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Kensington, P.E.I. native thrilled to play principal character in CBC’s Diggstown

Alexandra McDonald appears as Ella Toulany in the season two premiere of Diggstown. The show airs March 4, 8 p.m., on CBC. CBC/Special to The Guardian
Alexandra McDonald appears as Ella Toulany in the season two premiere of Diggstown. The show airs March 4, 8 p.m., on CBC. CBC/Special to The Guardian

When P.E.I. audiences sit down to watch the season two premiere of CBC’s Diggstown on March 4, they will see a familiar face.

Kensington native Alexandra McDonald plays a principal character in the Canadian legal drama television series created by Floyd Kane. The 22-year-old actress, who graduated from Charlottetown Rural High School, is “thrilled” about it.

“It’s been my dream to be on national television, since I was a kid, and so with Diggstown, it’s a manifestation come true,” says McDonald, during a telephone interview from Toronto, where she currently calls home.

Filmed in Halifax, Diggstown follows star corporate lawyer Marcie Diggs (Vinessa Antoine), who reconsiders her priorities after her beloved aunt commits suicide following a malicious prosecution, and the team of lawyers she works with, played by Natasha Henstridge, C. David Johnson, Stacey Farber, Brandon Oakes, Shailene Garnett, Tim Rozon and Dwain Murphy.

Ella Toulany (Alexandra McDonald) appears in a scene from Diggstown with Larry Walden (Matt Wells). Joseph Harfouche, right, plays the homeless man. CBC/Special to The Guardian
Ella Toulany (Alexandra McDonald) appears in a scene from Diggstown with Larry Walden (Matt Wells). Joseph Harfouche, right, plays the homeless man. CBC/Special to The Guardian

From the beginning, what intrigued McDonald about the dramatic series was the potential to play a character who would be facing the courts.

“So, when I got the audition from my agent and saw how juicy the role was, I was like ‘this one is going to be mine,” says McDonald, who plays Ella Toulany, a single mother charged with prostitution and fraud, represented in court by lawyer Pam MacLean (Farber). 

“Ella is a strong woman and wants to be the best mom for her two kids. They want to be on a soccer team, so she has to give them cleats, but the welfare system only gives her so much money a month, which she is unable to live off so she takes matters in her own hands and starts playing the game with rich men. She uses her looks to play that game,” McDonald says.

“It’s been my dream to be on national television, since I was a kid, and so with Diggstown, it’s a manifestation come true."

In the days leading up to the July audition, she researched the role, created a backstory for her character and then “went as hard as she could” at the audition. She was jubilant when, three days later, she learned she had the part.

“It’s an honour to play a character that represents people in Canada who are on the welfare system. It’s also going to be nice to see it on CBC because I know they’re trying to tap into real stories that are happening in the community of Halifax this season.”

Alexandra McDonald appears in a handout photo. Contributed.
Alexandra McDonald appears in a handout photo. Contributed.

Charlottetown Rural High School teacher Richard Haines is happy to see a former student living her dream.

“I remember Alexandra well. She’s a very talented, intelligent young lady. Not only did the play a leading role in Much Ado About Nothing, with A.C.T., she took my drama classes at Charlottetown Rural and was on our improv team in its first year.”

From early on, he saw an actress-in-the making.

“Even as a young woman she had a very strong sense of story, drama and character and a lot of presence. Also, her approach to things was uniquely her own so whatever it was she was doing, she put her own stamp on it.” 

Getting to put her own stamp on Ella was “thrilling,” McDonald says.

“It gave me confidence because she is very confident.”

Although her character is featured in only one episode, McDonald has her fingers crossed that she’ll be brought back.

“Hopefully, if I get written in again, she’s doing a bit better.”

As she waits for the next audition, she’s determined to follow her dream.

“Ever since I was a kid, I thought everyone wanted to be an actress. You can be so many different people. I don’t have to become a nurse, but I can play one.

“Getting invested into a character, that way, gives me an adrenalin rush. I also like the stories.”

Here are some fast facts about Alexandra McDonald:

  • Childhood: Grew up in Kensington until Grade 9 when she moved to Charlottetown to attend Charlottetown Rural High School.
  • Studies: After graduation she attended Acting for Film & Television at Humber College, trained at Straeon Studios in Montreal and acted in some non-union commercials and TV episodes.
  • Credits: Her first ACTRA job was in a national Esso commercial. A few months later she played the lead in Night Blooms, an independent film written and directed by Stephanie Clattenburg. 
  • Connections: She’s currently signed with the Characters Talent Agency.

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