Renowned Canadian actor Jayne Eastwood has had plenty of experience showcasing her comedic talents in TV shows like King of Kensington, SCTV and Little Mosque on the Prairie. For her latest project – web series, Hey Lady– she amps up the laughs as an older woman navigating the challenges that come with aging. From living with her adult son to enduring yoga class with millennials, Eastwood’s character (known just as Lady) tackles it all with unflinching candour and zero filter.
YouAreUNLTD caught up with Eastwood, 73, recently to get her take on what aging means to her and learn about Hey Lady, launching on free streaming service CBC Gem on February 14. The series consists of eight mini-episodes – each eight minutes long – and packed with hijinks and chuckles.
YAU: You attended the world premiere of Hey Lady at the Sundance recently. What kind of reaction did you get to your character who is the antithesis of a ‘sweet old lady’?
Jayne Eastwood: I was actually shocked at what a great response we got. People loved it. They didn’t mind the F-bomb. At some of the Q and A’s, I said, “I’m sorry I was so mean in this,” and one lady my age put her hand up and says, “You weren’t mean, you were just kind of cranky.” I got a lot of hugs. The audience found the show to be really out of the box.
YAU: In the series, your character, Lady, said, “I can do anything I want.” Does being older provide a freedom that you don’t have earlier in life?
JE: I really think so. I think most people think that. For Lady, she’s thinking, “There’s really not much time left so I’m just going to do whatever the frick I want.” I mean, people are going to say, “Oh, she’s old. She can say whatever she wants,” and we do. I don’t act like Lady. It’s exaggerated for comedy sake. If I’m getting laughs, I’m happy.
YAU: In one of the episodes, Lady says: “I’m just playing me.” How true is that statement?
JE: I wasn’t playing myself, but I slid into that character very easily. Morris Panych wrote the role for me because I’m just out there and I’m pretty brash. I guess he liked my humour. In some ways, I was playing myself. I didn’t find any of the dialogue hard to do. I didn’t have to push for any of it. It just happened very naturally. When you get writing that great, all you have to do is say the words basically, and just let your personality come through. It was really easy. It was effortless. Yeah, I guess I was playing myself!
YAU: Lady has a close friend (played by Jackie Richardson) with whom she gets into all sorts of trouble. How are friendships different later in life?
I’m recently widowed, so I am really throwing myself on people now. If there’s a girlfriend out there who’ll hang out with me, I’m going to grab her and make it happen. Women my age find it easy to talk to each other. We’re going through a lot of the same stuff. I think it’s easy for women to make friends, compared to men who just… I feel sorry for them. It’s really hard for them.
I hang out with some gals who are either in show business, or not in the business. We just go to things together, and we always seem to laugh together. So, that’s my thing. If I can find a girlfriend to laugh with, I’m happy, I’m very happy.
YAU: You worked with Sarah Polley on Hey Lady. She’s amazingly talented, but she’s also just 41 years old. How was she able to shape a show about aging?
JE: Sarah’s just a very brilliant, intuitive woman. The thing is, it was Morris Panych who wrote the series. He’s an older man, but I think all of us were really on the same page. Growing old is just something that possibly Sarah saw in her future. She’s not in the same boat that I am. I think about death. You know what I mean? And Sarah’s raising young children. As a matter of fact, when I was 41, I was raising three little kids, too. So, your head’s in a really different place. But she’s just a magnificent human being.
YAU: What are some of the stereotypes around aging that you would love to just see just go away for good?
JE: I bought a retirement house. It’s really small, and I think the general feeling is, “Well, this is certainly enough for you. You’re an old lady. You don’t need any more than that.” It’s like you don’t need any more space than a two-bedroom apartment. I think what happens with younger people when they look at older people. They think that you shouldn’t really be desiring anything anymore. You should just be settling into where society’s managed to be able to give them something. There’s a feeling that if you’re old, you should be content with what you have. I think there’s just a bit of a disconnect between the millennials and our age group. We’re like the grooviest old people in town, right? We are not old. It’s just our bodies have betrayed us
YAU: What are your views on retirement?
JE: Actors don’t retire, right? We just don’t. It’s a whole different ballgame than what those poor corporate people have to go through because nobody’s judging us for being old. It’s just if they want an 83-year-old actress, they’re going to get one because they are loads around. The only thing that would stop me is not being able to learn lines. That does happen to some actors, but I just keep at it. As an actor, you are memorizing lines all the time. I had an MRI last year and the doctor said, “Jane, you have a very healthy brain.” It’s because I’m always learning lines and exercising my brain.
I don’t think artists get old. I’ve never met an artist who acted old. I think we’re pretty useful. Like writers, and musicians, and actors, and painters, I think we’re all maybe old on the outside, but not on the inside.
YAU: What’s your approach to aging in a healthy way?
JE: I am the laziest old lady you’ve ever met in your life, and I like my cocktails. I go about everything the absolute wrong way. My son’s always on my case. I mean, the only thing I do is walk the dog. I’m a very bad example of aging healthfully, and yet, I think I have strong genes from my family. Kind of lucky, you know?
YAU: What’s the greatest gift that comes with being older?
JE: I’ve learned to be… I actually am grateful for every day. I have to say that. When you’re young, not so much, but I’ve got to say I’m actually… I thank God for every day. I do. I’m able to put one leg in front of the other, so things are groovy. I mean, I should be doing more. I should be doing more charity work. I know I should just be doing more, but I’m just grateful. That’s it, basically.
YAU: Earlier this year, you received the ACTRA Toronto 2019 Award of Excellence that recognized your 50-year career in film, TV, stage and voice animation. How do you feel about being a Canadian icon?
JE: I don’t see myself like that. I swear to God. That just is not on my radar. It’s really nice that people say that, and God bless them for saying it. I’m just a working actress, still auditioning and sometimes I’m given roles. I do not feel like a Canadian icon. I just feel like a lucky old broad who gets to do the stuff that she really wants to do, namely acting.