Kevin Smith kisses and tells after role on Canadian soap
by Kevin Williamson
Even for a geek, 13 years is a long time to wait for a girl to kiss you. But then Hollywood filmmaker Kevin Smith, who looks like an overgrown adolescent even with the beard and the bald spot, is no ordinary geek.
And the object of his obsession who neither wears Vulcan ears nor belly dances for Jabba The Hutt is no ordinary dream date.
For a lot of people, the barometer of success is how many $100-million grossers theyve had or how much power they wield in the industry, he says during an interview Feb. 2 at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel.
But for me, I got to be on Degrassi and make out with a character I had a crush on.
The girl on the receiving end of Smiths languid liplock is Stacie Mistysyn or rather, Caitlin, the character she originated in the 80s incarnation and currently reprises on the CTV spinoff, Degrassi: The Next Generation.
The crush was never Stacie, Smith explains. The crush was Caitlin.
Mistysyn or Caitlin first caught Smiths eye when he stumbled across reruns of Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High on PBS, where it aired in the U.S. This was well before his directing career took off thanks to indie classics such as Clerks and Chasing Amy .
I thought it was like an after-school special or one of those Christian propaganda half-hours which are little morality plays and sooner or later someones going to invoke the Bible.
Then some broad whips out the word abortion and I just stopped, he says, referring to one of the original series most controversial instalments.
Then I thought, Wait, it could stll be a Christian morality play and she could be about to be punished for getting pregnant and having an abortion. But it didnt turn out to be that. Id never seen anything like it on American TV.
They all seem like Americans, but they have the funny accent and wait, is that a streetcar in the background? Is that a Canadian flag?
So slowly and gently, it was revealed to not be my world. I just became hooked.
The thing I found so appealing was that they all looked like kids. They werent 30 year olds playing kids and none of them were that great looking. None of them are like cover models. They all looked like real people When you watch Beverly Hills 90201 or The O.C., no school is like that.
Watching Degrassi, you got that feeling that this is like school really is.
The clout Smith has generated in the time since his last two movies Dogma and Jersey Girl starred his pal Ben Affleck helped him land a three-episode arc on Degrassi: The Next Generation.
In the storyline that began this past Monday, Smith plays himself (or a version of himself, anyway in real life, hes a husband and father) shooting Jay And Silent Bob Go Canadian at Degrassi High. That sets the stage for his eventual smooch with Caitlin. (Jason Mewes, the Jay to Smiths Silent Bob, also appears, as does Alanis Morissette as herself.)
This isnt the first time Smith in Calgary as part of a cross-country promotional tour to publicize the show has come face-to-face with either one of his idols or the reality that they rarely meet your expectations.
After it was all set up and I got there to the Degrassi set, I thought, Its never going to live up to the hype. Its never going to make me feel as good as when I watched the show.
Ive met people, you know. I used to like Chevy Chase so much. I loved all his movies and his body of work. I never knew him. And then I met him and you know, theres some people you should just never meet.
Prince was like that too. I shot a documentary with him and it was a disaster.
So I was kind of worried that the Degrassi experience would be like that. That afterwards, I wouldnt even like the show anymore because of the disastrous guest spot. But I couldnt be happier. It was probably one of the best on-set experiences Ive ever had second only to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, which was such an enjoyable shoot.
Back to class?
With the Degrassi episodes now behind him, Smith has started albeit slowly to move on with his non-Canadian career.
His next project is The Passion of the Clerks, the sequel to Clerks which he refers to simply as Clerks 2. And hes currently writing the second draft of the action-adventure The Green Hornet for Miramax a project he was going to direct until he realized helming a franchise-friendly blockbuster isnt for him.
Yet none of these projects invokes quite the same passion in Smith as Degrassi.
In fact, he even approached creator and executive producer Linda Schuyler about having an ongoing role on the series.
I told Linda, How about in the Degrassi reality, Jersey Girl tanked so badly that I cant work in film anymore which isnt that far from reality so I get a teaching gig at Degrassi High? She was like, You know, the guest spot is enough.