Actor And Executive Producer Allan Hawco On His Role In “Frontier” And Canadian Television


Photo: allanhawco on Instagram 

While Canadian actor Allan Hawco may hail from Bell Island, Newfoundland, his on-screen presence over the years has brought him miles from his humble roots. The 39-year-old actor, who is best known as titular character Jake Doyle from Republic of Doyle, makes his latest appearance as Douglas Brown in Frontier. His part in the new Discovery series brings him back in time to the 18th century fur trade in Canada.

Along with his new lead role, Hawco also executive produces the new show, leaving him with a packed schedule- and numerous insights into the world of Canadian TV. Real Style spoke to Hawco about what to expect on Frontier, the business of television and his passion for acting.

Watch Frontier tonight on Discovery Canada at 9 p.m.ET / 6 p.m. PT.

Real Style: Tell us a little bit about the role you play in Frontier.

Allan: Well, I’m an executive producer on the show and I’m very proud to be involved that way. The character I play is named Douglas Brown. Douglas is one of three Brown Brothers, who run the Low River Company. Essentially, we’re all jockeying for a position in this world where we’re trying to make our mark and competing against the Hudson’s Bay Company, which has complete monopoly over the region and the entire fur trade. So you’ve got all these splintered groups who are fighting trying at the middle trying to get their peace.

Real Style: As you mentioned, you’re the executive producer of this show. Throughout your career, you’ve done a bit of everything, like writing, directing, and producing. Is there something that you prefer or do you like mixing it up a bit?

Allan: I enjoy producing a lot. What I like about producing is that I like being a part of the big conversations. I like the idea of putting things together and getting something made from the ground up. But really, that’s the means to an end, with the end being the performance and writing stuff, that’s where I’m most comfortable. That’s my background. I’m a theatre actor and I started producing theatre with the intent of producing the type of plays that I wanted to act in, and that led to television. Acting is definitely number one and writing is number one-A. Writing is also extremely fulfilling but I put myself as an actor first.

Real Style: For Frontier itself, do you think the story behind it is an important one to tell?

Allan: Well, it certainly is a very fruitful part of our industry in terms of storytelling. It’s based on historical events and a lot of research has gone into it. It’s not something we should necessarily be proud of in terms of that era in our history but it’s rife with conflict and rife with drama. There’s so much for the writers to draw on and there’s so much historical significance that you can draw on that we haven’t seen on television before, which is interesting.

Real Style: With television, budgets have been going up and up for the television shows that you are able to see. In your opinion, does this allow these types of stories to be told?

Allan: It allows these stories to be told, period. Without somewhat of a decent number per episode, you just can’t do period drama effectively. It’s already hard enough and we’re always pushing in the corners trying to edge up more cash and get more money on that screen because it’s so difficult. We did Republic of Doyle for six years on a fairly modest budget and for me personally, it was a constant struggle every day.  Doing re-writes on every scene of every script, with me and my partners finding ways to cut corners, cut characters, cut locations, cut shots, cut coverage, just because there’s not enough money to do it. When you’re dealing with period, you end up almost in the exact same situation because your production value in terms of what you’re putting on the screen in order to bring authenticity to the period almost brings you back to ground zero.

Real Style: With a lot of television shows today, it’s not just on your basic channels like CTV and CBC. You’re starting to see a lot more aiming towards things like the Discovery Channel. How has this been for business?

Allan: It’s very cool to be the first ever scripted drama for Discovery Canada. The specialty style network allows for some risk taking that is on theme for the network’s brand, for sure. I think we’re a perfect fit. I’m so grateful for Edwina Follows and Ken Macdonald [Vice President of Programming at Discovery]. They’ve all gone out on a limb with us, as well as the entire senior executive at Bell, Randy Lennox and everybody. Obviously, having a partnership with Netflix in the States allows for us to bring the value that we want to bring to the screen. But Bell Media is the one that brought us to the dance.

Real Style: You were in the Book of Negroes and then you have this show. How has this experience been?

Allan: Yeah, I mean, when we started the Republic of Doyle I had huge ambition, which was to bring production value to the screen that far exceeded our budget and to try to appeal to Canadians at a mass level. Obviously, we were very fortunate to have been able to accomplish at least some of that. It felt like over the six years of Doyle, the entire industry had changed. I think we were lucky to be there and maybe we contributed to that.

Our industry started to push forward and all of a sudden we had shows on every network. Ten, fifteen years ago, we might have had two or three dramas on prime time television. Now I feel like we’re all constantly in the race. I hope that other buyers, other networks that are out there continue to keep pushing that forward. I know CBC is committed to it, I know Bell is, and obviously we’re the great benefactors of Bell’s passion for it. It would be really great if we kept pushing the bar, if we keep raising it, because we’re competing in a global market that’s highly, highly competitive right now.

Real Style: You’ve played a wide variety of characters, from the Republic of Doyle which is more of a comedic/dramatic role to just straight drama. Is there a type of role which you prefer?

Allan: With Doyle, when Perry Chafe, Malcolm MacRury and I were sort of piecing it together, it just naturally fit in that world. A PI show set in a small town had to have a certain amount of levity, otherwise it was maybe a bit too unbelievable. The character had to have a certain level of charm, in terms of being self-deprecating. He had to look the fool, as well as be the hero; otherwise I didn’t feel it would work. I also know that every time I try to look too cool I look like a tool, so I’ve learned that’s something to look out for!

 I don’t think I’ve ever done a comedy in the theatre, which is certainly where I broke my teeth and probably where my heart truly lies, being on stage. I would say highly intense, character-driven dramatic acting is probably where my heart lies deeply. But I love comedy too.

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