Jake Doyle doesn’t seem the type to be worried about smashed mirrors or crossed knives bringing him bad luck, but Allan Hawco might be.
There’s a certain thing Hawco, creator, producer and star of “Republic of Doyle” can’t even bring himself to say, for fear of jinxing the show.
“I think the show has something to offer, but you never really know if you’ll get p— I can’t even say it, I’m too afraid,” Hawco told The Telegram, when asked if he thinks the show might get picked up by the CBC for a fourth season. “I appreciate that people would say that and put that energy out there, but I’m too afraid to say it.”
A father-and-son P.I. dramedy, “Republic of Doyle” was an instant hit when it first aired on CBC TV in January 2010, and will launch its third season next week in style — first with the long-awaited Russell Crowe episode; the week after, with an episode starring Shannon Tweed.
Hawco was notoriously secretive all summer, while the show was filming around the St. John’s area, never confirming Crowe or Tweed would make cameos until they were on set and refusing to divulge any hints at all about their characters or the storyline.
This close to the premiere, he’s willing to open up a little.
Tweed, who plays a kidnapper with a connection to Rose (played by Lynda Boyd), was recruited to guest star after meeting Hawco at last year’s Genie Awards. Crowe’s appearance on the show — “probably the single biggest favour he’s done for anyone, because every minute of his time is utilized,” Hawco said — came about after an informal meeting between Hawco, producer Perry Chafe and Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle, who has a recurring role on “Republic of Doyle,” and who’s been close friends with Crowe for years.
“Alan said, ‘You know, Russell might come do an episode,’ and my immediate thought was, ‘You’re out of your mind,’” Hawco said. “I was thinking this is not going to happen. Alan wrote him and Perry and I started thinking, and we realized that the only way to make this happen would be to have all four together.”
The four were Crowe and the actors who played his band of merry men in Ridley Scott’s 2010 film “Robin Hood”: Doyle, Kevin Durand and Scott Grimes. It didn’t take much to get them all on board, but it was a challenge fitting them into the regular storyline, Hawco said.
“It’s very difficult for a premiere episode, when you’ve left everything at such a cliffhanger, to have three new characters introduced and another one returning, while you’re trying to tie together all your other plots,” he explained. “Russell plays a very complicated guy who’s connected with Wolf Redmond, Alan’s character. When we first meet them, we know they’re not to be trifled with, and Jake ends up caught in the middle of whatever scheme they’re trying to hatch. Ultimately, him being tangled up in their story helps them, good or bad, come to a resolution.”
Crowe, who helped with the writing of the episode via email, explained there was a certain tonality that had to be present, if he and the merry men were to be involved.
“If the four of us are going to be in a TV show, we’re dragging the legacy of ‘Robin Hood’ with us,” Crowe said on the set in August. “It was fun for us — we can get together and socialize, but to have a creative catalyst, it just makes it even better.”
The five acts that make up “Republic of Doyle’s” season premiere include some of the most explosive and fun material the show’s ever produced, yet Hawco’s not worried about trying to top it next year, should the show get — well, you know.
“I don’t think people will expect us to top Russell Crowe as a guest star. Everybody understands that I don’t also happen to be friends with Sean Penn or something,” Hawco said, laughing. “I think Russell pushes the show’s reset button, in a way, and I feel like every script is getting stronger and stronger.”
Hawco’s not the only one to see the value in the show, which usually gets close to a million viewers, sometimes more. It’s currently broadcast in more than 100 countries — and was on the list of Top 10 television shows in the U.K. at one point last year — and is available on DVD and Netflix. Hawco estimates the show, which employs about 200 people during filming, has triggered and spent more than $60 million in this province since it started.
Crowe said he’s not surprised by “Republic of Doyle’s” success.
“God speed to them and I hope their success keeps going, because it’s got to be one of the best exports that Newfoundland has ever put out — it’s brought really positive attention to you,” he said.
While Newfoundland and Labrador might have a unique culture, it’s not one that people can’t relate to, explained Boyd.
“It obviously has universal appeal, since it’s selling the way it is,” she said this week. “It still reminds me of one of those great shows from the ’70s like ‘Rockford Files’ or ‘Streets of San Francisco.’ It’s got that kind of throwback, retro innocence to it, and then there are all these other elements.
“I used to watch legal drama shows, I was a fanatic, but I don’t anymore, because I realize you pretty much get the same formula every time, and there’s so much darkness and you don’t really get to bond with any of the main characters because they don’t really delve into their personal world. Here, you’ve got a case going on and the backdrop is this wacky family. I’m really proud to be a part of something that just represents fun and a good laugh and something positive in the world right now.”
The show’s positivity is one thing Hawco had on his list of “Republic of Doyle” rules from the very beginning. Other things on the list: exposing this province’s culture with authenticity, no exploring the depths of violence and crime, and no swearing. Except maybe for words like arse.
“We say the odd Newfoundland slang word, but we never take the Lord’s name in vain. That won’t be the way with every project I ever make, but this is a family show,” Hawco said. “It has some racy elements to it and I feel like if you don’t push everything in the wrong direction, people can accept you pushing it in some ways.”
That being said, the show has been toned down since the first season, when there were racier scenes. Hawco puts that down to a new team of writers, settling into the show’s vision, and the growth of his own character. A typical ladies’ man, Jake is getting closer and closer to a monogamous relationship, Hawco said.
“I think he’s becoming more and more responsible in that regard, and so has the show,” said Hawco, himself newly settled down, having gotten married late last month.
Could Jake and police officer Leslie Bennett (Krystin Pellerin) finally become a couple? Hawco drew the line at giving that away.
“We’ll see a lot of changes in their dynamic,” he said. “You’ll notice a change in Leslie, for sure. They didn’t leave things very well and I think they have a lot of fences to mend. You get to see them go through the pains of that relationship through this season, and I think there could potentially be a big change about how they exist around each other.”
Season 3 of “Republic of Doyle” debuts on CBC TV Wednesday evening at 9:30 p.m. in Newfoundland.
Flanker Press, which recently published “Republic of Doyle: The Definitive Guide to Doyle, Seasons One and Two” is celebrating the new season by giving away three copies of the book, autographed by author Kerri MacDonald, Hawco and Chafe. To enter, email your answer to “What kind of car does Jake Doyle drive?” to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Republic of Doyle Contest” in the subject line. Entries must be received by Wednesday.
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