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Tribute to Bruce Gray

Photo: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

The AFC remembers the celebrated actor Bruce Gray who passed away in December 2017 in Los Angeles. In the end of last year, The AFC received a generous, impactful bequest from Bruce’s estate.

We were able to connect with some of Bruce’s friends, family and colleagues in the past few weeks. There is so much heart, beauty, and fun in the stories they shared with us.

His sister Judy recounts that Bruce got into drama and acting as a young kid growing up in Puerto Rico. His path to acting took a slight detour when Bruce earned a MA in Psychology at the University of Toronto, but ultimately he was back at pursuing the profession he loved so much. His first stage role didn’t have lines – he played a gladiator in the production of Androcles and the Lion in London’s Mermaid Theatre, right next to a fellow gladiator and fellow Canadian Donald Sutherland.

Bruce Gray’s talent, versatility and utter professionalism led to a full and fulfilling career both on stage and on screen. He was loved and respected in Hollywood for his guest spots and recurring roles on a number of iconic TV shows like Beverley Hills 90210, Murphy Brown, Picket Fences, the Star Trek series, Murder She Wrote, and Queer as Folk, to name just a few.

In Canada, he was lauded for his brilliant portrayal of investment banker Adam Cunningham on the TV series Traders which brought him a Gemini Award.

His impressive list of the big screen credits includes a lead role opposite Carol Burnett in Between Friends, principal parts in Let’s Get Harry and For the Boys, memorable appearances in The Peacemaker, Spy Hard, and many more.

The AFC Past President Fiona Reid, who starred as wife to Bruce’s father of the groom in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, remembers how great Bruce was at his craft: “Bruce was eminently cast-able. He always showed up with the acting “goods”, imbuing all he did with a wicked sense of humour and immense generosity to his fellow players. … [He] also brought to each of his characters an inspired insight into what made them behave as they did.  He then had the innate knack to deliver all that with a grace and style that made it all seem effortless.”

Bruce was deeply connected to theatre. His work directing plays at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills was a labour of love. He always invested his modest pay back into the productions or spread it amongst his actors and crew. He was equally present and just as invested when he was putting on a play with a class of third graders at Toluca Lake Elementary School, where he was a long-time volunteer with the Gifted and Talented Education Program.

Whatever he was doing, whether it was professionally or personally, Bruce was absolutely open to what he could give to the world and what the world could give to him.

Bruce’s friends and colleagues all mention his fantastic sense of humour. Bruce’s long-time friend filmmaker Patrick McGowan told us that he once asked Bruce if he wished he was rich. No, was the reply. But I know that if I were rich, I’d be great at it.

Indeed, Bruce was great at a lot of things. His deep savvy, his broad knowledge of various subjects and his legendary ability to throw a fabulous dinner party helped to make him the brilliant and well-loved man that he was.

His giving nature and remarkable generosity and kindness left a deep impression on the lives of many in our community and beyond. His strong presence continues in the vital work of the organizations that Bruce chose to support with bequests in his will. We are extremely grateful that The AFC was one of these organizations.

Gifts in wills, like Bruce’s, are vital to the important work The AFC does in supporting Canadian entertainment professionals. They provide secure funds that allow us to expand and develop our programs and services in emergency financial aid, personal support and advocacy, financial wellness, mental health, and other critical areas of support.

Bruce approached legacy giving with thoughtfulness and compassion. His dear friend Michael Pashak told us that, when planning his legacy giving, Bruce wanted to support the causes that helped shaped his life. With his bequest to The AFC, Bruce has made a profound and lasting impact in the lives of so many Canadian entertainment professionals and helped them move one step closer to the world where they are valued and supported.

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