|Welsh and Chernick, part of deep bench of Canadian talent on TBLP|
I had more fun than a senator with an unlimited expense account last fall in Ottawa on the set of The Best Laid Plans. The six-part series, based on Terry Fallis’ political satire, premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBC before moving to Mondays the next five weeks. Read my story on the series for The Canadian Press here.
I hovered around as producer/director Peter Moss put Jonas Chernick, Raoul Bhaneja and Sarah Allen through a few scenes. All three play backroom political strategists on Parliament Hill.
The series also features a deep bench of Canadian TV favourites. Mark McKinney, who plays the leader of the opposition and Chernick’s character’s boss, was singled out by just about everybody as a real spark plug. “I’m just such an enormous, geeky fan of his entire career,” said Chernick. Moss recalled how McKinney came in for an early table read and threw himself into all the secondary parts. “He had the cast rolling on the floor he was so inventive.”
The project almost seems like a class reunion of Canadian TV stars–Sonja Smits, Eric Peterson, Peter Keleghan, Leah Pinsent, Tom Jackson and many others are in the ensemble. Chernick got to spend a lot of time with Kenneth Welsh, who plays an Ottawa college professor who gets dragged into the political arena as an unlikely candidate.
Welsh wasn’t on set the day I visited but I did catch up with he and Chernick last month at the CBC Winter launch in Toronto. Welsh had on his Order of Canada pin; Chernick pointed out Peterson has one, too.
“We bonded very quickly,” Chernick said of Welsh, “but I kept waiting for him to start sharing his stories with me.”
That took a little prodding, says Chernick, but once the stories started, they never stopped. “His Scorsese and Woody Allen and Mike Nichols stories,” said Chernick. “I had to squeeze it out of him. And once I did, I couldn’t shut him up! Last week, he was still dropping names, ‘Uh, it reminds me of the time I went to Robert Duvall’s party in New York on New Year’s Eve and we had a jam session…’”
Clearly there was some serious mentoring going on. I asked Welsh if, when he was a young actor, there was somebody he looked up to that helped him up the ladder. “That would have been Chris Plummer,” said Welsh. “He’s made of steel that man.”
I fell in love with Chris when I heard him on a recording of a play and I associated with him immediately, and I thought, this guy is me. I’m him. And then I got to work with him at Stratford in 1967 – he was playing Antony and I was playing Octavius,He used to come to our place after the bars closed – you’d hear the cab door close and then he said, ‘Darlings! – It’s Uncle Chris! – Have you got any whiskey up there?’And he’d come in and regale us all night with stories about his life. We’d just keep asking him questions, this and that, – who’d you work with and where did you go?, – so ya. That would be Chris.