Tag Archives: Less Than Kind

Less Than Kind’s Tyler Johnston goes goth for Letterkenny

The last Canadian television show I saw Tyler Johnston in was the excellent, poignant Less Than Kind. There he played Danny, nutty best friend to Jesse Camacho’s Sheldon in the City-HBO Canada series. Now Johnston is back, portraying an equally crazy dude in Letterkenny, Jared Keeso’s creation about the hicks, hockey players and skids living in a town of 5,000.

As Stewart, head of the skids, Johnston’s real hair is hidden under a stringy black wig, his body obscured under layers of black clothing and dark makeup smudged around his eyes. He’s almost unrecognizable, especially when Stewart launches into frantic, falsetto speeches or juddering around to thumping dance music on building stoops, surrounded by his fellow skids.

We spoke to Johnston about his character, the show, working in Canada and the short film, Conception, that sent him to Brooklyn.

Talk to me about this character.
There is this group of skids and Stewart has coined himself the leader. It’s very evident by the way that he treats his fellow skids that that is the case. Jared called me when I first booked it and said, ‘Hey buddy, here’s the deal. You’re coming to Sudbury and we’re going to put a long, black wig on you.’ I was pumped about it. I look like a vampire. I’ve had to introduce myself to crew members four or five times.

The skids are another group of people growing up in Letterkenny. It’s like a family. Some people in families don’t get along with each other, but they still love each other. I can pick on my sister all I want, but the second you pick on my little sister we’re going to have an issue. The hockey boys probably bullied my guys growing up, so there is some resentment between those two factions. The skids are also the drug dealers in town, so they get themselves into issues that they probably shouldn’t. We’re comic book nerds and talk about video games … a group of loners who found each other and formed this group.

How many skids are in the group?
There are five of us. I don’t want to give too much away, but in the finale the groups sort of meet, and we were very outnumbered. We weren’t prepared.

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How did you land the role for Stewart? Did you audition, or did Jared call you and say he had something in mind?
Jared and I have been friends for a few years. We did Wrath of Grapes: The Don Cherry Story together, and he’s a Vancouver boy. I knew about the project and I was so excited for him as an outsider that it got to happen. We had always talked about working together again. I did have to throw something together on tape and tried my best. I was actually in L.A. at the time and threw something on tape and then went to play kickball with a group of people I play with every Sunday. What I put on tape didn’t feel right, so I went home after kickball and re-did it. I knew they were going to watch it and I didn’t want to give Jared and the crew a sub-par tape.

I sent it off and didn’t hear anything for about a month, so I assumed that they went with someone else. Because he and I are friends, I didn’t want to text Jared and ask anything. I didn’t want to be that guy. Meanwhile, I’m wanting to chirp him because I’m a Vancouver Canucks fan and he’s a Calgary Flames fan, but I decided to hold off on that until the decision was made.

You mentioned being in L.A. Is that because you’re looking for the next step?
Yeah, it’s sort of the next step. I’ve been fortunate to have a nice career in Canada and it’s the natural next step. I’ve got my working visa, I’ve got management there. It’s unfortunate that I feel compelled to go there. I love working in Canada, the crews and the talent and the writers.

Is the next natural stepping stone for you creating your own characters, writing and producing your own stuff?
I haven’t dove into writing so much, but my friends and I do a lot of shorts back home. I contribute thoughts and ideas but I haven’t necessarily sat down with a pen and a pad and written a storyline or a skeleton of an idea. I’m not against the idea, but it just hasn’t happened yet. We do the 24 Hour Film Race every year, and last year we were fortunate enough to get into the Top 24 in the world. So, myself and some buddies flew to Brooklyn to represent the film. In Vancouver we have a lot of movies of the week going on, which pays the bills and are awesome. We’ve thrown some webisode ideas around, so I don’t see that being too far off in the future.

Season 1 of Letterkenny is currently streaming on CraveTV.

Check out Conception

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Less Than Kind’s Kim Coghill on her WGC Award

Kim Coghill WGC pic 2013

Last week the Writers Guild of Canada handed out their screenwriting awards, including the TV Comedy award to Kim Coghill for the “Jerk Chicken” episode of Less Than Kind. TV, eh?‘s Rachel Langer quizzed her on the award, the episode and lessons learned.

What does the WGC Award win mean to you? 

I’m honoured that my fellow writers have judged me not only funny enough, but also strong enough to lift this award, which I believe weighs 175 pounds. Because a lighter award wouldn’t mean nearly as much. I mean, you could actually kill someone with this thing. I’m not saying anyone did. Or would. Or thought about it. I’m just saying you could. It’s just a fact. Facts aren’t illegal.

What was it like to be nominated alongside your then-fiance, now-husband Denis McGrath (Congrats!) and the showrunner of LTK, Mark McKinney? Did that change the experience of winning for you? 

I was thrilled to be nominated, but not really sure how they’d take it when I won. Denis seems fine so far – he cries, but mostly at night. Mark sends hate mail scrawled on old Slings & Arrows scripts, but that’s cool too, because it’s kinda like being threatened by Shakespeare, which is pretty flattering… So, um, I think they’re fine with it.

Tell us about your episode of Less Than Kind, and what the best and worst parts of writing it were? 

In this episode, Sheldon, the awkward teenaged son, tries to turn himself into one of the “jocks,” best friend Miriam tries being a coquette, and pal Danny wonders why everyone’s turning into someone else. It all spirals out of control when Sheldon throws a jock party, and Danny and Miriam crash with a vengeance.

Worst part: reliving my adolescence.

Best part: reliving my adolescence through these incredibly complex and funny characters, especially with a show set in my hometown of Winnipeg.

If you had to share the award with one other person, who would it be and why? 

Just one? All the other writers on LTK, rolled into one enormous aggregate individual containing tiny pieces of each person’s funniest bits. And if I couldn’t do that, I’d share it with my new husband, because he already has one, so now we have matching bookends.

If you could pick one lesson from working on LTK to bring with you to your next writing room, what would it be?

That “comedy” and “drama” aren’t opposites; a show doesn’t have to be one or the other. Good comedy is most powerful when it plays out against real emotions – anger, sadness, fear – because that’s how we experience humour in real life.

Also, when you need a cheap laugh, there’s nothing like the word “boogers.”

Speaking of your next project, could you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on now? 

I’m writing a couple of new pilots that are in that ‘comedy-with-drama’ vein.

If you could step into the writers room on any past Canadian Comedy, what would it be, and why? 
My smart-ass side would pick Made in Canada, because it was so wonderfully snarky. But my playful side would pick SCTV – I adored those characters, ever since I was a kid. There’s nothing like watching a great character, written and performed with love.

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Denis McGrath on his WGC Screenwriting Award Nomination for Less Than Kind

DenisMcGrathThis year’s Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award winners will be announced on April 22. We’ve been catching up with many of the writers nominated in the comedy and drama categories. Denis McGrath was nominated for his episode of Less Than Kind, “Danger, Wrestling.”

Can you describe the episode “Danger, Wrestling” and how it fit into the Less Than Kind season?

It’s actually part of the “lost” 3rd season. As most people know, our beloved Sam Blecher, the great Maury Chaykin, passed away while we were writing Season 3. I wrote the first draft of “Danger, Wrestling” with a B-Plot featuring Sam. That had to be rewritten by the room eventually — and by that point I was on another show.  I went with my draft, which had some elegiac stuff with Sam that obviously, we weren’t able to use.

Other than that there’s fun stuff of Josh auditioning talent for his acting school — and Sheldon discovers the joys of wrestling.

What was the biggest triumph in this particular episode?

Well there’s two answers to that. Obviously for the show, the fact that they rallied and got the whole season made as a tribute to Maury and wound up with a beautiful exploration of how a family moves through grief — that’s so much greater than any individual contribution, and a testimony to the talent of Mark McKinney, the creators Marvin (Kaye) & Chris (Sheasgreen), and the team they put together.

But personally? I don’t write a lot of comedy … I’m mostly a drama writer. When I was considering whether to enter the script — I have to thank Karen Hill for that — I reread it for the first time in two years and really laughed. There’s  a wonderful subplot about Sam tracing the ups and downs of a piece of stock — and him coming to terms with selling it (for the same amount he bought it for 30 years ago) — but it’s really about him coming to terms with feeling his sons will be okay without him. I’d like to think that my strength as a drama writer is a light touch, and as a comedy writer, I go for the big cry. That’s a little messed up, isn’t it?

What does this recognition mean to you?

So much. I love LTK. It’s employed some of my best friends. Working on the show brought my fiancee and I together. I came from a family that yelled, with love … so I recognize those characters. I’ve had an incredibly lucky career and after winning a WGC Award for writing a drama show, it’s humbling and exciting to get nominated for comedy. And it’s a recognition by my writer peers, and that is incredibly important to me.

If there is one Canadian show that is no longer on the air that you could see honoured at this year’s awards, what would it be? (If you have a specific episode, even better).   

For the love of God, why has CBC not done a Street Legal reunion/reboot movie? I miss Chuck and Olivia. I can’t be alone on that one. But the truth is — they ALL should be honoured. From Wojeck to DaVinci to Intelligence to the first 30 years of Citytv we have made, and continued to make, wonderful TV in Canada. I think it’s sad that we only note that when the New York Times or some American publication says so.

There are such strong nominees this year. So many great scripts. I am so jazzed to be among that talent. Maybe I can make a go of this writing thing.

Less Than Kind is entering into its fourth and final season on The Movie Network/Movie Central in 2013. 

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