As Allan Hawco’s latest project, crime drama Caught, prepared to make its debut, the acclaimed writer, actor and producer took a moment to reflect on what life’s really like on the other side of the law
Allan Hawco is somewhat of a quiet fellow. There’s no grand entrance; no ‘airs’ put on a’toll, as the Newfoundland saying goes. He’s thoughtful too; here’s an extra coffee. Is here OK to talk? Are you comfortable? He’s a charmer, all right, and then some. It’s easy to see why anyone who’s ever met the man has only had kind things to say. But he’s also immensely gifted. While audiences fell in love with his character Jake Doyle on Republic of Doyle, Hawco has donned many hats both before and since playing the beloved, if irreverent, PI.
From the mini-series The Book of Negroes to film roles (Hyena Road, The Child Remains) to his role in the award-winning Netflix Worldwide and Discovery Channel Canada series Frontier starring Jason Momoa (just sayn’) Hawco as an actor, and his team at Take the Shot Productions, have had their proverbial hands full.
From Doyle to Slaney
With so many in this province and beyond still so in love with Jake Doyle, the question has to be asked; was it difficult to play David Slaney, a man who escapes prison to do one more deal with his old drug-dealing partner in crime, Hearn (Eric Johnson, Rookie Blue/Fifty Shades Darker) after Jake? “There’s been so many characters in between that if I had to play Jake I’d have to go back and do the same work that I’d have to do to start any role, just to find him again,” Hawco shares.
PI or drug dealer? Which role has he enjoyed the most? Hawco pauses, reflecting. “I don’t know. I remember the very first frame of Jake, and I was terrified because I had written this guy, crafted him from nothing, stolen every witty thing our friends had ever said or any interesting elements of our friends’ personalities, and the day came for me to play him and I had this heart attack like, maybe I’m not right for this.”
Hard to believe, yet Hawco candidly shares he had the same reaction before his first frame as Slaney. “I was like, ohhhh. Now, I did take more care with Slaney. At a certain point I turned off the writing function and the producing function and I just dove deep into who the guy was, from a performer standpoint.”
Hawco also said he used Lisa Moore’s book to create Slaney’s back-story. “In that way, it was easier to access Slaney than maybe it was at the beginning of Jake, but Jake was easier because as a comedy, there’s a lot less emotional turmoil. Slaney was kind of exhausting.”
How did Caught fall into place? “Someone handed me the book with the idea of adapting it. Alan Doyle had actually pitched it to me a year and a half before that. He told me he read it and I should turn it into a show. My response, apparently, to him – because I can’t remember it – was; there’s no way I’m writing a show about a bunch of people on a sailboat… but the moment I read it, I could see what I wanted to do with it. I saw what it could be, and you get a bunch of other people involved and every step of the way, every person who joined and started working on it, it just got better and better with every hand that touched it, which is rare.”
Bell-Bottoms & Afros
How fun is it to work in the late ’70s? From the clothes to the cars? It’s cool, but dangerous, he says.
“Sometimes I feel people go crazy with the lapels and the bell-bottoms and the Afros, and it can be a distraction. We tried to not make it too much of a character in itself, just tried to make the wardrobe skin for the actors to live in,” he says.
On the work itself on Caught, Hawco says its been rewarding, yet exhausting. “The stakes are so high, there’s a real sense of urgency and drama. The drama is intense, every scene is so intense, it’s exhausting. It’s really hard to live that day in and day out and it’s very emotionally draining.”
From the opening action-packed scene in episode one to the final seconds of the season’s finale, every episode gets more and more intense, he says.
“Slaney and Hearn, when they do cross paths it’s the exact centre point of the series and they kind of go down a rabbit hole… Slaney runs through the middle of this party and tackles Hearn into the pool and that moment signifies them going deep into that rabbit hole that they never get out of. Their fates are sealed as they go underwater and they don’t stop falling from that point on.”
Besides the action, and the stretching of his acting prowess, Caught also reunites Hawco with friend and colleague Paul Gross. “In the back of my head I had him in my mind for that role, or any role. He’s such a wonderful actor and such a great talent, and he’s a real good friend and we always have a good time working together,” he says. But Gross is also another thing, and that’s brutally honest.
‘Taking a lot of Risks’
“He’s extremely truthful about his opinions about material and I didn’t know if he was going to love this part or this project. This kind of writing is a departure for what I’m known for, being known exclusively for Doyle as a writer. So I was taking a lot of risks myself and you never know how people are going to respond to it.”
Obviously the response was good, we take it? Hawco laughs, nodding in the affirmative. “He responded very well and he wanted to do it and I think he’s wonderful in the role.”
Catch Allan, Paul and the rest of the ’70s attired gang on ‘Caught’ each Monday night on CBC.