Jared Keeso as Don Cherry: “Fire him or shut up”

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Walking into Vancouver’s Shark Club for an interview with the man who plays Don Cherry in a CBC miniseries, I could be forgiven for expecting someone who looks a little like Don Cherry.

27-year-old Jared Keeso, star of tonight’s Wrath of Grapes: The Don Cherry Story II, is proof that television makeup and hair artists deserve more recognition.

“Oh my goodness I’m glad you asked,” he laughed to a question about the transformation. “It really is something.”

The first miniseries, Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story, ended as Cherry began Coach’s Corner. In this one, airing in two parts on March 4 and 11, Keeso plays the man into his 70s – a makeup process that took five hours each morning. “They poke and prod you like a lab rat, gluing stuff to your face.”

Even more remarkable is that Keeso didn’t know until two weeks into shooting that he would end up playing a man three times his age. “They originally entertained the idea of Don playing himself in the final two acts of the movie,” Keeso revealed.

Wrath of Grapes focuses on “Don’s tumultuous relationship with the CBC,” Keeso explained. “What it comes down to is: fire him or shut up.”

As a youth, Keeso himself played for the Strathroy Rockets of the Western Ontario Hockey League and the Listowel Cyclones of the GOJHL. “I was a bit of a suitcase,” he said, meaning he was frequently traded. He never missed Coach’s Corner, and watched Cherry’s Rock’em Sock’em Hockey series on the team bus.

But perhaps surprisingly, he added: “I’m a big Don Cherry fan, but I’m a huge Ron MacLean fan.”

As thrilled as he was when Cherry called after the first part of the first miniseries aired to express his love for it, Keeso was even more thrilled when MacLean mentioned Keep Your Head Up Kid on Coach’s Corner the night before.

Keeso won a Gemini for that role, but he won’t copy MacLean’s habit of giving his awards away. “I respect his principle but I’ll squeeze that thing until the day I die.”

Check out the full video interview with Jared Keeso: