Trailer Park Boys, Canada’s classic television comedy series, has been running for 10 seasons and counting. Actor John Dunsworth brilliantly plays the Boys’ drunken nemesis, Jim Lahey. Along with his shirtless sidekick and on-and-off lover, Randy, Lahey has sent the Boys to jail several times. A former police officer and trailer park supervisor, Mr. Lahey will be in Fort Worth with Randy for two shows at The Rail Club starting on Thursday. We caught up with Dunsworth for a few questions.
What can we expect from the show?
You can expect Randy to be there and you can expect some “ridiculousity” and some foolishness. There will be some songs, some audience participation and some ad-libbing. There will be a skit or two and a lot of variety.
You guys sing?
Oh yeah. (Singing) Propane! Propane! Liquor and whores!
It’s not like we have a 10-piece orchestra. I’ll play a harmonica.
How are the crowds responding?
Well, we packed every house so far this time. But you never know. It depends on how well the promoter does his job. The only time we ever had a disappointing crowd that I remember was in New York City. Sometimes they’ll just put it up on a website somewhere and expect to fill the house. But a good promoter will have it sold-out weeks before we get there.
How long have you and Randy been doing these shows?
Long time. Ten years, anyway.
When the Trailer Park Boys toured, you and Randy appeared via Skype. Can we expect any appearances from the other characters?
No, they’re boring.
Did you ever imagine the show would make it this far?
I’ve got a great imagination. Mike Clattenburg, who was the originator with Ricky and Julian, knew after season one. We were in my boat and he said, “John, someday you won’t be able to go anywhere without someone recognizing you. I said, 'Great, Mike.'” And then a boat went by and did a fast circle around the sailboat, idled up and the guy yelled, “Fuck you, Lahey!”
I’m not sure if I have ever seen an alcoholic portrayed so well. What do you attribute that to?
I have no idea because I don’t drink. I don’t like bars and loud music. I was never around a lot of drunks. I think I owe the credit to Mike Clattenburg. He would say, “A little less anger, a little more drunkenness, and see if you can garble your words a little more so I can’t quite understand them.” He would always say it’s a comedy, not a tragedy.
Is it true that Randy does a pretty mean Bubbles impression?
Oh, he can. Randy is very talented. He doesn’t stretch himself. But he’s very funny. Some nights when he lets loose I can hardly get a word out because I’m laughing so hard.
I remember hearing Randy was once the CEO of a company.
I don’t know if he was a CEO. But there was a bottled water company and he was some high mucky-muck.
Ellen Page played your daughter on the show. How did that wind up happening?
I have a casting company in Halifax called Filmworks and it’s been going for 30 years, probably closer to 40. When Ellen Page was 10 years old, I brought her in as part of the lineup for a show I was casting, Pit Pony. That was her first film role.
You discovered Ellen Page?
I didn’t discover her. Casting agents don’t discover people. They present people and then the directors and producers make the choices.
Have you also taught acting?
I started my own theater in 1970, Pier One Theatre in Halifax. I studied acting in the '60s, at university in Ontario, kind of by mistake. I took an elective acting course and discovered it was the only thing I really enjoyed doing, other than playing bridge. I decided I wanted to be an actor for the rest of my life and so I went back to Halifax and started a theater. I taught at university and acted in professional theater. Then in the '80s, I thought it would be nice to get some film in Nova Scotia, so I started a casting agency. And, low and behold, after a couple of years Nova Scotia became kind of a Mecca for talented film actors.
Tell me about some of the other film roles you've had and series you've worked on.
Up until last year I was in three different series. One was called Haven — that was with the Syfy network. We had as many fans for Haven as for Trailer Park Boys. That was seen in over 100 countries. My character was not a drunk. I also played a priest in a series called Forgive Me. He was not a drunk priest. But I still go back to the theater.
You've played a lot of serious characters.
Yes. I’ve played everything from Shylock to Oscar Wilde. And I’ve directed lots of stuff. I never really concentrated on one area. I’ve had a half dozen businesses, I had a store. Now I’m in publishing. I have a little book called The Dicshitnary. My passion right now is stonework. Randy and I have our own podcast.
How did your daughter, Sarah E. Dunsworth, end up on Trailer Park Boys?
That’s a good question. I did not have any influence on that. I don’t remember quite how it happened. Sarah was a child star, she was on the stage when she was very young. She did film before she was 10 and a lot of radio drama. She is a very gifted, intelligent, passionate person.
Do you keep pretty close to the script on Trailer Park Boys or is there a lot of ad-libbing?
There’s a lot of script. The boys spend lots of time — months — working on the script. Sometimes the director changes it a little bit or lets us be funny. Sometimes it will make the cut and sometimes it doesn’t.
Do you have a favorite episode or scene?
I love it all. But I’ve probably only seen half of it. I should probably watch it though because TV is so bad. I went through 700 channels last night and the only thing mildly interesting was politics. I find American politics very interesting.
How do people act when they see you?
Some people are surprised, others act like they know me.
Your clothes tend to come off during the television show. Does this happen during your performances? No. Other people’s clothes come off, but not mine. I adjust my pants to do a rap.
Randy and I do a rap. It’s called “The Shit Rap” and it’s good.
It seems like the shit talking is less prominent than it used to be on the show.
I don’t know why that is. I never really wrote any of it. Sometimes I would tweak stuff. But everything from the shittapillars to the shitmoths to the shit barometer — all of that was written by Mike, Rob, J.P. or Bubbles.
Randy and Mr. Lahey appear at The Rail Club, 3101 Joyce Drive, Fort Worth, at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 28, and Friday, April 29. Tickets available here.
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