Durham actor Neil Crone adjusts to COVID-19 work stoppage

Canadian actor and column writer, Neil Crone.

Neil Crone knew he had made it as an actor when a young girl praised him for his performance playing the role of a bigot in the television show Little Mosque on the Prairie.

Crone grew up in Sunderland, Ont. in Durham Region and studied radio and television arts at Ryerson University from 1980 to 1983 then completed his Bachelor of Education at the University of Toronto in 1985.

Originally a drama teacher, Crone taught high school students at King City Secondary school in King City, Ont. for three years from 1985 to 1987.

The Canadian comedy award winner always wanted to be an actor and during that time, he started off performing late-night improv spots like Theatresports and Big City Improv in Toronto. Those late-night performances started in 1984 and lasted for five years.

In 1987, he signed on to be a part of the Second City Touring Company, an improv comedy group, and his acting career took off.

He started off doing commercials that were lucrative, which include television commercials for Sears and Fido, before making the transition to television shows.

He’s best known for his role as Fred Tupper on the hit Canadian show Little Mosque on the Prairie, where he played an Islamophobic radio host. The show ran for six seasons from 2007 until 2012.

“Little Mosque was a really great show and it opened me up to a culture I didn’t know much about,” he says.

He recalls a moment in a Toronto restaurant when he was surprised by a young girl who approached him and said, “I really like your show,” despite knowing he played the role of a bigot.

“That’s when I knew we were making a difference, bringing people together.”

Growing up, Crone says he was inspired by the actors he would see on TV.

“The cast of Saturday Night Live and Bill Murray were my favourites,” he says.

While he was still acting, at age 39, Crone started writing columns in 1999 and won awards for his humour column called Enter Laughing.

He wrote weekly columns for Metroland newspapers in Durham Region and durhamregion.com for 20 years before retiring last fall.

“Writing has always been a passion of mine,” he says. “It started off with writing a rebuttal to Harry Potter critics.”

Crone was a big Harry Potter fan and wasn’t fond of the slander he says it was receiving in local newspapers, so he decided to write an article defending the popular film series.

“They (Metroland) reached out to me to write for their paper after they saw my piece and I’ve been writing for them ever since.”

The opportunity began as a monthly column, but Crone says he really enjoyed it and by popular demand from the readers, it expanded to a weekly column shortly after.

Now, Crone is currently working on a romantic novel yet to be titled and two television shows titled Endling on CBC and When Hope Calls on the Hallmark Channel.

Due to COVID-19, both television shows had to be put on hold.

“My initial response to the pandemic was, frankly, skepticism,” he says. “I’m just very much used to the media overblowing things for the sake of sales and headlines.”

He adds he became aware of the actual seriousness of the situation very soon.

“I have, of course, been staying at home a great deal and working on a lot of meditation and self-work. That’s the best thing I can do for both myself and the planet.”

With a freeze in income as a result of the pandemic, Crone is focusing on building his resume.

‘Making money at this time is a bit of a challenge, no question,” he says. “I have installed a home recording studio, however, and I’m currently beginning to do home voice auditions and some animation recordings.”

When things correct themselves, he plans on continuing his work as an actor.

“I am supposed to be filming a TV series for Hallmark right now, so I am greatly hoping we will jump back into that sometime this summer.”