The Three Acting Amigos: Pinsent, Gross and Hawco

The Republic of Doyle has been under siege all year. Moved to Sundays by budget battered CBC, they’ve had to dodge or battle the Oscars, the Grammys, the Screenies and the Super Bowl, not to mention the Walking Dead. This Sunday, their season finale goes up against The Junos.
As a result, it’s been a challenging fourth season, ratings-wise, for star/executive producer Allan Hawco and gang. Sunday’s two-hour finale should get a boost, however, from a couple of Canadian acting heavyweights: Paul Gross and Gordon Pinsent.
I was out in St. John’s, Nfld., last fall when these episodes were being shot. The actors and crew were camped inside a retired school house. They were making good use of the place: a fight scene between Hawco and Gross was shot on the roof and a classroom on the second floor was turned into a cabin in the woods on the day I was a fly on their wall.
Hawco had been telling me the last few years about how he leaned on Gross in the early days of this series, calling him daily for tips on how to do this and how to do that. Gross has been an actor/writer/producer for years, starting back on Due South in the ’90s and extending into his film work today.
Pinsent was somebody Hawco looked up to all his life. “All of Canadafeels that way but particularly Newfoundlanders,” says Hawco.
Especially his mother. Hawco remembers advice she gave him just before he left The Rock and set out to find his acting legs in Toronto.
“So worried boutcha Allan,” she said.
“Ma, doin’ fine,” says Hawco.
“Do me a favour,” she pleaded. “Call Gordon Pinsent up–find him, see if he can help.”

Thought Hawco, “Yeah, like he’s The Pope.”
Turns out mother was right. Pinsent’s late wife Charmion King was in a play with young Hawco. The Pinsent’s were struck with his performance and offered encouragement and were the first to donate when Hawco formed his own theatre company.
A black fedora helped Pinsent get in character for this episode. Hawco says he marvels at the actor’s energy at 82. “I worked with him yesterday for seven hours and he put in a total of 12,” he says. “Off-camera, he gave a better performance than on-camera and his on-camera performance is pretty effin’ good.”
Pinsent says he approaches every day on every set like it’s his first. “You arrive and it’s the first day of school,” he says. “Doesn’t matter how much education, how much time you have spent in the business, the first day is the first day at school. And all actors do feel that, even if they don’t want to admit it, they do. There’s that’s sense of – yes I know, I know this, yes, I know I’m ready, but you still have to utter your words for the first time and you have to be all engaged in what you’re doing and you turn around and of course you’re seeing that everyone else is doing precisely the same thing. It’s great work. A lovely, incredible way of life.”
More on the bond between Pinsent, Gross and Hawco in this feature I wrote appearing in Sunday’s Toronto Star.

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