Fifteen years ago, Paul Gross saved Greg Bryk’s life. I was on the phone with Bryk to talk about Season 2 of Frontier—Discovery’s historical drama about the history of the Canadian fur trade returning Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT—when I mentioned Men with Brooms came out 15 years ago.
“He saved my life,” Bryk says of Gross, who wrote, starred and directed the feature film. “I was going to go to law school. I had babies and I couldn’t pay any bills and I was walking away from it all. And then he cast me in Men with Brooms and threw me a lifeline. He was incredibly generous with his time and was kind of the rogueish older brother that I never had.”
The role of Alexander “The Juggernaut” Yount was the first of many, many memorable characters Bryk has played over the year. Whether it’s alpha werewolf Jeremy Danvers on Bitten, the Jack of Knives on Wynonna Earp or Grady on Mary Kills People, Bryk has amassed an IMDB page packed with memorable characters. We spoke to Bryk about his acting choices and what’s to come for Cobbs Pond, business associate/lover to Montreal businessman Samuel Grant (Shawn Doyle), in Season 2 of Frontier.
They say that the clothes make the man. Is that true for Cobbs Pond?
Greg Bryk: He has the best wardrobe. The best. When [series creators] Rob Blackie and Peter Blackie approached me, they had another character they were interested in me for. I was under option for Bitten at the time and that part was recast. A few weeks later, Bitten was cancelled and I was no longer under option. Rob called me, and I remember being in a parking lot in the Distillery District [of Toronto]. ‘Greg, hear me out on this. We have a character. So far we haven’t written a line for him yet. We have no idea what he could become or will become. He’s a cross between this real-life assassin-gunfighter that exists—historically from Boston—and Oscar Wilde.’ I’m like, ‘Done. Let’s have an adventure.’
We literally created this character from scratch and when I first walked in and I saw the fox hat. When [costume designer] Michael [Ground] handed me the hat I had everything I needed to know about this character. There is such a playful malevolence about him and the idea of sexuality and femininity and being placed in that historical context but to be this completely complicated and contemporary man, in a lot of ways, was a fascinating adventure. We found moments throughout Season 1—some dark, horrific moments and moments of real longing and being lost—and that arc/descent accelerates during Season 2. Cobbs goes to some places that I was so thrilled to get to be able to take him and really explore what love means to this character, what loyalty means, what ambition means, what greed means, what savage revenge means … all the while spinning in the most beautiful clothes one could ever hope to dress themselves in.
“When the lights go up and the camera goes on, it’s like a cage opens and the lion hunts the zoo.”
It sounds like you personally had a hand in creating Cobbs.
They fleshed the character out in very broad strokes and allowed me to bring so much of myself to the character. I’m really lucky in that a lot of directors and showrunners that I have worked with trust me to personalize the work and bring elements of myself to the character. There are things this year that happen with Cobbs and parts of monologues that are straight camera roll and they just let me go into myself. There are a couple of scenes which are shocking and brutal and violent but also incredibly vulnerable. It’s me transferring an experience I had being in love with this girl when I was in Grade 5—that first love—and they let me drag Cobbs into my longings and my wants and my vulnerabilities. But, also, this strength emerges in Cobbs this year where he is a force to be reckoned with.
There are some moments that are absolutely crazy. There are places Cobbs goes that I think the audience—who enjoyed him in the first season as this glitter who was thrown into a very dark world—will be slack-jawed at some of the things that will happen. He’s quite, delightfully, mad.
You’ve created memorable characters throughout your acting career. Where does that come from?
I’m a very cautious, almost timid, person in real life. I like routine. I stay in my house with my kids and my wife and my dogs. I literally walk the same path every day and I like that. In the real world, I like to control as much as I can. But in my work, it’s the chaos, man. I’m fearless. There is nothing I won’t reveal about myself or someone else and I don’t ever apologize for anything that I do. I am utterly without censure when the cameras roll and I think it saves my life. I became a father in theatre school and I had to learn to compartmentalize. Discovering myself as an artist was walking in step with being a husband and a father. There have always been these parallel tracks. I can happily live away from that live wire in the middle, but goddamn it I love to dance on it. When the lights go up and the camera goes on, it’s like a cage opens and the lion hunts the zoo.
Frontier airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Discovery.
Images courtesy of Bell Media.