Belize, Saint John, Hollywood
by Jennifer Wood
Catherine Bruhier On Turning Her Passion Into A Career
Photograph: Steven Pacini
Actor, director, producer, writer and filmmaker Catherine Bruhier has crafted a diverse and incredibly successful stage, film and television career in Canada and the United States, where she has acted alongside some of the industry’s most celebrated, including Eric McCormack and Viola Davis. She served as co-host for the globally televised children’s program Polka Dot Door and played an integral role in Due South.
Bruhier was born in Belize and moved with her family to Saint John, New Brunswick, when she was an infant. As a child, she demonstrated signs of artistic flair, often reenacting soap operas or producing makeshift plays with her cousins. While on a family vacation on Prince Edward Island, her parents took her to Anne of Green Gables The Musical, and she fell deeper in love with the idea of performing.
“I attended the talkback session following the performance, and I couldn’t believe the actors got paid for what they were doing!” recalls Bruhier from her home in Los Angeles. “I was acting for fun so the thought of making a living out of it was a massive realization for me.” She later attended Saint John High School, where she decided to switch her focus from basketball to theatre. The change of course proved to be a win — she was often cast as the star or co-star of the school’s productions until she graduated. She then earned a scholarship to study at Toronto’s York University and eventually transferred to prestigious George Brown College to further focus on theatre.
It didn’t take long for the gifted actor to land roles. She started her stage career with Theatre New Brunswick’s Young Company where she was cast in Dennis Foon’s Skin. When celebrated playwright (and then artistic director) Sharon Pollock saw her performance, she asked her to play opposite Eric McCormack in David French’s Salt-Water Moon. This two-person play, which Pollock was set to direct, had been traditionally cast with Caucasian actors. Based on this experience Catherine penned the article entitled “Darkness Visible: A Multiracial Salt-Water Moon,” which was published in Theatrum magazine. Bruhier has performed leading roles in theatres across Canada, including the Shaw Festival, Grand Theatre London, Factory Theatre, Theatre Aquarius, Theatre New Brunswick Mainstage and Young Company and Theatre Plus Toronto.
Her screen career has been equally impressive. Perhaps most notably, her time on Due South intensified her popularity. The show was created by Paul Haggis, later screenwriter and producer of Million Dollar Baby and Crash, winners of back-to-back Oscars for best picture (he also directed Crash). Due South aired in as many as 60 countries around the globe. It wrapped in 1999 but continues to air in syndication. Two decades later, the cast and creators still participate in fan conventions where they meet the show’s original devotees and often their children, who were introduced to Due South via their parents. According to Bruhier, the ongoing fascination with the show has sparked talks of a reboot.
“It took me a while to realize just how popular the show was,” admits Bruhier. “Because it was a Paul Haggis production, I knew it would likely be successful. My fellow cast member, David Marciano (Detective Raymond Vecchio) once reminded me, ‘Do you realize how big a deal this is?’ he would say. ‘We’re airing in prime time! On a U.S. network!’ I was once on a vacation in Dominican Republic when I saw the show (and myself) dubbed in Spanish,” recalls Bruhier. “It was incredibly bizarre — I think it was then that the show’s reach and popularity finally resonated with me.”
Other screen credits for Bruhier include: Rookie Blue, Flashpoint, Soul Food, Yes, Dear, Frasier and Kim’s Convenience, to name a few. In 2016 she was cast alongside Viola Davis in an episode of How to Get Away with Murder and just before the pandemic hit, she played a character called Dr. Bhatti in All Rise on CBS.
“My husband (actor and filmmaker Steve Pacini) and I were binge watching How to Get Away with Murder when I got the part. The whole experience was surreal, and Viola was amazing; our daughters were around the same age and we shared (and laughed) about our experiences as (relatively) new mothers.”
Bruhier’s award-winning short film The Sacrifice marked her directorial debut and first project from her co-founded production company, Breaking Ground Productions, which aims to increase diversity in filmmaking. She was a recipient of the Ontario Arts Council’s Emerging Artist grant to direct her second short film, Clean Teeth Wednesdays, which she adapted from a short story written by her sister, Emily Bruhier.
Whether on stage, on the big screen or on television or wearing the hat of producer, screenwriter or director, Bruhier’s star and influence in the entertainment industry continues to rise. Chances are you have enjoyed one, if not many, of her stellar performances or productions, and you will see her again.