ARTS August 3rd, 2005

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Angry ‘Ernest’ says his real life is all sweetness

Riverdale actor portrays neurotic character on stage

There is no anger in the marriage of local actors Rick Roberts and Marjorie Campbell. In fact it’s total marital bliss. The couple lives happily in Riverdale with their two sons.

That’s fine for reality, but onstage at Theatre Passe Muraille, where Roberts portrays Ernest in The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine, anger is the key word.

Roberts plays the sometimes neurotic, orderly neat-freak in the play, which shows how marital bliss is not always the end result after a couple ties the knot.

Roberts was thrilled to play Ernest but feels his real-life marriage to Campbell is completely different than his “marriage” to Ernestine, played by Jenny Young.

“Ernest is meticulous, set in his ways — I am totally the opposite. I am more messy in real life,” he says. “In our relationship Marjorie is the one who likes things in order.”

Roberts has experienced the highs and lows of theatre, television and film, but enjoys theatre much more.

“With film or TV, you’re working toward a future audience. Everything is rehearsed and edited many times,” says Roberts, who will turn 40 in a couple of months. “But with theatre, you are recreating the show every evening. You get to immediately hear the audience’s reaction.”

“I prefer theatre because you get that comedic exchange between actors and their audience — which is unheard of in TV.”

Roberts has appeared in a number of plays including the Tarragon Theatre’s Rune Arlidge, Theatre Columbus’s Hotel Loopy and CanStage’s Adam Baum and the Jew Movie.

As well as being a successful actor he has worked behind the scenes as a stage director and wrote and directed two plays, Fish/Wife and more recently Kite, both starring his wife.

Unlike many Canadian actors who choose to head south of the border to pursue fame in Hollywood, Roberts prefers staying in Toronto.

And the National Theatre School grad knows what it was like to work in the United States, having spent three years in Venice Beach, California, until 2001.

In California, he worked for a year, playing Dr. Evan Newman on the series L.A. Doctors. After the series fell through he stayed there another two more years before deciding to head home.

“Venice Beach and Toronto are the total opposite. In Venice Beach, people are more laid back and here in Toronto we are a bit more serious,” he says. “But I’m a lot happier here. While I miss not having no winters and there’s no ocean, Toronto is the best place in North America for theatre.”

After returning to Toronto, Robert went on to star in the CBC’s An American in Canada, and has also had guest starring roles on The Eleventh Hour and Providence.

But theatre will always remain closest to his heart. And Toronto seems the perfect place to raise a family and focus on acting and writing plays.

“LA is excellent, but if you want to make lots of money, then you are more guaranteed to win big playing the lottery than making it big down there,” he says “But I love the energy of this city. While I sometimes fantasize about living up north in the country, I think I would turn into Jack Nicholson from The Shining,” he jokes. “Here it allows both my wife and myself to continue doing what we love and be surrounded by a talented community of actors and theatre projects.”

The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine was written in 1987 by Leah Cherniak, Robert Morgan and Martha Ross. Cherniak and Ross founded the Theatre Columbus after studying at the renowned Parisian school of clown and movement, L’Ecole Jacques Lecoq.