Louise Deschâtelets: Comitted and devoted

November 10, 2016


Ms. Deschâtelets, you are the ambassador of FADOQ’s Silver Button Movement. What led you to accept this role?

I believe in the importance of good quality of life for people age 50 and over, and I support the values of health, security, well-being, and belonging promoted by Silver Button Movement. I believe those age 50 and over should stay engaged in society, not become second class citizens. They have to take action to achieve physical, mental, and financial well-being. They are an integral part of society. Just think about all the people age 50 and over who are still working and all the retirees involved in social causes and organizations. Their contribution is valuable. If we had to put a dollar figure or a salary on the value of their participation in Quebec society, it would be incredibly high! I wanted to share this message with my generation. I think it is admirable that FADOQ has taken this on as a key issue.

You’ve had an advice column for the lovelorn in two dailies for many years. When you see your readers’ letters asking for help, is there anything that still surprises you?

That reality often surpasses fiction! People frequently ask me if I invent some of the letters, considering the incredible story behind them. But no. They are all true stories. I often wonder how these people were able to tolerate these situations for so long.

I would like to correct something. At first, it was an advice column for the lovelorn, but it has changed over time. Many of the hundreds of letters I receive each week still concern couples, family, and friends, but people are writing to me more and more for answers about finances or health, for example.

What would you say to a hearing-impaired reader telling you how much his hearing loss complicates his social interactions and how afraid he is of not being able to follow conversations?

I would tell him speech is not the only way to communicate. He can also use gesture, facial expressions, and people’s intonation to understand the message. Most of all, I’d say he needs to talk about it! We have to stop feeling ashamed of hearing loss! I have big problems with my sciatic nerve. Sometimes I have bad days. If someone asks me why I’m limping on those days, I tell them! It’s that simple. We have to stop fearing people’s reactions. In fact, once they know, they are really happy to help and make your life easier!

For seven seasons, you played Louise Leblanc in the popular TV show Chambres en ville. What do you think of the new generation?

I really admire today’s youth. If I take the example of my work, it was so much easier in my day! There was lots of work. You could easily have a nice career in one particular field. I was one of the few people doing more than one job at the same time. Theatre, soaps, TV and radio shows. Now, it’s more like a prerequisite. Young people have to multitask. We ask that they know how to do everything! I participated in a few Web TV projects recently, and I was flabbergasted to see how young people wear multiple hats. They work hard for little in return. Today’s labour market is really demanding. Yes, I really admire today’s youth.

In the 70s, you fell into a trapdoor backstage less than an hour before the performance. That accident left you with multiple fractures and a punctured lung. However, nine months later, you were back on stage. What motivated you?

Yes, and it happened in a Quebec City theatre! I injured myself badly. My mother helped me a lot. But I have really good health, I never get sick or rarely do (knock on wood!), so I recovered quickly. Actors are really superstitious. Since my accident happened in a theatre, a stage director told me at the time I would never work again, especially in a theatre, and people would be afraid I would bring bad luck. Well, none of that happened. I started working again nine months later, as you said, and I haven’t stopped since! As I say in my talks, we should not listen to the naysayers! We have to follow our own path.

You were married to the French Count Jean-Michel de Cazanove and became a countess. How did you experience those years in the French aristocracy, as a Quebecer born in Rosemont?

Oh! Those years were so difficult! You know, those families are no longer as fortunate as you might imagine. My ex-husband’s family had a castle in France but we had a really simple house and our lifestyle was all but princely! The title of nobility is the only thing that distinguishes them from the rest!

So, no one curtsying for the Countess? No valets opening all the doors when she walked through the house?

(Laughing.) Oh, my God no! None of that!

To end with, I would like to know if any of the roles you’ve played during your career have marked you more than the others and if so, why?

No, I can’t say the roles I’ve played have marked me. I always enjoyed my work, and I took great pleasure in personifying all the characters, but they didn’t define me as a person and did not influence me. My life has always been very compartmentalized: work, family, and friends. I am not nostalgic and I never look back. I’ve always had many interests. Simultaneously with my career, I took care of my stepsons (the children of Guy Fournier, my partner at that time, whom I still see regularly, and their children too), I entertained people in my home, etc.

I have so many things to do! Life takes me places I could never have expected! Thanks to the adopted daughter of my husband Marc, we have the great joy of having a granddaughter in the family from Bolivia. So I’ve started learning Spanish! We have them over every other Sunday for brunch and it’s wonderful. The little girl enjoys the pool with her grandfather. It is a pure joy to have grandchildren in your life!

Thank you for the interview!