Actor Jaa Smith-Johnson honoured at Black Theatre Workshop gala

From the streets of Little Burgundy to the set of X-Men

Posted: January 30, 2015
Last Updated: January 30, 2015

Montreal actor Jaa Smith-Johnson's commitment and excellence in the performing arts will be celebrated with the Gloria Mitchell-Aleong Award given by the Black Theatre Workshop at the 29th annual Vision Celebration Gala. (Submitted by Jaa Smith-Johnson)

As a young man growing up in Little Burgundy, attending James Lyng High School, and playing basketball, it never occurred to Jaa Smith-Johnson that he would make his living as a professional actor. 

But with roles on the stage, in the television series 19.2 and even a part in the Hollywood movie X-Men: Days of Future Past, 25-year-old Smith-Johnson's career is thriving.

He already earned nominations for outstanding emerging artist and outstanding lead performance by an actor at the METAs (Montreal English Theatre Awards) in 2013 and 2014 for his roles in the Black Theatre Workshop/Persphone Productions Oroonoko and in Social Studies at the Centaur.


Tomorrow night, Smith-Johnson will receive the Gloria-Mitchell Aleong Award for artistic achievement at the Black Theatre Workshop's 29th Vision Celebration Gala.

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Montreal actor Jaa Smith-Johnson has acted onstage at the Centaur and in X-Men. The 25-year old from Little Burgundy gets the award from commitment and excellence in performing arts.  9:48

Smith-Johnson told CBC Montreal's Daybreak this is his first award win and he’s surprised and pleased at how far he’s come.

He thinks there is more opportunity for young black actors these days, even if some stereotyping still occurs.  

"We're changing. It will take time but it's getting there. In Fantastic Four in the comic books, the Torch is white. In the movie, he's going to be played by a black actor."

The Black Theatre Workshop Vision Celebration Gala is also honouring writer Dany Laferrière with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award. 

Fabienne Colas, manager of the Montreal International Black Film Festival, and Quincy Armorer, artistic director of the Black Theatre Workshop, are set to host the event.


Jeanette Kelly

Jeanette Kelly works as the arts reporter at CBC Montreal. She's also the host of Cinq à Six, Quebec's Saturday afternoon culture show on CBC Radio One.