Profiles

REASON TO LOVE: Because the city breeds actors, professional athletes, and literary icons

BY DI GOLDING

This article was originally published in the April 2015 print edition of Ottawa Magazine

The one thing that stars of our favourite comics, novels, and movies have in common? A compelling origin story. But how many of us picture that journey including the Rideau Canal? A peak in the success of Ottawa natives reminds us that stars aren’t necessarily training in some fictional Gotham — they might be sitting beside you on the O-train.

Tom Cavanagh. Photo: Daniel Pancotto

If the only thing Tom Cavanagh were remembered for were the iconic Blue Light commercials in the 1990s (he likened American beer to water), he would be considered a national hero. His friendly blue eyes, wide grin, and affable Canadian nature made him the go-to good guy on such shows as Providence, Scrubs, and Ed.

But on The Flash, his role as an evil scientist is garnering critical acclaim and a devoted following. Perhaps Cavanagh’s innate likeability makes his turn as the deeply conflicted Dr. Harrison Wells that much more sinister. Born in Ottawa, the villain next door and his family also lived in Ghana and Lennoxville, Quebec. Though he now calls New York City home, Cavanagh considers Ottawa the family hub.

(Click here for Di Golding’s Q&A with Tom Cavanagh)

Chelsea native Russell Martin nailed the toughest position in baseball — back catcher —without even trying out for it. Since putting on the mask, he has become one of the highest paid catchers in the majors, having signed a five-year $82-million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays this past fall. Beyond the intense mental acuity needed to make split-second, game-changing decisions, being a catcher requires super-human endurance.

In 2012, The New York Times followed Martin and noted that he crouched 311 times in one game — once for almost 11 minutes. That much crouching creates a lot stress on the body’s hip, knee, and ankle joints. Fortunately for Martin, $82 million buys a lot of ice packs.

Sean Michaels. Photo: John Londono

And while the literary world applauded when Scotland-born, Ottawa-raised Sean Michaels won the Giller Prize for Us Conductors, that was merely the most recent accolade for the author, who won his first award in his sixth-grade English class at Woodroffe Elementary.

Plus, Michaels seems set to make his voice heard in wider cultural conversations. In accepting the Giller, Michaels addressed peers and gatekeepers and spoke the truth about the Jian Ghomeshi-shaped elephant in the room.

“As we’ve been reminded in recent months, there are people in our little corner of culture who behave monstrously … We must believe women — and men, and go forth and undo harm. Mostly, we must tell good stories and buy every book.”