Sadly, much-loved local actor Babz Chula has succumbed to her eight-year battle with cancer and died on Friday morning (May 7), surrounded by family, at age 63.
Chula was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, which later spread to her liver as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2005. Her breast cancer returned in 2008. She also had to stop chemotherapy due to a serious reaction to the treatment.
Chula was born Barbara Ellen Zuckerman in Springfield, Massachusetts. She grew up in the United States but moved to British Columbia in 1971.
She eventually began an acting career in the ’80s that would see her rack up an extensive list of credits in Canadian and Hollywood movies and TV shows, becoming a darling of the independent film scene in addition to also being a stage actor (for which she won two Jessie Awards).
She appeared in Canadian TV series such as Madison, jPod (for which she won a Leo Award), Neon Rider, The Commish, and These Arms of Mine (winning a Gemini).
She starred in the feature films of many local directors, such as Sandy Wilson (My American Cousin, American Boyfriends), Bruce Sweeney (Live Bait, Dirty, Last Wedding), and Straight contributor Mark Leiren-Young (The Green Chain, in which she played a granny activist).
In Carl Bessai’s Mothers&Daugthers, she contributed to the storyline for her character Micki, a romance novelist who has a tempestuous relationship with her daughter. She won a Leo Award for the role, and told the Straight that she strongly believed in the importance of telling local Canadian stories in the face of American competition.
Her last role was in Bessai’s Fathers & Sons (a follow-up to Mothers&Daughters), which was recently completed and is yet to be released.
B.C. director Anne Wheeler filmed Chula's recent trip to an ayurvedic centre in India for a forthcoming documentary. (Chula starred in Wheeler's Living Out Loud, about a woman with breast cancer.)
Chula also received Women in Film Festival’s Women of the Year Award and the Sam Payne Award, both in 2008, for her contributions to the film and TV industry.
Stars including David Duchovny, Gabrielle Miller, musician Matthew Good, Callum Keith Rennie, Nicholas Lea, X-Files creator Chris Carter, and more all participated in a fundraising auction for the Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society in 2008. The society was created to assist Chula with paying for her medical treatment.
It has since expanded to help to pay the medical expenses of other B.C. performing artists, who are in dire financial need.
She is survived by her husband, Larry Lynn; her children Jordana, Aviv, and Orpheo; and her grandchildren Mason, Devon, Jake, and Kyler.
A memorial will be held on May 23 at the Arts Club on Granville Island. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made instead to The Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society.