“A Day in the Life” with Toronto Actor Dion Johnstone

Dion Johnstone is an unshakable optimist.

In an industry that eats dreams for breakfast, he’s managed to not only hold his own but excel at everything he’s set his mind to.

As one of the first black actors to play leading roles on Canada’s most respected stages, Dion is a pioneer in the Canadian theatre world, breaking stereotypes of what could be possible for an actor of colour.

With over a hundred credits in film, television and theatre, and a career that’s taken him from Edmonton to the world, he’s a shining example of what is possible when you work hard and hold on to your dreams.

The secret to his incredible success is what he does when he’s NOT in performance mode.

It’s in-between projects where the real magic happens — using his downtime to focus on learning more about himself. Exploring his other passions, like martial arts, physical/mental well-being and drawing. (Did I mention he’s a spectacular visual artist) https://youtu.be/wuDsEWKkueg

A superhero movie lover and a homebody at heart, I’ve never met anyone like him.

He’s the kind of person who (metaphorically) climbs mountains so he can see the world, not so the world can see him.

He’s always excited to take on a new role and find the magic that exists when people connect and reminds me of just how important it is to embody the mindset of being a lifelong student.

Dion is building a legacy and life, doing work that lights him up.

-by his wife and fellow actor Lisa Berry

Dion Johnstone - A morning ritual. English Breakfast Tea or Nescafé Espresso with four pumps of Salted Caramel flavouring to give me a much needed jolt of caffeine, to help wake me up.
Dion Johnstone – A morning ritual. English Breakfast Tea or Nescafé Espresso with four pumps of Salted Caramel flavouring to give me a much needed jolt of caffeine, to help wake me up.
Dion Johnstone - On days when I have the time, I like to chip away at an art piece of some kind. I work digitally on my Wacom Mobile Studio, generally in Photoshop. Here I am at early stage of a new piece. Nubia, also known as Wonder Woman's Amazonian sister.
Dion Johnstone – On days when I have the time, I like to chip away at an art piece of some kind. I work digitally on my Wacom Mobile Studio, generally in Photoshop. Here I am at early stage of a new piece. Nubia, also known as Wonder Woman’s Amazonian sister.
Now that Julius Caesar is open, I've been hitting the media circuit, helping to promote the show. Here I am with fellow cast mate and co-star Graham Abbey, who is also the artistic director for Groundling Theatre ( who is co-producing Julius Caesar with Crow's Theatre). We've had a few super early mornings doing spots like this on CP24 and other networks
Now that Julius Caesar is open, I’ve been hitting the media circuit, helping to promote the show. Here I am with fellow cast mate and co-star Graham Abbey, who is also the artistic director for Groundling Theatre ( who is co-producing Julius Caesar with Crow’s Theatre). We’ve had a few super early mornings doing spots like this on CP24 and other networks
My favourite spot to grab lunch and/or dinner when I'm at the theatre or on the run. Fruitful Market at 327 Carlaw Ave. Excellent, healthy food with vegan options! (www.fruitfulmarket.com)
My favourite spot to grab lunch and/or dinner when I’m at the theatre or on the run. Fruitful Market at 327 Carlaw Ave. Excellent, healthy food with vegan options! (www.fruitfulmarket.com)
Now that we are open, aside from Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees, when I arrive at work it's usually already dark outside. Here's the new billboard for Crow's Theatre, which everyone at the theatre is pretty excited about!
Now that we are open, aside from Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees, when I arrive at work it’s usually already dark outside. Here’s the new billboard for Crow’s Theatre, which everyone at the theatre is pretty excited about!
I start each performance with a warm up. I generally start by lying on the ground, making contact with the theatre floor and grounding myself. Slowly I start warming up my body and by extension my voice, with the aim of making both connected and free to take me where I need to go in performance. Behind me is fellow cast mate Jani Lauzon, who plays a wicked Cato not too mention an honour bound Trebonius and a determined Artemidorous. Sounds confusing? It's not when you see it!
I start each performance with a warm up. I generally start by lying on the ground, making contact with the theatre floor and grounding myself. Slowly I start warming up my body and by extension my voice, with the aim of making both connected and free to take me where I need to go in performance. Behind me is fellow cast mate Jani Lauzon, who plays a wicked Cato not too mention an honour bound Trebonius and a determined Artemidorous. Sounds confusing? It’s not when you see it!
Julius Caesar a bloody good time you say? It certainly is, especially when you have pitchers of blood and mini blood bombs ready backstage ( special formula by our fight choreographer Simon Fon). Spoiler alert: Caesar doesn't stand a chance.
Julius Caesar a bloody good time you say? It certainly is, especially when you have pitchers of blood and mini blood bombs ready backstage ( special formula by our fight choreographer Simon Fon). Spoiler alert: Caesar doesn’t stand a chance.
Dion Johnstone - A moment captured in my dressing room before the start of part 2. Battle ready and prepared to risk all.
Dion Johnstone – A moment captured in my dressing room before the start of part 2. Battle ready and prepared to risk all.
Dion Johnstone - My wife sometimes hides little notes in either my lunch or my backpack when's she can tell I'm being hard on myself and could use a little uplift. This particular one will stay with me for the duration of the run. In the background you can catch a glimpse of fellow cast member Andre Sills, who was an extraordinary Coriolanus at Stratford a few summers ago and is a brilliant Casca in our production of Julius Caesar.
Dion Johnstone – My wife sometimes hides little notes in either my lunch or my backpack when’s she can tell I’m being hard on myself and could use a little uplift. This particular one will stay with me for the duration of the run. In the background you can catch a glimpse of fellow cast member Andre Sills, who was an extraordinary Coriolanus at Stratford a few summers ago and is a brilliant Casca in our production of Julius Caesar.

What ‘hood are you in?

I live with my wife on Mount Pleasant, off Eglinton. It’s a beautiful neighbourhood. Except for the construction right on the corner of Eglinton. The area is quiet, with nice artisan shops and cafes. Easy access to downtown and close to the Bayview extension. Getting anywhere is pretty easy and we get to enjoy a quiet life without the hustle of downtown.

What do you do?

I’m an actor. I work both on stage and on screen. I have a particular passion for performing Shakespeare. I feel like you never get to the bottom of it and it’s meaning changes when you come to it again at different times in life. In my spare time I do art projects. Usually superhero themed but also, digital portrait paintings as well.

What are you currently working on?

Julius Caesar with Crow’s Theatre and Groundling Theatre. I’m playing Brutus, a respected statesman who gets drawn into a plan to assassinate Julius Caesar who is on the verge of being crowned king.

Where can we find your work?

Currently you can see me live at Crow’s Theatre until February 2nd. This summer you’ll also see me in Sweet Magnolias, a new series coming soon on Netflix.

 

 

Joel Levy
About Joel Levy 1845 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography