Allan Hawco, creator, producer and star of the CBC police drama Republic of Doyle, returns to his theatre roots this week to co-star in rising star Amy Herzog's Belleville, a heavy, suspenseful drama about a young couple in Paris. Mr. Hawco comes back to the stage for the first time since 2009 in a production mounted by a Toronto company he co-founded – the Company Theatre – and directed by Jason Byrne, his favourite collaborator. (Read J. Kelly Nestruck's review here.)
You've said you were feeling burnt out working on Republic of Doyle and that it was gruelling. You do so many things with that show, including producing and writing, but can you compare the energy spent when it comes to theatre acting as opposed to television acting. This isn't a vacation or anything, is it?
In some ways it is more work. But actors aren't in this business not to work. Any actor worth their salt is dying to do something, constantly. And the more challenging the role, the more passion you might want to throw at it. In some ways, though, it is like a vacation to me. I'm going back to to the basics of what I love about this process. Also, working with Jason Byrne never feels like a job. We've had so much fun, exploring this work.
You once said working with him, on the Company Theatre's 2005 production of A Whistle in the Dark, changed your life. How so?
That first day of rehearsal in Toronto, in 2005, I knew I was at a place in my career where I wasn't getting anywhere near my full potential as an actor. But the minute I started working with Jason, something was unleashed in me. There was a connection. What he was going for, I could feel it in my gut before he even said it. So, it altered everything for me. I was playing a role no one had ever put me in before.
Something more intense, right?
A rough and tumble sociopath. People previously saw me as a big goof, which I am. But as an actor, I felt like I had much more range. And I felt like I couldn't access it without Jason. The experience gave me the confidence to pursue work in other avenues, in terms of film and television, and also other roles. I'm not saying that everybody saw me as a different kind of actor. But I felt I was.
So now you're back with him. Do you expect Jason to work his magic with you again? Is it possible for him to elevate you one more time?
It is, because his process changes every time I've worked with him. He challenges himself. In some ways, I want to have a similar experience with this production as I had with him in 2005. But one thing I've learned over the years is that it is not possible to recreate something that happened in the past. And in a lot of ways, that's the core of what we do together as artists. Every moment you go through on stage can never happen that way again. It always has to be an authentic impulse.
This interview has been condensed and edited.