You’ve got to love it when someone really gets the sense of the bigger picture without losing sense of themselves.
Caught is set in 1978. Locked up after a drug bust, David Slaney (Allan Hawco) makes a daring escape from a New Brunswick prison to attempt one more drug deal with his former partner. It’s Slaney’s last chance at freedom but in this tale of bravado and betrayal, nothing is what it seems and no one can be trusted. The series stars Allan Hawco, Paul Gross, Tori Anderson, Eric Johnson, Charlotte Sullivan, and Enuka Okuma.
I got the unique pleasure to sit down with star/writer/producer/show runner of Caught; Allan Hawco before it big premiere tonight at 9PM on CBC. We talked about discovering this story, life after Republic of Doyle and pride in being Canadian as Canada learns to hold its own on in the global television market.
Dave Voigt: Obviously congratulations on everything, I really enjoy the overall vibe of the show from what we’ve seen so far. Talk to me a little about how you discovered the book and how it ultimately became a series?
Allan Hawco: The first person to really bring it to my attention was Allan Doyle…apparently (laughs). He takes credit for it but I don’t remember and apparently all I said to him as he was explaining it to me was that I asked if there was a boat in the story, he said yes and I said it’s too similar to Doyle I’m not doing it (laughs) and that was that. However, years later we were sitting down with eOne because we have a first look deal with them and they said that I should look at doing Caught as my next show and I just read it so fast, and I could hear the voice of it in my head and I could see what I wanted to do with it. Admittedly at that time I was a bit taxed with what I wanted to take on as a writer because Republic of Doyle had gone six seasons and I was pretty spent from a creative standpoint and I was worried I wasn’t necessary going to find that drive again anytime soon. So we played with the idea of me not even writing or show running it and just producing on it as well as acting in it, but that didn’t last very long (laughs), I just couldn’t let it go. We had met with writers and we had a couple that we almost went with but every one of them could smell that this would really end up being my thing.
Dave Voigt: I really do think that with Caught you’re continuing something that is still very much Canadian but refuses to lean on any of those overtly Canadian storytelling tropes that have come out of our film and TV industries in the past. How do you think how we as Canadians are evolving as storytellers because this show is something you could, and most likely will try and sell across the globe?
AH: Well thank you man, I’m really glad that you feel that way and it’s a great relief to hear that because you put these things out there and you think it’s great or you lose perspective and can’t really remember anymore what is great (Laughs). When you’re in the headspace of sound edit on episode five trying to determine if these footsteps you are hearing sound like they are going over marble or wood, it’s so hard to step out from it and see the thing as a whole anymore so I really do genuinely appreciate that. I think we’ve evolved really like the whole world has evolved on this front, especially when it comes to making television. There are so many nations out there that are just hitting everyone over the head with how good the programming is that they are producing and I think that Canada is stepping their game. Even though we really do have a limited amount of resources in our industry and an even increasingly serious talent drain in that the people who are fundamentally the best at their crafts are getting swallowed up by the big market to the south of us and it’s harder and harder to keep people around. It’s hard to incentivize them as well because in the past with certain governments we were really left to wonder if anyone really cares about what we are trying to do. Since we had started developing Doyle over the past ten years, the idea of making content that millions of people were tuning in for felt foreign and previous to that we had been at a stalemate with what we had been doing with our domestic product and while there are always some outliers now it really feels like every Canadian show this is going now has huge fan bases and people are genuinely interested in getting it scene and getting international sales. People are just doing it and those people who broke their backs before us in getting these things done have really made our lives that much easier.
DV: How important do you feel it is to stay in Canada? Because like you said the talent drain we have on this industry is just enormous and if you have some success up here it’s almost been an automatic that you have to go down south and after the success of Doyle I’ve got to imagine that there might have been a window there for you to do exactly that; but Caught is shot, produced and now airs up here on CBC. Is it a personal point of pride for you to be able to stay up here as a Canadian talent or does it just all come down simple logistics and timing?
AH: (Laughs) Well I do have a mortgage! (Laughs) and when you already have to shovel one driveway you don’t necessarily want to shovel another one (Laughs), but yeah there is a little bit of that. Plain and simple I just like living where I am, I love living here more than anywhere else I have ever lived. But to your LA thing, I don’t necessarily think that they were screaming for me to come down there or anything like that but it’s also hard to know because it’s not something that I had every really given any thought to or given it a real shot, obviously I’ve gone down and met people and had some warm responses and things like that but it’s never been a driving force for me.
DV: And I honestly think that we are seeing less and less of that URGE to Los Angeles and our industry at least seems to be at a point where you don’t necessarily HAVE to do something like that.
AH: Well…and you know I have never prescribed to or been a part of any political party and not because my best friend is a minister with this government but we have a heritage minister (Mélanie Joly) now who stands up and actually talks about the importance of this industry, especially in how it relates to the global market and it just feels amazing. It’s obviously not all about that but it really does make a difference when the people that you elect and run everything stand up and say “No, no…this industry is really important for us as a nation” and she talks about it everywhere. Justin Trudeau; our Prime Minister has delivered quotes that are just mind blowing because it’s just such a rare thing for someone like that to even be talking about our industry much less in such a positive light and it feels so welcoming. I mean there were a lot of things about Steve Harper that I respected but he really just hated our industry. He HATED it and took pot shots at us and I always so disappointed in that because he was always such a devout nationalist and a Canadian’s Canadian who wrapped himself in our flag and really we as an industry could have been his best ally because we don’t commit to a singular political party but we still want to be a passionate part of the Canadian conversation. We want to describe to the world what we are through what we do and if we aren’t doing then there’s going to be people doing it for us and it’s not the right way to go about it. Outside of the States, every other nation on the planet is supporting and supplementing the industry of the arts and while our land mass maybe massive our population is simply tiny in relation to it. It’s so hard to not have the funding to make this industry work and no other country really is in this situation and I feel that because we are so close to America that people can get confused by that. I really feel like there is a sense of pride from some people because it’s obvious that people do care about the stories we are telling at the things that we are producing. And now the government cares about what we are doing and it doesn’t feel like (or we’re getting accused of) stealing tax dollars or whatever…I mean it can really get you down.
DV: The passion really does come through in the work though and here with Caught I really think it shows and how do you as someone as you have said can get lost in it all as star/writer/producer/show runner manage to step outside of that and sell it as a genuine good, not only from an entertainment standpoint from a national value standpoint?
AH: Well with Republic of Doyle the main goal for us was really just to make something that we felt that Canadians from all ends of the spectrum could watch and enjoy regardless of their background. Plus we were really lucky with Doyle because the CBC doubled down with their belief in quite early and got the word out and when it aired and a million people tuned into the premiere of that show…and the show manages to sustain that number throughout its run, granted there was the occasional hiccup if we were opposite the Super Bowl or something but it’s a true miracle and something that is never lost on me. Going from an obscure theatre actor to getting stopped on the streets of Vancouver or Winnipeg and in this country that really is making it because they’re not going through your garbage or anything like that but are telling you how much they enjoy your work and telling their friends about it and it makes you feel like you’ve done something special and contributed to the cultural conversation of the nation and I don’t think I could be more prouder of anything then of that and having that opportunity, something I certainly hope we can recreate here with Caught.
DV: You should be very proud and it really does speak to the core value of being Canadian and how universal we are and accepting of being diverse and kind in our stories without being preachy or having some sort of message behind it all.
AH: I mean it’s just rude… (Laughs)
Caught airs on CBC tonight at 9PM and any time via on demand at cbc.ca