Minute of the day: Mona Parsons

Plus, we talked to Greg Ellwand about playing Major General Harry Foster

Maclean’s is partnering with the Historica-Dominion Institute to celebrate the return of the Heritage Minutes. Over the next few weeks we’ll be featuring the most memorable Minutes, along with a few illustrious parodies, and a sneak peek of the brand new Minute set to be released on Oct. 15 for the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

She never wore a uniform, but Mona Parsons was a fighter. She spent four years in a German prison camp in the 1940s after collaborating with the Dutch resistance.

This Minute in a nutshell: “Living in Holland during the war, Mona Parsons had helped downed allied airmen get back to Britain… and she did escape. And back in Nova Scotia after the war, she married General Harry Foster.”

Bonus Content:

Maclean’s sat down with Canadian actor Greg Ellwand, who played Major General Harry Foster in this Minute: 

How did you initially get involved with the project?

“It would’ve been how I get involve in everything. I got the call from my agent and I went out and auditioned for it. Fortunately, I was the right age, the right height, the right look, the right skin colour and I have a bit of military experience of my own and I had recently been in a military film called Dieppe. So I had the mojo going.”

What do you remember about filming it?

“It was in a studio. It looks like it’s outdoors in some ruined landscape, but it was actually just in a building, that whole thing is just a set.”

Why do you think people remember the Minutes across generations?

“As Canadians, we don’t get a lot of information about ourselves on our cultural channels. Even our television series are often, because they have to be sold in international markets or to the great elephant that we’re sleeping with the United States, they often look a little white-washed, a little indefinable as to where they are located and we’re often asked, as actors, to white-wash our accents too, to broaden out our accents and make them sound a little bit more American… So that’s what I think was particularly interesting about them, they were a little bit of nectar about ourselves. They’re short, they’re incredibly well shot, and it tells a huge story in a very short little spot of history.”

How did it feel to be involved in something so quintessentially Canadian?

“Oh, I absolutely loved it. We’re always, as actors, we have to fight for jobs all the time and when other countries come in to make their films here because of the tax credits or because it’s cheaper to use the crews or the actors, we don’t really get a shot at the good stuff. We’re sort of the cannon fodder that gets killed in the first scene. But one of the greatest joys is when you do films that are Canadian … I wait for these jobs to come along … I love anything Canadian for the same reason that I love working on these little films, these little Heritage moments, because I help weave the rug that tells the tapestry, the bayou tapestry, that tells the Canadian history.”

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