Enid-Raye Adams doesn’t mince words when she talks about her childhood in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. She grew up dirt poor.
Her mother – Diane Law, a single parent who became a mother at 17 – juggled several jobs to provide for her kids: waitress, hospital orderly, and server at the Canadian Forces Base.
Growing up in poverty can eat away at your self-worth, but Adams had something that wealthy people did not: she had her mother, a positive and determined woman who, despite the hardships in her life, still managed to act in the ensemble of the town’s amateur theatre company.
“Because she couldn’t afford babysitters, my mom had to take us to rehearsals,” says Adams over brunch at Sunshine Diner, an establishment where she herself once waited tables.
Adams and her brother would “run up and down the aisle, smacking the seats up and down, but then there came a point when we settled, and I would see my mom on stage, and it was a beautiful opportunity for me to see her step into who she was, because that had been her dream for herself, to be an actor and a singer,” says Adams.
“The fact that she still managed to carve out some part of that journey for herself, I saw that and I connected with that in a way that I necessarily wouldn’t be able to say at the time, ‘oh yeah, I’m going to be an actor.’ But it was just that inner knowing, the thread between my mom and me that exists to this day, long after her death.”
Adams is herself now a mother and an actor. She’s a veteran of dozens of locally shot series and films (including iZombie, Backstrom, Final Destination 2, Supernatural, Jeremiah, and The L-Word).
This month, she can be seen as a frazzled cafeteria supervisor on Hallmark Channel’s Murder, She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery, acting opposite Alison Sweeney.
And although she describes herself as a “working actor” (a term that denotes regular employment, although not necessarily fame and glamour), Adams – who studied theatre arts at Calgary’s Mount Royal College – is hesitant to describe the work she does as hard.
“Hard work is being a single mom who is working two or three jobs to get by just so you can survive with your kids,” says Adams. “The work I get to do is a pleasure, so anytime I’m feeling down about it, I think about my mother’s sacrifice.”
Adams’ filmography is long and varied, but a proclivity for comedy is clear. She’s got a comedic web series in the works with S. Siobhan McCarthy: Bacon and Eggs, about a waitress working in a diner.
Her comedy chops were on display at the 2014 Leo Awards. Adams and comedienne Kalyn Miles co-hosted the first night of the three-day industry celebration, to thunderous applause.
It was a far cry from 15 years ago, when Adams first touched down in Vancouver to break into the local scene.
“I moved out here because I wanted to work, and I wanted to be a working actor, and what I discovered when I moved here is that nobody on Planet Earth wanted me to be a working actor,” says Adams, calling the two years that followed the most miserable of her career. “Couldn’t get an agent. Couldn’t get cast in anything because I didn’t have an agent. I didn’t know anybody in the community, and I thought of it as an enigma.”
And it was during this challenging time that Adams says her mother – who had died very suddenly from a brain aneurysm – visited her in a dream.
“She had a list of all of the things that I was supposed to do to be a working actor: buy a fax machine, join the union, get headshots,” recalls Adams, her eyes shining with tears. “The message that she sent to me in this dream was, ‘if you do all of these things, a role will come along for you that will be so special and will change things for you, and you will know it when you see it.’”
Adams did as her dream directed, and within a month, she received a fax about an audition for the third season finale of DaVinci’s Inquest. The role? A woman whose mother had died very suddenly.
“When I saw that, it was one of those things when the air gets sucked out of the room, and you just can’t believe it,” says Adams, who booked the job. “And yet, how can you not?”
These days, Adams juggles her acting gigs with advocacy work. In April, she spoke at a rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery in support of public education.
“Public education is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart, because growing up as I did with not a lot of money, public school provided a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise received,” says Adams.
* Murder, She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery airs through May on the Hallmark Channel.