Much has been written about Allan Hawco; actor, writer, producer, but what about the man underneath all that talent and on-screen swagger? The Herald sat down with Hawco as he peeled away the layers, revealing what lies beneath
Allan Hawco has been a busy man. With the CBC series Caught capturing national headlines, he’s the man everyone wants a piece of. On a day filled with media madness, with everyone wanting to talk to the man himself about his latest project, the fellow behind all the frenzy takes some downtime in his office to talk about more personal matters.
When asked why he has chosen to call this place home, bringing the work here rather than heading off to some exotic (like Toronto?) filming location, Hawco pauses. “What is it for all of us? Why do we all stay here? I lived away for a long time. I was gone for 10 years; left in ‘97 came back in ‘07 or ‘08. And I was constantly homesick,” he says candidly.
“It’s not like life wasn’t great”, he adds, explaining that, at the time, he was in “the best theatre school in the country.”
“I was in Montreal, and you’re in theatre school and your mind is expanding. You’re experimenting with art in a way you could only have dreamed of. And yet, I kept wanting to be here.”
Coming up through the theatre scene in this province, Hawco says he had a sense of what he was missing out on by not being home. “I know the creative force that is the St. John’s scene, and it is not substandard. It’s a driving force. It was a real inspiration.”
In his opinion, just a look at the Canadian arts community will tell quite the tale. “Just look what an impact this tiny place has had on the rest of the country culturally.” From Rick Mercer to Mark Critch and beyond, we’ve certainly contributed, he says.
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So, why is he here? Why does he stay? The people and the way of life are two big things. “It’s just so simple here. It’s not without its problems, though I don’t focus on that. Some people talk about the negative side of being here, but I don’t see much of it, almost never. I just see genuine goodness. People are kind. It’s a simple way of life and you don’t have to worry about things like people who live in other places do. Plus, we all seem to speak a different language here,” he says with a chuckle.
‘DARTS EVERY TUESDAY’
So, does he get out and about much? Can you find him hanging at the mall? To that suggestion, he laughs loudly.
“I do avoid the mall at all cost. I do not go to the mall!”
It isn’t what you may think; it’s not to avoid fans. It’s for another reason entirely.
“I used to work in the mall. I worked at Thriftys and I just was like; I have this smell when I go in there and I get this feeling like; ugh, I’m gonna be late for work, or I’m unhappy with my life. Not that I didn’t like the job, I just wanted to do something else.”
So, when he does run into fans – not in the mall obviously, but elsewhere –how do they react?
“People are generally fine. When I’m shaved, they don’t recognize me. Whenever my hair is short and I have scruff, people recognize me. But people don’t say anything to me, you just live here. Alan Doyle has a saying; if you don’t want to be famous, go to darts every Tuesday and eventually, if you go to darts every Tuesday, people stop caring that you go to darts every Tuesday and they just leave you alone.”
That’s essentially how he tries to manage his life and his work here in this province.
“I’m not Brad Pitt. People aren’t like going through my garbage. They’re like, oh yeah, that’s that buddy on that show, or they’re like, hey Jake! Mostly it’s always positive; congrats on the new show. I was in Dominion four weeks ago and some guy goes; hey, are you that guy from Caught? And I was like, you are the first guy who said that. That’s the vibe I get.”
Does he ever get star struck when he shows up on movie sets or begins a new series? “That happens almost all the time. Mostly with hockey players,” he says with a laugh.
MY LIFE HERO
Growing up, Hawco was a Leafs fan. Recently, while shooting a CBC promo, he got to suit up in his childhood heroes colours.
“My dream player is Wendel Clark. He’s my life hero, as a kid. We all did this silly ball hockey tournament thing and Wendel was taking score and (Mark)Critch, me and (Shaun) Majumder and Wendel were alone together for about two hours. Mark, one of my dearest best friends, could tell I couldn’t really start a conversation with him, so Mark carried the conversation and kind of t’d me up to say things to impress Wendel Clark.”
Another time he travelled through Labrador with some of the retired Leaf players. Wendel was there again, as was Mark Osborne, Gary Leeman, Al Ifrate, Mike Krushelnyski and others.
“I was on left wing. I was wearing number 17, playing for Wendel’s team, and I was Hawco, Captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, wearing the ‘C’ with that team, and there was a moment where we were on the ice and we were losing to Goosebay by like four goals and I looked around at the faces and I went back in time to being that six year old watching the Leafs lose, praying to Jesus – praying to baby Jesus – please let them win!”
It was such a surreal moment for him, he shares. “I looked around and I was like; oh sh#t. I just fell into my floor model television and I’m Wendel. I’m here, and I’m not a professional hockey player, and we’re losing, and it was a packed rink and I was like; I can’t. I can’t. There’s nothing I can do here but just be in this crazy moment. Lucky, Glenn Anderson got on the next shift and scored four goals.”
What about his family, now that he’s ‘made it?’
“My family, they know the struggle. They know how hard I’ve worked to make a go of it.”
When you start out in Canadian theatre, and dedicate your life to the work, it can be worrisome, he acknowledges.
“It’s terrifying for a parent to watch a child work to reach a goal, any goal. I have no real aspirations to go to Hollywood or anything. Being a movie star would have been cool if that had happened, but that was never my drive or my ambition. I’m not saying it wasn’t there somewhere, because with that kind of notoriety comes the power to do the type of work you want to do which is very appealing to anyone in my industry. But to be like on Canadian Idol or something to just be famous? Or a reality show just so people know who you are? That was never really of interest to me. It was about the work.”
And it was also about something else to; it was about how getting the work made him feel.
‘‘When (my family) saw that I was getting satisfaction in the work and I was getting more work, I’m sure my mother started to relax. Any mother worries about their kid having an actual gig, so I think when she started to see me get gigs she started to calm down. But my family has been very supportive from day one.”
‘HE’S A STAR’
Speaking of being supportive; Hawco is the first to toss out his support for others in the industry; like Republic of Doyle costar Mark O’Brien.
“Shawn Doyle and I were talking the other day because we are both friends with Mark, and Shawn is in Frontier, and we were talking about how, it doesn’t happen that way for people. We have tons of friends who moved to L.A. to try and make a go of it. I’ve never done it, I never had the guts to do it, and Mark just can’t stop getting work.”
That he’s doing so well isn’t a shock, he adds.
“The minute that I met him, we were doing Above and Beyond, he was 22 or something and I was like; he’s a star. I cast him in Doyle but he didn’t really have a name yet. We did a bit of sneakiness because Perry (Chafe) and I wrote him into the pilot, but didn’t tell the CBC that our plan was to make him a continuing character. I just knew if we cast him and put him in the show and let them fall in love with him that they would request that he stay, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Thinking of his work on Frontier, Hawco says it’s been a blessing on so many levels. “As much as I’m an active producer on it, I don’t make any creative decisions on it, so the casting of Jason Momoa I had literally nothing to do with, but I’m very grateful he’s in it. He’s such a great guy and such a great ambassador for this place.”
But again, it’s all about the work and where you get to do it, he says. “From my perspective, we just love making work here. We don’t want to do it anywhere else, and we love that we can bring talent like Jason here.”
So, what does he do in his downtime? He doesn’t get much of that, he says.
“I think we (he and his wife Carolyn Stokes) might take a vacation in April.”
What do they enjoy doing? That may surprise you. “We do a lot of gardening. That’s a new thing. I try and take Saturdays off. But everyone in this room, everyone who sits at one of these tables, works so hard, so it’s like we are only in business as long as we are doing business, so we don’t rest much.”
Hawco says he was thinking of taking some time off after Republic of Doyle wrapped, but “the b’ys (at Take the Shot Productions) had a fire under them to keep going.”
REPUBLIC OF DOYLE MOVIE?
When asked what question he’s asked the most, the answer is swift; if there will be a Republic of Doyle movie.
“There was a plan to do that right away, but I don’t think enough time has passed for us to jump into something like that. I feel like it needs to be when it needs to be and now just isn’t the time. Not enough time has passed for enough sentiment to be there from enough people to really feel it.”
While life seems grand, Hawco says if anything frustrates him at all, it’s the whole; the movie industry takes from the province and doesn’t give back, a mindset that exists in some people’s minds.
“There’s a lot of negative thoughts out there and that’s unfortunate. I’m happy that we are doing our part to have made, and continuing to make, a massive contribution to the economy. That is not something you think about when you are envisioning ideas creatively. You are not thinking about dropping millions into the province every year. This year is like $43 million dollars. Over the life of Doyle it was like $150 million dollars. Since then we’ve done three seasons of Frontier, so over $200 million dollars. That’s a lot of money to be spent here.”
It is indeed. So, now that we’ve talked everything from family to friends to finances, is there anything he’d like to share exclusively with Herald readers? Something about himself he’s usually reluctant to talk about?
Surprisingly, he opens up about something many would find, well, surprising.
Hawco, the television and movie star, isn’t fond of big crowds. Why? Because like many, he suffers from anxiety at times. “I’m anxious. I am. I get anxious in crowds. I get weird.”
That little tidbit only makes Allan Hawco, the man, all the more charming and his accomplishment so much more admirable.
For all things Hawco, follow Allan on Instagram @allanhawco