While you may not know exactly what you’re going to get from a television series involving Mike Clattenburg, you have a pretty good idea. He is, after all, the creator of Trailer Park Boys, that ribald comedy starring three East Coast dudes smoking weed, sipping adult beverages and going on profanity-laced adventures. At its heart, Trailer Park Boys was about family. Family is also at the heart of Clattenburg’s latest project, Crawford. Well, family and raccoons. Many, many raccoons.
Debuting Friday on CBC.ca and the CBC TV app before moving to the main network later this year, Crawford‘s 12 episodes centre on a dysfunctional family headed by Cynthia (Jill Hennessy), an award-winning cereal executive trying to juggle work, her husband Owen, and her lover; and Owen (John Carroll Lynch), a former police chief who suffered a bullet wound on the job and communicates via an app on his smartphone. Adding to the nuttiness are siblings Don (Kyle Mac), a musician who returns home following an emotional breakdown; Wendy (Alice Moran) and Brian (Daniel Davis Yang).
In the first episode, “I’m not crazy, I love you,” Owen awakes to a ransacked kitchen. Food is all over the place and he has no idea who, or what has done it. Suddenly, Don arrives and begins hauling clothes and musical equipment into his old bedroom, putting a strain on a father-son relationship already smarting from something in the pair’s past. Owen is convinced burglars broke into the house while he was asleep; turns out a family of raccoons enjoyed a buffet lunch while he snoozed. And, strangely, Don feels a weird connection with the little beasts.
“I had worked with raccoons once before on Trailer Park Boys, and had a wonderful experience with them,” says series creator, head writer, director and executive producer Clattenburg. “And then I saw a documentary called Raccoon Nation and I became infatuated with them and what kind of person might try to relocate them.”
Clattenburg and co-creator, writer and composer Mike O’Neill were thinking about their own fathers—who had recently passed away—and came up with the dad character. The rest of the family dynamic followed soon after and the duo was determined to create something not seen on television before. Far from being outlandish, the pair sought to make Crawford as realistic as possible via scripts written by them, Zoe Whittall, Kathleen Phillips-Locke, Monica Heisey and Timm Hannebohm and hired dramatic actors to take on comic roles. And, in a departure from how television is usually made—table read followed by filming—the cast rehearsed extensively in advance.
“It was a luxurious, delicious gift,” Hennessy says. “You never get a chance to rehearse in TV or even in films. The rehearsal process was so invaluable because we got to know each other and become a family. We heard the dialogue come to life and the spectrum of the characters really came to life. It was one of the closest experiences I’ve had in TV to theatre.” Lines were workshopped, improvised and worked on to determine what was best for the scene and the plotline.
“It’s really spoiled me,” Mac admits. “On other shows, like 21 Thunder, for example, I had gotten into trouble all of the time for changing lines to suit how I wanted [my character] Tim to speak. You feel nervous to even experiment. And then, on Crawford, I was allowed to do that. Liberating is really the only way to describe it as an actor.”
Crawford‘s first season is available for streaming this Friday via CBC.ca and the CBC TV app. It will be broadcast on CBC later this year.
Images courtesy of CBC.