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The first time I saw Julie Stewart was back in 1987. I was writing a story on the CBC miniseries Chasing Rainbows, in which she co-starred with Paul Gross and Michael Riley. The project took an incredible year-and-a-half to shoot and Stewart was thrust into her role straight out of theatre school. It was baptism by fire.

"It's nuts now to think that was my first job," she says today. "It was a big role in a big show and acting for the camera was a completely new thing for me. My instincts just weren't there yet."

Since that time, Stewart has honed her instincts and thespian skills considerably. In the time between Rainbows and her current gig on Cold Squad, the Kingston-born actress went back to her theatre roots, spending two years at the Shaw Festival and stints at regional theatres across Canada. She received acclaim for her performance in Pygmalion at the Globe Theatre in Regina. In the late 1980s and early '90s, she did guest spots on several Canadian series. "Night Heat, Friday the 13th -- all the shows that a working Canadian actor was supposed to appear on back then," she says.

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Stewart signed on for Cold Squad four years ago. Since that time, she has taken her character, Sergeant Ali McCormick, into bold new areas. The show has gone through many tweaks and character additions and departures, but Stewart thinks it gained real momentum last season. "What charged us up was the writing last year. We had a new writer, Peter Mitchell, who worked on Traders, and he gave the stories a focus that we'd been looking for. His stories were tremendous," she says.

Away from the Vancouver set of Cold Squad, Stewart resides in Toronto with her husband, who works in the music business. She says she'd love to tackle more theatre work during hiatus, "which would be possible if I was more organized," she laughs.

But perhaps her biggest passion these days involves running. She has run eight marathons -- including two Boston Marathons -- and is currently training for her next one. "It has changed my life," she says. "Running has given me a whole new sense of self that acting can't provide. I love it."

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