Every once in a while an actor is allowed some input into a role, but Lynda Boyd's latest role as a woman with a past on TV's "Republic of Doyle" has had some input into her.
"You want to see my tattoo?"
Boyd doesn't wait for a reply as she rolls up her sleeve at a Vancouver cafe. She is back home after six months in Newfoundland last year filming the CBC comic mystery series about a father-son detective duo.
The tattoo in question is a colourful latticework that circles her left bicep, and it proves to be integral to the life story of Rose Miller, the live-in love of widowed Malachy Doyle (Irish actor Sean McGinley). Creator-star Allan Hawco, who plays Malachy's son Jake, chose Boyd for the part of Rose and their collaboration has evolved ever since.
"When this all started, they had the first three episodes written," says Boyd. The show's subsequent stories grew out of the performances in those first three episodes, and Boyd's character developed a past that included an ex-con husband played by former "Da Vinci's Inquest" star Nicholas Campbell.
"Every Thursday night in the Duke pub in St. John's, where we'd hang out, you'd find out what was going to be happening with your character," says Boyd. On one of those pub nights, Hawco told Boyd they were thinking of giving Rose a shady husband she hadn't told Malachy about.
"I told him I thought Rose might have been a biker chick or something. I told Allan I wanted Rose to have something on her that she couldn't erase or wash off, so I went and had the tattoo done."
The new ink worked its way into the show, with Campbell's character sketching his wife's tattoo from memory in his jail cell.
Boyd's role as Rose is the biggest yet in a 20-year acting career that started with musical theatre in Vancouver, included guest stints on "The X-Files" and Canadian series leads, and eventually had her commuting between Vancouver and Los Angeles. "Republic of Doyle" has put Boyd in the company of a cast of regulars and guests that have included Canadian legends Gordon Pinsent and Eric Peterson, "Titanic's" Victor Garber and 32-year-old multi-talent Hawco.
Since filming wrapped on the first season in December, Boyd has been to New York to see McGinley and fellow Irishman Stephen Rea do a play written for them by Sam Shepard. That same trip, she saw Garber in another play, and he told her he'd be back for the second season.
"It's kind of cool how this job came about," she says. "I wasn't working at all last year, just a bad year."
Boyd started a weekend class in Vancouver coaching young actors on how to audition. "I put about eight hours into each audition, people were shocked. I made them work, I was kicking their asses. During that process I learned a lot about acting again."
Around that time she put herself on tape for "Republic of Doyle," with one of her students reading to her off camera. Last June, the producers flew her out to St. John's, a trip where she lost her luggage and makeup. She showed up for the in-person audition in the clothes she wore on the flight, and decided that Rose was a lot like her. The producers seemed to think so, too - within a month she was back and at work. Rose became a mainlander, because Boyd never got the Newfie accent.
"At this point in my life, to get a show like this, coming back for a second season, that I love working on," says the forty-something actor. "I know I'll always work as an actor, but it gets tougher as the years go on. When I started, I got a lot of young mom roles, then moved into the aging beauty queens - you know, they drink too much, they smoke too much but you could tell at one time they were hot.
"Then the corporate power bitches. The majority of times the writer is a man, and it's hard for them to write for women in their 40s. For some reason when I looked at Rose I just decided I'm going to be me, I'm keeping it close."
Boyd's own background includes growing up in Burnaby, and life on the road with 1980s synth band The Blenders before discovering musical theatre, and after that film and TV.
And after half a year in Newfoundland, mainlander Boyd is starting to go native.
"Newfoundland is so different - we're not in Kansas anymore," she says. "None of the streets are parallel, there's no grid system so I'd go out and I couldn't find my apartment again. It didn't feel like Canada, it felt like Poland. I've been to Poland a lot. But the people are friendly, so within two weeks I felt at home, and I'm dying to go back."