Joanne Vannicola is an Emmy award-winning Canadian actor and writer, who has been working in film, television, and theatre since she was eight years old. She has also been nominated for a Genie, a Gemini, an ACTRA award, and received the Leslie Yeo award for volunteerism on June 3rd, 2019.
Joanne is a long-time advocate for the LGBTQ community and has an essay in the anthology Cuarenta y Nueve, a book by 49 artists for the 49 victims of the Orlando Pulse club massacre. She is the Chair of the first LGBTQ+ committee for the actors union, ACTRA, and sits on the sexual assault ad-hoc committee at ACTRA for women in film and television.
She is a recipient of the Ontario Arts Council Grant in 2016—Writer’s Works in Progress for her memoir. Joanne was selected for the Diaspora Dialogues Program in 2013 and worked with author David Layton for six months.
Joanne founded the non-profit organization, Youth Out Loud, between 2004-2009, to raise awareness about child abuse and sexual violence. To learn more about Youth Out Loud, please visit: www.youthoutloud.ca
Equity issues have always been at the forefront of Joanne’s work both in her artistic world and in her personal/political life and she is very passionate about youth, women, and LGBTQ equity and rights.
All We Knew But Couldn't Say is her first book.
For more information on her film career, you can visit:
When did you first think of yourself as an artist?
I’m not sure there was ever a conscious thought about being an artist when I first started out dancing or doing theatre as a child. It was just something I did. Perhaps it became understood more so when it involved having an agent and doing television and film work—knowing that my survival depended on my artistic work, and understanding that my path was different than other people my age when I was fifteen, twenty, and so on. But I think going to Hollywood in my early 20s and winning an Emmy, then being at TIFF with the film Love and Human Remains, all the markers and big events solidified my path. I understood that words, storytelling and expression would be one of the ways in which I lived my life, that contributed to my identity as an artist. It was a gradual awakening or understanding I guess you could say, that took a number of years to feel real. And now the writing just seems a natural progression or extension of that artistry, along with my activism and advocacy as a woman and lesbian.
Who helped you develop your voice as an artist?
So many! Learning and listening to other artist who came before me, who gave advice, adults I worked with when I was quite young like Al Waxman, Shirley Douglas, Marlo Thomas, Anne Meara, Wendy Crewson, Denys Arcand, but mostly it was the female authors and activists outside of the film industry that really inspired, women like Maya Angelou or Alice Walker, Gertrude Stein, even Oprah. I would watch her show and ty to learn some life lessons, especially as a teen/young woman when I was living alone and looked to external sources for some sort of maternal guidance. But there were many people who helped me along, and at the time, artists I admired in the film and the book world, or people who came out in the 90s like Ellen DeGeneres, people who inspired me as a human being to be strong, or paved the way.
What’s something that’s inspired you this week?
I think because I’m watching Handmaid’s Tale, I would say that Margaret Atwood and Elisabeth Moss. Inspired and enraged, perhaps, at the same time, because they are genius and because of how misogyny impacts me and so many women. It makes me think about the Times Up movement and this very difficult time we are in culturally. But also, I would say the soccer player Megan Rapinoe really inspired me over the last few weeks too.
What’s your favourite restaurant in the city to visit?
Well I do like to go to Fresh because I’m a vegetarian and it works, but mostly I don’t go out for meals.
What do you want to see more of on Toronto stages?
LGBTQ stories, women’s words. Just more queer and female, but also incorporating less gender binary stereotypes or extremes. Let’s have more non-binary and transgender people on the stages and on the pages, and people like me. More intersectional storytelling. There are so many untold stories from varying perspectives.