A life of acting.
Nigel Bennett is an award winning actor, often typecast as the villain or as he describes it “a pompous a**hole”. Out of character, Bennett is charming, kind and has an uncanny sense of humour.
Born in England to a non-theatrical family, Bennett was hooked after performing in his high school Christmas show. He auditioned at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, but admits he really messed it up. “That’s when my mom told me I had to get a proper job.” Bennett laughs.
Taking her advice, but still following his passion, Bennett trained as a teacher of Drama and History and received a 1st Class Honours degree from University of Wales that he gushes, “I’m still very proud of.”
Lasting a year as a teacher, Bennett couldn’t shake pursuing a career in theatre. “I auditioned and got a job at a new company in South Wales. I was very lucky- in those days it was difficult to get an equity card.”
After acting for 15 years in England, Bennett moved to Canada and has worked from Vancouver to Halifax in film, television and theatre for the past 30 years.
Bennett, his wife and youngest of four now call Stratford home. He’s performed at Stratford Festival Theatre for the last five years.
Bennett’s favourite role was the powerful and alluring LaCroix in the Gemini-nominated television series, Forever Knight. “It was my first series in Canada and during the early days of the internet. I remember sitting in the production office and the secretary dumped a bunch of papers on the desk and said ‘These are the emails we’ve received.’ Reading through these emails of people raving, we realized this is a hit!” And it was.
Recently, Bennett appeared as Chief Constable Giles in CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries. He recalls leaving a restaurant when a man jumped up and yelled ‘Stop being so mean to Murdoch!’ Bennett turned to him and said ‘He deserves it!’ “We had a little chuckle. It’s nice to be recognized, it doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s lovely.”
Bennett admits he’s mostly known for a series of hilarious Oatmeal Crisp “It’s not oatmeal!” commercials he appeared in for four years.
Although Bennett prefers working in film, he loves the live-ness that only theatre offers. “There’s never an audience or anyone that gives you a round of applause on a set, there’s only the crew.” Bennett explains. “I believe theatre doesn’t happen on the stage, it happens somewhere in the interaction between the stage and audience. The audience is a huge part of every performance that you do, especially in a comedy.”
This summer, Bennett will make his debut at Showboat Festival Theatre in the world premiere, comedy/farce Something Fishy, by writing duo Marcia Kash and Douglas E. Hughes.
Bennett stepped back into theatre 15 years ago at Neptune Theatre in Halifax. He worked on 13 plays in 10 years under Artistic Director Ron Ulrich, husband of Something Fishy playwright and director Marcia Kash. “I know Marcia and Ron very well. I’ve already acted with and been directed by Marcia, and I’m looking forward to working with her again. She’s great.”
Bennett jokes that his favourite part about this upcoming role is “doing a lot of the play with no trousers on.” Something Fishy is a new play commissioned by Lighthouse and Showboat Festival Theatre. “Being involved in a new play is a wonderful challenge.”
After his gig in Port Colborne, Bennett will appear in the upcoming motion picture “xXx3” with Vin Diesel and on stage in The Audience, at Manitoba Theatre Centre and for the Mirvish organization in Toronto. Bennett has also found time during his busy career to co-author three novels and is currently working on two more.
The arts have created a beautiful, fulfilling life for Bennett and his family and he believes that the “arts are our expression of ourselves as a society.”
“The attitude that the arts are not important is so misguided.” Bennett continues, “The arts allow us all to express what it is to be human. And that’s a huge privilege.”
Watch Nigel Bennett star in Something Fishy at Showboat Festival Theatre from July 20 to 24. For tickets call 905-834-0833.
By Nicole Campbell