The Province – 2010

Corner Gas star refuels with new supporting cast

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The last time Brent Butt created a TV series, he launched an ensemble of players into six years of regular series work and beyond.

” Corner Gas made us all higher profile,” says Nancy Robertson, who met and married costar Butt while working on that show in Saskatchewan.

“With the exception of Eric Peterson, Janet Wright and Brent, we were all working actors building a resume, but nobody knew who we were.”

Now Robertson is starring in the new show Hiccups, while Corner Gas co-star Fred Ewanuick is starring in his own sitcom, Dan For Mayor, which airs right after Hiccups, and Corner Gas’s Gabrielle Miller divides her time between Los Angeles and Vancouver, busy in both cities.

Butt and Robertson have a new ensemble for Hiccups. The new show is centred around the goofy professional and personal life of writer Millie Upton (Robertson), whose lucrative brainchild is a series of cartoony children’s books that reflect her own comic emotional upsets.

Orbiting around Millie are:

– Her vapidly handsome literary agent Taylor (actor David Ingram):

“I’d originally read for Stan, the role that Brent is playing. Thankfully that didn’t work out,” says Ingram, who earlier had a vivid but short role on a Halloween episode of TV’s Supernatural as a guy choking on an overdose of razor blades.

His Taylor is well-tailored but not excessively bright. “I love being able to play him as he unspools, because he’s so confident on the outside.”

– Laura Soltis and Emily Perkins play Millie’s publisher Joyce and her receptionist Crystal, respectively.

“There’s so many funny things that happen around Joyce that I’m playing it straight,” says Soltis, a transplanted American who stayed in Vancouver during a theatre-tour stop more than 10 years ago.

When she and Perkins were cast in Hiccups, they spent time together before filming started to work on their chemistry. “We rehearsed together,” says Soltis. “We live close by each other so we got together, to get rid of some of the nerves.”

Co-star Perkins achieved cult fame as the star of three Ginger Snaps horror movies, and has played comic sidekicks several times, including once opposite Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum in the Vancouver-shot U.S. feature She’s the Man.

“It’s the dream job for me,” says Perkins, who has a three-year-old son with her husband, a University of B.C. theatre and film prof.

“I’ve done a lot of horror in the past and psychological kind of stuff, and you can’t help but bring that home with you a little bit. I have a family, so it’s really nice to be infected by a comic character.”

As written for the pilot, her character was a bit of a ditz. Perkins’ reading shifted that, so Crystal became a spoiled rich girl doing a job she doesn’t care for.

“I played the role sarcastically and with an attitude,” Perkins says, adding it helped that much of the show’s behind-the-camera talent was carried over from Corner Gas.

“They were really clear at the beginning that we were doing something different from Corner Gas. But as an actor it’s so easy when everyone else has worked together. It gives you room to experiment and find your way. Brent knows how to extract the funny from each line.”

– Butt’s method involves playing to his cast’s strengths. When it came time to cast Stan’s wife, he liked the audition from Toronto-based, Mexican-born actor Paula Rivera.

“We had a good rhythm right away, and there was no reason for the character not to be a Latina,” he says. “I like that there’s an element in people’s minds of, why would she fall in love with this schlub, this schmuck?”

By Glen Schaefer

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The Province

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