Republic of Doyle's Allan Hawco brings Newfoundland to B.C.
Allan Hawco wears many hats. As the co-creator, writer, star, and executive producer of the TV series Republic of Doyle, he also somehow finds time to co-run his own theatre company, act in movies like Love & Savagery, and fly across the country meeting his fans. A few hours after getting off a flight in Vancouver on January 28, this busy Renaissance man sat down with the Georgia Straight at Ceili's Irish Pub and Restaurant.
"I’m happiest when I’m never still. I like that the most," Hawco said as he took a seat in a darkened quiet corner of the pub. "The stress that goes with it is when you’re not doing them right or not doing them at all."
In town to have a couple of pints with 50 Republic of Doyle fans who won a contest, Hawco is dressed in a crisp light grey suit and white dress shirt, a stark contrast to his alter ego Jake Doyle's rugged T-shirt and jeans look. Hawco is polite, inviting, energetic, and talks candidly about his work.
Although Republic of Doyle is only in its second season on the CBC, Hawco has a lot of show business experience to draw upon. A graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada, Hawco has built a successful career in the theatre, starring in ShakespeareWorks' production of Romeo and Juliet, Festival of Classics' production of Macbeth and Soulpepper Theatre's productions of La Ronde and Present Laughter.
"I graduated theatre school and started working for Soulpepper, doing the odd TV gig, touring the country, and then Paul Gross put me into his miniseries H2O," Hawco said. "Then I started my own theatre company, and producing theatre kind of led to what I really wanted to do, which was producing television."
Hawco started working with Republic of Doyle co-creator Perry Chafe about 12 years ago. "We were writing five or six different shows, but not this one," he said. He explained that it wasn't until the CBC wanted Hawco to act in a project that he didn't want to do that he decided to write and pitch the show. "I’ve never been one for a dictated plan, but in the back of my head, I always knew I wanted to do this exact show, which freaks me out."
Republic of Doyle is a one-hour drama series about a father and son private investigation team. Set against the scenic and rarely filmed backdrop of St. John's, Newfoundland, Hawco set out to tell the story of generational family conflict and understanding, spiced up with the occasional love interest, drug deal, or crime scene.
"For me it’s about the stories and the characters, and the backdrop is the town that they live in. It was very important to me that I not make it about the town, which oddly enough has made it about the town," Hawco said. "It’s a utopian world that I’ve created. I’m not pretending that’s what Newfoundland is always like. I’m pretending that’s what Republic of Doyle is always like."
It seems that Hawco's fantasy of Newfoundland is what draws a large number of the show's viewers in.
"I started to watch the show to see what Newfoundland is like," Dana Gibson said, one of the contest winners waiting to meet the star at Ceili's. However, the customer service representative from Mission, B.C., who has never been to Newfoundland, quickly found that she was hooked onto the storyline. "I like the quirkiness of the show, the humor, and the antics that Jake Doyle gets into all the time."
Another fan from Surrey piped in: "My mom was actually from Newfoundland so there’s a bit of a connection there. I love the accent they have, that sort of thing."
Pleasing the fans and keeping the show as Canadian as possible seems to be a top priority for Hawco. Although Republic of Doyle is starting to gain viewership outside of the country, it's Canadian fans that Hawco feels most devoted to.
"What I love the most about making the show is that I’m making a show for Canada," he said. "I’m proud that I’m living in Canada, and I’m making a show on our public broadcaster about our community.
"I feel like if Canada wasn’t embracing it than the rest of the world probably couldn’t either," he continued. "That's why I feel like it’s important to come out here and make contact with the people. If the people are supporting me, I feel like I should come out here and show them I appreciate it."
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