Patriots you’ll soon love: TV
By Alex Strachan, Canwest News Service
June 30, 2009
Nina Dobrev is about to be thrust into the bright, hot spotlight of U.S. network television in The Vampire Diaries.Photograph by: The Vampire Diaries, CWIn the spirit of Canada Day, we look at Canucks poised for a potential breakout or big hit in TV. From a vampire to the Devil himself, Canadian actors are poised to create a small-screen scare this fall.
Oh, right, you’re thinking to yourself. Teenage mothers are so . . . 2007.
This is 2009, the year of the cult vampire.
If you’re one of the handful of TV viewers whose obsessions run to Degrassi: The Next Generation, you know Nina Dobrev as unapologetic party girl and teenage mom Mia Jones – the transfer student from Lakehurst who dropped out of school to become a model, only to return to her old haunts, and habits.
The Bulgaria-born, Toronto-raised Dobrev was a regular in Degrassi since that program’s sixth season.
Now, she’s about to be thrust into the bright, hot spotlight of U.S. network television in The Vampire Diaries, based on the popular series of young-adult novels by L.J. Smith.
Dobrev will play high school senior Elena Gilbert, the tragic heroine who is torn between two vampire brothers – one good, one evil, in the grand tradition of Gothic thrillers.
Dobrev is not just following in the shoes of Shenae Grimes, another Toronto Degrassi alum who seized the spotlight in 90210, the Beverly Hills 90210 spinoff which returns for a second season this fall.
Dobrev is also following the blood-trailed paths of such ingenues as Twilight’s Kristen Stewart, True Blood’s Anna Paquin and, in an earlier day, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Whether The Vampire Diaries will live semi-forever like Dark Shadows or Forever Knight or burn out in a flash like Kindred: The Embraced is hard to tell.
The early signs lean suggest longevity, though: The Vampire Diaries is being produced by Kevin Williamson, the creator of Dawson’s Creek – the series that made Vancouver’s Joshua Jackson a star – and Williamson’s fellow writer- producers include many of the writers and directors from Gossip Girl and Dexter.
Dobrev is poised for stardom, either way. At age 20, she’s about to be the focus of a pop-culture publicity campaign the likes of which haven’t been seen since, well, Twilight.
Oh, right, you’re thinking to yourself. Paul Gross is so . . . 1994. Or 1989, if your tastes lean to Street Legal rather than Due South.
But wait. There’s more to the Calgary-born talent than upright Mountie Const. Benton Fraser on Due South, or the trials and tribulations of writing, directing, producing and starring in Passchendaele.
The icon of Canadian screen and stage is about to take on the classic role of Darryl Van Horne in Eastwick, ABC’s fall TV-series adaptation of the all- American John Updike classic The Witches of Eastwick.
Van Horne is a man’s man and darkly handsome prince who arrives one morning to a small New England town, where he unleashes the hidden power within three lonely women, would-be Wiccans with unearthly powers they never knew they had.
The mysterious stranger’s nom de guerre may be Van Horne, but you know him better as the Devil.
It’s a role Jack Nicholson took on with scenery-chewing gusto in George Miller’s frenetic, fast-paced 1987 movie adaptation, and Gross has said he relishes the opportunity to play the cad for a change, instead of always playing the hero.
And Van Horne – the D Man, if you prefer – is one dastardly dude. His scheme is to seduce each of the women in turn, so he can have three children before he dies.
Eastwick isn’t just your ordinary new TV drama. It has been designed as a companion piece for Desperate Housewives, and it shares much of that popular series’ tone, look and feel.
Gross could be the major beneficiary, though, in a cast that includes Rebecca Romijn, Lindsay Price and Jamie Ray Newman.
Everyone likes a good villain, after all, and the original Witches of Eastwick worked wonders for Nicholson’s onscreen persona. The latter half of 2009 will mark Gross’s first prominent role in a mainstream, U.S.-based TV series in almost 10 years.
Oh, right, you’re thinking to yourself. Nathan Fillion is so . . . 2517.
That’s the year in which the short-lived sci-fi series Firefly, in which Fillion played a lovable rogue and space pirate, was set.
Firefly was a cult classic, which is a kind way of saying no one watched.
That was the story of the Edmonton-born Fillion’s TV career until, earlier this year, he struck it rich as mystery novelist Richard Castle in the midseason replacement series Castle.
Castle, a lighthearted drama loosely inspired by Moonlighting and The Rockford Files, became a hit with viewers looking for a gentle, lively diversion after Dancing with the Stars, which Castle followed on Monday nights. Castle’s average weekly audience over the course of its 10 episodes matched that of established series like The Big Bang Theory and Ghost Whisperer.
More importantly for Fillion, viewers were drawn by his character’s innate likability.
Romantic tension has developed between Richard Castle and his partner-in- crime-solving, police detective Kate Beckett, played by fellow Canadian Stana Katic, a native of Hamilton, Ont. Their romantic tension has been likened to that Maddie Hayes and David Addison in Moonlighting.
After a career of TV near-misses – Pasadena, Firefly, Drive, etc. – Fillion appears poised to become the next James Garner. Assuming, of course, Castle has a happy ending.
It just might: This fall, ABC is once again partnering it with Dancing with the Stars, while in Canada it will air on A channel, following The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men.
Oh, right, you’re thinking to yourself. Tyler Labine is so . . . 2008.
If you’re one of the handful of viewers whose obsessions ran to Reaper, the made-in-Vancouver cult dramedy about a reluctant slacker in league with the Devil, you know the Brampton, Ont.-born Labine as the slacker’s best friend, Bert “Sock” Wysocki.
In the past half-dozen years, Labine has assembled a rogues’ gallery of Jack Black-like slacker characters from the eponymous “Stoner” in The X-Files’s infamous cockroach episode, War of the Coprophages; to Trent in Julian Clarke’s 2002 epic Canadian Zombie; to resident conspiracy theorist and paranoid blogger Dave Groves in Shaun Cassidy’s short-lived 2006 series Invasion.
This year, Labine has landed the lead role in Sons of Tucson, a new comedy from Wonderfalls and Malcolm in the Middle director Todd Holland about three children who hire a charming, wayward schemer – played by Labine – to pose as their father, while their real dad goes to prison.
It’s all part of a loony plan to keep up appearances in a well-to-do neighbourhood, and cash in on a promised inheritance, all the while pretending to lead a normal life.
Sons of Tucson is part Easy Money, part Weekend at Bernie’s. For Labine, it’s an opportunity to show off just how loose a cannon he can be on the small screen, with big-screen roles potentially in the wings.
If Sons of Tucson takes – and it just might – Labine may well be the next Kung Fu Panda dude.
Copyright (c) Canwest News Service