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Nonnie Griffin’s Norma Jeane

In her new solo show, the celebrated Canadian actress takes on Marilyn in her golden years

Nonnie Griffin’s new show Marilyn — After channels Monroe in her unlived golden years, recounting her story with a wisdom only age can bring. Credit: Denise Grant

It seems inevitable Nonnie Griffin would play Marilyn Monroe. Blessed with platinum blond hair and bada-boom body in her youth, the celebrated Canadian actress bore an eerie resemblance to the late starlet. Not only that, she was christened Lorna Jean (nearly identical to Monroe’s pre-stardom name, Norma Jeane), officially changing it to Nonnie when it came time to join the actors’ union.

Her solo show Marilyn — After channels Monroe in her unlived golden years, recounting her story with a wisdom only age can bring. She returns to share often forgotten moments from her life: how she grew up without real parents and floated between foster homes, the many men she loved and the sexual demands placed on young actresses of her day.

Though she’s played countless fictional characters through her long career, Griffin acknowledges a particular responsibility in portraying a real person, especially one as simultaneously celebrated and misunderstood as Monroe. Her research has been a sort of informal lifelong project, beginning years before she had any inkling of making a show. From an early age, friends presented her with an endless stream of books about the blon bombshell for Christmas and birthdays, a nod to both her resemblance and her knack for imitating the star.

Despite growing up with a similar appearance in the same time period (Griffin was born only seven years after Monroe), there was one major difference between them: the way they handled the attention of men.

“You could say I was a show-stopper,” Griffin laughs. “But I didn’t fully realize the impact that body of mine had on the male populace. I was a devout Catholic and I was pretty angelic. I felt terrible about being, as they would say, an occasion of sin. Marilyn relished the attention, but for me, it was sometimes really embarrassing.”