Rob Salem calls it the semi-annual "Frostbacks" story. It is a summing up of the most recent press tour by rounding up all the Canadians who were trotted out before critics. You can find my latest take on the Hollywood Canucks here today in the Toronto Star.
Was quite impressed with Tyler Labine this press tour. The burly Canuck (above left with Lie to Me's Mekhi Phifer) made the scene at the Fox press tour party to promote his upcoming mid-season replacement series Sons of Tucson. The Brampton, Ont.-native has been close to a breakout U.S. hit a few time over the years but still no cigar. Reaper was a cool little series but barely limped into a second season. Invasion was another cult fave that never really clicked.
I remember how excited Labine and fellow Canuck James Bulliard were at an ABC party in 2002 when That Was Then was launched to the press. The party was at the well-manicured Rose Bowl business centre grounds in Pasadena and ABC stars like Drew Carey and John Ritter (then on 8 Simple Rules) were working the event.
Bulliard and Labine were like kids in a candy store, stoked about sharing an LA apartment and just being in the business. The excitement was short-lived for Bulliard; That Was Then which was too similar to a WB show called Do Over that season, only lasted two episodes. (Basically, both these shows were Being Erica!)
Bulliard, a Trinity College U of T grad, pretty much quit the business after that. Labine persevered.
"That was a pretty big thing in my life," Labine says looking back at that ABC party. "That was my first American TV show. People were blowing smoke up my ass. I'd never experienced LA before."
He credits his parents with helping him keep his head on straight and things in perspective. "I started acting when I was nine," he says. "They'd always led me to believe that you're a special person or whatever but don't get a big head about what you're doing. There's nothing special about what you do."
Labine says the Canadian teen comedy Breaker High, which came before That Was Then, was his real "acting boot camp." The B.C.-based series co-starred Ryan Gosling. Each half-hour took three days to make, recalls Labine. "It was shot on the cheapest stage of all time." Just 19 at the time, Labine still didn't think acting would turn out to be a career.
Sons of Tucson finds the now 31-year-old playing surrogate dad to three rambunctious tykes. He says the kids are so carefree that they've helped remind him to "stop thinking so much" as an actor. "They've brought me back to this place," he says just as his publicist gives the twirly-finger wrap-it-up sign for the third time. Nobody was standing next to him with a watch back at that first ABC party.
For more on Canadians in Hollywood at the recent press tour, check out this feature I wrote last week for The Canadian Press. It looks specifically at Happy Town, a mystery series shot almost a year ago in Port Hope Ontario. The producers raved about the deep talent pool they found in T.O. Described as a bit Twin Peak-y, Happy Town is set to premiere in March or April.
How small a world is it down at press tour? One of the Canadians glimpsed in the Happy Town clip shown to critics was Linda Kash. Best known as the Philly Cream Cheese angel, she's a local treasure, having acted and written in Canada for years.
The very next ABC press tour session was for Being Erica, which airs in the U.S. on SOAPnet. When I told Erica co-star Michael Riley (right) I had spotted Kash in the Happy Town clip, he smiled and said, "Good. I used to be married to her."