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!