Filming underway on Layton TV movie
Actor Sook-Yin Lee is shown in a handout photo. Lee plays Olivia Chow in a Jack Layton made-for-TV movie. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
TORONTO - The actor playing Jack Layton in an upcoming TV movie about the late politician says he's learned to play the guitar and has picked up some Cantonese and French in preparation for the role.
Rick Roberts ("Republic of Doyle," "Cra$h & Burn") stars in "Smilin' Jack: The Jack Layton Story" as the former New Democrat leader while CBC radio personality Sook-Yin Lee plays his wife, Olivia Chow.
Filming began earlier this week in Winnipeg.
"Smilin' Jack: The Jack Layton Story" follows the 2011 election campaign that saw Layton lead the NDP to its largest mandate since the party was formed.
It also traces the love story between Layton and his wife through their years in civic politics and onto the national stage.
The film is expected to air on CBC-TV in early 2013.
Co-stars include Wendy Crewson ("Saving Hope," "ReGenesis") and Erin Karpluk ("Being Erica").
Roberts says he's enjoyed looking into the life of "such a multi-faceted man."
"I've had to learn to speak Cantonese and French, and play the guitar," Roberts said Tuesday in a statement.
"Jack Layton was an incredible athlete, and I like to lie on the couch — so this in itself has been challenging. The most intriguing part has been trying to embody his passion for life, his generosity, and his resolve to follow his vision in spite of overwhelming odds."
Lee, whose other film credits include the sex comedy "Shortbus" and as writer-director of "Year of the Carnivore," called the political couple "an amazing team in life, love and politics."
"They cut through bureaucracy and remained accessible to people," Lee said.
"It will be a challenge for me to embody Olivia in all her beautiful complexity. I hope to serve her well."
Layton succumbed to cancer in August 2011, just months after leading his party to unprecedented success in the federal election campaign.