Richard Donat was born and raised in Kentville, Nova Scotia. In the early 60s 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, which used the lobby of the curling rink as its stage and auditorium. He then helped form Neptune's Second Stage.
From the middle 70s to the late 80s, Donat lived in 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.
Donat has 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 also appeared in such films as Tomorrow Never Comes, Draw and City on Fire, in which he played Henry Fonda's son.
Upon returning to Nova Scotia, Donat has directed a number of stage productions, including Gideon's Blues and Consecrated Ground, both by local writer George Boyd. He has also directed Hosanna starring Walter Borden and Jeremiah Sparks, Mamet's A Life in the Theatre, Andrew Moodie's Riot, Rough Waters by Melissa Mullen, 3 Dogs Barking by Frank Barry, Sam Shepard's The God of Hell and The Elephant Man. He directed The Drawer Boy in the summer of 2007 at The Atlantic Theatre Festival.
In Montreal, Donat won The Merritt Award for Best Supporting Actor in 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.