Richard Donat was born and raised in Kentville, NS.
In the early 1960s, Donat attended the University of British Columbia where he started acting. From there he went on to the National Theatre School in Montreal. After graduating, he acted in most of the major theatres across the country. In the early ‘70s he helped set up the Chester Summer Theatre, before helping form Neptune’s Second Stage.
Donat later moved to Toronto, where he started a family and worked on stage, in film, TV and radio. In 1974 he was in the smash hit Hosanna by Michael Tremblay, which went to NYC and played at the Off Broadway Bijou Theater. He won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Best Actor in Brecht’s In the Jungle of the Cities and was nominated for a Genie Award for Best Supporting Actor in the film My American Cousin (he was beat out by Alan Arkin for Duddy Kravitz).
Donat appeared in such TV shows as Seeing Things, The Great Detective, The Littlest Hobo, For the Record, Net Worth, PSI Factor, T&T, Side Effects, VH Adderely, The Eddison Twins, Wind at My Back and The Collaborators. In LA, he appeared in Little House on the Prairie and in such films as Tomorrow Never Comes, Draw and City on Fire, playing Henry Fonda’s son.
In the late ‘80s, Donat and his family moved to Nova Scotia where he appeared at Neptune in productions of Our Town, 1949, Stone Angel and Driving Miss Daisy. For the Eastern Front Theatre, he was in The Drawer Boy. He also acted in numerous radio plays and was Ben Marsden in the mystery series Clean Sweep. He starred in the film The Way of Dut, also known as Mary Silman’s War, shot in Shelburne, and was in The Bruce Curtis Story, Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion, Life with Billy, The Little Kidnappers (alongside Charlton Heston), Made in Canada and the MOW Pit Pony. He played Dr. Burnley in the television series Emily of New Moon and Col. Boyle in Blackfly. He is the narrator on both ship wreck diving series Oceans of Mystery and The Sea Hunters. In 2004, he was chosen to read the Canada Reads winner Rockbound by Nova Scotia writer Frank Parker Day. He read the audio book version of Joyce Barkhouse’s Pit Pony, found in all elementary school libraries in Nova Scotia.
He has also directed a number of stage productions. He won the Montreal English Critics Award for Best Director for two shows, The Drawer Boy at Centaur Theatre and Wade in The Water for The Black Theatre Workshop Co.
Donat also won The Merritt Award for Best Supporting Actor in the Halifax production of Sam Shepard’s play Fool For Love and was nominated for a Merritt Award for Best Direction of the Atlantic Theatre Festival production of The Drawer Boy.
Last fall, he appeared in Daniel MacIvor’s play His Greatness at the Factory Theatre in Toronto, for which he won a Dora award for Best Actor. The play got rave reviews and NOW Magazine named it the best production of 2011.
In September 2012, Donat returns for a third season as newspaperman Vince Teagues on Haven, produced on Nova Scotia’s south shore.
Donat is the nephew of the late Robert Donat, who starred in such films as The Count of Monte Cristo, The Citadel, The Ghost Goes West and Goodbye Mr. Chips, for which he won the Oscar. Richard Donat’s brother, Peter, also an actor, has had an extensive career in the theatre in New York, Toronto, Stratford, San Francisco and most recently The Atlantic Theatre Festival in Wolfville.
Richard Donat lives near Bridgewater with Maggie Thomas. He is an avid gardener and bee keeper. Maggie is a Script Supervisor on films. They have two sons.