Interviewing Allan Hawco isn’t easy — you’ve got to catch him first.
Even when you’re on the “Republic of Doyle” set, and even when you’ve managed to pin him down long enough to get a few sentences, there’s always the chance he’ll jump out of his chair and run away, just for a few minutes.
“Sorry about that,” an out-of-breath Hawco said, re-taking his seat. “I just had to go and do that quick stunt.”
CBC-TV’s “Republic of Doyle” wrapped up filming its second season in St. John’s the week before Christmas, and will begin airing Jan. 12. Touted as a “dramedy,” the show is based around Jake and Malachy Doyle, a father-and-son team of private detectives. Hawco plays the part of Jake, a ladies man with a heart of gold, deep down.
It was a busy summer and fall for the “Doyle” crew, who, for the second time, took over the downtown area, one small piece at a time, filming on location in different nooks and crannies. While St. John’s residents would likely take to the open-line radio shows to complain about road blockages had it been for construction, they seemed to welcome the filming. Duckworth Street closed because of a high-speed car chase? No problem. Military Road blocked with trailers as the crew films in a nearby church? Go ahead. Even a notice sent out by police, warning of a fiery simulated explosion across the harbour as part of a “Doyle” episode was no big deal.
The show treats St. John’s not just as a backdrop, but as a character, and that could be one reason why local residents — as well as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians away — have made the show their own.
Picturesque shots of the downtown are featured between scenes, and The Duke of Duckworth, a local pub, was painstakingly recreated, right down to the light fixtures, in a studio in Torbay.
“The way I thought about it is if we can open the door in Newfoundland with the storytelling of the show so that Newfoundlanders felt like they were included, then Canadians would feel like they’re included and then hopefully the rest of the world would feel like they’re included as well,” Hawco, one of the show’s co-creators, co-writers, co-producers and star, said.
Since its successful first season started last January, “Doyle” has seen tremendous success. The show was nominated for five Geminis, is available on DVD and on Netflix, and has been sold to just about every region of the world, broadcasting in Europe, Africa, South America and Australia, and dubbed into languages including French, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic.
Hawco said he feels a sense of municipal responsibility when it comes to the international broadcasts.
“It’s important for us to realize that what we do to our city is going to be represented to the whole world now. It’s not just us and tourists that come here; it’s actually going to be in the households of every country in the world. As storytellers, we need to continue to represent an authentic view of what the town is, coupled with the entertaining elements of television.”
While viewers can expect the same comedic, sometimes hokey drama the show has come to be known for, the “Doyle” team has upped their game this season, both in terms of the writing and the complexity of the characters.
Jake, however, as much he tries to change, is still gigolo Jake, though ... for now, at least, particularly when it comes to his love interest, police inspector Leslie Bennett.
“They have a complicated relationship, and they have a complicated love story. I think in a different time, Jake would be a perfect husband,” Hawco said.
Come again? Would you let your own daughter near him?
“No. NO. God, no!” Hawco replied with a laugh.
“I think there’s a constant struggle for Jake Doyle, which is the man he’s going to become. He is fearless, he is confident, he is willing to do whatever it takes to do the right thing, whatever that may be. At the same time, he’s extremely selfish, and he has an indulgence in his own flaws. I think the journey for him is will he be able to turn it around, and will he be able to be the man that Leslie wants him and needs him to be.”
Krystin Pellerin, who plays Leslie, wouldn’t give away any spoilers about the pair’s relationship, either, other than that “it gets a lot more complicated,” especially now that she’d been promoted from constable to sergeant in the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.
“Leslie has a lot more responsibility and there’s a lot more at stake for her in terms of maintaining her reputation and holding her own,” Pellerin said.
“She’s grown a lot. I’m having the time of my life with this character — I get to grow with her and she teaches me a lot.”
Pellerin, who acts with Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre Company and sings when she’s not working on “Doyle,” actually trained with RNC cadets in preparing for the role, doing the physical work, going on an overnight ridealong, learning how to execute high-speed pursuits and high-risk vehicle takedowns, and learning to use cuffs, a baton and a gun. It’s not a job she’d want to do in real life, she said.
“I don’t know if I’d be able to handle it, to be honest. I have a whole other kind of appreciation for what police officers do and the courage and the strength of spirit that you have to have to deal with that every day, and the amount of negativity they have to face and take on but keep at an arm’s length just to stay sane.”
The Doyle investigative agency is also forced to step it up this season, Hawco said, and has tried to become slightly more professional. The first episode reveals a secret office, above the Duke, and actors like Paul Gross, Don McKellar and the returning Gordon Pinsent and Victor Garber (who both made cameos last season) guest star throughout the year.
“I think this season, ‘Republic of Doyle’ offers something special in that if you come aboard for the ride, you’re going to have a really good time,” Hawco said.
“I’d venture to say that it’s an hour of your time that’s well-spent. It’s very important for me that it’s an entertaining hour of television and people don’t feel like they’re being led down a fraudulent path by the show they’re getting. I think it might be something that people, particularly at this time in the world, would like to see: good people doing some cool, interesting things.”
The season premiere of “Republic of Doyle” airs on CBC-TV Jan. 12 at 9:30 p.m.