She may have been a bit dejected that her first foray back into Canadian TV ended abruptly when the CBC last month announced the cancellation of the Canadian drama, “The Border”, after just three seasons.
The gloom however soon turned to elation when Tonya Lee Williams was selected to lead a diverse cast in Vision TV’s original new comedy series, “She’s The Mayor”, that’s expected to premiere in early 2011.
It tells the story of Iris Peters, an elderly former elementary school principal-turned-mayor of a mid-size city that has seen better days. A political newcomer with a motley band of supporters and a habit of talking first and thinking after, Peters tries to bring her own brand of discipline to city hall while fighting her feelings for a handsome and roguish deputy mayor.
Williams plays Peters’ glamorous and self-involved communications director.
“It’s hilarious and I love my character,” said Williams, who was bitten by the show business bug at age 14 when she won a Miss Junior Personality contest.
Crowned Miss Black Ontario in 1977 when she was 18, Williams landed small TV roles and worked in Canadian theatre for a few years before heading to Los Angeles 23 years ago in search of a major acting role. She is best known for her role as Dr. Olivia Hastings on the daytime drama, “The Young and the Restless”, which she has been associated with since 1990.
“I did comedy for the first 15 years of my life and no one thought I could do drama,” said Williams who has received two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a daytime drama series. “The last 18 years, I have done drama, so those people who did not know me the first 15 years when I did comedy were like, wow, I didn’t know she could do comedy. They are just howling.”
Williams admitted she was surprised that the Canadian crime TV series, “The Border”, was cancelled.
“It was fun last year when I got on the show for the first time, but this was the season that they were supposed to develop the character into something because last year when they called me on, I was already doing other projects,” she said. “The executive director at the time was saying next season, blah, blah, but this is how things go sometimes because there is no next season.”
Hungry Eyes Film and Television Inc. founders Sudz Sutherland, a former Share photographer, and his wife Jennifer Holness along with documentary filmmaker Min Sook Lee created “She’s The Mayor” for Vision TV. Sutherland and Holness previously collaborated on the award-winning feature film, Love, Sex & Eating the Bones, the TV movie Doomstown and the acclaimed mini-series, “Guns”, which made its national TV premiere last September.
“We knew Tonya couldn’t be the Mayor, but we had to find something for her,” said Holness. “She fits the role of this fabulous and fantastic communications director who thinks the world of herself.”
“She’s the Mayor” was selected from 280 submissions that Vision TV received in response to a call last year for comedy-drama series proposals.
“The cast and creative team on this project are among the best and most diverse we have ever been privileged to work with,” said Vision TV’s director of independent productions, Joan Jenkinson. “We are excited about bringing Iris Peters and her world to life and we’re betting that her term as Mayor of Fairfax is going to be an eventful one…We think Vision TV viewers are going to be as excited about this new series as we are.”
The network’s chief operating officer and chief content officer, Mark Prasuhn, said the team behind “She’s The Mayor” has drawn inspiration from the wit and sophistication of classic British TV comedies which are a staple of Vision TV’s prime time schedule.
“At a time when pop culture is dominated by the likes of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, we believe there’s a large audience out there with real hunger for stories about mature and sophisticated adult characters,” he said.
Production of the 13 half hour-series began March 22 and ends on May 27.