#iconic: Cynthia Dale

With the Street Legal reboot, Dale finds Olivia Novak again.

Dale’s been away from her best-known part for nearly 30 years. “She’s my twin.” - CBC
Dale’s been away from her best-known part for nearly 30 years. “She’s my twin.”

Cynthia Dale is a true Canadian icon. She's one of those precious few secrets we've managed to keep to ourselves: She's a Stompin' Tom song, a Company's Coming cookbook, a butter tart. She's all that and a bag of ketchup chips.

Seeing Dale on screen again is welcomely familiar, like catching your favourite aunt at the mall. She looks almost exactly the same today as she did running through Cape Breton mines in 1981's My Bloody Valentine. Her hair's a little different, but that's about it. She has a radiantly open face, those big doe eyes and Colgate smile. And she still has an accent that is utterly, wonderfully Canadian.

In the new Street Legal series, Dale returns to Olivia Novak, a character she originated in the second season of the original series in 1988.

With her perfectly curled eyelashes and meticulously tailored wardrobe, Novak is tough, smart and sexy, a woman who survived the matte lipstick and asshole lawyers of the 1990s only to find herself back in a world of matte lipstick and even more asshole lawyers 30 years later.

"She's my twin," Dale says. "She was still in my DNA. She was in there; I just hadn't turned my gaze on her in so long. But she was there. And she's still a very powerful lawyer, she still has all the moxie, all the passion, all the aggression, all the smarts, all the brains that she had then. And now it's ten-fold with the veil of all that history and insecurity and not giving a shit that happens when you get older."

The show echoes the original series with Novak's move from a Bay Street big firm to a cool small boutique firm, but this time she's in the mentor role. Instead of a woman getting screwed over by men on her climb upward, we get to see a powerful woman getting utterly screwed by the men who want to see her kept down. "Give it up, your best days are over," they say to her. She puts on her high heels and gets ready to grind their bones under them.

"The moment when you think you're on the top of your game or you think you deserve respect there's always somebody eager to pull the rug out from under you or to question that level of respect," says Dale. "And that's what's fun as a character to play. That's what happens in real life."

For instance, in real life Dale still auditions for parts. Cynthia fucking Dale!

"No matter what I've ever done or what awards I've ever done or how long I've done a series or how many musicals I've done I still audition for parts. And there's nothing the matter with that," she says. "There are some people who are not really sure of your work or maybe they don't think you're really right for this character so you have to go in and do your knot and convince them. And it's the same with Olivia. She's still, at 58 years old—that's how old she is, that's how old I am—she still has to go out there and do it sometimes. There are no laurels in life."

But there are icons. Real Canadian girls like Cynthia Dale. —MB

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