Scottish actress Jacqueline Chadwick is searching for her “somewhere in between.”
After leaving a successful career on popular British soap operas Emmerdale and Coronation Street behind, she spotted the idyllic sea-side village of Campbell River from the decks of an Alaskan cruise ship in October 2008.
“That December I landed as a permanent Westcoaster,” she says.
She and her husband Simon and their two children, Alexandra, 16, and Jamie, 11, moved from the bustling industrial city of Manchester, England, where they lived their lives in the lens of the paparazzi, to the quiet coastal city on Vancouver Island’s east coast.
“It’s so close to the ocean. We see whales in the water, eagles soaring over the house and there’s fresh air, but it was culture shock,” she says.
Chadwich soon taught herself to cook curry – something her family missed from back home. “What I can’t do with a cardamom pod,” she says. She keeps herself busy homeschooling her children, watching North American TV and maintaining her sense of humour.
“It’s a completely different culture,” she says. “I was naive to think we were moving to a place that speaks the same language, so it would be easy.”
Simon soon found work as a “postie” and she opened a performing arts academy, but the slow pace of life in the quaint, quiet town was too much to bear.
“We were escaping such busy, crazy lives in the spotlight. We were craving quiet, but I think we can find a better fit. We really need somewhere in between,” she says of the extreme contrast of life in Campbell River.
Luckily for Victorians, that place is here.
“It even has a bit of a British feeling to it,” she says with a grin.
The family is looking for a property outside the city with a large yard for their “three dogs.”
“We brought a cocker spaniel and a chocolate lab from Britain and we have a Newfoundland — our Canadian dog. My daughter has a chihuahua, but that’s not a real dog,” she says with a laugh.
Chadwick has a generous sense of humour — something she developed to deal with life in the public eye.
“It’s is a huge phenomenon. It was a whirlwind. You can’t be an actor on Coronation Street and be a normal person. You’re not treated the same way. Your kids aren’t treated the same way.”
After a more than 20-year career on stage and screen, she made the decision to step away when she became pregnant with her son.
The day after she found out she was expecting, and before she could even tell her parents the news, it was on the front page of the British tabloids.
“I sent Simon to Boots for a pregnancy test and someone must have saw him. Or my phone was tapped,” she says. “It’s strange to see that on the front page, but I guess it’s a sign I’m doing well in my job if that is going on.”
At the time, Chadwick’s character, factory machinist Linda Baldwin (née Sykes) was part of the main plot line of Coronation Street. Sykes was having intimate relations with both Mike Baldwin and his son Mark Redman. The story came to a head when Baldwin walked in on them and demanded a divorce. She soon disappeared, never to be seen again.
“I was seven months along and I had to film a scene where Mike slapped me in the face … three times. It just didn’t feel right,” she says. “I was overworked. It was 14-hour days, six days a week. On my day off I was learning my lines for next week.”
The stress was enough that Jamie came into the world prematurely.
“They left the storyline open and asked me to come back but I said ‘no.’”
Chadwick also said no to a “record-breaking £250,000, two-year contract” and turned down a £100,000 offer from Hello Magazine for the first exclusive photos of mother and baby.
A Child Star
Chadwick was born in Stirling, Scotland, but moved with her family to Birmingham, England when she was five. At 11, she was encouraged to audition for the Central Junior Television Workshop, essentially a talent pool for British TV and film, and was one of the few children from across the country who was accepted. She spent eight years training and working alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company and even won a Fringe First award at the Edinburgh Festival. She also studied performing arts and dance at Joseph Chamberlain College but after a dance injury in her teens she decided to focus on TV.
She soon found herself playing Tina Dingle on Emmerdale for four years, followed by a five-year stint on Coronation Street – where she won a National Television Award in 2001.
It was on set at Coronation Street that she met, and quickly fell in love with, her husband, Simon, who was supplementing his income as a firefighter by working part time on the crew. That’s when Chadwick (née Pirie) caught her first glimpse.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s lovely.’ I asked his name but he didn’t answer and ran away really fast. I called out for him to leave his number at the desk. … From there, I found him, stalked him and interviewed him. We were married three months later.”
Chadwick told the press office at Coronation Street they planned to marry at Disney World in Florida, but the two actually escaped to Scotland and got married in private, with two strangers as witnesses. Their son was born later that year, Chadwick left the show and they started a new life together.
Chadwick opened 17 performing arts academies across the U.K., inspired to pass on the valuable knowledge she gained from her extensive training and work experience. She also started a successful casting agency. “We ended up with some really talented kids,” she says.
She closed the European schools when the family decided to make the move to Canada. After four years in Campbell River, they’re ready to make the transition to the Capital.
Classes at the new Jacqueline Chadwick Academy of Performing Arts begin in September.
Chadwick offers classes for children ages six to10 (Budding Stars), 11 to 16 (The Workshop) and a professional theatre company for adults older than 17 (The Jacqueline Chadwick Theatre Company). All classes are taught by Chadwick herself and are located at the Intrepid Theatre Club (1609 Blanshard). The classes focus on a range of media and incorporate acting, singing and dancing to provide a comprehensive learning experience.
Each group will have at least one original performance per session. Chadwick writes and choreographs the plays herself, with the help of her students.
“If they’re inspired by something, we incorporate it into the show. It’s the best thing because they’re passionate about it.”
Her past plays have focused on bullying, technology, reality TV and other topics relevant to today’s youth.
Chadwick’s former vocal coach, Mark Shields, now lives in Vancouver and she plans to collaborate with him as well.
“I want to give my students every nugget of information I’ve learned over the years and present it in an accessible way so everyone can benefit,” she says. “All the kids I teach could go into performance and be successful, however, even if they don’t they can use the skills I teach them in any area of their lives.”
Check it out at jcacademyofperformingarts.com.