||As a little girl, I never held the
future aspirations of the majority of my gender. I didn’t want to become
a dancer, teacher, or Princess Leia. I did however, in my heart of hearts
want to be an actress. This dream lasted until approximately the age of
4 where it was squished by an older pre-school classmate and an episode
of MacGyver. I looked up to this particular person, and so, one
day, decided to impart to him with great seriousness, my ambitions to make
it big in Hollywood. In particular, to star on MacGyver. He looked
very concerned and then asked why I would want to die so young. I asked
what he meant, and then he informed me that apparently, when actors ratings
drop, TV and film executives force them to appear on murder mystery shows
playing the victims, and kill them off. Literally. (This would be why some
people’s careers appear to be so short. Also I was extremely gullible as
a child. Not that anything’s changed since then.)
From that moment on, I thought as I did not wish to die at the hands of Richard Dean Anderson, and since I have no more acting talent than cement I should stay behind the scenes and have found myself in the enviable position of entertainment writer. (Pro of job: Can remember Tom Cruise’s filmography in alphabetical order. Con of Job: Can no longer recall ATM pin code with same clarity.) Though this job does force me to movies that I would sooner gouge out my own eyes with on oyster fork than watch, (“Crossroads”) and turns me into a geek in most conversational circles not involving a philosophical dissection of Mel Gibson’s latest epic, it does, on occasion, offer the perk of being able to speak with amazing people like Peter Keleghan.
Peter Keleghan (The Newsroom, Made in Canada but most recognizable to the people of my little community as Ranger Gord on The Red Green Show) has been quietly carving out a name for himself in Canadian television programming. I have become very protective of each episode of Keleghan’s The Comedy Mill (for which he not only performed, but wrote) that I have managed to acquire (and am currently trying to get copies back from errant borrowers. You know who you are). Come out to my part of the world, and you’ll find people that have photographic evidence that Ranger Gord’s method of doing laundry can cause an immediate need for anti-motion sickness medicine. (Gord: “Thanks for letting me finish the spin cycle Red.” Red: That spin cycle scared me a little Gord.” Gord: "Well. I don’t get as dizzy as I used to.”) Gemini Award nominations for Keleghan as Ranger Gord: 1. Gaining national attention, (to say nothing of an ever increasing horde of fans at work) Keleghan played the self involved news anchor Jim Walcott on Ken Finkleman’s (Foreign Objects, Foolish Heart) The Newsroom. There are several co-workers who can in fact launch into quotes from Keleghan’s anchor man at the drop of a hat. i.e. “I’ve given my life to this corporation. MY LIFE! And all I’ve asked in for in return.... sum total..... is a German car, a cottage, and the right to enjoy them without thinking about anything!!” Gemini Awards for Keleghan as Walcott: 1. Mention Keleghan’s studio mogul Alan Roy (“Made in Canada”) to the office girls and you (more often than not) get this response:
(toned down for the family audience)
Keleghan is currently in the middle of completing his LAST season of the wonderfully sarcastic show Made in Canada. Gemini nominations for Keleghan as Roy: 2. Canadian Comedy Awards Nominations for Keleghan as Roy: 3. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, for Keleghan has over 46 film and television appearances (Seinfeld, Cheers, VIPER, WKRP) to his credit. And also does scads of voice over work. And is developing his own show. And is a licensed private pilot. And collects antique cars. And collects antique watches (he has 45) .
After speaking with Peter’s agent, I has arranged a time to speak with him, and sat down, about an half hour before hand to cram. I was following advice from a veteran broadcaster who participates in my swing band. He advised me that “It’s OK to be a little nervous. Just don’t be so nervous that you don’t listen to Peter’s answers.” He than regaled me with a tale of having stomach rhinoceros’ before speaking with one of his favourite musicians. I won’t reveal the entire thing here, except to say that when informed that said musician’s mother had recently passed away, he replied with “That’s nice.” I was, I don’t mind admitting, more than a little bit nervous. After all, if you re-read the preceding paragraphs, you will note that this man has had a FANTASTIC career. He’s won Gemini awards. He starred on (insert reverential tone here) The Comedy Mill. I did, in fact, resort to the typical junior high school behaviour of beginning to dial Peter’s number three times before I actually worked up the nerve to complete it and (thank goodness) he put me at ease almost immediately.
We spoke about The Newsroom. (Pay attention fans, there’s a movie in the works.) We spoke about The Red Green Show (including a hysterical audition story. Involving a chair collapsing underneath him mid-reading. Suffice to say, I now have a whole new respect for Steve Smith’s sense of humour). “My favourite episode,” said Keleghan “was the one where Gord falls in love. He thinks that he sees a nude sunbather off in the distance waving at him, when in fact, it’s a log with a leaf on it blowing in the wind.” I asked whether or not it was a surprise that Red Green had lasted as long as it did. “It was a surprise to everyone, especially Steve (Smith). But it’s a wonderful group of people, and we are all very proud of it.” It’s impressive that when speaking of appearances on American PBS (Red Green’s American network) pledge drives Keleghan, who would have run in to hundreds of fans on any given day, can recall specific ones with absolute certainty. And to answer two such fans who have emailed me recently:
1) Yes that is a real watch tower in the opening credits. It’s in Port Carling, Ont.
2) No Peter does not vacation there. As far as I know.
Branching out into Made in Canada Keleghan answered one of his fan bases biggest questions, (that of whether or not his character studio head Alan Roy was based on any one person in particular). “Alan is a composite character,” he replied. “He is a composite of several people in the business, so while I hope that he’s funny to everyone, he’s also kind of an inside joke to people that work in this industry.” When talking about his fellow cast members, there is absolutely no mention of pretension, not a thought of the politicking that can run so rampant on film sets. “One of the great things about this cast,” he says “is that there really are no big unhealthy egos. Everyone is always willing to let someone else get a laugh. It gives the show balance.” Keleghan speaks very highly of his Halifax crews. Describing a day when they were running late on a shot.. “We were losing the light, and it was great to see how everyone pulled together to get the job done. The Halifax filming environment is much more open, much friendlier.”
Peter also spoke of his project Carson Dunn, which he has created, written, will executive produce, and star in. (Now in development with Shaftesbury Films.) Carson Dunn will be about a 50's era private detective who gets transported to our time. When no one believes that he is, in fact, from the past, he decides to integrate himself with modern times, by becoming a lounge singer, and solving cases on the side. I can’t wait. (And am really hoping he didn’t notice a small blush in my voice when I told him so.)
After spending one of the shortest 90 minute periods of my life speaking with this engaging performer, I made my good-byes and hung up. As my synaptic process’ slowed down from jittering to vague normalcy, I looked over my notes and hoped that I could manage to be equally coherent at a “Made in Canada” filming as I had been on the phone.
Unless someone manages to come up with a word that breeds excitement and fear of appearing like a dork, there isn’t one appropriate enough to describe my consternation levels when arriving at Electropolis. My consternation level was already through the roof when I arrived, for I managed to drive straight past the studios. Twice. After parking outside their doors, and thanking all available deities for the “Welcome to Made in Canada” signs on the building doors, I strode (confidently I hope) up 6,000,000,000 flights of stairs to meet my tour guide for the hour, Kelly. Who, I can say with absolute authority deserves a lot of credit for not laughing at me, because I was acting like a complete tourist, craning my neck upwards and staring at everything. (I am still stunned that I didn’t cause any damage, considering I don’t think I was once watching where I was going.) Kelly also deserves a lot of credit for not laughing at my semi-intelligent questions. (Me: What’s that? Kelly: A Spot Light.) I do think that the crews of Made in Canada deserve a lot of praise for their talents. How many people out there can you think of that could take four pieces of wood, and a huge sheet of black fabric and make a restaurant? Of course Lexx: The Dark Zone was also filmed in Electropolis, so at my rate of neck craning I could also observe numerous alien pods above the Restaurant’s bar.
It was a very strange feeling though to actually walk through the “Pyramid” offices and see how it all went together. Kelly was doing her best to explain, using terms like “set dressing” and showing me walls hanging from cords on the ceiling with mysterious terms like “Int. Allan’s Swing 5" on them. Kelly directed me over to a spot to watch a scene being filmed, and instructed me not to “rustle my book” or “sneeze,” and then went off to perform various Assistant Director duties.
I stood behind the swarm of crew members, watching Peter do a scene that I identified quite heavily with, (involving the inability to operate new technological devices) and watched him switch effortlessly back and forth from relaxed to Alan. It was INCREDIBLY hard not to laugh. (To say nothing of the fact that I was fighting off the intense urge to sneeze. Ah, the power of suggestion.) As he completed numerous takes I noted that his energy level never dropped, and he never stopped smiling.
Watching Peter in the scene being filmed, I must confess to wondering whether or not the Peter I was about to meet in person would be as charming as the Peter I had just met on the phone. He is even more so. (Though I have absolutely no recollection of what I said to him as I was introduced. For the purposes of journalistic integrity I will claim that it was witty.) Peter sat with me in between takes and told me about his weekend, completing work on the upcoming Newsroom movie. “I’ve been filming a scene with Atom Egoyan,” said Peter. “We’ve had conflicting schedules, and it had arrived at a point where we were going to have to film the scene in sections, (one with Peter, and one with Atom) and meld them together, which would have looked horrible, and never would have made it into the movie.” He said that he was “happy to be back” in Halifax, agreeing with cast member Jackie Torrens that the set had a definite “Summer camp atmosphere,” then had to dash back down to the set to block the next scene. (Considering the fact that he had most likely just worked a 12-14 hour day, then flown all evening to get back to Halifax from Toronto, and then had to be on the set at some ungodly hour of the morning, the fact that he was exuding any charm at all is something to be applauded. I would have been snapping at everyone who came near me like a sarcastic turtle.)
If you were a cynical person you might think that this was merely an act on Peter’s behalf, to impress the writer. If you were to say so I would let you know in a kindly voice that everyone is entitled to a position and yours is wrong. I have been writing pieces on movies, TV, and performers from the age of 16. And I have never encountered such an outpouring of glowing comments on anyone as the outpouring of comments about Peter.
Badgering the crew in between moments of filming:
From Jody: “Peter’s fantastic. I’ve been here since the start of the show. I started out as a driver, and I was really nervous to meet the actors, but he was really patient with me. He knows the crew. When he comes in he always takes the time to ask how everyone’s weekend was.”
From Heidi: “I’ve been in this business for 5 years, and I’ve never encountered an actor like Peter. He is so professional. He’s always, technically, on.”
Waiting for Peter to come back from “blocking” I spoke with Jackie about what Peter was like to work with:
“It’s going to be sad not to come back and do this (Made in Canada) again. Peter is a lot of fun to work with. He doesn’t have bad days here. He helps this show run like a well oiled machine. He’s got a really strong moral barometer, a really good man.”
As Peter, in full studio mogul mode whizzed past to do a “costume change” I managed to corner Made in Canada’s executive producer Gerald Lunz (This Hour has 22 Minutes):
“Peter’s comic timing is impeccable. You see it in The Newsroom, you saw it in Second City. He is frighteningly good, a joy to work with.” He also gave me a few hints about the final episode; it’s going to be about Alan acquiring more and more assets, it’s to be titled “Convergence.”
Then as Peter rounded the corner on the way back to the set,
Lunz yelled out (joking) “AND HE ONLY OWES ME $500!!”
As an entertainment writer, I have always made an effort to present an unbiased view of things, in order to let readers make up their own minds about my subjects. So, in the interests of doing the same with Mr. Keleghan, here are my two theories on the performer:
1) A professional, talented, warm, funny
man, who inspires glowing comments from everyone around him? I have the
solution, and it is so obvious that I am surprised you haven’t thought
of it first. Mind Control. Yes, along with the acting, writing, comedic,
and flying talents, Peter has also developed the ability to make sure anyone
who speaks of him within a 50 foot radius says only nice things.
Both are equally rare creatures. Both are equally interesting possibilities. I don’t know about everyone out there in Readerland, but I’m willing to stake my autographed photo collection on the latter being right.
Questions From People Who Would Like to Move to Possum Lake.
1) What’s the last movie you saw that
2) What’s the first album you ever owned?
3) What’s the last book you read?
4) Do you have a Pet Peeve?
5) What’s your favourite food?
6) What’s the worst job you ever had?
7) What’s the one gadget/gizmo you can’t
8) What hobby do you have that you think
would surprise people?
9) If you could change one thing about
yourself, what would it be?
10) Whom do you most admire?
11) What is your greatest extravagance?
12) Have you ever been mistaken for
13) Do you have a favourite quotation?
14) What is your greatest strength as
15) What classic film role would you
like to have played?
16) Who are your favourite authors?
17) What’s the strangest question you’ve
ever been asked by an interviewer?
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