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Interview: Allan Hawco on Balancing Acting and Producing with the Big Things in Store for Season Two of 'Frontier'

November 2, 2017Britany Murphy

Douglas Brown is one of Frontier's less aggressive characters. However, that does not stop him from getting into trouble — an element that was certainly seen in the first season of the Discovery Channel series. But according to actor Allan Hawco, who plays Douglas, the character hasn't seen the last of his problems. I had a chance to catch up with Hawco to discuss not only this, but also what Frontier has in store for fans this season, as well as just how important it is to ensure that the voices of our Indigenous communities come through in a show like Frontier.

As your company produces the show and you act in it as well, what is it like balancing both?

Hawco: Well, it's kind of my bag, right? Pretty much the majority — if not all — of my career right now is producing, writing and starring in things. But Frontier is a bit of an exception because I'm not involved in that intricate a level of the creative process. Peter Blackie articulated this yesterday that it's his mission to give me the opportunity to just show up and be an actor. Of course, that isn't always the case because I have a responsibility as a producer in some cases. But when I'm on the floor, that's never something I'm burdened with and I'm very appreciative of that. It's not something I get to do very often.

Frontier was Discovery's first scripted television series. So, how did it feel that a show you were participating in was the one that got chosen to be their first scripted series?

Hawco: That's a huge honor and a huge responsibility too. When we're delving into something like period pieces, that comes with costs and it's difficult to execute. Having the faith they had in us to do that is not something we take lightly and I think it's been really successful in its execution. I'm really proud of the show and I'm also really appreciative of Discovery's ability and willingness to take risks like this. It's a good fit for them in terms of what their mandate is, and the historical elements [and] the period elements of it it feel like the right thing. They really did go out on a limb and take big risks with us and it's a wonderful thing.

What can we expect from your character, Douglas Brown, in season two?

Hawco: Well, it's interesting. Season one kind of leaves Douglas in a very precarious situation, where he was subject to attempted murder, essentially. Pond nearly killed him, but instead killed Carruthers in front of him, and he's left arrested by Pond for the murder of Carruthers unjustly. So I feel like Douglas is always put in a situation where whenever he's trying to do the right thing, he just keeps on getting pummeled.

He does get a weird reprieve from that in season two, but it's a very short one, and he's pulled into another series of strange and bizarre choices by his brother and outside forces. But it does get pretty exciting for him in many ways, and just when you think he’s got a leg up, it's kind of pulled out from him once again. Not to get into the specifics, because it would be very spoilery of me, but he has a much stronger presence in the second season and much more burden put on his shoulders.

One thing I've noticed in Frontier is that it doesn’t shy away from a part of Canadian history that's very brutal. So, how do you feel about its portrayal, specifically the Europeans invading lands belonging to the Indigenous people as it pertains to the show?

Hawco: It's definitely a tricky time for us right now, not that it's ever been any less complicated. It's a part of our history that I think a lot of us — the European descendants in this country — are uneducated about and are unaware of in many ways. Or [we] look the other way, in terms of its difficulty, emotionally. And I feel like the approach — not speaking for the creators or writers of the show — from our position as a company [is that] there's a real sense of listening to the other side and embracing it, and being extremely compassionate toward it.

There's a slew of consultants and people on the writing side from the Indigenous community that we consult with on an intricate level, and they're always listened to. Although we're making a revised version of history, as it's a fantasy show in many ways, it does touch on real things, [so] it's really important that we get that right, and [that] it's not exploited in a way that you may have traditionally seen. It helps that our lead character is an Indigenous person and [that] there's a plethora of fantastic indigenous actors playing strong leading roles, so that's not something you traditionally see, I don't think.

And I think that we try very, very hard to protect that; to protect what that image is and protect that story, not exploit it. I'm proud of the way it's presented just as a human being, besides being a producer or an actor on it. From accounts from various sides of the Indigenous community, they're not upset or ashamed and feel that there are strong female Indigenous parts and strong parts in all equal ways.

What are you hoping that fans get out of season two?

Hawco: It's funny, because [with] this series the expectations were set very high in season one, with so many intricate plot points with so many different characters and so many wonderful actors playing those parts. And season two is very much simply the second chapter of the story, but almost at a higher octane level. You'll see some follow-through on a lot of what you were tied into on season one, and there's obviously an intense revenge plot.

From the perspective of Harp, there are various other sorts of barbaric and entertaining twists and turns that come about in season one that are brought to fruition in many aspects in season two. But there's a different level of octane that's in season two — it's a sexier season in many ways. There's the journey that Michael Smyth is on that I feel is really interesting — and the rabbit hole he goes into in season one, he's fully into it in season two. I think it's a really, really entertaining and exciting season of television, and I think people are really going to dig it.

I read that the show has already been renewed for a third season. I am sure you can't say much, but I was wondering: has anything begun — writing or anything like that?

Hawco: Not many people start of with a series thinking it's going to be one season — unless that's what they’re proposing from the beginning. Frontier has always been an ongoing endeavor, and it never stops. So while you're shooting one season, you have to be constantly thinking about the next steps to keep the motor going. And so the boys have been developing this with a longer arc than one or three seasons. So, there's a massive board in our office that they're constantly using to work on [with] the plots for next season, and that hasn't stopped.

Frontier airs Wednesdays on Discovery Channel Canada.

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