Iconic actor Gordon Pinsent signs copies of his new book, “Next,” for shoppers during an appearance at Chapters in St. John’s on Saturday. — Photo by Colin MacLean/The Telegram
It’s just passed 2 p.m. on Saturday, and iconic Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent is sitting with a Telegram reporter in the manager’s office of the Kenmount Road Chapters bookstore.
They’re talking about Pinsent’s newly published autobiography “Next” — amongst other things.
Pinsent has just spent the past two hours signing copies of his book for busy holiday shoppers. His black marker is flashing away against the stark white pages.
As they chat amicably, the reporter is finding it increasingly difficult to stay on topic.
Pinsent’s voice is nearly hypnotic in tone — not to mention that voice is conjuring up distracting memories of childhood Saturday morning cartoons (Pinsent voiced elephant King Babar in the animated series “Babar”).
During the opening stages of the interview, Pinsent mentions that, while he’s in town to promote “Next,” he’s also filmed some scenes for CBC’s “Republic of Doyle,” which is soon wrapping up filming its fourth season. He plays the recurring character Maurice Becker.
Mention of that show puts a smile on Pinsent’s face.
At one point, while talking about all the projects he’d get off the ground if he won the lottery, he said that he’d stop everything once in a while to appear on “Republic of Doyle.”
When the reporter points out that this was high praise for the show, and that the series creators would surely be flattered, Pinsent bursts into laughter.
“I’d come back to do Doyle,” he laughs, “that’s the line.”
But the conversation isn’t all lighthearted.
“Next” is, after all, an autobiography about an actor for whom grief has been a recurring role.
When the conversation finally comes back to “Next,” Pinsent becomes highly reflective.
He takes his time answering questions. There’s been a lot of life to talk about.
It wasn’t his idea to write the book in the first place, he says at one point.
There was a book of memoirs written about 15 years ago, he says, but it never did very well.
So when the book’s co-author, George Anthony, approached him, he was skeptical at first.
“I said, ‘Really?’ You know — ‘I’m getting a bit tired of me at the moment,’” says Pinsent.
“(Anthony) said ‘Well, there’s a fair number of people who might not be. So come on now,’” he adds.
The result is an honest account of his life, he said — more or less.
“I’ve got a few more stories I haven’t told. And they’re not being told until — you know,” he says.
“I’m going to take a pen with me when I go, so I can put a few things on the under ledge of the casket. Just keep writing, writing.”
A central theme throughout the book is Pinsent’s life with his wife Charmion King — and her death in 2007. They had been married for more than 40 years.
“It was because of her that I learned the importance of the belief in what I was doing,” he says.
“She had this wonderful line — ‘Get over yourself’ — every time I was being silly or stupid or just simply going on too much about myself.”
“Thank God she waited for me to grow up.”
Her death affected him greatly, he says, so it was difficult when it came time to write about it for “Next.”
But the experience of going through great sadness also allows you to examine relationships in ways that might surprise you, he adds.
“You’re not over the grief. ... It simply takes on a different shade. And you change the angle of it slightly and you think, I’ve got to get much more from the importance of this relationship than simply grief — there’s got to be more. You realize why something happened, and see if you can’t put that down on paper.
“You’re quite often past the major flow of tears, and onto a kind of new education — of where you’ve come from, where you could have gone had you not had this relationship,” he says.
As he finishes that reflection, Pinsent stops for a moment, sits back in his chair and gives a little sigh.
The conversation turns to happier themes for a bit.
Pinsent explains that he is currently picking away at the stack of half-finished screenplays, poems, stories and paintings that are waiting for him when he goes home.
One of them might just be his next big thing, he says, so it won’t do to have them sitting around unfinished.
With their time running short and conscious of the fact that there’s a patient store manager somewhere probably wanting her office back, Pinsent and the reporter shake hands and wish each other well.
Indeed, when they open the door, the store manager is waiting outside.
A few stragglers are wondering if Pinsent could sign their books, she says.
He just smiles and heads off to greet them. He’s still got the black marker in his hand.