In part one of our career timeline with Newfoundland’s own Mark O’Brien, a young man falls head-over-heels in love with the business after being bitten hard by the acting bug
Every single time I get rejected, which I still get rejected 50 times a week for different things. You know, you’re trying to make movies. You’re trying to be in different things, and you’re always going to be rejected, I remind myself of that. I’m like, oh, wow I have a career in this crazy business. I do pinch myself all the time because it’s easy to forget that, because you take things for granted.
That was wild, man. So I had auditioned for Above and Beyond where they sent out like a massive audition call across the province. I think it was something like 500 people auditioned for that part or something like that. I thought I screwed it up. I didn’t think I did a very good job in the audition and thought well there goes that! It was a $10 million miniseries, but back then it was different.
I didn’t have an agent, you didn’t have access to materials. It was literally like I got an email forward being like, here’s an audition! And so I just kind of went down on a whim.
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A year later, I got a call to have a callback audition with Sturla Gunnarsson the director, and I didn’t think that went very well either. I couldn’t believe when I got it.
I was on a bus in town, a Metro bus. Paul Pope called me and normally they’d call your agent, but I didn’t have an agent. So he called me and said do you want to do the part? I was like, Yeah, yeah, I do!
It was the best. I got to know Steve Cochrane and he became a really good friend of mine out of that. Obviously, Hawco became a really good friend and Mark Critch. All the people who we were in it, we all became buddies. A lot of those guys knew each other. I was a little bit younger and then working with Richard E. Grant. It was the most fun I’d ever had!
I couldn’t believe it was happening. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I studied film a lot, on my own. But I was like, I don’t know if I’m good in this. And I was kind of playing a bit of a character, too, so it wasn’t really like just playing me. I was like I have no idea what I’m doing. But it wasn’t a fearful unknowingness. It was just like wait and see if I’m an actor or not.
Well, Adriana was a really good friend of mine at the time, and I knew that Jonny Harris was going to be in it. We all lived in Toronto together in Little Italy, like a half kilometer away from one another, if that. So we all hung out every weekend. I lived down the hall from Susan Kent and Jonny Harris in the same building, and a five minute walk down the street, Steve Cochrane and Adriana Maggs lived.
‘Adriana was great’
So we all hung out every weekend and every other day. I knew that Jonny was in it and I knew that Steve Cochrane was in it, and I was like jeez I want to get in! I remember Paul Pope produced it and Adriana, and they wanted me for the part, but I think the distributor wanted to see an audition. I auditioned later in the game and then got it. Adriana was great.
My God, we had so much fun doing that because it was all best friends. And then Shawn Doyle since he’s become one of my best friends at that point onward, and we’ve worked together a number of times. So it created like this kind of community. Same with Tatiana (Maslany). I was texting her like two days ago. So everyone in it just became fast friends.
It was shot for very little, I think it was like 20 days. And then it got to Sundance and we went to Sundance! Fourteen movies were selected out of a thousand I think in that program. It was like this Newfoundland group of buddies made a movie that got into Sundance Film Festival and it’s still kind of known. I think it’s pretty respected in Canadian film, which I’m very proud of.
So I didn’t really realize it until probably like season three or four or five that oh, this is like a life changing thing. Like I might have a career after this because I wasn’t thinking that way at the beginning.
I was just enjoying the fact that I was getting to do it and hoping for more. And then three, four or five, you start to think outside of it and you’re like, wow, I kind of have a career right now.
That’s why I decided to get a green card, because I was thinking let’s cover more ground. Why don’t I just try this? Maybe I’m good at it? You still don’t know. And then by the time season six rolls around, you’re like oh, is it going to go away? It’s like a normal thing. It’s a relationship. It’s almost like being in a relationship and then oh, it’s gone. So then it’s like this weird, bittersweet thing. You’re excited to try other things, but God, there will never be a situation like that again.
‘LIKE A VACATION’
I’ll never have something like that where you shoot in Newfoundland with your friends and you go out with everyone every week. You play hockey three times a week with them and you meet your wife on the show. It was almost like a vacation. And then when I wasn’t shooting the show it was like when I was working. That’s how it felt. It felt like a vacation. Every day was just fun. But I didn’t realize how life-changing it was until towards the end, really, because I was just happy to be there.