TV, eh? interview: Mary Ashton of Dan for Mayor

By Diane Wild
Article first published as Dan For Mayor Returns From Exile on Blogcritics

It’s been over a month since new episodes of Dan For Mayor aired on CTV. Over a month since Dan broke up with Brianna, his ex-girlfriend Claire broke up with Mike, and the campaign – with Dan and Claire on opposite sides – was heating up.

“It bugged me in that Canadian shows take a backseat to American shows for sweeps,” said co-star Mary Ashton, who plays Claire, of the May shutout. “But I’m glad CTV is coming back with a push to get people to watch it.”

Ashton and I spoke the day after an ACTRA protest targeting Global for spending millions on American shows while finding room for only one hour of scripted Canadian drama – the new Callum Keith Rennie series Shattered – on their fall schedule. We also spoke the day before CTV announced it was renewing its entire Canadian scripted lineup, including Dan For Mayor.

“It ended in a limbo, where both Dan and Claire are between relationships. She just liberated herself, so who knows what’s going to happen.”

Of course, Ashton knows; the season had finished shooting even before the first episode aired. She’s filled her time waiting for a season two with theatre work, including an upcoming show at the Toronto Fringe Festival – I caught her during a rehearsal lunch break at Kensington Market.

“I loved this episode,” she enthused about Monday’s Claire-centric half hour. “The writers gave me a chance to have some fun. I think it was the most ridiculous for my character, in that she was totally vulnerable – she was trying to figure out what was going on with Brianna and Dan – so she was obviously jealous, but at the same time excited. She was trying to keep a poker face about it all, until she finds out they’ve broken up. I think maybe it’s just a fulfillment of her own ego that she wants to find out he broke up with her for her.”

She also has to contend with Dan professionally as well as personally, after taking a job with Alan, another mayoral candidate. “I think it was a mistake that she worked for him because it was retaliation against Dan, and it kind of adds up in this episode.”

Her character is largely defined by her relationship to Dan, but Ashton sees greater depth in the role than as simply the lead’s ex and possibly future girlfriend. “It is a sitcom, but I think she was well developed in that she has a nice storyline where she’s trying to live up to her own expectations and not to everyone else’s.”

“There was never anything literally written down, but in my own preparation, I think she has issues with her parents. As you get to know them more, I think you see she tried to live up to their expectations.”

The Dan For Mayor audience will finally get to know all the characters better as the last four episodes of the season air this month, starting Monday, June 7.