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The prospect of Donald Trump becoming president prompted a host of Hollywood celebrities to pledge to move to Canada, even though many already have broken their election promises.
But Amy Jo Johnson, who played the Pink Ranger in the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers TV series, did move north — only before the U.S. election — to launch herself as a Canadian film director. “I’m happy, I’m really happy here. I actually feel like I’ve become a nicer person, becoming Canadian,” Johnson tells the Hollywood Reporter while attending the Whistler Film Festival.
“I have friends here who say, ‘We’re not the backyard that you can just escape to. I tell them, good thing I did that 10 years ago,'” Johnson says of Toronto in the Trump era. The Power Rangers alum, who moved to Canada a decade ago, insists she crossed the border to leave Hollywood behind.
“In my 20s, it was super fun (in Los Angeles). I was wild, and partied a lot. And when I got into my 30s, I started to panic. My mother had died, I was single, I couldn’t find the right guy, my biological clock starts ticking,” she recalls. Johnson initially took a role in a TV movie in Montreal before deciding to pursue permanent Canadian residency.
Her immigration application included a letter of recommendation from J.J. Abrams, a co-creator of Felicity, on which she appeared in the role of Julie Emrick, best friend to Keri Russell’s titular character. Even before moving to Montreal, Johnson had many acting gigs in Canada to get her first taste of life away from the distractions of Hollywood.
“I had a lot of Canadian friends in Los Angeles struggling as actors,” she recalls. “And I just kept saying, ‘Why are you here? Go to Canada. I kept getting jobs and having to shoot in Canada and much of the cast is Canadian, so why are you here?'”
“I followed my own advice, even though I wasn’t Canadian,” Johnson says. After a co-starring in the Canadian procedural drama Flashpoint for five seasons, which shot in Toronto, and doing a stint on Covert Affairs, Johnson wrote, directed and co-starred in her debut feature, The Space Between.
The theatrical comedy, also starring fellow Flashpoint star Michael Cram, Michael Ironside and Julian Richings, debuted at the Shanghai Film Festival and opened the Carmel Film Festival, before screening in competition in Whistler. The Space Between was developed by Johnson and producer Jessica Adams through Norman Jewison’s Canadian Film Centre and tapped Telefilm Canada, the federal government’s film financier, for half of its budget.
“It’s so incredible, to be able to access this local support for filmmakers,” Johnson says of Canada’s generous taxpayer subsidies for indie filmmakers. Her move to Canada also inspired Johnson’s second feature, My Heart Is in My Head, now in development.
And she’s game for a role in Power Rangers should Lionsgate’s movie reboot become a franchise. “Why not? They’re going to do seven of them. Hopefully at one point, they’ll ask me to do something,” Johnson says.
“I really wanted to be Rita, but Elizabeth Banks got that part,” she adds of the classic Power Ranger character Rita Repulsa, an alien witch who has designs on the planet. “I think I would have made a fantastic Rita. Or some crazy villain.”
She’s also set to do a series of Comic-Con appearances with Power Rangers co-star Jason David Frank, who played the Green Ranger, while also screening The Space Between at fan conventions.
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