Biography

About Shaun

Growing Up

Shaun Johnston was born on September 9, 1958, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Raised on a farm in Ponoka, Alberta, Shaun earned a Business Administration Diploma from Red Deer College and worked for a time with the Alberta Treasury Branch.

After a few hard working years on his family’s homestead where farming was “a way of life and not a job,” he decided to return to college and begin his paper chase for a law degree.

It was then that a drama elective inspired him to change direction, and he ultimately earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in the University of Alberta’s acclaimed drama program.

This background helped determine the course of his career: “Having grown up on the prairies has had a great influence on my work as an actor. I like to believe my approach is open and natural. I guess I’m a product of my environment.”

Career

Following his graduation, Johnston co-founded Shadow Theatre in Edmonton and made his first professional forays in Alberta’s thriving theatre scene. He made his feature film debut in Two Brothers, a Girl and a Gun (1993). The role won him an Alberta Film & Television Award for best actor.

Shaun points to determined archetypal western heroes like Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Jimmy Stewart as models for the kind of man he likes to portray on screen, someone who stands for traditional values like honesty and patient acceptance of what life has to offer.

Shaun claims, “All roles are extremely demanding. It’s the nature of the actor’s commitment. But if you want to increase that challenge, play an historical character. Then you feel the eyes of the world on you.”

Shaun played the real-life wagon train captain in September Dawn (2007) and Colonel Nelson Miles in the Emmy-winning film Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007).  For these works and his other credits, Shaun received in 2011 the prestigious David Billington Award from the Alberta Media Production Industries Association.

Heartland

Although Shaun has amassed an impressive list of credits as an actor on stage, film, and television, he is best known as Grandpa Jack on CBC’s hit series, Heartland. It is a role he was practically born to play.

His continuing performance on the show reveals that he has fully mastered the craft of acting and even managed to imbue his character with a depth of understanding about the human condition. In many ways the figure he portrays reflects both the warm and sentimental thrust of the series and the raw, yet sensitive, qualities underlying its ongoing concerns with family integrity, positive values, and the basic challenges of life.

Grandpa Jack Bartlett, Shaun’s character, illustrates his devotion to firmly held beliefs about the nature of heroism. Taking on the role in 2007, Shaun amazes and amuses fans in equal measure with his consistently insightful Gemini-nominated work on the series. While his film and television performances cover a great range of characters, both heroes and villains, he admits to gravitating in recent years to “the more stoic and heroic types.”

For that reason, his portrayal of the taciturn Grandpa Jack resonates not only with his personal convictions, but also with those of the show’s spellbound viewers who identify with Jack’s stern outlook, sense of justice, and disdain for phoney behaviour.

Filmography

2019 Tin Star (TV Series) 
Clay Coleman (Prairie Gothic)

2017  In Plainview
Reverend Rickman

2016-2017  Wynonna Earp (TV Series)
Juan Carlos

2007-Present  Heartland (TV Series)
Jack Barlett

2016  Delmer & Marta (TV Series)
Tom

2015  A Frosty Affair (TV Movie)
Edward

2012  Caution: May Contain Nuts (TV Series)

2010  A Heartland Christmas (TV Movie)
Jack Bartlett

2010  Bad Dad (Short)
Rob Cochrane

2009  Screamers: The Hunting (Video)
Haggard Man

2008  Cafe Utopia: Cinéma Trip Tych (Video short)
Philosopher

2008  Menace (TV Movie)
Bruce Ranfield

2007  September Dawn
Captain Fancher

2007  Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (TV Movie)
Col. Nelson Miles

2007  Carolina Moon (TV Movie)
Han Bodeen

2006  The Mermaid Chair (TV Movie)
Joseph Dubois

2006  Broken Trail (TV Mini-Series)
Small Pox Bob

2006  Touch the Top of the World (TV Movie)
PV

2006  Kinahan's Law (Short)
Frank Kinahan

2005  The Christmas Blessing (TV Movie)
Tucker Bennett

2005  Waking Up Wally: The Walter Gretzky Story (TV Movie)
Rob Coyne

2005  Fighting the Odds: The Marilyn Gambrell Story (TV Movie)
Mr. Pettit

2005  Into the West (TV Mini-Series)
William Mathers

2005  Supervolcano (TV Movie)
Matt

2005  A Friend of the Family (TV Movie)
Coleridge

2004  Chicks with Sticks
Luke

2004  A Beachcombers Christmas (TV Movie)
Harry

2004  Whitecoats
Head Injury Man

2004  The Collector (TV Series)
Bill Carter

2004  Blue Murder (TV Series)
Detective Vince Gagne

2004  Tom Stone (TV Series)
Gavin Morris

2004  Smallville (TV Series)
Matthew Cross

2004 Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed
Jack

2003  The Hitcher II: I've Been Waiting (Video)
Sheriff Castillo

2003  The Dead Zone (TV Series)
Terry Collier

2002 The Investigation (TV Movie)
Sgt. Sawyer

2002  Tribe of Joseph
Jacob

2002  Cold Squad (TV Series)
Chief Mitch Winslow

2002  Da Vinci's Inquest (TV Series)
Fire Marshal Sid Fleming

2002  Agent of Influence (TV Movie)
David Present

2002  Due East (TV Movie)
Mr. Yaeger

2001  MythQuest (TV Series)
Detective Saybrook

 

1995-2001  The Outer Limits (TV Series)
O'Brien / Parker / Cop

2001  Viva Las Nowhere
Sheriff

1998-2001  Mentors (TV Series)
Roy Cates

2000  Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111 (TV Movie)
Wendell Gillis

2000  Mysterious Ways (TV Series)
Mr. Ward

2000  High Noon (TV Movie)
Joe Henderson

2000  The Dinosaur Hunter (TV Movie)
Fred Creath

2000  Beautiful Joe
Wayne

1999-2000  Traders (TV Series)
Ben Sullivan

 

2000  PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal (TV Series)
Harley

1999  Mystery, Alaska
D.A. Dollof

1999  Beggars and Choosers (TV Series)
Gideon

1999  Silver Wolf (TV Movie)
Frank McLean

1998  The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (TV Series)
Roy Jackson

1998  Stranger in Town (TV Movie)
Police Chief Waller

1995-1998  Jake and the Kid (TV Series)
Jake Trumper

1998  The Inspectors (TV Movie)
Sheriff Glover

1998  Welcome to Paradox (TV Series)
Meggs

1998  Heart of the Sun
Harry

1998  Beyond the Barbed Wire (TV Movie)

1997  Silent Cradle
Detective Thorpe

1997  North of 60 (TV Series)
Doug Willis

1997  Ms. Bear
Barney Porter

1996  The Cold Heart of a Killer (TV Movie)

1995  Healthy Human Specimen (Short)
Sal

1995  Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years (TV Series)
Deputy

1995  Convict Cowboy (TV Movie)
Policeman (uncredited)

1995  Hawkeye (TV Series)
Woodsman

1995 The X-Files (TV Series)
Pete Calcagni

1994  Strange and Rich
Jerome Rich

1994  Probable Cause (TV Movie)
Henry Davarrio

 1994  How the West Was Fun (TV Movie)
Phil

1994  Road to Saddle River

1994  Cafe Utopia (Short)
Philosopher

1993  Destiny Ridge (TV Series)
Rich Dearden

1993  Two Brothers, a Girl and a Gun
Wes

1990  Blood Clan
Jerry