ON THE SET: Women Talking
Actor Sheila McCarthy on the Oscar-nominated film’s work culture
WORDS BY MILES FORRESTER | TORONTO | VISUAL ARTS
FEB 27, 2023 | ISSUE 11
Sheila McCarthy first came to international attention starring in the 1987 Canadian indie dramedy, I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing. It was the first English-language Canadian feature to be awarded at Cannes and, domestically, earned McCarthy her first Genie for Best Actress. With two Genie Awards, two Doras, two Geminis, and an ACTRA Award, she is one of the most decorated Canadian actors working on stage and screen. In Women Talking, an adaptation of the 2018 novel by Miriam Toews, McCarthy plays Greta, the matriarch of a community of Mennonite women who must decide how they’ll respond to systematic abuse.
Miriam Toews has described her novel as “a reaction through fiction” to a campaign of sexual assaults spanning from 2005 to 2009 in the Manitoba Mennonite Colony in Bolivia. Both Toews’s novel and the film adaptation by Sarah Polley — Oscar-nominated for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay — dramatise a debate between eight women who have 48 hours to choose their course of action, weighing their faith, community, and...