“To those who come to Canada, I want to say that there were people who had laid the groundwork for us, and we should put them on a pedestal, because they paved the roads and helped us to be in the position where we are now,” said English-Canadian actor Arnold Pinnock.
Pinnock is co-creator, executive producer and co-writer of the CBC original series The wearer. He also plays Glenford in the nation’s biggest black-led television production, inspired by real events. Set in the 1920s, it features untold stories of black Canadians, including black train porters and Black Cross nurses, their dreams and ambitions, and their pivotal role in shaping many black communities across the Canada. The series also reveals the events that gave birth to the world’s first black union.
Pinnock chronicles the journeys and struggles of the characters in The wearer in the course of his own family. He credits his parents for being examples of dedication, endurance, hard work and courage, qualities that helped him adapt to Canada and succeed.
Pinnock was born in the UK to a Jamaican immigrant family. Her parents were part of the so-called ‘Windrush generation’ – people from Caribbean countries who were brought to the UK after World War II to fill shortages in the labor market. These people played an important role in the reconstruction of the country. However, they faced prejudice, racism and discrimination.
Pinnock’s mother was a nurse and her father worked in a factory in Birmingham. The race riots of the 1970s forced the Pinnocks to seek a better country for themselves and their five children. In 1975, when Pinnock was seven years old, they moved to Canada where his mother’s brothers lived.
“The first year in Toronto, we stayed with my uncle’s family,” he recalls. “They had four children, so it was a family of six and there were seven of us. So imagine a house full of children, teenagers and adults – it was pretty crazy. And we lived like that until until my parents were finally able to afford to rent our own house.
“It must have been very difficult for them, but everything they did showed me how persistent they were, how determined they were to build a new life for us here in Canada. And I can see where my own perseverance comes from – I learned it from them,” Pinnock said.
For Pinnock and his siblings, adapting to Canada was not easy. Coming from Birmingham, UK, they spoke the Brummie dialect, which, as Pinnock explains, is sometimes difficult for people from other parts of England to understand, and in Canada it has become an even more impediment serious about communicating with others.
Going to school was a painful experience for Pinnock. “I think every young kid coming from another part of the world to Canada can relate to what we were up against,” he said.
“I found it extremely difficult to find friends and fit in. I didn’t have the fanciest clothes,” Pinnock recalled. “The first day of school, my parents put me in the uniform I wore in England, so there I was, going to public school with a tie, in my gray trousers, my kind of cardigan. .and the public – the school kids were like, ‘What the hell is that?’
Showing compassion, however, was not her parents’ strategy. “As immigrants who had grown up in the Caribbean and lived through the hardships of England, their reaction was, ‘Toughen up! or “stiff upper lip!” I’d say I didn’t want to go back to school, and they’d say, ‘You go back tomorrow, and you’re going to get harder and harder and harder! You will take care of it because that is where we are! And you’re better than them!’ continues Pinnock. “So every day was getting better. The bullies wouldn’t pick on me so much. My strong Brummie accent turned into something positive – after a while the other kids liked it pretty much.
Being athletic helped Pinnock become more popular in school, but he knew from an early age that he wanted to be an actor. “We were pretty poor,” he explains, “and we obviously had some really tough times, but when we sat around this little device, we called ‘TV’ to watch comedy, sports , the drama, it was our time as a family, and it was when we felt the happiest. I used to say that I wanted to be on TV, because it made us laugh, it made us cheering up, it brought us so many emotions.”
Pinnock began his career with comedy sketches at the Second City Mainstage in Toronto. Following his passion for television and film, and armed with perseverance, Pinnock has now built a career that spans over three decades. His acting credits include Exit wounds (with Steven Segal) and cold pursuit (with Liam Neeson), and roles in television series including Altered carbon (Netflix), Life with Derek (Disney) and Baroness von sketch show (CRS).
Pinnock is excited about his future plans – after The wearer he hopes to continue to highlight the perspectives of visible minorities. “I think there are so many stories about Canada, not just from a black perspective, but from a multitude of perspectives. And not just about the past, but here and now, across the country,” he said. “We can dramatize them in TV shows, movies or plays – and I think we’re in a place right now where people are asking to tell those stories and they’re listening too.”
Pinnock believes that telling these stories will empower immigrants and their children, make them proud of their origins, and inspire them to pursue their dreams.
These stories were originally published in Canadian Immigrant Magazine. canadianimmigrant.ca is a free national multimedia platform that helps newcomers throughout their journey to Canada by providing them with the information, inspiration and connections they may need.
Disclaimer This content has been produced in partnership and therefore may not meet the standards of impartial or independent journalism.