Born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in Canada since 1964, Ardon Bess began his acting career after graduating from the National Theatre School in 1968. He is the first Black actor to attend and graduate from the famed Montreal school. Bess is perhaps best known for appearing in one of the Heritage Moment television commercials about the 1958 Springhill mining disaster portraying the only Black survivor, Maurice Ruddick.
He had a recurring role as Nestor Best the postman in 63 episodes of the much-loved series King of Kensington (1975–78), English-Canada’s first hit sitcom. He is the first Afro-Canadian to be cast in an ongoing role in a Canadian television series. He has appeared in a least one episode of dozens and dozens of television series, from The Littlest Hobo in 1980 to the ‘Da Kink in My Hair in 2009. On the big screen, he began early with roles in Al Waxman’s soft-core My Pleasure Is My Business starring Xaviera Hollander in 1975 (released just before King of Kensington made Waxman a star) and Love at First Sight in 1977, Dan Aykroyd’s first screen appearance.
Bess was in Terence Macartney-Filgate’s 1978 NFB one-hour docudrama Fields of Endless Days, a history of Blacks in Canada shown on the CBC. Also Paul Lynch’s Prom Night, High-Ballin’, The Shape of Things to Come, Head On, Stephen Williams’s Soul Survivor, How She Move, Take the Lead and The Ladies Man. He had the lead in Sudz Sutherland’s first dramatic short, My Father’s Hands (1999), which won four awards a the Yorkton Film Festival including best film.
He earned a Gemini Award nomination for best performance by an actor in a featured supporting role in a dramatic program for his part in Clement Virgo’s One Heart Broken into Song (1999). Other notable television appearances include The Park Is Mine with Tommy Lee Jones, On Thin Ice: The Tai Babilonia Story, starring Rachel Crawford, Robert Townsend’s 10,000 Black Men Called George, Sudz Sutherland’s Guns and John A.: Birth of a Country. He was given the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Black Film and Video Network–Reel Black Awards in 1998.
His stage work includes Driving Miss Daisy, Michael Ondaatje’s Coming through Slaughter and Jeff Henry’s ensemble Africa in the Caribbean. He’s been in As You Like It and The Comedy of Errors for the Canadian Stage, and The Piano Lesson at the Obsidian Theatre Company. Along with Philip Akin, Bess is one of the founding members of the Obsidian Theatre Company in 1999. In 2011, Ardon Bess was in Montreal to play the title role in the Infinithéâtre’s production of the David Sherman play, Joe Louis: An American Romance.
Also see: Ardon Bess’ filmography.
This biography was written for Northernstars by Wyndham Wise and is Copyright © 2013. It may not be reproduced without prior written permission. Click here for more about copyright.