A star who truly shines
Canadian actress Gabrielle Miller talks about her career and her charity work with Vela Microboard.
In the nearly four years since Gabrielle Miller’s last interview with alive, the award-winning actor has maintained a frenetic and hectic acting and promotional schedule.
Not only has she juggled filming two television series, CTV’s Corner Gas and Robson Arms, but Miller has also appeared in several movies, including a starring role in Love and Other Dilemmas, which was released in 2006.
“It’s been a busy few years since I last spoke to you,” admits Miller, who is talking to me from Regina during a break in the filming of Corner Gas. As if being one of Canada’s hardest-working actors wasn’t enough, Miller has also found the time and energy to work with a variety of charitable organizations, including Vela Microboard and World Vision Canada.
A Time for Giving
The soft-spoken actor’s voice becomes impassioned when she talks about her charitable work. “I know it sounds clich? but it’s true, it’s what gives me energy,” says Miller. “I feel like I’ve been so lucky, because through my work all these other opportunities have opened up that allow me to be a little part of some positive change in the world.”
Miller is the official spokesperson for Vela Microboard, an organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities overcome barriers that prevent them from leading fulfilling and independent lives.
“It’s amazing what they do,” she says, “I’m really happy to be a part of Vela, and I’m incredibly grateful because it’s changed both my sister’s and our family’s life.”
The actor, her sister Shanti, who lives with cerebral palsy, several members of her family, and others established Shanti’s microboard, British Columbia’s first, in 1989. Since then the number of BC microboards has risen to over 450.
In November 2007 Miller joined a World Vision mission that visited several of the organization’s projects in Mali. “The visit was incredibly humbling and joyous, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my whole life,” she says with obvious sincerity.
Aside from providing supplies and livestock to villagers, Miller was able to meet with her sponsored child, seven-year-old Sanyi Kone. “It was really special to spend time with her,” says the proud parent sponsor. “By the end of our visit we had made a strong connection.”
A Sense of Balance
In response to my question about how she copes with her demanding schedule, Miller says she maintains an active exercise regimen that normally includes boxing (noncontact) and Pilates. Recently, Miller added kettlebells to her routine, guided by Darci Anderson, her personal trainer in Regina.
“Kettlebells are a whole new thing that I’ve been having a blast with, and they’re really hard.” She explains that kettlebells are Russian cast-iron, cannon-shaped weights that improve strength, staying power, suppleness, and balance.
Her trainer has also helped Miller sustain a healthy diet. “I’m still a vegetarian with a mainly organic diet, and I’ve been working with Darci to make sure I have balanced meals throughout the day,” she says. “I wish I could do the raw food diet more often, but it’s hard enough just being a vegetarian and travelling–though it is getting better all the time.”
Turning the Corner
Although CTV has cancelled Robson Arms, and the creators of Corner Gas are voluntarily ending that show, Miller appears to be unfazed. Musing about life after her television shows, the actor says, “I really want to meditate on what I want the future to look like. I know that I definitely want to stretch myself and tell a different story.”
Reflecting on her experiences on Corner Gas, she says, “I’ve enjoyed it so much. I’ve had a wonderful time and a fantastic six seasons.”
In addition, Miller and her fiancé A.J. Schepers, have purchased property in BC’s Slocan Valley, with the hope of spending a portion of each year near her mother and brother and his family. “I love it there, and I love being with my family,” says Miller. “It’s so peaceful.”
As our conversation nears its end, I ask Miller what advice she could offer alive readers. The actor says, “For anybody thinking about making lifestyle changes–I know from my own experience with exercise or the changes I’ve made in my own life–it’s always the idea or the lead-up to actually making the change that is the most difficult.
“But the rewards that come from even the most subtle changes can inspire you and make you feel so good.”