TFS had the pleasure of sitting down with Mark Critch (22 Minutes, Republic of Doyle) to discuss his role as Henry Tilley in The Grand Seduction, a Canadian film about a small fishing village that must obtain a doctor in order to secure a business contract. We also chatted about his thoughts on Canadian cinema and how he really feels about cricket.
The movie genuinely made me smile and is very funny, silly and heartfelt but never over-the-top. Was this intentional on your part, to hone in your character?
Of course. It’s easy to get very goofy and hokey with it. The film in that way could have worked too — you could’ve gone bigger with all the silly stuff, the craziness and you may have not enjoyed it. You had to be careful of getting into the paddywackery of it. Like, “Oh look at these little Newfoundlanders, wouldn’t it be cute if they got a doctor!” The more believable things are, it’s always that much funnier. We all bring something different.
You come from an improv background. Did you bring any of that to this?
No, when the script is so good, and it’s so good, you’re like, “This is great,” and you kind of just to want let it flow. For Newfoundland right now, this kind of story is important. Brendan (Gleeson) was fierce about keeping the film grounded. And especially with him in the film, everyone’s game gets raised; you don’t want to be too silly…you want to be really good. He’s looking at you and you’re like, “Jesus…okay.”
Brendan Gleeson is a legend. How was it like working with him?
We had a long talk beforehand. I did this interview online with a travel reporter and discussed my accent. He called me before filming because he saw this interview and he liked my sense of humor and comedy, and said he wanted to have this kind of sense of humor because his character seemed to be really proud of where he is from, but didn’t want it to be a mockery. It took me a while to realize that I was speaking to The Brendan Gleeson! I originally thought it was just some Gleeson from Ireland! I was blown away by how much integrity he has and how serious he took the tone and how much respect he had for the place.
Being from Newfoundland, do you feel the movie did justice to the people of Newfoundland?
Oh yes. We just screened it there and this fella in the audience goes, “I came into this movie thinking I wasn’t going to like this because it was going to mock us, but I didn’t and I really want to congratulate you guys on taking this depressing state of affairs and finding humor and making it uplifting.” And that’s the greatest compliment we could get.
It’s rare that this part of Canada is shown on screen. As someone who is very active in Canadian productions, do you feel we’re getting to the point of showing off Canada without it being too Canadian?
Absolutely! That’s the thing about this movie; when we watch it with crowds, people come up to us and say, “I thought it was going to feel like a Canadian movie but it didn’t!” You can sometimes taste when it’s a Canadian film, and sometimes they are trying to be so Canadian. With this movie, it just happens to be about this place. The funny thing about this movie is that it’s a Quebec script, set in Newfoundland with an Ontario director. It’s very Canadian in itself; it has a real sense of place, honesty and integrity to it without banging it over your head and doesn’t make any apologies for it.
Now for an obvious question: were you a fan of cricket prior to the movie? Did you ever play? Was there any training?
No! I knew it existed but I didn’t know a lot about it. Okay, here’s the funny thing: we have this cricket element, and it’s funny and on the last day of filming, Brendan are I are walking around and we come across this museum, and we see this picture, and it’s a picture of the Trinity Cricket team from 150 years ago! They used to play cricket there! And it was like seeing a ghost or something.
We had a cricket guy come in and like, tell us what to do, but not how to play. So, in turn, us not knowing what to do kinda worked out for us.