The Boy Next Door - Dean McDermott

Jen Johnston


Talking Pictures alias talkingpix.co.uk

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 I love the women of my little village. We’re not the typical group of friends that you might expect to find in a small farming town. We’re not the types to stay home baking, and tending to the crops. We’re musicians, we’re painters, we’re accountants, and we’re cowgirls. We’re incredibly loyal to each other, and always have a fantastic time together participating in our two weekly traditions:

1) Attending a “Pampered Chef” party. For the uninitiated, these would be parties that require you to leave several brain lobes as security at the door, for people that attend, who may have never been near a kitchen in their entire lives find themselves uttering things like, “hmmmmmm..... $45 for a cheese grater.... That’s a GREAT deal.”

And....

2) Our Due South night. This is to us what poker night is to the rest of the civilized world., and, if memory serves, there are only two men who have ever managed to finagle an invitation; my friend Connie’s (now ex) boyfriend Dave, and my next door neighbour Blair. 

Due South.Connie and Dave were destined to end, for they had issues from the start. They come from two different worlds. Connie is a country girl through and through. She’s helpful, courteous, and can use phrases like “Keep your pants on, I have to grab my riding crop,” without referring to a situation that could get her arrested. Dave, on the other hand, is from a big city. (Which for privacy’s sake we’ll call Drofdeb.) Drofdeb attracts certain types of people as residents. These would be people who are seeking lovely homes with beautiful views, and the opportunity to make daily sudden left turns across two lanes of traffic without signalling into video rental shops. One fateful Thursday, Dave drove from Drofdeb (official motoring motto: Death before Yielding) all the way out to my little community to spend an evening watching “Due South” with us. Connie was terribly excited, as the episode on that evening was her favourite. (“Good for the Soul”) This would be the episode where the unrequited love of her life (Dean McDermott as Constable Turnbull) bursts into the best Christmas carol ever “Santa Drives a Pickup.” (Everybody Now!! “The elves topped up the gas tank, Santa climbed aboard. He turned that engine over on that ‘67 Ford. Ohhhhhhhhhh, Santa drives a pickup, the reindeers ride in back.. Look out for that fat man, he’ll be coming down your stack......”) 

The episode started, and Connie was immediately enthralled. Dave on the other hand was instantly bored out of his tree. This could have possibly been acceptable were it not for the fact that he decided to make this fact as clear as possible by making sarcastic comments every 30 seconds. We (the girls) did not immediately toss him out because we adore Connie, and didn’t want to offend her new man. It turned out that we didn’t have too long to wait however for Connie to evict the bastion of poor taste all on her own, for the instant Dean launched into her favourite holiday tune, Dave (demonstrating a total lack of common sense) made yet ANOTHER observation increasing the level of hostility to the point where any object placed in between them would have instantly burst into flame. Dave has never been invited back. (Though I understand he has since become quite the Power Play fan.) Connie has since moved on to a new fellow, (by the name of Tom) who treats her very well, is quite romantic, and wisely never says anything derogatory about Dean. 

Blair (an honorary little brother) however is a regular guest at Due South night. Blair has been a big fan of Due South ever since watching Connie’s favourite episode. Watching Turnbull for 60 minutes solid without moving a muscle (an amazing achievement for an 8 year old, sitting still for that length of time) he suddenly announced that he wanted to “be a MOUNTIE, just like him.” Blair saves his allowance money to buy video tapes to record Dean’s every TV appearance that his parents deem acceptable to watch. Blair has made his own Hamilton Steelheads (Dean’s team on Power Play) jersey utilizing crayons and magic markers.  Blair has trick-or-treated for the last two Halloween’s as Constable Turnbull. Dean is Blairs’ hero.

Preparing to talk with Dean, I had all my questions prepared about his career, and his upcoming projects, but knew that the question that I really wanted answered was one I couldn’t possibly ask: “Is he worthy of Blair’s adoration?”

Absolutely.

Dean McDermott.Dean McDermott, most recognizable as his goofy constable from Due South, has been carving out an incredible career for himself through small, beautifully constructed character roles. Anyone with the credits this man has behind him has more than earned the right to be a bit aloof, after all it’s not everyone who can claim that they’ve worked with the top of Canadian talent (everyone from Leslie Nielsen, to Kenneth Welsh, to Paul Gross). Yet, when I had the chance to speak with him, the first thing that came to me, was just how friendly he actually is. It’s easy to be nervous at the concept of speaking with actors of his experience, but Dean made it impossible for me to be so. 

We started out by talking about how he won the role of Turnbull on Due South. “I actually had auditioned for Paul Gross’ role,” said Dean. “That’s how I met (series creator) Paul Haggis. My first part on Due South actually was a bad guy in “The Man Who Knew Too Little.” Then there were rumblings for a new character. Not a Mountie specifically, just a bumbling, earnest doofus who eventually became Turnbull.” About Due South he went on to say that he loved the whole creative environment. “Paul Gross’ on set credo was that the best idea wins. It didn’t matter who you were, or what your job was, if you had a good idea you could go to him. If he liked it, in it went. The on set environment was fantastic!! We had such a great crew, they did such a great job. It really was a family.”

I then queried about his first day of shooting on Power Play. “I was SO nervous,” said Dean. “There I was on a rink with professional hockey players, former NHL-ers and Junior A athletes. I kept trying to talk to them, and showed that I was willing to learn from them. I think that really helped break the ice (pun intended?), because they stopped looking at me as ‘the actor trying to skate.’ They had some really great stories.” I asked which particular teams he follows. “I am definitely a Toronto Maple Leafs fan” he said. “My default team would probably be......The Edmonton Oilers. They play with a lot of heart.”

Dean told me about his first big acting job. “It was a show called T and T. I got the job at the very last minute, 6 hours before shooting was due to start. I played an effeminate houseboy who tried to attack Mr. T with a knife, AND, I got to act with Kenneth Welsh (Adrift, The War Boy) which was such a thrill for me.”

I asked whether or not Dean had always wanted to be an actor. “I think I did, even if I wasn’t always aware of it. When I was little, everyone played ‘Cops and Robbers.’ Most of it was just boys running around yelling ‘Bang! You’re Dead.’ In my case though it was incredibly elaborate. I had partners helping me try to bring down drug kingpins, complete with elaborate death scenes when one of us would get shot. The actor in me was always lurking under the surface trying to get out. Of course, I also wanted to be a policeman, a fire fighter, or an underwater welder when I was little. Underwater welder sounded like such a cool job.”

I asked Dean who his biggest professional influences are. “Robin Williams (Insomnia, Good Morning Vietnam) is my hero,” he replied. “I know his material backwards and forwards. I was never surprised by the fact that someone who is so funny can also be so good dramatically. I think Sean Penn (I Am Sam) is just fantastic. Christopher Walken (The Dead Zone) is a terrifically quirky actor too.”

He paused for a minute, to mull over the question of who the biggest personal influences have been on his life. “I would have to say.....my mother. She’s incredible. She’s dealt with adversity, and illness. She’s so strong. I’d like to think that all the good things I have in me I got from her. And of course, my wife and son whom I adore more than anything.”

If he was not an actor Dean thought he would still be working in the film world. “I would be a cinematographer. I would love to express myself visually.”

I then asked what the first thing was that fans generally asked when they met him. “Well, they usually ask me for a kiss. I was quite liberal with the kisses at one Due South convention. I am always liberal with the hugs though. I love my fans, I wouldn’t be anywhere without them.” He then added “You have to put this in the article. Please tell everyone out there that I’m really sorry if I haven’t written back to them. When we moved, a whole bunch of letters got lost in the shuffle, so everyone please write again.”

He talked about one of his fans favourite performances; that of Rough Air. “I played an Internet mogul, who totally snaps and murders someone. The police catch up with my in England, and put me on the DOOMED flight to take me back.” Dean gave co-star Eric Roberts (Star 80) a glowing reference saying “Eric and I totally hit it off. My first scene with him was in the cockpit of the plane, and to break the tension of the day I brought along my remote control fart machine. He though it was hysterical. He also thought that I could do it on command, which I’m still not sure how to take. *laughing*”

Dean then said that he’d love to try doing a single camera comedy or a sitcom, but admits that “it’s fun to play the bad guy. You get to do or say whatever you want with no consequences.”

Dean has done some charity work as well, donating a rather odd item to “Lights, Camera, Auction” a group that raises money for a shelter in Ontario. “I donated my wisdom tooth. I put it in my Gucci watch box, along with some Polaroids I had taken of the dentist while he was doing it. I think it raised $250.”

Dean is now hard at work on a new project; Open Range starring Kevin Costner, (Dragonfly) Robert Duvall, (The Scarlet Letter) and Annette Bening. (Bugsy). “Robert and Kevin are a couple of cattle rustlers, driving their heard from place to place. I play the local doctor. They bring some injured men to me. I don’t want to give away too much though. Let’s just say that good things happen, and bad things happen. It’s a great story.”

Demonstrating his open nature Dean speaks freely of his wife and son, Mary-Jo, and Jack.

Dean McDermott.“Mary is on ‘Canada AM’ every Thursday. She’s their resident chef. She’s always out there pitching new ideas, new shows. She’s super supportive. And Jack, he’s great, he makes me laugh all the time. He went swimming for the first time by himself the other day. He’s so amazing.”

After speaking with Dean for nearly an hour, I hung up, only to be besieged by telephone calls. The first was from Connie. (You could tell because of the heavy breathing on the phone line.) “SO?????” she demanded, “What’s he like?” Then, all in one breath she came out with: 
 

"bethe’snice.Heseemssonice.AndFUNNY.Andtall.Ibethe’stall.” 


I told her that unfortunately I couldn’t answer the height question, but could say with absolute certainty that he was funny, and very nice. The call waiting beeped. “Hello?” I said. “Hey Jen,” said our local store owner. “I forgot to say that when you’re talking to that Dean guy, let him know that we have a local hockey team, and any time he feels like it, he can come play for us.” I said I’d pass it along, and returned to Connie who was still going on. 

“IlovedhimasTurnbull.He’ssuchagreatactorIwonderifhe’llevercomedowntoNovaScotia....” The call waiting beeped again. It was Blair. “Hi,” he said. “I just wanted to know how Mr. McDermott was.” I told Blair that he was fine, and said “hello!!,” and would be sending an autographed photo to him. Blair then announced that he’d start making a frame right away. I returned to Connie/dial tone (I assume at the rate she was speaking she had passed out from lack of oxygen).

Dean is that rare actor, the one that is so truly skilled, that he blends into his character. There’s no trace of “look at that actor pretending to be a secret agent”, but always simply “look at that secret agent.” He’s truly witty, amiable, and a joy to talk to. I just have one complaint to launch in his direction:

It’s that I was bound and determined to get the lyrics to “Santa Drives a Pickup” into this article, and those lyrics don’t appear anywhere on line. In order to include them I had to listen to the Internet sound file six times. Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I hear a song six times it tends to stick in my head. Which means that in the middle of June, I have had been losing the battle against the urge to stop people in the community and say “You look like a Natural baritone. Do you know the words to “Santa Drives a Pickup?” and then I launch into song. I think I would be less chagrined about this if everyone was doing it. So, in the interests of spreading the Dean McDermott fan club of my little village through to Drofdeb (only traffic law: If your horn works you have to provide clear audible proof of this at least once every thirty seconds), and saving my own sanity I have decided that we will all sing this song together:

*Insert Guitar Music Here*
The elves topped up the gas tank
Santa climbed aboard
He turned the engine over on that ‘67 Ford
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,
Santa drives a pickup,
The reindeers ride in back
Look out for that fat man
He’ll be coming down your stack.
Now, all that needs doing is for you to read that paragraph six more times. Once you do that, then you can join us for the next Due South night. Dean has a standing invitation. We may even get him to sing. 

1) What's the last movie you saw that you loved? 
Spiderman. Toby rocked!”

2) What's the first album you ever owned? 
“Cheap Trick live at Budakon.”

3) What's the last book you read? 
Diamond Dogs by Allan Watt.”

4) Do you have a Pet Peeve? 
“People who park poorly.”

 5) What's your favourite food?
“Spaghetti and meat balls.”

 6) What's the worst job you ever had? 
“File clerk. I hated it!!”

 7) What's the one gadget/gizmo you can't live without? 
“My keyless entry. I tried unlocking the door with the key and....it ...was...weird.”

8) What hobby do you have that you think would  surprise people? 
“I'm Captain Kareoke. I have an 85 disc collection(and growing),lights, mics the whole sha-bang.”

 9) If you could change one thing about yourself, what  would it be? 
“Better dance moves.”

 10) Whom do you most admire? 
“My son. He's funny, smart, handsome, charming and he's not even four yet.”

 11) What is your greatest extravagance? 
“My golf clubs. Only the very best.”

 12) Have you ever been mistaken for another celebrity? 
“Kevin Bacon, Tim Daly, Guy Pearce and Wesley Snipes.”

 13) Do you have a favourite quotation? 
"‘Pour some sugar on me!’". Def-Leopard.”

 14) What is your greatest strength as an actor? 
“I'm still trying to find it.”

 15) What classic film role would you like to have  played? 
“The Scarecrow, Tinman, or lion in The Wizard of Oz. They seemed like such fun roles.”

 16) Who are your favourite authors? 
“Any self-help book author.”

17) What's the strangest question you've ever been  asked by an interviewer?
“The field is pretty wide open. Anybody want to take a shot at a strange question?”
 
 
 
 
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