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Catch You On The Rebound

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Flat-track Derby Athlete Turned Actor: Former Westwood Grad Leanne Johnson Reflects

“Life is an opportunity and you only get one, so you have to make the most of every moment and I am not saying this to be a cliché. I never want to look back and have regrets”

– Leanne Johnson

Leanne Johnson is thriving and striving to obtain her aspirations. Her Facebook info capsulizes it in a nutshell, “Christian, wife, mother, actor, athlete, trainer and occasional strummer of the guitar.”

An early passion in sports, including four years of girls’ basketball at Westwood Community High School, led her, in part, to her current career as a personal trainer.

It was also in those early years when the 5-foot-9 Johnson would travel internationally as a model. While also excelling in the drama classes at Westwood under the directorship of Karen Towsley.

She first mixed her love for theatre and sport as a star in women’s flat-track roller derby here in Alberta and then Indianapolis with the Naptown Roller Girls.

Johnson currently resides in Lafayette, Indiana, with her husband Stephen and two young girls.

Under the moniker Cherry-oto-Fire (a parody on the movie Chariots of Fire), she assisted Naptown Roller Girls to a bronze medal at the 2015 International Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Playoffs in Detroit, Michigan.

A new home. A new family. A championship team. But something was missing.

“I felt at the time that I had reached the top of my physical game,” said Johnson, 34. “I felt that I couldn’t really get any better and that I was not growing as a person. Where do I go from here?”

 Acting was her answer.

“I had always loved acting. I had been part of the drama team at Westwood and Karen (Towsley) was a great inspiration. Drama was a place where I could outlet all of my feelings, where in sports, it was channelling towards aggression. It is a different focus and outlet in terms of my emotional expression.”

Initially, Johnson contemplated the return to theatre, “where you work with a group of people for a long time and you become family. A total team relationship.”

Instead, “God spoke to my heart and said that theatre was too much of a comfort zone and you have to get out of your comfort zone.”

Her new focus is film.

“The camera is so close to you that the audience knows if you are lying. As an athlete, you have to want it and as an actor, you have to always go for it.”

Through “hard work, determination and faith,” Johnson currently has more than 30 film credits, according to

“Most of them are short films, student films or independent films,” admitted Johnson. “Usually they are on a micro-budget and they may cover your expenses, food and accommodation and maybe the day rate.”

She has seen some major TV time with a few quick snips as Detective Powell, FBI Special Agent on the popular Chicago P.D. series.

“It was a major production and big set and a lot of major players. I thought, ‘I could hang out here one day.’ I have the confidence that I have the ability to be on the set and that I would be competent and capable of doing a role.”

Upcoming projects include a sci-fi web series called The Shadows. She also has a few lead roles in flicks including The Wager and Idle Girl which you might catch on streaming television service.

Of her mentioning that she is the occasional strummer of the guitar… knowing Johnson… that may be a future feature.


Photos: Actor Leanne Johnson credits her Westwood Drama teacher Karen Towsley for helping her find a way into the television and film industry. Supplied photo


Curtis J. Phillips has been a sports journalist in print/electronic mediums since 1976. A strong advocate of volunteerism, he is a founding father of numerous local events and organizations including the Challenge Cup and Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. Phillips is also recognized internationally as a sports historian.