Q: What are the underlying themes of the whole series?

A: With CALL ME FITZ, I set out to ponder the notion "can a man change"? The show looks at good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, and - this is where the comedy kicks in - all the gray areas in between. We really try to spin each episode around one aspect of Richard Fitzpatrick's psychological make-up, so the stories are really about something. Then we mix in a triple shot of bourbon, a few hookers, and watch the wreckage fall where it may…

Q: Tell us about Fitz’ journey in the second season. Where is he psychologically this season?

A: Fitz is in a dark place in season two, on the hunt for his own worst enemy - literally - someone wants him dead, and it's a race against time to figure out who that person is. Without giving the ending away, what we tried to do in season two is call Fitz to task for his past actions - really take a look at the cause and effect of how one chooses to live their life. It was also an opportunity to get to know the Fitzpatrick family a little better, delve into their fraught past, and see how a guy like Fitz becomes a guy like Fitz.

Q: Can you talk about the process of fleshing out a new character like Dot

A: Dot Foxley was a tricky beast. While she was easy to write from the start - a mix of fucked up Southern spitfire and Sarah Palin - we knew casting was critical. She could very easily have fallen into caricature. Amy Sloan read for Dot and nailed it right out of the gate - she brought intelligence to the role, a scary groundedness. This is a character who practices voodoo, has fire engine-red bangs, and throws knives for fun. When Amy came in, this mix of insane and brilliant.... we knew she could go toe to toe with Fitz. Though he'd never admit it, I think he's terrified of her - Dot reminds him of the other redhead in his life - his mother. All the pieces fell into place with that revelation. That's when we knew the character of Dot had real longevity.

Q: What do you most admire about Fitz?

A: His honesty. Hands down. Fitz is who Fitz is and he's not afraid to own it!

Q: Do you think the Fitz family dysfunction is the norm? Are the Fitzpatricks based on relationships you've seen in real life?

A: God, I hope not! No, that's a lie. I think all families are fucked up in their own special, horrible way. And for the record, I would never ever use my own relatives as inspiration for anyone on the show...

Q: Can you talk about Fitz and Larry's evolutions throughout the first two seasons?

A: Fitz and Larry ... the most deranged comic duo ever to grace a C-list car lot! Well, in season one, their arc was all about 'how can I get rid of this guy he's ruining my life'. In season 2, it's 'how can I use this guy to my advantage despite the fact he's ruining my life’....

Larry is concretely a part of Fitz' day-to-day in Season 2. We never question the fact that he's Fitz' conscience, or his insane devotion. Fitz accepts Larry and even starts to depend on him for help -- despite the fact that Larry is the cause of many of Fitz' problems... that's what interests me about their relationship. The fact that the conscience is just as screwed up - maybe even more - than Fitz.

Q: The music is a big part of the show and definitely a fan favorite! Can
you talk about your musical inspiration for Call Me Fitz?

A: Music is key to this show... and believe me, it was part of many discussions at the beginning of season one. My rule of thumb is: don't use it to fix what a scene isn't accomplishing - use music as a means to elevate, add a layer of comedy, complexity, emotional nuance. After all, Fitz is a guy obsessed with Frank Sinatra and the rat pack. We had to go there.

The big band vibe mixed with redux 70s/80s may seem like an odd mix, but it really seems to suit the low-end Vegas tone of the series. I have a blast choosing songs and helping Rich and Dylan (the kick ass Fitz composers) and Amy Fritz (music supervisor), figure out the cues and needle drops. We work with real musicians, use amazing vocalists (Matt Dusk, Ginger St. James, etc.)... this part of the process is a real joy for me. I think it is a huge part of what makes the show unique.

Q: You not only wrote, but produced and directed, last week’s episode, and this week’s upcoming season finale. How do you juggle all of these hats? Do you ever have fights with yourself between what you think as a writer and what might be feasible as a director?

A: No fights, but I did question my sanity a few times! It's a lot to manage, but totally worth it. The experience of being on set and directing our actors after months in the writing room is incredibly rewarding. I wish there was time in the season to do more. But the early mornings? Not a fan.

Q: What can fans expect in Season 3?

A: Big things for Fitz in season three. Let's just say our guy is back on top again... which only means he has further to fall. I think it's my favourite season yet!

10. The nose is an erogenous zone. A man can never use too much cologne.
9. Up your game. Viagra ain't just for limp dicks.
8. Let her buy. Makes her feel important.
7. A real man's favorite color is the soft sweet pink.
6. Surf and turf rule: steak for dinner, fish for desert....
5. Don't let her touch the hair.
4. Car parts make surprisingly good sex toys.
3. All women are beautiful... when you're inside.
2. Women are like a fine scotch. Always best when they go down.
1. A true womanizer is born, not made. Sorry, chumps.

CAST INSIDER: Jonathan Torrens

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Q: Let’s chat about Chester and his season two story arc…

A: On the surface, Chester appears to have it together in season two; he’s got a powerful job, the beautiful girl, and – best of all – Fitz right where he wants him. Sadly, this only means he has further to fall from grace. As we saw in the Repo Wedding episode, Chester has been hiding a secret that will once again give Fitz the upper hand and leave him marinating in his own patheticness.

Q: What is the best part of playing Chester? What is your inspiration for him?

A: First, the writing is so solid that I just can’t wait to get to work and say the things that come out of Chester’s mouth. The dialogue is so funny. Secondly, being in the presence of actors, performing at that calibre, is awe-inspiring; often to the point where I forget I’m supposed to “act back”. Most of my scenes are with Ali (the incomparable Kathleen Munroe), and she is so engaging that anyone in a scene with her can’t help but shine.

I guess my inspiration comes from how I actually feel being on that set with that world-class cast - sheepish, apologetic, unworthy... Wait – is that me or Chester?!

Q: Chester seems to be having some Dr. Jekyll /Mr. Hyde moments this year… Are you enjoying getting to see more of Chester's dark side? Is it more fun as an actor than playing the goody two shoes?

A: It’s really fun to parse out new layers of your character. It keeps the viewers guessing! Look at Dot Foxley (the incredible Amy Sloan)... Who knows what she’s all about?! The wonderful thing about the way this show is written is that all of the characters are conflicted and complex.

Q: Why do you think Chester got into a gambling debt with the mob? Is this a one-time error in judgement or just a sign of Chester's overall "weakness"?

A: It’s safe to say he’s pretty spineless. I mean... what does it say about him that he’s still with Ali after she’s made it abundantly clear that she wasn’t interested and that she’s cheated on him with Fitz? His series of bad choices is like social quicksand – each new little lie just pulls him in deeper.

Q: Chester kind of seems like the kid everyone bullied on the playground, and now has a big chip on his shoulder, trying to prove something to everyone around him – do you think taking Fitz down will make him feel better?

A: I think truthfully, Chester is more in love with the idea of crushing Fitz than he is in love with Ali.

Q: What do you think seeing Ali kissing Fitz on their wedding day will do to Chester? Do you feel bad for him?

A: I feel worse for him in that he has so little self-esteem that seeing something like that wouldn’t be the end of his pursuit of Ali. Chester has blinders when it comes to her. He would see that as being all Fitz’s fault.

Q: Can you chat about the Chester-Fitz dynamic on and off camera? What's it like having Jason Priestley play your archnemesis?

A: As a TV audience, we’re conditioned to expect our heroes to make “the right choice”... And Fitz never does. The fact that Fitz is likeable and someone we can root for, is a testament to Jason’s enormous ability and innate charm. In the hands of a lesser actor, Fitz could come across as a pig.

In scenes with him, even through Chester’s eyes, you can’t help, but love the guy. Same goes in real life.

Q: Any behind-the-scenes tidbits you'd like to share?

A: This is one of the happiest places I’ve ever worked – and not to brag, but as a teenager, I worked at McDonald’s where smiles were free. So that’s saying something.

CAST INSIDER: Peter MacNeill

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Q: What is Ken up to in the second season?

A: I wish I had the story arc more than two weeks ahead of shooting sometimes, but that's the nature of this beast ... you have to be ready for just about anything! As it turns out, Ken’s arc is more like running a zig zag of desperation in his never ending search for some control over his life. As Ken is usually the author of his own failures, this quest is the source of some pretty funny stuff. I think the audience can't help but feel some empathy for him in the long run because he does display an unquenchable determination to try to come out on top.

Q: What’s it like living in the rural Annapolis Valley during principal photography?

A: I love that we shoot this series in the Annapolis Valley – what better place to spend a day off? The Farmers’ Market in Wolfville is a real joy on Saturday morning, and driving through the valley to pick blueberries or apples on a crisp sunny day is just spectacular! While this is not Toronto or New York, the cast enjoys visiting the theatre, the bowling alley, and dining at some of the great local restaurants. Jason, who has no downtime at all, is very happy to have the weekend to spend with his family. My wife, Maggi, has come down to visit a number of times, so we are never really out of touch!

Q: Can you talk about the chemistry that the Fitz family has both on and off camera?

A: The "Fitz" family dynamic is chaotic. But it is a real family dynamic; it’s just condensed for comic effect. Things that happen over a lifetime in a so-called "real" family are just as wacky as the family we portray in "Call Me Fitz". We try to work out of a real place with emotional responses appropriate to a real situation, and the result is hilarious. Without sounding too technical about the work, actors must stay connected to reality while ensuring the comedic timing clicks, and simply not bumping into the furniture and crew becomes part of the job. We cannot let these characters "take over" - can you imagine the disaster? Off screen it’s like any other group of people working together: we laugh, we play, and we are moody! But we respect each other's needs most of the time.

Q: Can you talk a bit about Ken’s love interests this season?

A: Ken’s love life takes the form of his ex-wife Elaine, the mysterious Dot, a hooker or two thrown in, and hours of watching porn this season. Some love life! But Ken is nothing if not determined. He takes it where and when he can get it because he needs it like the rest of us. Mostly he wants it all, and that's the problem. But don't we all want it all? Ken, like a lot of people, can't seem to find it in one person. The question of whether Ken would like to end up with either, Elaine or someone like Dot, is moot. The question of will he ever be satisfied is more to the point. Ken's grass is always greener just across the street, but it’s the voyage that the show dwells on rather than the destination.

Q: What is your inspiration for Ken Fitzpatrick?

A: My inspiration mostly comes from trying to "get it right” - trying to fully portray the script’s potential. Our writer's room is buzzing morning 'til night - full of some really funny, but "bent" people. They will put your character out there nude in a snowstorm with one wet match if you are not careful.

I also count money and do wrist flexes to get in character!
Interview with Call Me Fitz Director Jim Allodi

1. What is it about this show that made you want to be involved? How would you describe the directorial style of Call Me Fitz?

The conventional wisdom is that television comedy should be brightly lit, the editing should be paced up with a lot of back-and-forth cutting, and dark subjects should be avoided lest the audience be reminded of their own lives. This show does none of those things. It revels in the opposite of those things! It deliberately steps in all those puddles, which is an absolute playground for directors. Lots of shadows, wider, more cinematic compositions, and the scripts regularly visit the characters’ unconscious fears or fantasies, which allows the visual language of the show to get really creative. Just by himself, Fitz could keep a squad of psychoanalysts in business for years. His unconscious is a jungle! Who wouldn’t want to have a little flashlight tour in there?

2. Can you talk a little bit about yourself and the start-to-finish process of directing this episode?

Well, obviously the whole thing starts with the script. What’s it about? What’s at the center of the story? The first read of a script is really key for me, because you’re going to read it fifty times by the end of the process, but you’re only going to have that first, what’s-going-to-happen-next read of the script once, which is exactly how the audience is going to come to the story. So it’s really valuable to hang onto the feeling of that first read and be able to recall both the pleasures and the problems of it throughout the process.

In the case of Fitz, the scripts are wild and rich. In last week’s episode, Fitz wants to regain control of the dealership from his father and Dot, and his plan is to unleash his mother on the situation in a kind of kamikaze family reunion. After reading Dennis Heaton’s script for it, my key thought was,
“I hope I don’t screw this up!” It was extremely clear and specific about each character’s objective, and at the same time, it opened the vault on the bigger questions of the Fitz family history. How exactly did the family fall apart? And how did two people like Ken and Elaine get together in the first place? It’s a kind of autopsy of the Fitz nuclear family. And at the centre of the story is the idea of “memory lane.”

And, of course, once the nuclear family is back together again it triggers spontaneous energies and regressions that none of them can necessarily control. So, to be brief, the rest of the process – finding locations, casting, camera – entails just doggedly delivering the promise of a well-executed script.

3. Can you tell us about your directorial inspiration? Were there any challenges?

The genius of Call Me Fitz and the thing that sets it apart from any other comedy I’ve worked on, is that it’s grounded in a really rich and absolutely realistic emotional family history. No matter how absurd things get, no matter how extreme and hilarious, you can feel that the characters are being driven – usually unconsciously - by these real relationships. Which, come to think of it, is where great dramatists usually go for truth. Shakespeare, Sophocles, whoever. So I don’t know about directorial inspiration, but thematically the script inspired a commitment to this family portrait.

4. What was your favourite scene to shoot? The most difficult? The most fun?

From the moment I read the script, I was probably most looking forward to the scene of Elaine getting out of jail. Dennis had made reference to Cape Fear (Scorsese’s 1991 remake), which brings to mind the idea of this dark, psychopathic bull of a man being unleashed on the world. So here we have the Elaine version, which plays with the same idea, but completely differently. She’s breezing out of there like she’s walking up the red carpet at some five star hotel. Joanna Cassidy has got this unbelievably sexy strut, and she loans it to Elaine for the scene. You can’t learn that walk. And she’s chewing gum!

The hardest scene to get, as it turned out, was the scene in the garage between Josh and Larry where Josh lays out his plan for doing battle with Dot. You have Donovan Stinson and Ernie Grunwald in a scene together, so why worry? Both of those actors are geniuses. Don’t get fancy with the camera, just turn it on and don’t get in their way. Make sure they can overlap on each other’s dialogue, give them space, and let it rip! And they knocked it out of the park (My main challenge was not ruining the take by laughing all over it). And then, for technical reasons, we had to re-shoot the scene! Had to throw it away and do it over again a few days later. What Donovan is doing is incredibly difficult to repeat two takes in a row, let alone two scenes in a row. He’s playing with three unwieldy props and delivering these long chunks of dialogue at spitfire speed. And Ernie’s reactions are incredibly detailed and hilarious. They’re rocket-fueled, these guys. So the idea of having to redo the scene was really depressing. I was afraid we would never find the same beats the second time around. But they just psyched up and did it. Nailed it again. I could watch that scene fifty times.

5. What is it like directing scenes involving the whole Fitz Family?

The Fitz family is so perfectly cast that the chemistry takes care of itself! All of those actors are so strong individually, and then putting them in a scene together, just generates such electricity. What’s beautiful about the family scenes is that they play for truth, so there’s a kind of genuine sadness at the sight of seeing the four of them standing in front of their long abandoned family home (of course it’s a 60’s era bungalow). And, at the same time, it’s hilarious. When Meghan and Fitz start to fight about stealing diaries and stuff that happened in the house thirty years ago, you can literally see them as 10 and 12 year olds. They even start looking and sounding like little kids. They just completely regress. But Jason and Tracy have this perfect ability to be funny without ever disconnecting from the underlying truth of the situation. And it reminds us of ourselves I think. All of us have these tiny resentments and feuds in our families that just seem incapable of dissolving. So we laugh at these two because it’s so familiar, so family. They never ask for laughs, but they’re funny because the characters are so damn insistent on their perspectives. No matter how insane Fitz may sound half the time, we totally believe in how his mind works and where these decisions are coming from.

6. Is there anything you would do differently for this episode in retrospect?

We shot the last scene of the episode just before sunset, so we were incredibly rushed. The sun set about halfway through actually, and Ian Bibby (our Director of Photography), had to maintain the illusion of day. It’s a big scene, especially for Peter MacNeill, who has to have a kind of emotional breakdown, then make out intensely with Elaine, then have a heart attack – all in the space of a minute. So I wouldn’t have done anything differently, I just would have done it earlier! Fortunately, Peter played it beautifully despite the rush.

7. Do you have any advice for aspiring directors out there?

I take inspiration from aspiring directors actually. Lots of young people seem to be adept at editing and putting things together on the fly. Which makes them ideally suited to learn by doing. They’re not waiting for someone to hire them to direct, they’re just making things. You can make a narrative out of still photographs. Put a little sound on top? You’re in business.

8. We've been trying to give fans a bit of a behind-the-scenes perspective – is there any insider info you'd like to share?

I don’t know if this is top secret or not, but the show is edited in the basement of a mansion on a hill. This is not a lie. The walls are made of stone. The two editors (Thorben Bieger and Kim McTaggart) are allowed to leave the mansion, but they virtually never do!


Friday, October 28, 2011

1. Can you tell us a bit about Dot and her story arc? What was your impression of Dot when you first read the scripts?

When we first meet Dot, she's angling to become the office manager at Fitzpatrick Motors. Over the course of the first six episodes, it becomes clear that Dot has an ulterior motive for being at the dealership. She and Fitz actually have a past that Dot is looking to reignite, and she will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Blackmail, voodoo, knife-throwing... these are just a few of the tools in Dot's arsenal.

When I first read the scripts, I was so exited to play this role and be part of the show. Dot is really the most fun character I've ever played. She's a firecracker: fearless, passionate, and a little bit crazy. What actress wouldn't want to take that on?! While we were filming the second season, someone said that Dot's kind of a bully, and I said, “Yes! Exactly! That's what I love about her!”

2. Do you want Dot and Fitz to hook up again? What is it about him she finds so irresistible? Or would you like to see her end up with Josh?

I don't know if it would be a very wise idea for Fitz and Dot to hook-up again. Things didn't go well the first time around. Those two are kind of like oil and water. Or gasoline and a match. I think Dot and Fitz might work better as friends. Or enemies. Or a bit of both. And I'm not sure Josh and Dot would make a good couple, especially long-term, either. Dot might be a little too type-A for our lovable stoner.

3. What is your inspiration for Dot? Is there anything you do to get in character?

Wardrobe, hair, and make-up are such important parts of getting into the character of Dot. I don't feel like Dot unless my lipstick is on, my bangs are perfect, and I'm wearing my kitten heels. Kate Rose, our costume designer, has really helped develop Dot's look. Both Gloria Digdon, who does my hair, and Amanda O'Leary, who does my make-up, also do a great job of pulling the whole image together!

When I worked in the fat suit for last week’s episode, I relied heavily (pardon the pun) on those ladies to help me figure out Dot's former, plus-sized beauty queen look.

As far as inspiration for Dot is concerned, I thought a lot about some tough ladies in history: Catherine The Great, Lurcezia Borgia, and Hillary Clinton. I also made a "Dot Foxley Mix" that I often listen to at the beginning of my workday. The mix had a lot of Queen, Blondie, and Tom Jones – it really helps me get into character. Well that and my padded bra!

4. Can you talk us through the process of transforming into a completely different Dot for her backstory? Was wearing the prosthetics / “fat suit” uncomfortable?

Wearing the fat suit was a really interesting experience. It was a bit hot and uncomfortable, but the effect was so cool, so it was worth it. Watching the facial prosthetic make-up transformation happen was amazing. It was wild to see another version of myself. And I have to say, I thought I looked pretty fabulous in my Miss Carbs get-up. It was fun to work the extra junk in my trunk.

5. Did you have to do any special training the episode? You looked pretty skilled with those knives...

I can't say I did too much special training for my knife-throwing scene. I did practice a bit, but I have notoriously bad aim. Thank god for editing!

6. What was your favorite scene to film from “Bring Me the Feet of Dexter Laine”? Any behind-the-scenes tidbits you'd like to share?

I loved shooting the big "reveal" scene in the garage - when Fitz, Larry, and Josh figure out who Dot really is. We had a lot of fun shooting that scene. And the way it came together in the end with the flashback scenes [which we filmed at a different time] was just great. It was a blast to unleash Dot's "crazy" on the boys. Dot may not get her man in this episode, but she does get a bucket of dirty bird in the end, which is almost as good!

CAST INSIDER: Kathleen Munroe

Thursday, October 20, 2011

1. Can you chat about your character, Ali Devon, and her second season story arc?

When we see Ali in the second season, she has made good on her promise to herself to change her self-destructive patterns. In fact, she has settled into a relationship with her earnest and adoring colleague Chester Vince. The problem is that while her behavior has been modified, her feelings haven’t changed, and run-ins with Fitz start to complicate her newly stable life. Compounding this is that Chester reveals himself to be just as flawed and complicated as everyone else, which kinda blows her faith in him as her link to a pure and good life. The struggle for Ali in the second season is essentially the same as in the first, but the stakes are higher… she’s still caught between her good intentions and her true feelings, and she's messing up a lot along the way.

2. Can you talk a little about the Ali, Fitz, and Chester love triangle?

Fitz is everything Ali wants to avoid, but at the same time, he's exactly what she’s hard-wired to love. Or lust after, at the very least… And lust can sometimes feel a whole lot like love. Chester, on the other hand, is seemingly safe, reliable, stable, and completely lacking in swagger and sex appeal. They represent for Ali the two basic opposing forces within her - the longing to be a responsible, healthy, and good person, and the deep-seated attraction to dark, exciting, and dangerous men.

3. Let’s chat about filming scenes with Jason Priestley and Jonathan Torrens…

Filming with Jason and Jonathan is really hard work because they're both so ridiculously funny, and the writing in some of those scenes is just too much. It basically winds up being an exercise in restraint. It can take awhile to get a straight-faced take, but they're awesome, and so good at what they do, so it’s great stuff to be thrown into. And at its heart, the push-pull dynamic operating between the three characters is real, so all in all, it makes for a pretty good day at work.

4. Chester or Fitz – who do you want Ali to end up with?

As an actor, I want Ali to be caught between Chester and Fitz ‘til the end of time, if only because Jason and Jonathan are both so outrageously fun to work with. The three characters together have a dynamic I’ve enjoyed so much. As far as Ali’s concerned, if I were her friend, I think I'd tell here she might be best off taking some time for herself...but that's no fun! And realistically, I don’t think she’ll shake her attachment to Chester or her attraction to Fitz easily anytime soon.