronto! I felt so welcome, it was like being home!  I love doing festivals – as a comic, it is a great way to socialize and work in front of different audiences.  I do a podcast called Order Up, with Kelly, Cari, Mary and Matt.  It’s a foodie podcast with me and three Canadians.  It was the first time I recorded with them in person…they are my Toronto family now.  My Order Up family and the Danforth Comedy Festival really rolled out the red carpet for me.

You’re also an accomplished TV actor, producer and director – with the current SAG-AFTRA & Writers’ strike in the States, was this a good respite for you, enabling you to get in front of an audience as a writer as well as performer?  Yes, an amazing respite.  It was good to be on stage in front of a live audience, connecting with them through laughter.  The strike will run its course.  I think it is empowering for the writers and actors to be unified, I hope it is resolved quickly, but now is the time for us to stand for what we want and truly need.

You’ve also been nominated for awards for stage acting (congrats) – which do you prefer as an artist: stage, screen or stand-up comedy and why?  All of the above.  Each one is different.  There is nothing like having an audience with you during a comedy set.  In a stage play, connecting with others on stage in front of a live audience is a joy.  I’m doing my one woman show Mid Life Mood Swing and I’m on stage alone for 53 minutes.  That is both like headlining a comedy set and working on a play – it’s absolute heaven.  Screen is like grad school – watching production work, working with directors and other actors; it is the best training in the world.  I always learn something new. Then I get to watch the finished work on screen, that always gives me goosebumps.  It is so collaborative and I get to meet the most interesting people in the world in all these venues. Has all this showbiz experience contributed to your comedy writing or do you draw from your own life experience – dating, marriage, family?  Yes definitely.  But I come from a very Irish catholic family.  I am also a Kennedy “third cousins, twice removed” so all of the tragedy, none of the money.  I learned very early on, especially from my mother, to find humor in tragedy.  This made me the comic I am today.  My mom who started a wedding band after her divorce, consisting of 40 year old divorcees, singing Hot Stuff and Locomotion, called the MOOD SWINGS.  She taught me how to be a kick ass business woman and how to get paid for my art.

Have you been inspired by other female comics who fought hard to get their 15mins in the spotlight and recognition from male counterparts?  Yes, when I came up in comedy in NYC, I was in a group of the most talented comics who happen to be female.  Every single one of us is experiencing a great career and we still support each other along the way.  We are all happy for each other’s successes.  There is room for everyone!Any advice for aspiring funny ladies out there?  Figure out who you are and be proud of that!  Don’t be the comic that you think people want you to be.  Have a clear point of view and work your set all the time.  Find a community that will be supportive of you!

And what’s your next big gig?  I’m touring with my one person show Mid Life Mood Swing: Starring Mary Kennedy, directed by Charlene Ward.  First stop is the Boston area. Then Off Cabot through John Tobin Presents, in Beverly, MA. August 25 &26 at 8pm.  Tickets are available through:  www.offcabot.org

Thanks for chatting with me, Mary.   You can enjoy Mary’s work on YouTube and can follow her on Instagram: @mkennedycomedy


Whew…what else can I saw about this amazing woman?! I met Raven Dauda over ten years ago when producing/directing a special web series during the Toronto Int’l Film Festival, and have followed her career throughout her stage and screen projects that include…take a big breath….the following TV series: Sue Thomas F.B.EyeOdyssey 5The FirmRookie BlueOrphan BlackHeroes RebornSuitsDesignated SurvivorMurdoch Mysteries, and The Umbrella Academy. She has had recurring roles in Star Trek: Discovery, AnnedroidsSaving HopeFalling Water and Utopia Falls. She also provided her voice for the revival animated series Clifford: The Big Red Dog. Raven has appeared in feature films such as Gossip (2000) and Bulletproof Monk (2003), and on stage in her Dora Award-winning one-woman play Addicted, which was based on her own past struggles. And the kudos keep on comin’ – she recently portrayed Angela McManus in Five Days at Memorial for which she receive the 2023 ACTRA Award.I recently spoke with Raven about her most recent award and she shared her thoughts on missing the presentation ceremony (she was busy filming at the time), her career, and her challenges and triumphs…

First, let me congratulate you on your recent ACTRA Award win. How exciting was that? Now that Covid is in the rear-view mirror as far as public gatherings, were you there personally to receive the award?  Thank you so much. Wow! Yes, it was so very exciting and quite the honour to receive the 2023 ACTRA Award for my portrayal of Angela McManus in Five Days at Memorial. I was (unfortunately) unable to attend the award ceremony in person because I was (fortunately) filming in Ottawa at the time. However, it was still a very, very special day, because although I wasn’t able to walk the red carpet, I was able to bring the red carpet to work. And so, I got dressed up in a fabulous red dress before I had to shoot my scenes, and was lucky enough to have help taking the most gorgeous pictures  … and it just became a very festive and lovely time on set. We were able to get everyone together to take a group picture too (see below). It was so much fun and truly a perfect way to honour the day and commemorate my win. I’m still vibrating from it all!You’ve received multiple awards throughout your 25+year career – does it still feel special when you’re rewarded for your work?  Oh yes…absolutely! Each and every time it feels incredibly special. Yes, we all know that we don’t do our work for the accolades and awards. We as artists, I feel, are driven by our innate desire to create and express and tell stories. I am deeply touched and honoured by the fact that my peers and our amazing community continue to support and celebrate my work and contributions to this world. It feels so special because each time is different. Each time is its own sacred individual project and moment. Each time is like the first time – in fact it is the first (and only) time for that particular project and role. I have a very special place for my awards in my home, where I am able to see them daily and reflect upon how incredible my career is, and how grateful I am for this artistic community that every now and then lets me know that I’m doing something right … and to keep on going!

You’ve worked on some of TV’s most popular shows (Star Trek: Discovery, Saving Hope, Orphan Black, Designated Survivor) – is there any one role that you enjoyed more that the rest or that challenged you beyond your comfort zone?  My career has truly been extraordinary in that time and again I have had powerful and often profound opportunities and roles that have challenged me as an artist, and have helped me to grow in ways consciously and subconsciously that I’m still reaping the benefits of to this day. These roles that have challenged me – whether it was playing Charmaine in the theatrical smash hit Da Kink In My Hair or playing psychotherapist Dr. Lauren Halstrom opposite the incomparable Tony Goldwyn in The Hot Zone: Anthrax, I have experienced many moments that have pushed me beyond my comfort zone and have been extremely rewarding. However, I would have to say that playing Angela McManus in Five Days at Memorial has been one of the most challenging and life-changing roles for me in that it asked of me to dig deeper and to expand my heart and ability as an actor in ways that I hadn’t before. And for that I am forever thankful and particularly proud of the work that I did on that extraordinary show.You’ve also done voice-over work for the popular kids animated series, Clifford the Big Red Dog – how did you enjoy that process?  Working on Clifford The Big Red Dog was a total hoot! Actually, it was a hoot and a half! Soooo much fun! It is such an iconic show. Clifford The Big Red Dog means so much to so many. For me, I can’t think of Clifford without thinking of beloved actor John Ritter. And so being a part of that educational legacy meant a lot to me in many ways. I’m a huge fan of educational programming for children that is dynamic and fun. I’ve been blessed to work on other such shows as Team Top Wing where I played Rhonda Rhino. Working on Clifford was great because the characters were so much fun. I played Mrs. Clayton the librarian and she had this quirkiness about her that I just loved. I also got to sing in that role and anything where I get to sing is a treat for me. But I think what was the icing on the cake during that job was working with animation royalty, Alyson Court. I’ve known Alyson since high school and she was already a rock star for starring in animated shows like Beetlejuice and X-Men, but now she is also one of the top animation casting/directors in the biz and her knowledge and experience in animation is pure gold. Working with her on CTBRD was so very special because it was so rewarding to reconnect with her and work with her in that capacity. And trust me when I say I learned a heck of a lot from her. Of her career and what she does, I am so proud and deeply inspired.

You have a very impressive theatrical resume – do you prefer stage or screen, or do you embrace both equally? I think I embrace both stage and screen equally. Both of them are very different mediums and artistic art forms that have different things to offer and various challenges, benefits and ways of working within those mediums. Working in both stage and screen has taught me very different things about myself and my acting, and how I adjust my performance for both mediums and how I reach the audience at the end of the day. So for me, they are each their own different, distinct, unique animal, if you will, and at this stage in my life, I love and appreciate them both equally because they feed me and inform me and help me to grow in diverse ways.You’ve previously developed stage and screen projects that involve writing, directing, acting, producing…gasp!….yourself. What’s the best (or worst) part of doing it all yourself?  The best part I guess of doing it all yourself is that it really shows you what a megalomaniac you are…LOL! But seriously, it makes evidently clear what your thought process, values and biases are. It shines a big ol’ spotlight on what are your strengths and what are your weaknesses… and there is something so great in that. For me it helped me to understand myself in a very intimate way.By cutting out the middleman and just doing it all in-house if you will, I find creating a project becomes more of a meditative thing, it becomes something a bit more intimate and internal and you really gotta be organized and self-disciplined. However, on the flipside, since you are doing “it all” needless to say it can be very stressful. I think the greatest thing that it’s taught me is that we actually can’t and don’t do it all on our own. We cannot do any of these artistic works on our own. It’s a communal sport. It’s all about community. And therefore, you need that village, that beautiful artistic village to help raise it and to help bring your visions and creative projects to light. And so even if it’s called a one-man show or a one-woman show… it’s not. And that’s a beautiful thing… and so because of creating my own pieces I now value even more on a whole other level, the opinions, abilities and gifts of others when they choose to collaborate on projects with me. And lemme tell ya, I cannot wait to create some more goodies – so stay tuned!

I know you’re also a brilliant designer (I’ve seen your stunning jewellery) – with all the showbiz projects you’re currently involved with, do you still have time to design and craft your treasures?  Thank you for that compliment. You know, I miss making jewellery and creating my art in that way. I don’t have as much time as I did before. Every now and then I knit little projects when I’m on set. I have this dream of having a fashion show of my works. Maybe one day. In the meantime, I like to create some simpler things like bath soaps and oils. Things that I use every day on myself. I make a lot of homemade treasures and magical potions that I’m constantly testing on myself or giving to friends… cause hey, sometimes friends are the best guinea pigs.What’s up next for Raven Dauda?  What’s up next for Raven Dauda? Well, I’m actually bringing back my Dora Award winning show Addicted. It’s going to be touring in Halifax at The Neptune Theatre March 12th – 24th 2024. (https://www.neptunetheatre.com/box-office/addicted) and it will also be playing in Costa Rica in February at The Teatro De La Tierra (more details to come on that performance shortly). So in the meantime, I am currently tweaking the script, making some adjustments, and delving into the piece again from this other space and place in my life… and it’s quite extraordinary. It’s surreal and humbling to be revisiting this piece, a little bit older, maybe somewhat wiser, and with a different perspective on what addiction, recovery, sobriety, mental health and holistic living is. I’m also working on other shows that I can’t go into right now, but that I’m being called to write and create from a different perspective and it’s quite exciting.There’s a short film that I’m really proud of called The Pros and Cons Of Killing Yourself. (https://www.ravisteve.com/project-04) Hopefully we’ll be able to catch it in festivals soon, but in the meantime there’s a great trailer and info about it on the website. And there’s also a fun series that I am a part of that films in Europe. It’s called Spellbound. We have done the first season and we’re about to start work on the second season. (https://deadline.com/2023/04/spellbound-cbc-hulu-zdf-france-televisions-tween-witchcraft-drama-1235314465/) In it I play Ginger Jones – who is a bit of a kooky witch – and she is just too much fun. No exact date just yet as to when it will be airing, but when it does, it will be a good one to watch with the kids!

And if all this is not enough, Raven is a Taekwando expert, too.  When she attained her first-degree Black Belt, Raven commemorated the occasion with a tattoo of a black star on her right wrist. To earn that Black Belt, Raven chose to break concrete with the “hammer fist” technique which she completed with her right hand. Ouch!

Now you know a little more about Raven, I hope you’ll follow her on social media – Facebook.com/RavenDauda or on IG: @ravendlightworker.

Photo credit: headshot top of story courtesy of Tim Leyes


A few years ago when my sister, Jenny, visited Toronto from Australia, she introduced me to Marianne Sawchuk and her actor husband, Bruno Verdoni. Marianne is a twin to one of Jen’s besties back in Oz so it was a fun meet-up for Jenny at an art gallery opening to which I invited them all, and I made 2 new friends here in Toronto.  Since then, I’ve watched as Bruno’s film and tv work has gained buzz on social media and more recently, he launched a film production company with wife Marianne – their first cinematic joint venture has resulted in increased awareness in the industry and much online attention from fans and movie lovers. PosterI recently chatted with Bruno about his current success and exciting new production venture with Marianne, as well as asking a little about his past experiences with well-known Hollywood actors and what’s ahead for him, regardless of the current Covid situation.

Bruno, you’ve enjoyed quite the stellar career to date and have worked with the likes of award-winning actors Jessica Chastain, John Malkovich, Lawrence Fishburne, James Cromwell and Viola Davis: how have they inspired you or shared their own acting experiences with you?  Most of the well-known actors I have worked with were very gracious. Robert Patrick was doing a very emotional scene and was nailing it take after take, and he openly shared with me how he did it. Back then I wasn’t sure if I understood what he meant, but now with all my experience I absolutely do. Barbara Hershey openly shared with me some of her life’s events and Scott Wilson and Shoreh Aghdashloo were genuine and quite generous on and off set. Jessica Chastain impressed me with her work ethics. Speaking of Jessica, I had quite the audition experience with Aaron Sorkin who directed Molly’s Game. I went in, we tried the scenes a few different ways, he said I was perfect for the part – something I had heard before but no candy. 90 minutes later my agent got the call that I was going to shoot both in TO and NY. A man of his word. Loved that!

You’re able to act in French language productions as well as English; how has this increased your working opportunities in Canada? A lot more opportunities as I can access casting for film, TV, Voiceover, Commercial and some Video games x 2 J. Often enough I am asked to do accents, both in QC and ON and that helps a lot too. For some reason I get offered roles more often in Montreal. I am from there but haven’t been living in that city for many years. So even while living in LA I was so chuffed to be offered substantial roles on French-Canadian series.

What motivated you and your wife Marianne Sawchuk to create your own film production company, Valiant Heart Films?  My career came to a point where the roles and stories I had been dying to tell and had been training hard for, were not presenting themselves enough, so I thought I should be carrying the load, and be more the in control of my destiny. I had written a story that moved us both a lot and a friend of ours (a screenwriter in L.A.) said “not only do you have to do this project but you have to direct it too”. And I did. From then on, Marianne (pictured below) became the main motivating factor both as a producer and a partner. She has those organizing and unifying qualities that she used so well while producing her theatre projects/festivals, skills that are so important – if not more – when producing film projects.Producer, Actress-Marianne Sawchuk Photo by David LeyesAfter that kickstart, I spent a considerable amount of time studying the craft; from screenwriting to cinematography. Even as a young actor, with a recurring role on Stargate, I kept bugging the DP with my many technical questions. That DP – Robert McLachlan –ended up winning many awards for his work on Game Of Thrones.

Your first short film, Heaven and Earth: A Ritual has been well-received on the film fest circuit – what inspired the 1880’s-based story and the characters?  I was living in Vancouver then and was really curious about issues of racism towards First Nations people and the Chinese community. So I started looking into the Chinese migration in an around Seattle and BC during the 1800’s. And I thought it’s hard enough today, but how horribly hard it would have been for a bi-racial woman (Chinese and Indigenous Canadian) back then.May (Sera-Lys McArthur) on the set of Heaven and Earth; A Ritual. Screen ShotAround that time, I had moved to Los Angeles and decided it would be a better fit, story-wise, to make the character MAY, a strong and combative First Nation character. Mostly because we were going to shoot it in and around L.A. and it felt more appropriate to focus on the U.S.’s Indigenous reality. We ended up moving back to Canada around that time and so Heaven & Earth was shot in and around Toronto.Frank (Bruno Verdoni), Elizabeth (Marianne Sawchuk) and Dancer doing a master shot at Lang Pioneer Village. Screen Shot (2) Frank Mitchell (BrunoVerdoni) and Dancer during magic hour on location in Kleinburg. Screen ShotHeaven and Earth is currently showcasing at the American Indian Film Festival (Nov.6-14) and the Huntingdon Beach Cultural Cinema Showcase (Nov.13-15); it’s just been accepted at the NatiVisions Film Festival in Parker, AZ, December 3 to 5, with more festivals in the pipeline – what are you doing to prepare for the wider int’l exposure and audience kudos and media reviews?  For as far as I can remember, my sights as an artist have always been on festivals. I’ve always been very inspired by the international community coming together during those times. It’s always been one of my dearest goals to collaborate, co-write, co-produce projects with different countries around the world. And, I also need to make sure I have many strong ideas up my sleeve and ready to be pitched. (see official trailer, below)

During the Covid lock-downs and country-wide industry shut-down, how have you remained busy? Have you been studying scripts for future projects, writing, doing voice-overs remotely?  Well I did take the time to write and direct a COVID short for a Toronto COVID short film festival, called Molly’s World. There again it was Marianne who jolted me into action as we had less than 48 hrs to write-shoot-edit this project. It was a lot of fun to play a bad guy in this family fare, opposite Marianne and our daughter Francesca.
Out of the stories I have been working on over the last few years, I am spending some time fine-tuning the ones that move me the most in terms of films and series. I recently recorded a voice-over gig for New York out of my own voice-over studio. 2 weeks ago I finished shooting a French series where my character had been recurring for the last 5 years and on a different artistic plane, since Heaven And Earth: A Ritual gave me the opportunity to compose music again, I decided to keep pushing in that direction, too, and play/compose more music, as I need to elevate my musicianship skills since one of my upcoming projects involves 70‘s rock music.  You can listen to Bruno’s music score for Heaven and Earth: A Ritual here:

What’s next for Valiant Heart Films – do you and Marianne have any projects in the works?   Well, that 70’s rock music project is actually a coming-of age story and has been brewing in the back of my mind for many years now. I strongly feel that it will be in a finished pdf format real soon. I have to say I find myself amidst many stories/concepts/ideas the run the gamut in terms of genres, from fable to musical drama, sci-fi to documentary, family comedy to thriller. I’m impressed that my intuition/inspiration is sending me in all these different directions but in the end the purpose remains the same; to tell a solid, compelling story that feels authentic and reverberates with people, that moves them.

Any advice for other actors or filmmakers struggling to establish themselves in a very tough business?  For me it’s always been about “what moves me” to the point where it makes me relentless. You have to find that “thing” which moves you enough to be unstoppable in your journey. That is the only way. And as you grow you will need to gather as many skills as possible on your journey – people, technical and artistic skills.  And ALWAYS surround yourself well. Find people who are talented, kind and who thrive in a communal environment.Our all female camera crew at Kleinburg Chelsea Springgay, 1st Assistant Camera, Deirdre Leowinata, 2nd Assistant Camera, and Sarah Thomas Moffat (Cinematographer)How can people follow your work and Valiant Heart Films on social media?

Good luck with all your upcoming projects, Bruno (and Marianne) and I hope we see Heaven and Earth: A Ritual at even more film festivals over the coming months. Good to see you living your best life!Director, Screenwriter, Producer, Composer, Actor Bruno Verdoni1 Photo by Dennys IlicLATEST UPDATE:  

Currently Bruno is starring in another short film called Bloodshed directed by Paolo Mancini and Daniel Watchorn. It has been officially selected and playing at the following festivals…so far:
World premiere at Fantasia Festival in Montreal
Night Visions Festival in Helsinki
NOLA Horror Film Festival in New Orleans
Oregon Scream Week Horror Film Festival where Bruno was a finalist for Best Actor Award
LUSCA Fantastic Film Festival in Puerto Rico
Hellifax Horror Festival in Halifax
Requiem Fear Fest in Montreal where Bloodshed won Best Short Film
Frightening Ass Film Festival in Tennessee
Bogota Horror Film Festival in Columbia
Panic Fest in Kansas City
Monster Fest in Australia
Tacoma Film Festival
Festival El Grito in Venezuela Dec 3-5
Mostra Crash International Fantastic Film Festival in Brazil Dec 9-13
Another Hole in the Head Film Festival in San Francisco Dec 11-27
Chandler International Film Festival in Arizona Jan 21-24, 2021thumbnail