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Interview: Getting 'Caught' Up with Allan Hawco About His New CBC Series

February 22, 2018Ben MK

Allan Hawco is a man who wears many hats. He not only starred on CBC's Republic of Doyle, but he also created the show and served as both a writer and an executive producer. And on Discovery Networks' Frontier, he also did double duty, executive producing and playing the character Douglas Brown. Now he has a new show on CBC called Caught, based on the book of the same name by Lisa Moore.

I caught up with Hawco, who's currently in Newfoundland filming the third season of Frontier, to talk about his latest project.

Caught is essentially a period scripted drama, which is something we don't see a lot of on Canadian television. As not only the star of the show but a writer and the showrunner, what is it about Caught that you think will appeal to viewers?

Hawco: Hard to know, y'know? When you get inspired by one of these stories you're kind of driven in their direction, and it's usually the moral core or what the drive of the story is gonna be. I think that the drive of this tale is extremely interesting to me. Every character has an extremely clear ambition, and if they don't on the surface, it should become clear as the show goes on. And I think that if the audience gets attuned to what the drive of these characters is, they'll be along for the entire ride.

Your character, David Slaney, seems like a straightforward kind of guy put in a complicated situation. He's a man who's been betrayed by his best friend and partner, and he breaks out of prison only to be betrayed again, essentially. Tell me more about your character and what made you want to play him.

Hawco: I think for all the characters there's at least a theme — in terms of putting together the adaptation — that everybody's kind of in a last-chance scenario. That they've got no more opportunities due to circumstances either within or outside of their control. For Slaney's purposes, he's got nothing else. He breaks out of this prison, he makes a run for it. What are his options?

I guess he could wait and do his time, but he's facing 10 years before he breaks out, so so much of his life would be over for importing weed. Which is kind of interesting right now, because we're in a place where we're legalizing this, but so many people's lives were transformed as well by being a part of this thing that's now legal. It's interesting.

The tone of the show is also quite modern, even though it's set in 1978. Was that something that you set out to do — to keep the show in that time period but also give it that modern kind of twist?

Hawco: The novel is certainly the core of what the show is. We worked really hard to keep the stable elements of what the novel provided, and at the same time, certain turns had to be taken, certain moves had to be made to make it accessible for a television series. Of course, the novel's set in this time, and therefore our story takes place in the '70s. But I tried really hard not to make it a caricature in any way, and to just basically try to stay with the truth about what the show could be — the struggles that the characters go through, etc.

Did you ever toy around with the idea of moving the story to modern day?

Hawco: Absolutely, that came up, from a budgetary standpoint. [laughs] Because being an independent Canadian series, in that we don't have an American partner at the outset, in terms of production, there's challenges trying to make that work. You essentially double your budget by making it period, because everything you see on-camera has to fit to the time. We worked through that, but in terms of the period, I was really interested in writing the cat-and-mouse element, where the cops are chasing Slaney throughout this series.

I was not interested in triangulating cell phones and the communication; I was really enamored by the idea of people having to live in a world without cell phones or this level of technology. That was really appealing to me as a writer, because it's such an easy fix to get yourself out of the writing hole, to have someone make a phone call, or to have someone be able to track someone with some kind of technology in that way that was so accessible to them.

So it was a really interesting challenge, I'll tell you that, and also, there's a simplicity and an innocence that the period affords. There's something innocent about the time… and something about who Slaney is as a person that I wanted to protect.

There was just something nostalgic about it for me, because I was born in that time, There was a decency, and people who were outside the realm of decency really stood out as something. Even though Slaney is the "bad guy," in that he escapes from prison, there's still something truly good about him. And the good and the bad aren't clearly defined in a way that's based on their actions, not something else. There's something pure about that.

The other actors do a great job in their roles as well. For example, Paul Gross as Roy and Eric Johnson as Hearn. When you were developing the show, did you already have some of these actors in mind for their roles?

Hawco: Paul, certainly, early on, because of our relationship with him is ongoing. It's almost 17 years now. We've worked together a number of times on each other's projects, but I didn't know honestly if he'd be available — or interested. Cuz Paul's brutal. Paul and I are best friends, but he's brutally honest. It's impossible to get him to do something he doesn't want to do. [laughs] So I didn't know if he would like it; luckily, he loved it, so that worked out.

The rest of them — everybody just read, the old-fashioned way, and we auditioned everybody. It was a requirement from the broadcaster, and it was a requirement from the show, and everybody just stood out, and they were our first choices in every regard.

Did any of the actors try out for a different role than they ended up playing?

Hawco: No. We went through a couple of different circles with a couple of amazing actors who weren't quite right for one role, who may have read for another. You know, amazing actors, but it just wasn't the right fit. And we tried to kind of shoehorn them into places that they didn't belong, but eventually the story revealed itself.

The part of Carter, played by Greg Bryk, was the most challenging at times, finding the right person for that. And it was informed by Greg, because he's such an interesting actor and brings such a different take to the work.

What has been your favorite thing about filming the show?

Hawco: It took a long time to get to the right place. We took a really long time writing it, we took a long time to get to the place where it was right for the screen and where we were all feeling like we were doing something special. It was a large evolution for me. I feel like I learned a lot, and I'm quite proud of this thing we're putting out into the universe.

To answer your question, there were just moments when I was on-set shooting a scene where I kind of was in the moment and grateful for the fact that it was happening in a way that I haven't experienced in a very long time. To be able to be in the moment. And this character, I love David Slaney so much; he's such an interesting, torn guy who's facing so much, and it's just really fun to try to find as much truth in that as possible and not get distracted by the outside world of the producing and the writing and whatnot.

Of course, you're also an executive producer and star on Frontier. What can you tell me about where the show is headed in season three?

Hawco: I'm not authorized. [laughs] I'm not authorized to talk about it. No, it's cool. Every year of the show brings interesting complications and surprises. The Blackies and their writing teams, they love shaking things up, if it's the right thing for the show. And they're fearless about attempting it, so there's a lot of excitement for season three.

Caught premieres on CBC February 26th.

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