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Sept. 3/ 2009 - Actor Graham Abbey is photographed with his Volkswagon Golf in Toronto, Ont. Sept. 3/2009. Photo by Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail Sept. 3/2009 (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/THE GLOBE AND)
Sept. 3/ 2009 - Actor Graham Abbey is photographed with his Volkswagon Golf in Toronto, Ont. Sept. 3/2009. Photo by Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail Sept. 3/2009 (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/THE GLOBE AND)

My Car: Graham Abbey

TV star's ride is Border-line plain Add to ...

He was a star on stage and is known to many for his role on The Border TV show. And now Graham Abbey is making his mark on the big screen.

This week, he appears in Defendor at the Toronto International Film Festival, starring alongside Woody Harrelson and fellow Canadian Sandra Oh.

But fame and fortune haven't gone to his head; the 38-year-old actor may be driving his 2002 Volkswagen Golf hatchback to his movie premiere.

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"It has the personality and the economics of a stage actor," he laughs. "We're leasing it for about 200 bucks a month and the gas is cheap and when you spend 11 years doing theatre that's about your budget.

"I know if you spend many years in TV and film, they expect you to upgrade your car," admits Abbey, who also appears in two other coming movies - Casino Jack with Kevin Spacey and Awake with Martha Burns. That's in addition to his regular role as Detective Sergeant Gary Jackson on CBC's The Border.

"There's nothing flashy about it, which would be me. It's a reliable get you from A to B kind of vehicle. We've got an Ireland sticker on the back, too, because my wife and I got engaged in Ireland so there's an Irish-German combo.

"It's as plain as they come. It has got roll-down windows and a cassette player, which is awesome - it's very old school.

"I love the cassette player because we've been able to rummage through our basement and bring up old cassettes. It's quite wild going back and playing those old cassettes."

Abbey bought the car for his wife to keep their long-distance relationship "alive," before they both moved from Stratford to Toronto. "My wife was acting in Stratford and I was shooting in Toronto so she needed some sort of transport.

"We went to Waterloo and inquired about the most cheapest and reliable car we could find that would do the highway drive between Stratford and Toronto. It's on a lease and we're still paying it off," he laughs.

"We have a little dog, too, that we throw into the back. The hatchback is easy for him to climb inside." His dog, a mini golden, is named Oscar, but it's spelled "Osgrrr."

In the snow, however, the Golf isn't the greatest. "It slips around in the winter.

"I've had SUVs in the past, which I've got rid of for economics and environmental reasons, but those things are solid in the snow. The VW kind of slips and slides," says Abbey, who caught the acting bug after studying political science at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont.

His Stratford Festival credits include Macbeth, Love's Labour's Lost, The Three Musketeers, Hamlet, and Henry VIII. In 2002, he won the Dora award for Outstanding Performance by a Male for his role in the Toronto musical Snow White and the Magnificent Seven .

Abbey's first memory of driving was with his dad in a 1988 Honda Accord with a manual transmission. "My dad nicknamed me Lurch because the whole car was lurching as I was trying to get a handle on driving a stick.

"I bought that car and I was supposed to look after getting the insurance. I remember driving in the back-country roads near Niagara and, as we peeled on to the highway for the first time, I said to my dad, 'I'm not sure about the insurance; we better phone the guy.' Of course, my dad flipped out as I'm pulling out on the highway and the insurance guy is like 'No, he's not insured. Make sure he's not driving the car!'"

Abbey's grandmother also taught him to drive. "I drove around my grandmother's Buick Riviera, a huge boat of a car which I loved. It was great on the highway. It had a CB radio in it - it was old school …

"My grandmother loved cars. Her whole life she would spend her money on nice cars. I have tons of memories driving around with her in the car.

"Later in life, she lost her eyesight so I would take her for drives in that car and we'd roll down the windows and go cruising in the Buick Riviera so she still got the enjoyment of being in a car.

"When she passed on, I had it afterwards for going to school. But then it was time to sell it and move on. I still have the licence plate, though - it's in my office."

Abbey passed his driver's test on the first try. "I was paranoid because my sister on her licence had crashed the car so I had big shoes to fill!"

Over the years, he has also owned a GMC Envoy and a Dodge Durango. His second car is a 2005 Chrysler Sebring. He also owns a 1985 Honda scooter, but is reluctant to talk about it.

"When I was in Stratford I used to scoot that on the back roads. I don't talk about the scooter that much, though; I get mocked for it," says Abbey, who has starred in several Canadian and American TV series including Warehouse 13, Billable Hours and Heartland.

"When I first moved to Toronto, all I could afford to drive was my scooter. You could fill up the tank for two bucks.

"Where I lived, I used to have to drive past the Loretto girls college - it was a horrible ordeal because my scooter would only go so fast.

"I'd have to stop myself a block south of it and get my breath; I would get myself centred and drive by as fast as I could, but my scooter was all banged up so it would only go about 20 km/h. They would always be out front and when I drove by, they would yell at me, 'Ah, you loser!' It's a horrible thing to be yelled at by a bunch of 15-year-old girls!"

It's safe to say that he won't be driving his scooter to the red carpet this week.


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