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Noah Reid at a studio in Brooklyn on March 28.Kellyann Petry/The Globe and Mail

Who says it doesn’t pay to be Mr. Nice Guy?

Playing Patrick Brewer, David Rose’s almost impossibly thoughtful, kind and level-headed, baseball-loving partner (in business and life) on Schitt’s Creek, Noah Reid made television audiences around the world swoon. And now that breakout big-hearted role and the heightened international profile that came with it is paying some very nice dividends for the 34-year-old Canadian actor.

This month, Reid is making his Broadway debut as Mr. Peel, another outsider in a small town, in Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts’s The Minutes, a comedy that takes place during a single contentious session of city council.

At the same time, he is back on the small screen in the new Amazon Prime series Outer Range, a Western mystery that stars Josh Brolin (and, also from the Canadian side of the border, Tamara Podemski). Reid’s character, Billy Tillerson, is a more obvious departure – the strange son of a big-money Wyoming rancher, who sings creepily to himself rather than romantically to beaus at open-mic nights like Brewer.

Speaking of which, Reid also drops his third album, Adjustments, in June – part of a singer-songwriter career that took off after Schitt’s Creek creator and star Dan Levy got him to arrange and sing Tina Turner’s The Best for the open-mic scene referenced above that went genuinely viral.

Add in the fact that his wife is also expecting a baby back in Toronto, eight days before The Minutes’ run is scheduled to end, and it’s a surprise Reid seems so unfrazzled, during an interview in the upper lobby of Broadway theatre Studio 54.

“The plan is for my wife to spend a couple of months here in the late stages of the pregnancy and then, she’ll head back and I’ll hopefully …,” he says.

But then comes a burst of that Patrick Brewer-esque confidence: “Well, no ‘hopefully’ about it: I’ll be there for the birth of my child.”

Noah Reid is preparing for his Broadway debut in The Minutes.Kellyann Petry/The Globe and Mail

One of true pleasures of being a theatre critic is getting to see artists on small stages before they blow up; in the case of Reid, since spending a season at the Stratford Festival back in 2009, he’s rambled around his hometown of Toronto performing in an eclectic mix of George F. Walker, Annie Baker and August Strindberg plays in between screen projects.

He even turned it out as a rock-n-roll Hamlet at the Tarragon Theatre – that, unfortunately for that company’s box office, was mounted a month before “The Best” episode aired in 2018 and launched him to the next level.

When Canadian artists’ careers take off, there can be grumbling – but, in the case of Reid, all I’ve heard is: Well, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

This is because his similarities to Patrick Brewer go beyond their shared love of baseball. I should note I’ve had the opportunity to observe his thoughtfulness up close as he has a friendship with my wife, dating back to their time at the National Theatre School of Canada. (One example: Reid was at the same Blue Jays game where my wife went into labour; he got and saved a ball from that game and later presented it to our son as a gift.)

Reid’s Brewer-like level-headedness in the face of rising fame, no doubt, comes from being a working actor who’s regularly flirted with it all his life.

The son of two Toronto visual artists had a child-actor career in Canada (playing Chip in Beauty and the Beast on stage; voicing Franklin the Turtle; four seasons of Strange Days at Blake Holsey High), and near-tipping points as an adult came when he starred in Score: A Hockey Musical, which opened Toronto International Film Festival in 2010 but was chirped at by the critics, and landed the title role in an ABC Family sitcom called Kevin from Work, cancelled after a season in 2015.

Now that Reid’s got that extra cultural capital, he’s being careful about how he spends it. For instance, he was first offered the lead role in a musical on Broadway, but turned that down. (He’s too nice to name which one, of course.)

Danny McCarthy as Mr. Hanratty and Noah Reid as Mr. Peel in The Minutes.Jeremy Daniel/Handout

“I really wanted to come here and do a play,” says Reid. “The meaningful Broadway experiences of my life have been plays by great writers with excellent casts.”

Chief among those experiences was seeing Long Day’s Journey Into Night with Brian Dennehy, Vanessa Redgrave and Philip Seymour Hoffman back in 2003 – in a production directed by Robert Falls that originated at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.

The Minutes is also a Chicago-born production, from the famed ensemble-driven Steppenwolf and directed by its former artistic director Anna Shapiro. Reid leads a company full of stage veterans from that city that includes Letts himself playing the Mayor of Big Cherry.

“Tracy’s legacy as a writer speaks for itself – and it’s an added bonus, a daunting bonus, to be sharing a stage with him and fumbling with his words while looking him directly in the eye,” jokes Reid.

While it takes place in a small town with a weird name and wacky residents, The Minutes explores the niceness found in that type of setting from a different and more skeptical angle than Schitt’s Creek.

There are secrets, those dark open secrets we call history, in Big Cherry – and, when push comes to shove, Mr. Peel has make decisions about how committed he is to being on the right side regarding which monuments go up or come down.

“How deep does the niceness go in any of us, you know?” Reid asks. “What are you willing to give up? What concessions are you willing to make in the narrative about yourself that you’re telling about yourself?”

Canadians aren’t exactly in an era where we are leaning into our cultural reputation for niceness, but rather one where we’re grappling with what that conceals. As Reid says, though Letts has America in his crosshairs in The Minutes, “lots of the white colonial settler mentality in Canada is embodied in this play as well.”

Nevertheless, Canadians’ international reputation on the niceness front hasn’t faltered all that much. How else to explain why so many of our actors get enlisted to cover for an American who has fallen into disrepute – as is the case with Reid?

When The Minutes was shut down in previews in March 2020, Call Me By Your Name’s Armie Hammer had been playing the role of Mr. Peel – but he dropped out of the play and a number of other projects during the pandemic after allegations of abuse surfaced on social media.

Will Arnett, another Toronto-born actor, coincidentally replaced Hammer in one of those projects: Taika Waititi’s soccer comedy, Next Goal Wins. And this whole trend, if you want to call it that, began with yet another Toronto-born actor – Christopher Plummer, rest in peace – replacing Kevin Spacey in reshoots in the thriller All the Money in the World in 2017.

No comment, only a little nervous laughter from Reid behind his mask when I present this series of events to him – but then I’m too nice to press him for one.

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