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Gemini-award winning actress Helene Joy and her Toyota Prius.

Moe Doiron/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

Hélène Joy

Profession: Actress

Age: She won't reveal it

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Hometown: Perth, Australia

Notable achievements: 2010 Gemini nomination for best female lead in a drama series; won 2008 Gemini for best female lead in a drama series

Currently: portrays Audrey Sweeney in the award-winning series Durham County on Global and TMN's HBO Canada; also plays Dr. Julia Ogden in the CityTV series The Murdoch Mysteries; voice-over actor in her fourth animated series, Pearlie

Hélène Joy is a Gemini award winning actress with lead roles in two hit Canadian drama series: The Murdoch Mysteries and Durham County.

The Australian-born actress shines on screen, but on the road she blends in with the crowd, driving a used 2007 Toyota Prius.

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Why did you buy a Prius?

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I hadn't owned a car in years, but I decided if I'm going to own one it had to be a hybrid.

It came down to a Prius because of all the sedan hybrids this one is the least offensive looking. The other one I was looking at was an Escape hybrid. It may be a hybrid and its good compared to other SUVs, but it's no better than your average car.

When I was buying the Prius, I was, like, I need to know that I can sleep in the back. I don't know why. I've never slept in the back of it and I probably never will. For some strange reason I always feel like you should be able to sleep in the back of your car.

It must hearken back to my days in Australia. Where I lived there was no decent transport situation. Knowing you can always jump in the back of your car and sleep in it makes me feel better.

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What does a Prius say about you?

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I'm conscious environmentally.

I don't care too much about what the car looks like. I don't think it's a very attractive or cool-looking car, but I don't really care. As I drive around I notice other Prius drivers are usually elderly grey-haired men. It's me and all those people!

Some people think my car is a bit nerdy. It's not a hip car even though it's very environmental, which I find hipper than a hip car.

What was your first car?

It was a Ford Escort. It cost $600. Like the Prius it didn't have keys, you just pressed a button.

Someone could have stolen it any time, but no one thought to. I never had to lock it because no one would have figured out how to start it.

The doors sometimes opened when I went around corners. It was a horrible mustardy-orange. It was the ugliest car I had ever seen, but it was good, it was wheels and total freedom. It lasted me two years.

Was it hard driving in Canada on the opposite side of the road as Australia?

I've become quite ambidextrous when it comes to that. I can swap back and forth now.

At first, I had to make a conscious effort to remember what side of the road I'm on - you're on the totally opposite side of the car, the steering, the gears - everything is on the opposite side. And then something just clicks back in.

But still to this day I walk to the opposite side of the car to get into it every time. And when someone drives me, they go, 'Oh, do you want to drive?' No. no. no. I'm doing the Australian thing.

Any driving mishaps?

I had a bartending job when I was 18. I used my mom's business van to go to work.

I didn't want to go. … I had to drive two hours in the country and it was late. I fell asleep doing about 150!

I woke up on the other side of the road - in Australia you have these wooden poles at the edge of the road in the country and I took out four of those poles embedded in concrete! Then, I flew down into a ditch and landed in the bush sideways.

I had a 'roo bar on the front - it's just in case you hit a kangaroo. That saved my life.

I should have killed myself - there was not a dent on the car, but every surface of the car needed to be repainted. My mother never let me use her car again.

Are you a more cautious driver because of that incident?

I feel a lot safer in a plane than I do in a car.

I'm aware of how easy you can die behind the wheel. Statistics are I'm more likely to die in that car than any other situation. It sounds morbid.

I'm careful when I'm driving. I try not to be distracted by anything. I see people talking on their cell phones while driving - texting is the worst. If you were to hurt someone or hurt yourself while talking on the phone you would never live with yourself for the rest of your life.

Any road trips on the horizon?

In mid-January, I'll take a couple of weeks to drive to L.A. That was one of the reasons I bought the car. I went down every year for pilot season and the car rental is a lot of money. Even if you do it on the cheap it's still $4,000-$5,000 dollars so I was, like, if I buy this car, I'm going to do it by road.

I'm going to go as far south as I can to get out of the cold. I've actually never driven in snow. My plan is to get down to the southern states and drive across and pass the places I've always wanted to go to like New Orleans.

What do you listen to while driving?

Music-wise, I would listen to my iPod, but I'm limited. My Prius doesn't have an iPod hook-up.

It's the first time I've had to listen to the radio and it's awful. It's all pop music and every station is playing the same crap.

What's your dream car?

Some people are right into cars, but that's not necessarily me. … There are a lot of beautiful cars out there, but that's not important to me.

I would feel so horrible driving around in a big Jeep or a big tank that wasn't a hybrid. I just couldn't enjoy it.

If you could give me the keys to one of these brand-new electric cars that was environmentally going to transform the world I would like one of those.

The interview has been edited and condensed.

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About the Author

Petrina Gentile is an award-winning automotive journalist - one of the few women who cover cars in Canada. Her life revolves around wheels. She has been writing for the Drive section since 2004. Besides auto reviews, she also interviews celebrities like Norman Jewison, Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hansen, Dean McDermott, Russell Peters, and Ron MacLean for her My Car column. More

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