HALIFAX, N.S.–They make TV in strange places across Canada. Mr. D, the CBC comedy which returns for a second season in January, houses its main schoolroom sets on the surface of the CFB Halifax Curling Club.
The sitcom stars Gerry Dee as a seat-of-the-pants school teacher. On this Wednesday morning, during the last week of shooting, Dee was playing opposite Bette MacDonald, Jonathan Torrens and Mark Forward in a scene shot in a school hallway. Director Keith Samples yells action, the scene unfurls, and then there are several seconds of playtime allowed at the end of most takes. This gang of improv artists–which includes Naomi Smeckus, Mark Little and Wes Williams–gets to add a little spin to the original shots.
Little especially seems capable of endless shtick. They all seem to follow Dee’s lead, which is everybody has carte blanche to find the funny in every scene, extra takes be damned.
Showrunner Mike Volpe and Dee have lined up some big name guest stars for Season Two. It’s all hush hush till then, but January’s season opener sounds like it will be a hoot.
As is the production norm these days, two episodes were being shot simultaneously in the few days I’ve been in town. One called for a trip to a seedier side of Halifax where the action takes place in a male strip club. If there is a wrong situation for Mr. D to be in, he’ll find it.
Dee is a revelation on the set. He steps into scenes and delivers the funny take after take, as focused and inventive in the after play as seasoned comedy veterans MacDonald, Torrens or Smeckus. Between takes, he huddles with Volpe, Samples and writers Kurt Smeaton and Andrew De Angelis as they prep the next set up. Sprung for lunch, he’s often on the phone, sorting out his upcoming comedy road tour, details on his book release, or just the latest update on his two adorable young girls.
He still finds time to hand me a cool new “Mr. d” Callaway hat (one of his sponsors), or admonish his older girl to shake hands with the man from the press. He remains a well-mannered Del la Salle grad.
With shooting over for the season Friday, Dee hits the road to begin his “Life After Teaching” comedy tour. Go here to find out when he’s heading your way.

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