While starring as Bryce opposite Jill Hennessy on “Crawford,” Chad Connell has turned his previous dramatic roles into comedic gold by tapping into the hilarity of his character’s circumstances. There are seldom jokes specifically written into the CBC series, but that hasn’t stopped the Canadian-born actor (or the rest of the cast) from discovering the funny in the absurdity of everyday life.
We recently sat down with Connell to discuss social media shout outs, laminated lyric sheets, and why he doesn’t want you to settle for a cold beer.
TrunkSpace: You received a pretty awesome social media shout out from Jill Hennessy for your work on “Crawford.” Commercial success aside, we’d imagine there’s no better feeling than earning the respect of your peers in a business that is known for having an ‘every person for himself/herself’ mentality?
Connell: Things always come together better when people get rid of that ‘everyone for themselves’ attitude. The support from everyone, both in the cast and from the crew, was palpable and it just makes for a better working environment and everyone ups their game. Jill is pretty legendary but so down-to-earth. It felt like we were just coming onto set to hang out and have a good time and make a killer show while we were at it.
TrunkSpace: In the series you play Bryce, boyfriend to Hennessy’s Cynthia. The only problem is, Cynthia is married. In a way, because he’s the other man in the equation, does that in and of itself make Bryce the ‘villain’ of the story?
Connell: The only person Bryce’s relationship is complicated for is Bryce. He knew the ground rules from the beginning, but it just feels so hard. There are a couple villains on the show, but it’s definitely not Bryce. He’s too sweet and pure, and I think is pretty well liked, even by Cynthia’s kids. Bryce develops genuine feelings for Cynthia, so he thinks it’s only appropriate that he become bros with her husband – that’s what a man would do.
TrunkSpace: “Crawford” is a comedy, which seems to be a genre that you haven’t had a lot of opportunity to play with throughout your professional career. Do you hope your performance as Bryce opens up more doors in that area so that you can continue to tap into the funny?
Connell: I took what I learned playing dramatic roles and brought that to my work in “Crawford.” We are never playing for the laughs (but man, when they come it’s rewarding) and there aren’t very many written jokes. What makes this show funny is how wrapped up in their own personal drama the characters are. It just so happens that their drama is ludicrous.
TrunkSpace: What is it about Bryce that you enjoyed inhabiting the most? Is there an aspect of his personality that made it exciting to come to set each day?
Connell: Comedy can seem pretty jaded and to get a laugh people often resort to sarcasm. Even in everyday life it can be easy to fall into the trap of being a little too cool or disconnected. What makes Bryce stand out is that he is so earnest. He loves Cynthia, his dogs, and U2 so much and he is not ashamed of that. He will proudly give you a laminated printout of song lyrics to show you how enthusiastic he is. Getting to play Bryce is like having a good friend who leads by example and reminds you to get over yourself and just get excited about things, no matter how small.
TrunkSpace: Regarding your experience as a whole, what will you take from your time on “Crawford” that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Connell: How important it is to have the confidence of the creative team. Mike Clattenburg and Mike O’Neill are such a dynamic pair and initially their CVs were a little intimidating. You don’t want to let them down. But they made sure each and every one of us was aware of our talent and that we were hired to bring these characters to life because they trusted us.
It’s not often on set that you feel that kind of support, so it’s essential you learn to trust yourself. You’ve got to be your own cheer squad in an environment where you don’t feel you have a director or writer on your side.
TrunkSpace: You started acting as a kid, but took time off to focus on your education. When you returned to acting in 2006, did you feel like you had to completely hit the restart button or did your past experience come into play?
Connell: I think I had an easier time than some of my classmates because I was able to draw on my past experience and I had a resume that helped get me in the door. But I remember my first audition right out of theatre school and I was nervous as shit. The director had to get someone to go get me a glass of water because my mouth was too dry to even get the lines out. I was out of the game for four years when I was 19 to 23 spending 80 hours a week with the same 17 people. It was a really sheltered environment where there was a part in our plays for everyone. The real world ain’t like that.
TrunkSpace: For you personally, what was the most daunting aspect of beginning your professional career as an actor? Was there anything you had to overcome before you could focus 100 percent on pursuing your dreams?
Connell: I never had a doubt about what I wanted to do. I used to beg my parents to get me an agent as a little kid. However, now that I’m well into my career, what can be daunting is feeling like you don’t have roots planted down. Auditions and work can take you from one city to the next with little notice and that makes it hard to plan for the future and have a stable personal life. It’s a career that demands a lot of sacrifice.
TrunkSpace: You’ve appeared in a number of television series and films over the years. Is there a particular role or character that you wish you had more time to spend with?
Connell: The show is over now but I would love to revisit the character I played on “Warehouse 13” called Jack. He was a paranormal investigator in the 1960s. I remember that experience really fondly.
TrunkSpace: Finally, Chad, we know you are a wine enthusiast. We go into the stores nowadays and stare blankly at a wall of wine with no real idea on where to start. What should we be drinking? What are some wines that we should be focusing in on instead of staring blankly at?
Connell: Focus on the winemaker. I am a big fan of independent wine growers, particularly from France. If the wine has a lot of marketing or some gimmick, stay away. That means their resources are going into their advertisements and branding instead of what’s in the bottle. Making wine choices is getting a lot easier these days with social media as well. Follow someone you trust (i.e. me) and see what they’re drinking. Wine is meant to be fun and interesting, not intimidating. I don’t want you to just give up and settle for beer.
“Crawford” airs on CBC.