As Duncan Crone slides down the banister on his stomach feet first, it’s not hard to figure out who taught him how. With actor Neil Crone as a father, both seven-year-old Duncan and his four-year-old brother, Connor, were born with a head start on appreciating all kinds of comedy, from slapstick to irony.
Whether you know him as the lovable Ollie Jefferson on “Wind at My Back,” the new team coach on “Power Play,” the wacky Mr. Crawford in “Eerie, Indiana” or the flustered taste-tester guy on the Campbell’s Soup commercials, you’ve welcomed Neil Crone’s familiar face into your living room via your television screen more often than you may realize. Crone’s handsome, boy-next-door appearance has lent itself well to the diverse selection of roles he’s played in the past, including stints on Robocop, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues and “The Red Green Show.”
Off-stage, Neil Crone does a magnificent job in the starring role of family man. Devoted to his wife, Suzanne, and their two active boys, he juggles a professional life that keeps him on the road or commuting to the city for various gigs, with the country lifestyle they’ve chosen in a small town northeast of Toronto. Their charming century home is, according to Neil, “extremely kid and dog friendly.” Good thing, as the Crones count among their family members a Bull Mastiff named Brigham, several fish and two cats, Fritz and Spitfire.
Whimsical eclecticism describes the Crone’s decor choices in their home, which dates back over 125 years. Deep wall colours provide a warm backdrop for the antiques and modern furnishings that cohabit comfortably with the woodstove, stained glass window arches, door transoms and interior wood trim. Suzanne has decorated the place herself, including making the superb window treatments in each room.
Small town living suits them well. “All the stereotypes you can imagine are true,” says Suzanne. “The day we moved in, a neighbour came over with a loaf of freshly-baked bread, and you can’t walk to the Post Office without having a half-hour conversation with someone.” Suzanne is a stay-at-home-mom, while she and Neil take on the responsibility of home schooling their children. Neil found Duncan learning to read as important a milestone as taking his first steps, and the proud dad looks forward to being there when Connor does the same. “Kids have an innate curiosity about things,” says Crone. “This is a child-interest led form of education.”
Fun plays a large part in the Crones’ everyday lives. At Halloween, Suzanne decorated the front of the home with a headless swing band, comprised of bodies lit from the inside and connected to wires, swaying to the music. Suzanne’s outrageous sense of humour serves her well, living with the ever-spontaneous Neil. A founding member of “The Parts,” an improv comedy troupe, Neil also teaches improvisation classes to people who need a creative kick-start.
The comedy bug bit Crone back in high school in Scarborough, when the award-winning athlete tried some stand-up routines at Yuk Yuks. After attending the Ryerson Radio & Television Arts program, Neil went on to get his teaching degree and spent two years teaching high school English and Drama full-time. “I loved it,” he says, “but the bug to perform was still strong,” Neil grabbed the opportunity to audition for the Second City Touring Company. A new career was born, and he’s never looked back. He met Suzanne while performing, and they were married in 1986. “She helps me keep it all in perspective,” he says. Crone also credits his agent, Jerry Jordan, of Jordan & Associates with keeping him on track professionally.
Look for Neil in “Pushing Tin,” a romantic comedy feature film about air traffic controllers, to be released this spring, and watch for him in two upcoming Disney films, “Mail to the Chief” and “The Pooch and the Pauper.” He’s also the voice of Willie, the First Mate, on the soon-to-be-released cartoon, “Captain Pugwash.” Neil has also added “children’s author” to his impressive list of accomplishments. Tumbleweed Press is publishing one of Neil’s hilarious children’s poems, “I am Dead at Recess,” as a picture book that will be available this spring. And if there was ever a Canadian actor poised to have his own TV show, it’s Neil Crone. When it happens, lucky us!