Brian Dennehy says his stern Irish grandfather was his role model for many of the hard man roles he played. “I have based an awful lot of characters that I have played on him, he told the Canadian Press  “I had such admiration for him.”

Dennehy is in Canada this St.Patrick’s Day to narrate a new docudrama “Death or Canada” about the Irish who fled to Canada during the great Famine of 1845-1848.

“My father used to say to me ‘The Dennehys in fact were probably the only genuine peasants in Ireland. Everyone else from Irish ancestry has descended from kings but not us.”"I knew my grandfather, who was an extraordinary man - very, very tough, very hard, very determined individual who left Ireland when he was 12, on his own ...

He doesn’t know if any of his family left Ireland during the famine. He says they were too poor to leave behind any records, the Dennehys and the Mannions, on his mother's side, worked on farms.

By re-enactments and interviews with experts, "Death or Canada" shows how Toronto was a major stopping off point for famine victims.