It’s probably the most anticipated premiere in Canadian television today. ‘Republic of Doyle’ starts Season 4 on Sunday.
Drawing from people’s real-life experiences is a no-no for Allan Hawco when it comes to writing scripts for “Republic of Doyle.” He feels it’s intrusive and goes beyond the scope of the show, which is not investigative drama television.
Taking inspiration from actual characters, however, is fair game — and even better when the perfect inspiration comes walking onto the set.
“We were shooting in a part of town that’s often associated with some elements of crime and whatnot; a great community, but it definitely has some negative connotations about it,” Hawco said. “This guy showed up and saw us kind of taking over the block of the street. He had no idea who we were or what we were doing there, and he was rotted.
“He went into his house and slammed the door, and about seven girls who were watching took off from across the set and ran in to go calm him down. I thought, that guy’s got some serious power on this block.”
The unknown guy was the influence for Taylor Gossard, a new character on “Republic of Doyle”. Season 4 premieres Sunday night at 9:30 NT on CBC-TV. A major part of the first six episodes, Gossard’s role is played by local author/actor Joel Thomas Hynes, and he is the anti-Jake; Hawco’s on-screen nemesis who ends up being directly responsible for a dangerous situation involving RNC Sgt. Leslie Bennett (Krystin Pellerin). Leslie is working undercover in a drug ring.
“Joel auditioned for another role in the first episode that Taylor shows up in, and I saw his audition and I realized that we have to convince CBC to let me cast him as Taylor,” Hawco said. “I knew right away that he was perfect. For people in the rest of Canada who maybe aren’t as familiar with Joel’s work as we are here in the province, I wanted it to be the coolest explosion so that they would see how awesome he is. There’s also a really awesome element to Joel’s persona that we don’t often see: he’s hilarious.”
The drug storyline, one of two major plots in the new season, is part of an effort by Hawco and his team to reflect the reality of the province in recent years. While he chuckles when he explains there’s much exaggeration going on in the show when it comes to the “lethal crime underbelly” of St. John’s, he wanted to touch on some of the issues Newfoundland is facing in light of the oil boom.
“With the influx of the oil money and all this prosperity, not everybody’s able to benefit equally from it,” he said. “Some people who are, are benefitting from it on the backs of others in terms of dependence, drug addiction and those kinds of things. We do touch on a little bit of that this year, keeping it in a light tone, but dealing with some of the serious things that are happening.”
The lighter tone is a necessity for Hawco and Co., not only to fit the show’s dramedy style, but to stay true to the concept and plan he’s had for “Republic of Doyle” since the beginning.
“It’s really important for me to try and put something out there that people could watch with their whole family and feel good about,” he said. “I feel like the silly elements are what balances out the elements of crime and violence and these kinds of things. I try to tone those things back so they have a level of humour about them.”
Research for the writing includes working closely with the real-life RNC, although not necessarily following their protocol when it comes to solving cases. Father and son pair Malachy and Jake Doyle (Sean McGinley and Hawco) are private investigators, not police officers, Hawco explains, allowing for a certain amount of creativity.
Season 3 of “Republic of Doyle” saw guest stars like Russell Crowe and Shannon Tweed, and Hawco said he doesn’t feel pressure to compete with that for this season, although he’s brought in some high-profile Hollywood people: actor Luis Guzman — who’s appeared in movies like “Carlito’s Way” and “Boogie Nights” and the TV show “Community” — appears in an episode directed by Gander native Brad Peyton. Peyton directed Guzman, Michael Caine and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnston in last year’s film, “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.”
Scottish actor Angus McFadyen, who played Robert the Bruce in “Braveheart” and starred in “Saw III,” appears in the first episode as Jake’s uncle from Northern Ireland. He and Martin McCann, who plays his son, come to Newfoundland and get the Doyles in some trouble.
“It really helps when you have actors that have worked together,” Hawco said, pointing out McGinley was also in “Braveheart.”
“People like Sean and Brad and those guys can spread that word for us. People who’ve come here have given me the message that they’ve had a good time and they felt free and really able to do good work. That’s exciting for me.”
Hawco, as always, wasn’t interested in giving away too many of this season’s secrets, including whether or not Des (Mark O’Brien) lives after having been shot in the stomach in the Season 3 finale, or whether Jake’s beloved GTO, apparently blown up in the same episode, survives.
Because the show has an established audience at this point, the upcoming episodes take more risks than the last three seasons, Hawco said.
“We’re able to take some liberties and have some arcs that I think will be much more exciting for our viewers, particularly our loyal viewers who know all these characters, and I think will feel danger when any of them gets lost in any kind of world.”
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