Tag Archives: Jared Keeso

Interview: 19-2’s Jared Keeso teases his new effing comedy project

For Jared Keeso, AC/DC will forever be burned into his brain as the soundtrack to the next step in his television career. A tune by the Aussie rockers was blaring from his cellphone the day he found out his Internet series, Letterkenny Problems had been ordered to TV.

Keeso’s creation, about a foul-mouthed pair of dudes living in the fictional small town of Letterkenny, is the first original Canadian series to air on Bell Media’s CraveTV followed by broadcast on Comedy Network. Last Thursday’s announcement caps off one heck of a week for Keeso that started the previous Sunday when he captured a Canadian Screen Award for his lead role on Bravo’s 19-2.

Congratulations on the Canadian Screen Award. Did you know what you were going to say in your acceptance speech?
Jared Keeso: I had an idea of what I was going to say. I had some points, but I can’t believe I got through it without too many ums and uhs. I managed to seem pretty organized up there. As soon as they called my name the nerves shut off and I was pretty comfortable up on the stage.

How long ago did you find out that Letterkenny was a go? And did Bell Media contact you via phone call, email, text?
They called the producers, Mark Montefiore and Patrick O’Sullivan of New Metric Media. I was in Montreal doing press for 19-2 at the time. We were expecting the green light or red light call. I was in between interviews for 19-2 and my phone rang and it was Montefiore and I knew it. This is the call. I pick up and say ‘Hello?’ and there is AC/DC music playing. [Laughs.] They let that go for 10 for 15 seconds while they were probably dancing around their offices and then Montefiore yells out, ‘Six episodes greenlit, baby!’ I was speechless. I could tell that it was a big a deal to them as it was to me. Everybody at Bell has been so supportive and seem so enthusiastic. Working with them has been a pleasure.


I’m almost positive on CraveTV we can say the f-word as much as we want.


Letterkenny is the first Canadian original to be commissioned for first window on CraveTV. How does that feel to be breaking new ground?

I couldn’t be happier about the decision to make us the first original Canadian show to be on CraveTV and then shift us over to Comedy after that. I really like it because I’m almost positive on CraveTV we can say the f-word as much as we want. And that’s good because the way things are scripted right now I think I have one page with a baker’s dozen f-words on it. It’s in every line and sometimes twice per line. Hopefully we get away with it.

Had you guys been aiming for a six-episode order?
A six-episode order is exactly what we wanted. It’s my first time being paid as a writer—it’s my first rodeo—and having six episodes to cut my teeth on gives us a great opportunity to launch without having to water down anything with a larger order. I don’t think I’m able to really pack a punch in 10 or 12 episodes.

Who is writing it? You mentioned yourself already. Is your Letterkenny Problems’ co-star Nathan Dales writing too?
Nate’s not involved in the writing. Jacob Tierney and I are writing every episode and we have Mike Dowse from FUBAR and Goon as our script consultant. And I’ll tell you, that guy is just so valuable to the process. Not only does he bring a ton of expertise to it but he speaks English very, very well. His notes are very concrete and it’s easy for us to understand what he means. We’ve done a lot of moving and shaking based on his advice. It’s pretty crazy to be working with the guy who made one of my favourite movies of all time in FUBAR.

What are you learning about yourself as a writer? Are you a lazy writer? Are you able to whip stuff off?
I’m certainly learning what my strengths and weaknesses are. I’m glad that we’re going the sitcom route with this. My strength is the dialogue, as many laughs as possible. Big story and character arc is not my strength. Working on a show like 19-2 makes me appreciate guys like Bruce Smith and Jesse McKeown that much more because what they do I simply could not do.


Growing up on Listowel, Ont., I’m so proud to have come from that town. But growing up there, getting your ass kicked was a legitimate concern on a day-to-day basis.


Give me a lowdown on the setup of the show. The release says ‘The residents of Letterkenny belong to one of three groups: Hicks, Skids, and Hockey Players. The three groups are constantly feuding with each other over seemingly trivial matters.’

Growing up in Listowel, Ont. … I’m so proud to have come from that town. But growing up there, getting your ass kicked was a legitimate concern on a day-to-day basis. And I think that was because we were all in this small town with nothing better to do so we drink and we fight. We drink we fight and we dance, actually. It is true to life in that you were in one of those three groups. In high school I was friends with everybody so I can draw from actual experiences there. Letterkenny doesn’t drift too far into the absurd. The dialogue is nutty but we do keep it true to real life for the most part.

But I wanted to make sure that the show was tough. We think that’s what sold so much of our audience with Letterkenny Problems. It’s funny but it’s still tough. I don’t think you’d want to eff with either of those two guys.

Where will you be filming?
We’re going to Sudbury, Ont. I’ve only been there once, but I know from growing up and playing hockey that those guys used to come down and just beat the shit out of us physically on and off the scoreboard. There are a lot of tough dudes in that town.

The elephant in the room, of course, is 19-2. When do you expect to hear about a third season of that and how will it impact on Letterkenny‘s production schedule?
We found out about Season 2 of 19-2 a couple of days before the first season finale aired and I think we’d all love to find out around that same time again. That was great, watching the last episode and knowing we were all going back to do it again. I think everybody is pretty optimistic about it and it would be a shame if we didn’t get to go back and do it. Six episodes of Letterkenny is tailored to not get in the way if 19-2 goes back.

Meanwhile, Keeso’s 19-2 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo.

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19-2’s shocking, stunning Season 2 return

The second season return 19-2 on Monday night features a continuous tracking shot that sets the tone for a series that already set a high bar for drama in Season 1. “School,” directed by Podz, who helmed the episode for the original Radio Canada series, captured over 10 minutes of stunning, shocking television in a continual shot, following officers Ben Chartier (Jared Keeso), Nick Barron (Adrian Holmes) and the members of their squad as they track down a shooter loose in a Montreal high school.

Ben and Nick go from the front office area through the cafeteria as bullets fly and students flee around them. The camera continues to a wall of windows to show a squadron of police cars arriving while frightened students weep against walls and pillars, praying they survive. It’s the most dramatic episode of 19-2 so far, a big deal considering cop Audrey Pouliot (Laurence Leboeuf) was beaten to the brink of death by a group of thugs in Season 1.

Monday’s return also marks a new direction for the Canadian Screen Award-nominated Bravo series. There is the overarching theme of Ben being asked to spy on his partner, Nick, who is suspected of being a mole by the Sécurité du Québec (SQ)—a theme explored in the French series too—but it won’t follow the same trail to get there.

“We get to the same place, but we get there in a very different way,” says executive producer, showrunner and writer Bruce M. Smith (Cracked, Durham County) during an on-location press junket in Montreal last August. “We did that not because we didn’t like what the French did, but because of who our cast was and how they had developed over Season 1. They had become quite different people from their French counterparts.”

Smith is a huge fan of the original 19-2, and likens Bravo’s take to NBC’s version of the British smash comedy The Office; they were given a lot of liberty to make it different organic being based on the same DNA. Benz Antoine (Blue Murder), Smith explains, plays Officer Tyler Joseph in both versions of 19-2, but they’re very different characters. Speaking of writing, the room has expanded for Season 2 as well. First season scribes Smith and Jesse McKeown (Republic of Doyle) have been joined by Damon Vignale (Blackstone) and Nikolijne Troubetzkoy (Call Me Fitz), a four-person luxury Smith says is alien in Quebec where writers pen their scripts at home alone and then bring them to set for filming. Lynne Kamm has kept things realistic on 19-2, serving as a liaison between real police and the show, which has entailed dozens of ride-alongs.

Smith says he expects there to be a lot of talk among viewers following Monday’s return broadcast—there are many, many casualties in “School” and the overall story mirrors recent events around the world—but Bravo has stuck by the producers since Day 1.

“We see this as a cable show, and they have encouraged us to go there with the content,” Smith says. “We are, at times, much more realistic and darker, and we show these characters warts and all.”

19-2 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo. The season premiere will air commercial-free on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

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19-2 lead and Best Years creator get developing with TMN

Bell Media’s Aug. 14 announcement regarding its 14 new comedies and dramas in development for The Movie Network was significant. For the first time that I can recall, a Canadian network unveiled its development plan for the coming year, showing its cards in advance. Though commonplace in the U.S. where pilot orders and development deals are announced daily via Variety and Deadline, it’s rare to show your cards north of the border, and was an adjustment for Bell.

“We had talked about doing it or not doing it over the years,” Corrie Coe, senior vice-president of independent production for Bell Media admits. “In terms of the industry, it gave a sense of the projects that we were working on, the types of talent we were working with and the levels and range of projects which we thought was helpful. We have heard from producers and writers who have said that it has been helpful to know what we’re already working on so they know what to pitch and what not to pitch to us. We were a little worried whether we were giving away too much information but tossed that worry out the window and we’re glad we did.”

She explains that in an average year Bell Media receives 1,200 to 1,300 pitches. Each one is looked at before 40 to 50 are chosen for development before that number is trimmed down to the projects greenlit to pilot or ordered to series. Two of those given the go-ahead this year were comedies Letterkenny and Prons.

Created by 19-2 actor Jared Keeso and Jacob Tierney (The Trotsky) with New Metric Media, Letterkenny is a television adaptation of the duo’s outrageous NSFW YouTube series Letterkenny Problems, which points video cameras at two buddies living in a fictional small-town in Ontario who wax poetic on the problems plaguing they and their fellow townsfolk. Keeso says he and Tierney headed to the Internet after the CBC passed on 19-2 after a pilot episode had been filmed. (The series was picked up by Bravo and Season 2 of 19-2 is currently in production in Montreal.) Tired of relying on auditioning to decide his fate, Keeso opted to create his own content unencumbered by network rules.

“I think this is a great route to go,” he says of his show’s YouTube beginnings. “Not only are you being creative and showing initiative and you’re in control, but you can do whatever you want to. It’s all yours.” Letterkenny is being retooled for television, with more characters being added to round out the cast; at press time Keeso and Tierney have submitted three scripts to Bell Media.

Meanwhile, fellow comedy Prons has the cache of having the high-profile writer/director/actor Kevin Smith attached to it. The man behind Mallrats has teamed with Degrassi and The Best Years showrunner Aaron Martin to tell the ribald tale of a famous porn star who returns to his small town of Brantford, Ont. Martin, who is from Brantford, was approached by Smith and Halfire Entertainment president Noreen Halpern after Smith pitched the idea and needed a Canadian writer to come on board.

Martin was the pair’s first choice; he had worked with Smith on Degrassi and Halpern on The Best Years. The road to getting Prons on the air has been a long one. Martin and Smith pitched the idea to networks two years ago and Astral Media bit. When Astral was purchased by Bell Media, Prons moved under The Movie Network umbrella. Martin laughs when he recalls having to write a show bible explaining why this character is moving back to his hometown.

“It’s about a guy who is in his 30s and wakes up and says ‘What have I done with my life? How did I get here?'” he explains. “And he remembers a time before he sold out and that time was when he was a high school student and his whole life was laid out ahead of him. So he goes back to see his former girlfriend, his former best friend and to save his town’s hockey rink.” Like Keeso and Tierney, Smith and Martin are waiting to hear whether they’ll be moving forward.

Other notable projects in development at TMN include Thunderhouse Falls, written by award-winning author Joseph Boyden; time period crime drama The Tenderness of Wolves, based on the novel by Stef Penney; and Gucci Wars, which tracks the rise and fall of the famed Italian designer. Coe says all are in various stages of the creative process, with some having pilot scripts done, others not that far yet and others working on show bibles. It’s a long journey in a country that relies on tax credits and other financing to come through and networks have to be sure each project is the right fit before they commit to greenlighting a season.

“I do think making TV in Canada is hard,” Coe says. “Even once you have scripts and a bible done and all of the research completed you still have to assemble financing at a level that will allow you to support that budget and creative in a way that makes your show look head and shoulders above anything else out there.

“We’re fortunate to have the tax credits that we do but I do think it’s tricky to cobble together those pieces and get to the moment that the cameras are rolling on Day 1.”

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Set visit: Montreal the star of 19-2

Bravo’s cop drama 19-2 is jam-packed with a who’s-who of Canadian actors and actresses, from Jared Keeso (Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story) and Adrian Holmes (Continuum) to Mylène Dinh-Robic (The Listener) and Maxime Roy (Heartland), but they–along with showrunner/executive producer/writer Bruce Smith–all say the biggest role on the show is played by the city the show is set in: Montreal.

That point was driven home earlier this week when a small group of Canadian media–TV, Eh? included–were given exclusive access to the cast and crew while scenes for Season 2 were being filmed just off Parc Darlinton near Mont Royal. Dozens of crew bustled around the cramped quarters between two apartment buildings while a scene between Officer Nick Barron (Holmes) and a key figure from his past were filmed. Unlike Toronto, where residents would be kept far away from filming, those living in the apartments all around got a free show as they leaned over balcony railings to take it all in. It adds to the realism portrayed in the tense drama about the men and women who work for the Service Police Metropolitain.

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“There is a flavour about the province of Quebec,” Roy, a native of Rigaud, Que., says. “I think Montreal is like what New York City is to Sex and the City. There is a passionate side to Quebecers that you don’t find anywhere else and I think it’s reflected in the series, in the writing and in the characters.” She adds that having a Quebec crew ensures that their unique joie de vivre translates through the small screen.

“Cities like Toronto and Vancouver deserve to be the backdrop of series,” Montreal’s Dinh-Robic explains. “The Listener was great because it showcased Toronto just as 19-2 showcases Montreal as this beautiful, really dangerous, exciting place.”

Season 1 boasted several examples of all three, whether it was Officer Tyler Joseph (Benz Antoine) looking out over the sparkling city from Mont Royal and proclaiming it his mistress or–in the most shocking scene of the debut season–a group of anti-cop thugs brutally assaulting Officer Audrey Pouliot (Laurence Laboeuf) with baseball bats. And while that last offering is an extreme one, it does reflect the complicated relationship some Montrealers have with authority in general and the police in particular. It probably doesn’t help that Montreal is embroiled in real-life controversy at the moment, as cops are working under protest along with other city staff against a plan to cut their pensions.

“There is not that same respect for authority for police here in Montreal,” Keeso says candidly. “There is a history of protests and corruption and organized crime. We’ve been told by the police to put a coat on over our uniforms when we’re not working. I’ve been on the way to the set in my uniform and had people pull up next to me and just start screaming at me.

“For me, when I see a cop, I shut up,” Keeso continues. “But here when they see a cop it makes them want to lash out.”

Season 2 of 19-2 is tentatively set to return early next year.

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