Thursday, September 23, 2010



I did my second movie sex scene with Jackie Burroughs in a movie called "Monkies in the Attic".

I'd done my first movie sex scene about a week earlier on the same film with Jess Walton (later of "The Young & The Restless"). Actually, I think I did a sex scene with everybody in that picture except Victor Garber.

Although, Jackie did a sex scene with him in that movie too, one from which the film's title was derived and perhaps among the weirdest ever captured on celluloid.

Hey, we were all young and eager. The 60's were barely gone and nobody really made a big deal out of stuff like that. The movie was about a bunch of imploding relationships and I don't think the word "gratuitous" had been invented yet.

My sex scene with Jess had been goofy and playful. It was the first scene we'd shot that included nudity and several of the crew offered to disrobe as well if it would make us feel more comfortable. Like I said, the 60's were barely gone.

But the scene with Jackie was different. It was desperate and intense and a little terrifying -- especially for me.

Because Jackie was an actress with a ferocity in performance and demand for revealing the truth of a dramatic moment that left you nowhere to hide. I was less concerned with the exposure of my body than what she would demand be revealed of my soul.

We shot the whole thing in one long, relentless shot that left both of us wrung out and exhausted after each take.

But after the director called "Cut!" Jackie always looked me right in the eye and said, "Was it good for you too?"

A casual observer might have thought she was riffing on the age old post-coital question. But any actor who ever worked with Jackie quickly learned that her incredible intensity was accompanied by an equal generosity. As high as she demanded the bar be set, she needed to know that what you wanted from the scene had been achieved as well.

Actresses like Jackie Burroughs are rare. Her looks weren't classic. She wasn't the type casting directors thought of beyond a certain limited range. Yet give her any role and she owned it and forced everybody else in her scenes to rise to her level.

Yet all of those demands for perfection were accompanied by limitless warmth and caring. From Jackie you learned that it was important to be good, but it was equally important that everybody go home happy.

We worked together a few times after that, mostly after I'd moved to the other side of the camera. And like most people in the business it might be years between the times we ran into one another. But whenever we did, her face would light up and she'd throw her arms around me and the questions were always rich with honest concern for how I was doing.

I don't doubt that anybody who ever knew or worked with Jackie felt the same way about her. She had her quirks and peccadilloes but they only added to what made her a joy to have around.

The world is a little colder today with her passing. And I hope I don't dishonor her memory by feeling that somebody has been taking away some of Canada's finest actors this summer.

It's as if there just isn't as much demand for the gifts they possessed anymore; that the hustlers and the imitators and their government enablers have finally created a business that can get by without people who are unique or don't fit a prescribed mode but still manage to shine so brightly.

Somewhere I can hear Jackie's throaty chuckle at such thoughts as she lights a cigarette she can finally smoke again with impunity; knowing there's an actress somewhere enough inspired by her courage and her accomplishments to pick up where she left off.

I hope that's true. We really needed Jackie Burroughs during the time she spent with us. And we'll need many more like her in the future.

1 comment:

deborah Nathan said...

Lovely post Jim. I have so many Jackie stories from Avonlea, it's hard to know where to begin. Except she was a true professional in every sense of the word. She poured her heart and soul into her performances and expected no less from those around her. She loved joking around. She was fierce about protecting the younger performers. And I just loved how she tossed her cigarette wildly into the air each and every time they yelled "Action!"