Of all the places you’d expect to possibly find a series that possesses overtones of David Lynch’s work, one of the last would probably be Ion. You may remember it as PAX TV, but that was a long time ago. These days, it’s home to a great number of series that definitely go against what you used to see on the network during the early part of the decade. Gone are the “Touched By An Angel” and “Highway to Heaven” marathons, replaced by reruns of “NCIS” and “Criminal Minds.” Tonight, they’re bringing a Canadian series to their airwaves for its Stateside debut…and, yes, “Durham County” is just as dark as the Lynch reference suggests. Unless, of course, you see anything light about a series focusing on a homicide detective who moves his family to the suburbs to start over after his partner is killed and his wife is diagnosed with breast cancer, only to discover that his new neighbor (and former childhood nemesis) may be a serial killer. We had a chance to speak with star Hugh Dillon – who you may also recognize from his work on another Canadian import, CBS’s “Flashpoint” – about his work on both of his current series, his role as Joe Dick in “Hard Core Logo,” and his life as a real-life rock ‘n’ roll star while fronting the Headstones.
Stay tuned for…
Bullz-Eye: Hello, Hugh!
Hugh Dillon: Hey, man, how are you?
BE: I’m very good. So I have to think that it’s got to be a little surreal for you to be sitting here, promoting the US premiere of “Durham County” two years after the series made its debut on Canadian television.
HD: It is and it isn’t, y’know? It’s like…well, actually, it isn’t, really. It’s part of my life, you know?
BE: So how did you first come on board to the series? The idea of a show based around a cop chasing a serial killer might not be all that unique, but “Durham County” certainly feels unique.
HD: You know, for me, it was just a question of…I got these scripts, and I couldn’t believe just how well-written they were and how compelling they were. And, quite frankly, I found it pretty addictive. I remember picking up the first one when I was at a cottage, and I thought, “Ah, I’ll just start reading this, I’ll get to it.” And I read the first one, and it was like reading a fucking Stephen King novel. I read all six scripts, and I thought, “This is fucking awesome.” (Laughs) And then I kept flipping back to the cover, because I thought, “Fuck, this is a woman that wrote this? This is pretty brutal!” And then I met the lady…well, the three producers, really (Janis Lundman, Adrienne Mitchell, and Laurie Finstad Knizhnik), and they’re incredibly intelligent , they’ve got integrity, and…well, you know, they’re just very smart women. It was like meeting the witches of Eastwick. (Laughs) I realized, “Fuck, I’ve just got to be honest around them, or I’m gonna fuck this up.” And they were great! And then we got to be friends, and I passed the audition, and the network said I was in, then we cast the rest of the shit, and the rest is history. And Adrienne, the director / producer, is, like, a…she’s got a great vision, she’s got a great aesthetic, and they’re people who really don’t compromise, you know? And that’s why I think this show is so successful: because they really know what they want.
BE: Were you surprised when you found that it was finally going to make it across the border?
HD: Surprised…? (Considers the question)
BE: I guess you’d had some experience with that kind of thing, though, with “Flashpoint” turning up on CBS.
HD: Yeah, I mean, so I wasn’t surprised, but…you know what it is? When you’ve seen somebody else work so very hard, and you know that the work is good, you’re just happy for them and proud of them. So I’m just excited that we’re getting this shot, because I love this show. I don’t know how many you’ve seen…
BE: Just the first two.
HD: Oh, okay, well, it really goes someplace. Hopefully they can get you the rest, because it continues on, these first twelve episodes, into… (Hesitates) It’s like…do you remember all of the independent films in the ‘90s? That’s what it reminds me of. And we’ve got Michelle Forbes who comes along, and it just unfolds beautifully. It’s really something. There’s something hypnotic about it that I love.
BE: It’s funny that you say that, because I watched those first two episodes with my wife, and after the first one, she said, “Well, it’s good, but it’s a little slow.” But after the second one, she said, “Was that one shorter? Because it just flew past!”
HD: Yeah, once you get into it, it’s addictive. And it’s so haunting that…like I said, there’s something hypnotic about it, because if you just sit down and watch, the time just flies by. You’re in, and you’re a fan. There’s just something about the way they’ve captured this hyper piece of the human condition. It’s unique.
BE: It very much reminds me of a David Lynch production.
BE: Are there any other points of comparison that you’d offer?
HD: Someone else said, “It’s like ‘Twin Peaks’ meets ‘The Sopranos.’” And I thought, “You know, I can live with that.”
BE: So how quickly did the family relationship develop between you and Helene Joy, Laurence Leboeuf, and Cicely Austin?
HD: I think…you know, so much of it comes down to the great producers, these women again, because the casting was just right on the money. I mean, the funny thing is, with us, we shoot that in Montreal, and so, for me, there’s a disconnect right out of the gate, because I don’t speak French. So all of a sudden, we’re in Montreal, we shoot in the fall, and everything’s kind of dying. The days are getting shorter. And for me, when I walked in, I met Laurence, who plays my daughter, and we had that natural chemistry. We just hit off. We had a lot in common. Even in real life, I’m a little protective with her. So there were a lot of things in real life that helped when you see the show. It translates, the whole “art imitates life” thing, or whatever.
BE: I’m glad you responded that way, because I’d been thinking about retiring that question from my repertoire. Everybody generally tends to give me a variation on, “When it’s on the page, it’s on the stage.”
HD: Yeah, and it’s that, too. (Laughs)
BE: You made a comment about the changes in the landscape as a result of shooting in the fall. I’ve interviewed some folks from the cast of “Harper’s Island,” and many of them spoke of how, while shooting in Vancouver, it got progressively colder and darker as they filmed the series, but it worked in the show’s favor. Do you think it helped “Durham County” as well?
HD: I think it did. And does, because now we’re going into Season 3. I start shooting that next month. And, like I said, the first two seasons worked like a charm. When Michelle Forbes came on board last year, it was just fun to watch the whole progression with her, because she showed up, and she’s amazing in the show. She just got it, you know? She got it. She went, “Wow, this is weird.”
BE: And she should know weird, given her “True Blood” stuff.
HD: Yeah, I know! (Laughs) She said, “I’m on these dark shows, and this is fucking darker than any of them!”
BE: But, of course, she made it through “Kalifornia,” too.
HD: Yeah, and that’s what I first knew her from.
BE: I mentioned earlier about “Flashpoint” getting its US screening through CBS, but to talk of surprises again, did you expect it to take off here the way it did?
HD: You know, from my personal point of view, I’m not surprised, because it comes back to the writers again. I read that pilot, and I thought, “These people really know what they’re doing.” And it’s because Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morganstern, who wrote it, talked to the real guys. And they got us, the actors, hooked up with the real guys. So I wasn’t surprised. I just thought they had such integrity, and they were such decent people, that they just did their due diligence, so to speak, and they covered it so beautifully in terms of…I mean, it’s an action show, but it’s got such an emotional core, and they were able to hit that, so much so that the real SWAT guys are very proud of the show. So I just had a good feeling about it, so I guess it wasn’t that much of a surprise.
BE: When “Flashpoint” premiered here in the States, I guess the show’s matinee name was Enrico Colantoni, because of his work on “Just Shoot Me” and “Veronica Mars.”
HD: Of course.
BE: But you were already pretty well established in Canada as both an actor and as a musician, so were you viewed at the matinee name up there?
HD: Yeah. I mean, me and Enrico laugh our asses off about that all the time. We’ll be shooting in Toronto, and people will go by and say, “Hey, Hugh!” Or, “Hey, Rico!” It’s just funny.
BE: I didn’t realize at first that you were the star of “Hard Core Logo.” In fact, for a minute, when I saw the name of the film, I was, like, “Wait, that sounds familiar, I think I’ve seen that.” But almost as quickly, it was followed by a horrifed, “Omigod, the ending…!” It all came back in a rush.
HD: Too funny. But that’s good! And, yeah, that was really a huge moment for us when (Quentin) Tarantino picked that up and released the movie.
BE: It’s really phenomenal. I mean, I’m a fan of…well, technically, it’s a mockumentary, but it’s certainly not a comedy in the traditional sense. Not the ending, that’s for sure.
HD: Yeah, that movie was really what got me into the whole acting thing, ‘cause I just got to work with such a great director and a great cast. And, y’know, he allowed me to do a lot of stuff. I wrote the ending to that movie. So that movie was really…I just thought, “You know, I fucking like acting!” (Laughs)
BE: So what’s the status of the “Hard Core Logo” sequel? I’ve read some stuff online about it, but nothing concrete about a start date.
HD: Um, they might do one, where Joe Dick is the Devil, and he comes back. They’re looking at shooting it in Japan, and it’s kind of interesting. It’s like “My Dinner with Andre” meets “Die Hard.”
BE: That sounds like the best movie ever. Or possibly the worst.
HD: Or possibly the worst. (Laughs) But, fuck, you’ve gotta go. If it’s not a big risk, it’s no fun.
BE: Well, in the piece I was reading about it, (director) Bruce McDonald was talking about doing, like, four sequels.
HD: Yeah. (Snorts) They’ll never get to four. But there’ll be at least one if the funding comes together, and it’ll be interesting.
BE: I sent an E-mail to my friend Jaimie Vernon, who’s kind of a Canadian musical historian (not to mention a label owner and a musician in his own right), and asked him to give me a bit of background on The Headstones, since I’d heard of them but didn’t know anything about them. And he wrote back, “They put out five albums, it’s loud hard-ass, three-chord rock and roll, and there is no American equivalent to their style.”
HD: Wow. (Laughs)
BE: So how did you first find your way into music?
HD: I loved it. I had older brothers and sisters, and when I was growing up, I was kind of an outsider, and I just gravitated towards music…and it became life. There was nothing else I wanted to do, so I just wrote songs and wrote songs and played in bands. I moved to England when I was 19, and I played on the street. I had a band over there called the Caulfields, and then I moved back to Toronto when my visa ran out and worked at shitty jobs. Well, one was good: I had a job at a hospital, working with sick children for a couple of years. That gave me enough money to pay for demo tapes. And then I got a record deal with Universal, and we just…well, we were kind of an anti-social rock band, and it was just a crazy existence for a lot of years. And then it got…y’know, it just got very unhealthy (Laughs) And so I caught a couple of breaks with acting around “Hard Core Logo,” and I found a couple of other movies. I did a movie with Vera Farmiga (“Down to the Bone”) that got to Sundance and really opened things up in the States, and I moved to L.A.
BE: I saw that the Headstones were on MCA, and since I was thinking of Canadian bands, my mind immediately went to the Tragically Hip.
HD: Oh, yeah, I grew up with the guys in the Hip, and that’s… (Pauses) Fuck, you did your homework!
BE: (Laughs) I try, man, I try.
HD: No, man, you really did, because I hadn’t even thought about that. But truth is, my showcase gig…we used to play CBGBs in New York, and the Mercury Lounge, but for my showcase gig, the guys in the Hip showed up, and that’s how we ended up getting a record deal: because they were already established in Canada. And MCA’s A&R guy saw that the Hip were there, and people liked the music, so…there you go. Paul Langlois, who’s the guitar player in the Hip, just recorded my solo album for Warner Brothers in Canada. It’s going to be on iTunes, and I got songs on “Flashpoint” and “Durham County.” But, yeah, Paul Langlois was my producer on that. (Pauses again, then laughs) Fuck, you did your homework…
BE: Yeah, but I’m still embarrassed that I wasn’t really familiar with the Headstones before this. I mean, I worked for a record store for five years, for God’s sake.
HD: No, but you wouldn’t be. It was so independent, so underground, and for so long that you wouldn’t be. It was pretty explosive, but it was…it was its own thing. It was a real cult rock band. I mean, we had songs that you couldn’t hear. We had one called “Fuck You,” if you ever go to… (Hesitates) I’m trying to think where you can download it, but it was on an album called Nickels for Your Nightmares, and it’s track 10. It’s a great song, and we could play anywhere, and as soon as we played that song, people would just fucking go off, because it was just…if you’re drinking a beer and you hear a band playing a song called “Fuck You,” then first you go, “What the…?” And then you go, “Oh, okay, I get that!”
BE: Did you guys ever make any real attempt to break in the States, or were you just not concerned about that?
HD: Not concerned. I mean, we played in New York, we’d play with some American bands, and we played Mexico, we played Europe. We were big in border towns like Buffalo. We did okay in New York. But we were huge in our own country. We were successful in our minds. We didn’t need world domination for validation.
BE: I saw that you were also in the Trailer Park Boys’ movie.
HD: Fuck! (Laughs) Yeah, I was in that, too.
BE: Were you a fan of the show itself?
HD: I hadn’t watched it that much. I was living in L.A. at that time, but Mike Clattenburg called me, and I knew it enough. They’re good guys, and it was Canadian, and Ivan Reitman was involved, so I thought, “This’ll be fun.” And it was fun.
BE: I’d also totally forgotten that you were in “Surveillance,” too. I interviewed Bill Pullman and Jennifer Lynch when the film came out.
HD: Fuck! (Laughs) Yeah, Jennifer’s a friend of mine, and she’s an exceptional human being. It’s funny, because when I did that movie “Down to the Bone,” it was with this director Debra Granik, and that’s when I started working with this string of female directors. I just find that they’re exceptional people, and Jennifer Lynch is another one, as is Adrienne Mitchell of “Durham County.” But Jennifer’s just a sweetheart, and she used some of my music in her movie, and it was just…it was a blast for me. I mean, me and Cheri Oteri sat in a car for two weeks, shooting the shit. It was fun.
BE: She’s so sweet. I met her earlier this year, and she couldn’t have been nicer.
HD: She’s just fun.
BE: And I complimented Jennifer on her choice of using someone like Cheri, who’s traditionally comedic, in a film with as dark a tone as “Surveillance.”
HD: She’s a great actress. And she’s a hard worker, and she’s fun to be around. And Jennifer’s just go such a great vibe, and she’d do anything f0r you. I hope she continues to make movies, and more regularly, because she’s got a great talent.
BE: Last one, and it’s a two-parter. First, what’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?
HD: “Down to the Bone” is a movie that I think deserved more love, although it did win them prizes at Sundance. I think Vera Farmiga’s performance was exceptional. (Writer’s note: Farmiga took home the Special Jury Prize, Dramatic, for her performance, and Debra Grank won the Directing Award, Dramatic.) But it should’ve gotten a wider release.
BE: And the other part, can you recommend an underrated movie that you’re not in that you think people should see?
HD: Good question…but, wow, my mind’s going blank. Um, “Easy Rider”? No, everybody’s seen that. There’s got to be something. Why can’t I think of something? (Pauses) Oh, I saw a movie called “Hard Candy” that I thought was phenomenal. You know what it was about that movie? The performances were great, but I always look at making movies myself, and the point of view was that the film had two characters, one location, and yet it could hold your attention for the entire run time. And I thought, “That is great moviemaking, when just the writing and the two characters can lock you in.”
BE: All right, Hugh, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you.
HD: You, too!
BE: And I promise that I’ll hunt down some Headstones stuff.
HD: (Laughs) Okay, thanks, man! Ciao!