Rick Roberts and Sook-Yin Lee will portray Jack Layton and Olivia Chow. (RAS Creative, Koichi Kamoshida/Getty …
The woman who once mooned MuchMusic viewers is over the moon about playing Canadian MP Olivia Chow.
Sook-Yin Lee, former MuchMusic VJ and current host of CBC Radio's "Definitely Not the Opera," says she is "humbled and honoured" after being cast as late NDP leader Jack Layton's wife in "Smilin' Jack: The Jack Layton Story."
She will star opposite Rick Roberts, a little-known Canadian actor; you may remember him from his role as Donald D'Arby in the Canadian drama "Traders." He has also appeared in the Canuck series "Little Mosque on the Prairie" and "Republic of Doyle." To play Layton, Roberts reportedly had to learn to speak French and Cantonese and to play the guitar.
"The most intriguing part has been trying to embody his passion for life, his generosity, and his resolve to follow his vision in spite of overwhelming odds," Roberts said of Layton in a statement.
"Smilin' Jack," a joint CBC production set to air in 2013, revolves around the 2011 federal election, in which Layton made history when he brought his party to official Opposition status for the first time. His wife of two decades stayed by his side, all the way up to Layton's death in August 2011.
Layton and Chow after the 2004 Canadian Federal Election. (Donald Weber/Getty Images)
"Jack and Olivia were an amazing team in life, love, and politics," Lee said in a statement. "They cut through bureaucracy and remained accessible to people. It will be a challenge for me to embody Olivia in all her beautiful complexity. I hope to serve her well."
Lee and Chow do share a few things in common. Both have roots in Hong Kong (Chow emigrated from the city at 13, and Lee's father was from there) and both have fine art backgrounds. Chow studied art at the Ontario College of Art in the 1970s; at age 15, Lee ran away from home to live with artists in Vancouver.
Lee is best known as a former MuchMusic VJ (on her last show in 2001, she flashed her behind at viewers) and became host of CBC's pop culture show "Definitely Not the Opera" a year later. She has appeared on the big screen several times, most recently in "Toronto Stories" (which she also directed) and John Cameron Mitchell's "Shortbus."
Though "Smilin' Jack" reportedly started production in Winnipeg on Sunday, Lee arrived on set for the first time today.
"Thanks Everyone for your well wishes. I woke up early for my first day of work. It's time to take the plunge. Here goes..." she wrote on Facebook Wednesday morning, along with a photo of herself, looking a bit bleary-eyed.
Fellow CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi tweeted yesterday, "There are very few people who would be right to play @OliviaChow in a movie. @SookYinLee will be fabulous. #artists."
In response, Lee tweeted back, "Thanks dear Jian. I will try my best. o x"