Fans of the TV series Remedy got a pretty big shock when it was revealed Josey the Therapeutic Clown was diagnosed with lung cancer.
So did Ann Pirvu, who plays the bubbly clown on Global’s weekly hospital drama.
The Bathurst and Davenport resident said she felt like she was the one having the cancer return after being in remission for five years.
“Truthfully, the actor in me was like, ‘Yes’, but only an actor would be, ‘Wow, cancer’,” she said in a late-April interview. “I read the script, and I couldn’t touch it for three days.
“I would spontaneously burst into tears thinking about Josey and her struggles, what it would be like to actually go through that, and the amount of strength you’d have to muster up within you is intense.”
But having her character diagnosed with cancer gave her new insight into how Josey became a clown.
“It kind of clicked in part of her back story, which I’m grateful for, to see they had thought that far ahead and given me something specific to work with,” she said. “She chose to use what she was good at to help others.”
The Town Crier first caught up with Pirvu at Sky Blue Sky cafe on April Fool’s Day, and the 27-year-old radiated more good vibes than a Beach Boys song.
That was before Josey was seen as a patient instead of a therapeutic clown.
She was offered the role by executive producers Bernie Zukerman and Greg Spottiswood in September, after reading with actors
during the casting process.
“What was really cool to me about my character, and seeing my character on television, is being given permission to access that emotional centre,” she giggles, then continues: “You get away with a lot when you’re a clown, as an actor.”
Because Josey is a unique character, Pirvu had to do a little research on the role of therapeutic clowns in hospitals.
“In many ways there’s no precedent for this kind of a role,” she said. “I’m not saying it’s an earth-shattering role, or a ground-breaking role by any means, but there’s no other character to draw from except for Patch Adams, but he was a doctor who realized the importance of humour in the healing process.”
A Canadian, Karen Ridd, pioneered the profession in 1986, and Pirvu had the chance to connect with others at the Therapeutic Clown Symposium held at Holland Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital in February.
Clowning around comes naturally to Pirvu. After arriving in Canada at age 12, via Romania, she had to learn English.
“Honestly, I’m a walking cartoon,” she offered, her voice slipping into falsetto. “I learned to speak English from watching cartoons, as a kid.
“I watched a lot of English cartoons in Romania — we used to get Cartoon Network, and my brother and I would re-enact Tom and Jerry, Cow and Chicken, Dexter’s Laboratory.”
Remedy wrapped up its season on April 28, and Pirvu is hopeful for both the show’s renewal and the return of her character.
“We haven’t heard yet,” she said of the show’s future before its renewal, May 1. “There’s been a lot of excitement, a lot of buzz, and the fans have been rallying.”
Switching to speculation about the future of her Josey character, she said she “sincerely” hopes she comes back, “and we continue her journey.”
“I think the way that the character has been written, and just knowing her spirit, I don’t think she wouldn’t fight,” she said.
After all, laughter is the best medicine.
“I’m a big believer that positivity can take you a long way in life, so I approach everything with an open mind and a can-do attitude, which can get you in trouble,” she says, a mischievous smile ballooning on her lips.
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