Martha Burns

Martha Burns (born 23 April 1957)[2] is a Canadian actress known for her stage work and youth outreach in Ontario and her leading role as Ellen Fanshaw in the TV dramedy series Slings and Arrows.

Martha Burns
Born (1957-04-23) 23 April 1957
Years active1983 - Present
Paul Gross
(m. 1988)
Children2, including Hannah Gross

Early life

Burns was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.[2] She studied at the University of Alberta[2] and the Vancouver Playhouse’s Acting School.[2]


Burns has had a long career as a character and supporting actress. Her most notable television roles being Shakespearean diva Ellen Fanshaw in Slings and Arrows,[2] for which she won two Gemini Awards,[3] Jasmina Hart on Michael, Tuesdays and Thursdays[4] and Rebecca Baker on Remedy.[5]

Some of her notable film work includes Long Day's Journey into Night and for Love and Savagery, both resulting in Genie Awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.[6]


Burns is a founding member and a former associate director of Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre Company.,[5] Burns headed up Soulpepper's extensive youth outreach program.[5] She founded the Toronto Arts for Youth Award,[7] and has worked as an instructor for the theatre program at George Brown College.[8]

She has performed leading roles at Stratford,[5] the Shaw Festival,[2] the National Arts Centre[2] and The Company Theatre.[9] She was nominated five times for a Dora Award[10] and won twice: in 1986 for The Miracle Worker and in 1984 for Trafford Tanzi.[11]

In 2005 she was honoured for her career in the theatre with the Barbara Hamilton Award.[12]

In 2016 Burns was awarded ACTRA’s Leslie Yeo Award, an award honouring actors for their volunteer work.[13][14] She donated her cash prize to the Qaggiq Performing Arts Teacher Training Workshop, a program that works on developing Inuit-specific performing arts programming for children and youth.[15]

Personal life

Burns is married to director and actor Paul Gross,[2][9] and they have two children, Hannah and Jack.[2]



Year Title Role Notes
1992 Passage of the Heart Kate Ward
1994 Paint Cans Melda
1995 Never Talk to Strangers Maura
1999 The Life Before This Gwen Maclean
2000 Hindsight Trina Short film
2004 Siblings Miss Bradford
2006 Screening Helen Thompson Short film
2007 Silk Mme. Joncour
2008 Rewind Heather Beckett Short film
2009 You Might as Well Live Dr. Elizabeth
2009 Dinner at Lucy's Lucy Short film
2009 Love & Savagery Mother Superior Won Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role[3]
2009 A Wake Sabina
2010 The Reception Debra Short film
2011 French Immersion Cathy
2012 Fury Gretchen
2013 Mad Ship Judith
2013 Hardsell Sandra Hipps Short film
2015 Boxing Janet Short film
2016 A False Sense of Security Debra Short film


Year Title Role Notes
1983 Backstretch Kelly TV series
1987 Street Legal Margaret "Take My Jokes, Please"
1990 The Last Best Year Sally TV film
1991 E.N.G. Joanna Miles "Tyger, Tyger"
1995 Great Performances Cathleen "Long Day's Journey Into Night"
Won Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role[3]
1996 Side Effects Andrea Burrows "Sex, Death and Rock 'N' Roll"
1996 Traders Rita Hutchison "Two Steps Forward"
1997 Marie Curie: More Than Meets the Eye Lisette Boudreau TV film
1997 Due South Nadia "Spy vs. Spy"
1998 Witness to Yesterday Amelia Earhart "Amelia Earhart"
1998 Thanks of a Grateful Nation Dr. Rosemary Dove TV film
1999 What Katy Did Aunt Izzie TV film
1999 Due South Caroline Fraser "Call of the Wild: Part 2"
1999 Emily of New Moon Eve Kinch "Under the Wishing Moon: Part 1", "Bridge of Dreams: Part 2"
1999 Murder Most Likely Alice Malinson TV film
2003 Profoundly Normal Dr. Maswell TV film
2003-06 Slings & Arrows Ellen Fanshaw Main role
Nominated Gemini Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role (2004)[3]
Nominated Canadian Comedy Award for Best Female TV Performance (2006)[16]
Won Gemini Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role (2006)[3]
Won Gemini Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role (2007)[3]
2008 The Trojan Horse Mary Miller "Part One"
2009 Murdoch Mysteries Mrs. Burgess "Convalescence"
2009 The Foundation Selena Selkirk "The Face of Hope", "The African Prince", "Springing Jett"
2011 Republic of Doyle Joyce "Something Old, Someone New"
2011 Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays Jasmina Hart Main role
2013 After All These Years Phyllis Deitrichson TV film
2013 Cracked Alice Kelly "The Valley"
2014 Darknet Mother "Darknet 3"
2014-15 Remedy Rebecca Baker Main role
Nominated Canadian Screen Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Program or Series (2016)[3]
2017 Alias Grace Mrs. Parkinson TV miniseries

"Part One", "Part Two", "Part Three"


  1. "Martha Burns". The Company Theatre. The Company Theatre.
  2. "Martha Burns returns to her roots".Toronto Star, March 26, 2010.
  3. "awards database". Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  4. "Camelot & cover songs: Inside CBC’s new fall lineup" Archived 2013-01-29 at National Post, June 8, 2011.
  5. "My TV Award Nominee: Q&A w/ Martha Burns » My TV | My Entertainment World". Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  6. "Polytechnique sweeps Genie Awards". Toronto Star, April 12, 2010.
  7. "Arts for Youth Award - Toronto Arts Foundation". Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  8. "2007 George Brown Theatre School Graduates". Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  9. "Paul Gross and Martha Burns onstage together for first time in 30 years | Toronto Star". Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  10. "Nominees". TAPA. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  11. "Recipients". TAPA. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  12. "The Barbara Hamilton Memorial Award". TAPA. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  13. "Leo Yeo award" (PDF). Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  14. "AFBS - Congratulations to Martha Burns, this year's... | Facebook". Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  15. "MARTHA BURNS DONATES $5,000 ACTRA PRIZE TO QAGGIQ TEACHER TRAINING - MUSKRAT Magazine". Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  16. "Canadian comic performers to celebrate at annual awards". CBC News. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
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