Award-winning stage and screen actress Janet Wright, best known for her portrayal of the long-suffering matriarch on “Corner Gas,” has died at age 71.
Wright played Emma Leroy on the hit Canadian sitcom, which ended its six-season run in 2009, and returned with a big-screen adaptation in 2014.
Wright’s character Emma was the wife of Oscar Leroy, played by Eric Peterson, and mother to Brent, portrayed by series creator and star Brent Butt.
The series won the 2007 Gemini for best ensemble comedy performance.
Born in England on March 8, 1945, Wright and her family relocated to Canada and eventually settled in Saskatoon at a young age.
Wright was the co-founder of Saskatoon’s Persephone Theatre, and performed at virtually every major theatre company in Canada.
“She was there in the early days and got it going… it would be fair to say we wouldn’t be here without her,” said Del Surjik, the artistic director of Persephone Theatre.
“The loss of Janet is something felt all across the national theatre community.”
Surjik counts himself among the lucky ones, having worked with Wright through the years both in Saskatoon and Vancouver.
Despite all her travels, the hardworking actress never forgot her roots. She returned to Saskatoon to help with the capital campaign to fund the new home of Persephone Theatre at Riverlanding.
In 2014, Wright was on hand for the theatre company’s 40th anniversary season, which opened with a new translation of Hedda Gabler – which she directed.
It was in perfect symmetry with the company’s inaugural season, in which the first show was also directed by Wright.
“She came back to do all those summers of shoots for Corner Gas over a long period of time so I know that the prairies and Saskatchewan were always in her heart.”
Wright had been affiliated with the Vancouver Arts Club Theater since the early 1970s, and also directed for many major theatre companies across Canada, including productions at Ontario’s Stratford Festival.
She won the best actress Genie Award in 1992 for “Bordertown Cafe,” and won the best supporting actress in a dramatic program or miniseries award in 2003 for “Betrayed.”
Her film credits include “The Perfect Storm,” opposite George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, and TV appearances on series “Dark Angel,” “The King of Kensington” and “The Beachcombers.”
– With files from 650 CKOM