CCMAs Calgary Stampede Canada Day Canadian Screen Awards Giller Prize Hockey Night Olympics Season Launch TIFF

Cast of CBC's Smilin' Jack Revealed


Rick Roberts (top right) will play Jack Layton while CBC's Sook-Yin Lee (bottom right) will portray his wife Olivia Chow

The CBC television movie Smilin' Jack: The Jack Layton Story has already started shooting in Winnipeg, and with that came the announcement of two highly anticipated castings. No stranger to CBC, Rick Roberts will take on the role of the iconic politician and former NDP leader Jack Layton who sadly passed away last year. Playing his wife Olivia Chow will be actress, director, musician and CBC host Sook-Yin Lee.

While you'll be familiar with Sook-Yin Lee as the host of CBC's Definitely Not The Opera, you may also know Gemini nominee Rick Roberts from his role as Mayor William Cadigan Clarke in Republic of Doyle. He's also had guest roles on numerous other shows and TV moves like Murdoch Mysteries, Heartland, Little Mosque on the Prairie and Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.

Speaking of the role Roberts said: "It's been a pleasure looking into the life of such a multi-faceted man. I've had to learn to speak Cantonese and French, and play the guitar. 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."

On portraying Jack's wife Olivia, Sook-Yin Lee - who thanked fans on Twitter and Facebook for their kind messages - said: "I am humbled and honoured to be playing Olivia Chow, in a project that is near and dear to me. Just over a year ago my little sister Deanna was diagnosed with cancer, and I saw firsthand the kind of strength and courage it takes to live with the disease. Jack and Olivia were an amazing team in life, love and politics. They cut through bureaucracy and remained accessible to people. It will be a challenge for me to embody Olivia in all her beautiful complexity. I hope to serve her well."

The movie - also starring Wendy Crewson and Being Erica's Erin Karpluk - will not only tell the story of Jack and Olivia's love story, but that of the 2011 election campaign. With Layton on crutches and behind in the polls, it follows the miraculous rise of his NDP.


A still of Rick Roberts from Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. Will the same moustache make an appearance?


[an error occurred while processing this directive]