Leah Renee: from beaver tales to Playboy bunny

CHICAGO–How did a nice girl from Toronto wind up as a Playboy bunny?
The question was put to Leah Renee, one of the stars of the new NBC/City drama The Playboy Club, airing Monday nights at 10 p.m.
The red-haired actress, who did cartoon voice work throughout her teenage years (primarily as Beaver on Franklin), seems more like a “Disney Girl” than a Playboy Bunny–although there’s nothing Disney about the way she fills her bunny suit.
It was likely that mix of innocence and sensuality that got her the job. Renee, who appeared (as Leah Cudmore) in such Canadian shows as Degrassi: The Next Generation, My Babysitter’s a Vampire and M.V.P., says it all happened just weeks after she moved to Los Angeles last winter. “I was the luckiest girl on earth because this was my first [U.S.] audition,” says the 25-year-old.
It helped, she thinks, that Playboy Club executive producer Chad Hodge already had her on his radar. The two worked together years before on the short-lived Toronto-based CW series Runaway.
This production is housed in a gigantic converted steel factory in Chicago’s west end. Shooting an hour-long TV drama means long days, especially at the beginning. On this visit to the set, work starts in the evening and goes through the night. Toronto-born director Holly Dale (Durham County, Flashpoint) is motioning for more smoke to be blown onto the set, giving it a hazy look. Renee is out of her usual bunny ears, cuffs and tail and in more elegant cocktail attire for a scene in the upstairs “Bunny Lounge” of the massive, two storey interior.
The former Mississauga, Ont., art school student admits the bunny suit can make a girl feel sexy. “The outfit does transform you,” she says, “although it’s not so glamorous getting into it.” In fact she has to have help. “There’s a dresser who dresses us with lots of sucking everything in and lots of regretting the chips I ate the night before followed by lots of wiggling and then you’re in,” she says.
For more on Renee and The Playboy Club, follow this link to the story I wrote this week for The Canadian Press.

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