With Workin’ Moms about to air its seventh and final season on January 3, I sat down with Sarah McVie, who plays Val, to talk about her journey on the show and what it’s like to say goodbye to such a beloved character.
Sarah didn’t always have the spotlight; she was often told that she didn’t have the right ‘look’ for TV. “At one point, a prospective agent I had reached out to — didn’t take me on — but she did mention that my weight was too much for my height, for TV, it would never work. So that’s the world I was entering in my twenties. And thankfully, what a blessing I got into The Stratford Company. It was like one of my first auditions; that had also been a dream. So, I was there for five years.”
She was never offered Lady McBeth, which would have been a dream role, but she did rise through the ranks and play Cordelia in King Lear opposite Christopher Plummer, Marianna in All’s Well that Ends Well and The Bawd in Pericles. Sarah loves to perform live, “The last play I did was The Public Servant, a show I co-created with three other women, and it was a huge hit. It was such a hit in Ottawa, where I was living at the time, Nightwood Theater brought it to Toronto, and it sold out here.”
And during that play’s run, Sarah was given the incredible opportunity to submit a self-tape for Workin’ Moms. “I think I auditioned with Frankie’s side, but then I was given Val’s side right away, and then I did a self-tape for Val, and that was like, I don’t know, it was a match made in heaven!” Of course, it was! Sarah McVie’s Val is an uplifting, goofy performance that gifts the sometimes hard-edged comedy of Workin’ Moms with some more light-hearted fun!
Like at The Stratford Company, Sarah McVie rose through the ranks of Workin’ Moms and became much more of a central character as the seasons continued. While Sarah was starting as a new TV actress, Rebecca Kohler was simultaneously having a big break writing for Workin’ Moms. Coincidently, Rebecca and Sarah had best friends since grade nine when they went to the same high school in Ottawa. Sarah continues to vouch that Val wouldn’t have become who she is now without Rebecca in her corner. “Her voice writing for my comic sensibility was like magic. So, it was the chemistry, I think, between us. And I know some of the other writers said that, too, that Val was a collaboration between us. But in those early years, Rebecca was a major influence.”
Sarah also credits her mother as an influence on her performance as Val. “Partly inspired by her in the best way; A woman who loves to bring people together; A leader, a natural organiser with good intentions who sometimes says the strangest things that other people raise an eyebrow, but not on purpose sometimes. I love her so much.”
But what was her mother’s reaction to the show? “They’re huge fans; they’re so supportive, and so are their friends. But I think when it came out, it was a little shocking at first, and I don’t think they were used to such ribald comedy and the sexuality, the cursing. There are a lot of F-bombs. It was so refreshing also because it was new. I remember thinking, I can’t believe I’m going to fake orgasm on CBC. And now, when I think back on the seven seasons, that’s nothing. Pretending to do acid and run around in my underwear, I had no idea what was coming. But that seemed so edgy at the time, and it was. It’s exciting to be part of something. I’m not saying it’s the only thing, but it feels like it paved the way for a little more truth, especially the female experience. But the parental experience too.”
Sarah and Val differ but also share some inspiring storylines. Val was saddled with two boys from her Mountie husband, who up and left them. Sarah’s never had kids of her own. However, where the actress and character converge is the uplifting story of Val and Mel (Dayo Ade). “My favourite storyline is her finding love in middle age as a single mom unexpectedly helping out a friend. If you remember, I think she’s babysitting for Kate, and then Mel comes to fix the faucet: The handyman. That romance. And then this idea of an unexpected family that didn’t look the way you thought it would. It’s not, quote-unquote, traditional, but just as meaningful and full of love. That idea of a shared life” is something Sarah connects with Val’s experience. “The guy that I’m dating now, I hired as a handyman. […] And he’s got two kids. And I’m enjoying that experience of being a part of someone else’s family, and one is eight and one is 15, and they’re lovely. Two boys. Nothing like Val’s boys. Well, not yet.” It’s life imitating art!
With the final season of Workin’ Moms airing on January 3, 2023, at 9 pm EST, Sarah is looking for more than just acting to fill her time. She recently directed a Christmas Pageant at her local church and loved directing and getting back into live performances again. She’s also keen on a new writing project based on her experience seeing her first play put on at a prison her father was a warden.