From Degrassi to L.A. and back

Stacie Mistysyn has it all: a successful acting career under her karate blue belt, a Gemini Award, world travel, a lakeside home, a handsome husband and a 16-month-old son.

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Stacie Mistysyn, left, husband James Gallanders and son Grayson.
PHOTO: Scott Murdoch

But this life almost didn’t happen. She nearly skipped the opportunity that launched it all when she was 10 years old.

In 1982, the Toronto television production company Playing with Time distributed a promotion piece inviting elementary school students to try out for their upcoming TV show, The Kids of Degrassi Street. “I almost didn’t read the flyer,” the grade 10 Malvern Collegiate student told me back in 1987 on the set of Degrassi Junior High, where she was playing rebellious teen Caitlin Ryan. “It’s a fluke, really, that I’m doing this.”

In 1989, Mistysyn won a Gemini Award for Best Leading Actress in a dramatic role for her part in Degrassi High, the third installment of the edgy series that often explored teen angst. Degrassi spread its wings in 1992 with a documentary on sexuality and with the made-for-TV movie, School’s Out. Mistysyn was on board for both.

In 1996, attempting to dodge being type cast, she decided to head south. “I moved to Los Angeles intending to stay for three months,” she says from her home in Whitby Shores. “I stayed for 10 years! I went with $300 to my name. Luckily, I landed a gig in the first month – Weird Science was my first taste of Hollywood – and I used that money to join the Screen Actors Guild and buy a junky car.”

During the next decade, she chalked up a lengthy list of credits on the small screen, big screen and stage. She studied English literature at Santa Monica College and worked as a French tutor in L.A., using the skills she achieved studying for her Bilingual Certificate, which she received in 1990.

Between 2003 and 2006, she was commuting between L.A. and Toronto to work on Degrassi: The Next Generation, caring for her ill grandfather and nurturing a six-year relationship. “When the relationship ended and my grandfather passed away, I made a permanent move back to Toronto in 2006,” she says.

That three-day road trip home with her gal pal holds a top spot in her mind, up there with sojourns to England, France, Sweden, Scotland and Hawaii for her Grandmother’s 90th birthday. “It was extremely stressful but equally exciting,” she recalls. “It was the start of a new chapter in my life.”

And maybe a book. She “loves” to write and is working on a couple of “non-fiction projects” with a literary agent but can’t reveal more at this time. From 2008 until September this year, she deejayed at various clubs in Toronto and across the country. And, she fell in love. She married actor and entrepreneur James Gallanders at the Whitby Yacht Club in 2009, and helps manage his enterprise, JG Paints, when she isn’t authoring and running after her son, Grayson. There’s a guest spot coming up on This Hour Has 22 Minutes (air date not yet released). “A cool thing there for me was that I finally got to meet Larry Gowan who did the music for every Degrassi school dance!”

So what’s up for 2014? “My priorities are Grayson, helping James with the business and writing,” she says. “Oh, did I mention I’m pregnant again?” she adds, grinning.

 

Lorie Murdoch wrote a series of articles under the Persons of Note banner in 1986 and 1987. She decided to follow up with some of her subjects to see where they have ended up, in a new column which will appear occasionally.

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