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Alberta Watson
Born Faith Susan Alberta Watson
March 6, 1956 (1956-03-06) (age 53)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Occupation Actress
Years active 1975–present

Faith Susan Alberta Watson[1] (born March 6, 1955) is a Canadian movie and television series actress[2] known professionally as Alberta Watson.




Early life

Alberta Watson was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She grew up in Toronto with her mother Grace, a factory worker, and her half-brother.[3] She never met her father, Albert, who abandoned the family when she was a baby.[3] She also has three other half-siblings, who lived with her grandparents.[3]

She began performing with a local Toronto theater group, FOG,[3] of the Bathurst Street United Church at age 15.[4] She took a workshop for the Hair musical.[5] While doing this workshop she did Hamlet, which was directed by René Bonnière[6] who later directed her in La Femme Nikita.[7]

Watson quit high school, East York Collegiate, when she was 15.[3][8] She studied acting at Ryerson Polytech.[9] When she was 16, FOG disbanded and she moved in with her 27-year old boyfriend to a farm where they lived with friends and other people from FOG.[3] She broke up with her boyfriend and moved back to Toronto at age 17 to pursue acting.[3] Her mother, Grace, died when she was 19 of Hodgkin's disease.[3]

Acting career

Watson got her first role at age 19 in a CBC movie called Honor Thy Father.[3][10] Early in her career she portrayed the role of Mitzi in George Kaczender's[11] In Praise of Older Women (1978), for which she received a Genie nomination. A year later she received the Best Actress award at the Yorkton Film Festival for "Exposure".[4] She then moved Los Angeles, California and later to New York City.[8]

Watson lived in New Jersey for eight years[12] with her then-husband until her divorce.[7] She then returned to Toronto and focused on finding interesting roles in independent films. She worked with director Colleen Murphy on the film Shoemaker (1996), for which she received a second Genie nomination for Best Actress.[4]

Perhaps among her well-known film roles are the bed-ridden mother Susan Aibelli in the 1994 American independent film Spanking the Monkey, Lauren Murphy (the mother of Jonny Lee Miller's character Dade, aka "Crash Override"/"Zero Cool") in the 1995 cult film Hackers, and Risa in the 1997 Academy Award nominated Canadian film The Sweet Hereafter, directed by Atom Egoyan.

In Spanking the Monkey, her favorite character,[13] Watson plays a mother who has an incestuous relationship with her son. The role was turned down by several actresses such as Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange and others.[1] Watson has said that:[7]

I took it because it was a heck of a challenge. And I'm not a name with an image to protect. The subject was incest. It didn't scare me at all. I seized the character and made her something. She was a deeply disturbed woman with a roller coaster of emotions. Her son visits for the summer and she's laid up in a cast with a broken leg and things get out of hand.

Watson played the major role of Madeline in the TV series La Femme Nikita for four seasons from 1997–2001 (with guest appearances in the short fifth season). During the show's second season (in 1998), Watson was diagnosed with lymphoma, for which she had to undergo chemotherapy treatment which caused her to lose her hair.[13][14] Producers at Nikita worked around her treatment and limited her appearances.[14] Watson wore wigs in the show when she lost her hair.[14] But, when her hair started to grow, she sported the short haircut in her role as Madeline in the show's third season.[14]

Alberta Watson's first name inspired the character Alberta Green in the first season of 24. In 2005, Watson joined the cast of 24, playing CTU Director Erin Driscoll for twelve episodes of the show's fourth season.

Since 2007, Watson currently plays a support role in the Canadian television series The Border as the Minister of Public Safety.

Personal life

Alberta Watson has been married once. She lived with her husband in New Jersey for about eight years. After her divorce, she moved to Canada. She has been in a relationship with a man named Ken, 10 years her junior, since about December 1995, who she met at an agency[3] Christmas party.[15] She was diagnosed with cancer but is now in remission. She lives in Toronto, Canada.



  • Heyn, Christopher. "A Conversation with Alberta Watson." Inside Section One: Creating and Producing TV's La Femme Nikita. Introduction by Peta Wilson. Los Angeles: Persistence of Vision Press, 2006. 88-93. ISBN 0-9787625-0-9. In-depth conversation with Alberta Watson about her role as Madeline on La Femme Nikita, as well as her more recent acting experiences.


External links


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