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Fans of X-Men: The Animated Series know Lenore Zann as the distinctively southern-twanged, husky-toned voice of the character Rogue. But behind the brash demeanor of the mutant belle, whom Zann helped propel to the status of fan-favorite icon during the ‘90s, was a more unexpected real-life personality. For more than a decade, Zann was an elected official and member of Canadian parliament, whose outspoken politics matched the no-nonsense confidence of her fictional persona. And as Zann recently revealed, her political stands – much like those of her mutant alter-ego – sometimes put her in very real jeopardy.
Speaking at a recent X-Men: TAS cast reunion at at C2E2 2023, Zann told audiences how her support for gun control measures in parliament had resulted in threats on her life during her time in office: “I had just gone through some very traumatic stuff in my own life,” Zann recalled. “We had this terrible mass shooting in my riding [a Canadian electoral district], and I ended up getting death threats, because I said we needed to have more gun control. Hmm. Funny thing, that, right?”
The threats had come after Zann spoke out in response to a mass shooting in Nova Scotia in April of 2020, prompting the actor-turned-politicianto call for a ban on assault weapons and an investigation into the role hatred of women played in the violence. That experience, coming just before the X-Men cast was set to reunite in the studio for the revived X-Men ‘97 series, ended up informing how Zann approached her character, as she went on to discuss: “And so, when I was asked to come back as [Rogue on] the X-Men, I had just gone through this horrendous time. But when I walked into the studio and I put the headphones on, I was like, ‘Hey, sugah. I’m ready to rumble.' It was like, there she was.”
Zann’s path from television to politics and back again followed a roundabout path. Born in Australia, she moved with her family to Canada at age 11, where she eventually found acting work both on camera and as a voiceover artist behind the microphone.
Following the X-Men’s ending in 1997, Zann moved into a surprise second career as an elected official at various levels of Canadian government, running first in a successful bid for the Nova Scotia provincial House of Assembly in 2009. Controversy seemed to stalk her from the beginning: just after Zann announced her candidacy, political opponents 'leaked' to the press nude photos of the actor actually taken from her appearance on the HBO series The L Word. Nevertheless, Zann won her election, going on to champion the cause of environmental racism in Nova Scotia and unsuccessfully launching a bid for her party’s leadership, before running and winning a seat in the Canadian federal parliament in 2019.
Zann’s steadfastly liberal positions, however, won her both acclaim and controversy, coming at a time when Canada (like the United States) had entered a period of intense political polarization. In the wake of the 2020 shooting, Zann’s support for gun control measures resulted in a barrage of threats against her for both her politics and her gender over the phone and on social media. "I grew up in the generation where we worked hard to create equality between men and women, and we made some tremendous strides," Zann told the CBC at the time. "Now I see some cracks and I believe we're going backwards a bit."
Zann ultimately lost her parliamentary seat in the following election in 2021, but didn’t have to wait long for career opportunities: in November of that year, Disney+ announced the forthcoming debut of X-Men ’97, a continuation of the ‘90s series, with Zann set to reprise the role that made her famous in the first place. After initially worrying that she had lost the touch that allowed her to perform as the character, Zann was quickly reassured after returning to the studio: as she confidently told the audience at C2E2, “I am Rogue.”
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