'Raise a glass to Madrien': Island actor who played Grammie Gallant remembered

P.E.I. actor Madrien Ferris has died at the age of 87.

Ferris played Grammie Gallant, a moonshine-drinking, foul-mouthed grandmother in the P.E.I.-produced web series Just Passing Through and its spinoff Pogey Beach. 

Ferris died at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown on Friday morning.

"She was an amazing person and very inspiring to me," said Tara MacLean, Ferris's granddaughter.

MacLean, a singer-songwriter, said it was her grandmother who brought her to talent shows when she was young and made sure she had a nice outfit to sing in.

CBC

"And [she] was just always very proud and really encouraged me as a songwriter and, you know, was always there in the audience cheering me on," she said.

The family didn't realize Ferris's true talent as an actor until she was discovered by Just Passing Through.

"As it turns out she was the most talented of all of us the whole time," MacLean said.

Submitted by Tara MacLean

Ferris was only ever in one play before taking on the role of Grammie Gallant, MacLean said.

"I'm really glad the world got to see Grammie Gallant," she said. "It was just hilarious and irreverent."

MacLean said Ferris really enjoyed the role she took on in her 80s.

"She loved it," she said. "I think she had some of the most fun she had ever had.

"They just couldn't believe the things that were coming out of her mouth. And I just think it gave her a chance to express herself in a way she had never been able to because she was always taking care of everybody," Tara said.

Ferris's other granddaughter, Bryde MacLean, actually helped land her the role.

Submitted by Tara MacLean

Bryde said the show producers were unsure if they could find a senior foul-mouthed enough for the role.

"I was like, 'I don't know, you maybe want to meet this lady. I feel like she could pull off what you are looking for.'"

She said when the creators of the series came to meet Ferris and asked her a few questions they started "losing it giggling."

Shoulders back, chin up

Tara said people may remember her grandmother in that role, but she was elegant in real life.

"She always really cared for her home and herself. And really really taught me, you know, how to always hold my shoulders back and put my chin up."

Those are the words she said she remembers the most, "shoulders back, chin up."

Submitted by Tara MacLean

It isn't just the arts that Ferris impacted. She was one of the original board members of the Women's Network P.E.I., she worked for the board of tourism, the liquor commission, as a nurse and ran for the NDP.

"People come up to me all the time to tell me how amazing my grandmother was to them and the kindness of strangers was something she really excelled in. And I was just always very proud she was my grandmother," Tara said.

A service will be held for Ferris on Tuesday at 11 a.m. at MacLean Funeral Home Swan Chapel.

"If people can't make it out … I compel you to raise a glass to Madrien," Tara said.

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