"I've done a lot of US production, and other Canadian, but mostly my résumé is fully American. And I've never been prouder of a show, period, than this. And it just happens to be Canadian."
– Nancy Robertson
Guy MacPherson: You are part of Vancouver TheatreSports. It says in the bio "over six years". What does that mean? Like, 15?
Nancy Robertson: Yeah, something like that. Actually at this point, it probably means seven. Seven years doing it.
GM: Oh, you still do it?
NR: I do it periodically. It's a good thing for an actor to do because it keeps you on your toes and you're so used to improvising that when you go into an audition and they go, "That's great. Can we try something different?" you're not, "Oh my God! But I prepared two days for this!" You can switch it up and actually thrive on it. It's a great tool. So acting in the day; TV, film or whatever. Then on the weekends go and do some improv.
GM: Was improv where you started?
NR: No, I was acting first. Most people that do improv at TheatreSports are actors. We're actors first. At certain stages of your career, it saves you from waiting tables. Because you're pursuing your acting career, but while you're doing that you're getting paid to be on stage. So it's an ideal actor's day job because you're performing.
GM: But you gotta be funny. You can't just be an actor.
NR: You can be an actor who's funny. Obviously you have to be an actor who has a flair for comedy.
GM: Did you have to sleep with Brent to get this role?
NR: We all did. Everybody did. He had to sleep with himself, too.
GM: But that's not unusual.
NR: That's just a bad visual. (laughs)
GM: You're on this smash hit. How difficult is it for you as an actor, because everyone comes up to you and says, "Hey, love the show!" You know watching it, this is good. But you don't know if you just have a bunch of yes-people around you going, "Hey, that was great!"
NR: Oh, you know. You know because you know when you're reading the scripts that it's good. Long before you get handed the paintbrush, you know the foundation there, which is the writing... I always look at actors... we're the decorators. We're the interior decorators and the writing's the foundation. You know then. If it's a good foundation then it makes it easier to decorate and have fun with. So you know it's good. And I also know when some people come up and go, "You know, my uncle doesn't get it." And you go, "Good!" Because you also know that it's not too generic.
GM: It's not generic, but it is very universal.
NR: It is universal, but it's also got a good sense of silly to it that most people get. When some people don't get it, then I think, well, that's okay because then you know it's got a little bit of an edge to it.
GM: You must have read scripts that you thought were pretty good, and then you see the finish product and you just cringe.
NR: Oh yeah, definitely. The difference is is reading the good scripts and then watching everybody do their performance and you're enjoying everybody's characters. And you're not feeling that there's a false moment or there's a dip. And that's a rarity. And you're not thinking in the back of your head, "I don't know if I would have done it that way." You go, "God! That's so great that you did it that way!" So you just know. When we finished the first season, we knew that it was good. The fact that it was a hit was just icing on the cake. Because you walked away and thought no matter what happens, this is a great experience, it was a whole lot of fun. The fact that it's a hit is just extra. But we're here, so we don't feel it as much. It's when you go out of town and when you go back home. I get a lot of either recognized, or people look at me like they know me, like I've gone to school with them or something like that., which is new to me.
GM: They hired great actors.
NR: I'd like to think that. I think the cast definitely is a strength, without a doubt. I think that, combined with the extremely strong writing and the creation and heart of Brent, and network people who are just really cool and are like friends. They enjoy it as much as we do. And the local producers. Everybody is like a peer. So it's very cool being very comfortable. And because, as I said, we're in Regina, you don't feel like you're on this number-one show set. You just feel like you're at summer camp.
GM: The writing is a given and the direction and all that. But there is a potential in some scenes where an actor could take it way over the top. But you guys don't. You take it right to that line and, as you say, it's very believable.
NR: Yeah, hopefully it is. That's what we're certainly striving for. I think that's where you get the benefit of when you get to create. They give you the ingredients and then you get to create this character. So you kind of know internally where you're going and whether it's something that would be believable and would your character react this way. And to be honest, there are great directors on set. There's multiple takes. Some are over the top; some are underplayed. And then you just find a... you play, and that's the beauty of it, is being able to play. And then the more comfortable you get with the character, you know where your range is, you know where you can go with them and what's going to fly and what isn't.
GM: Is it a sitcom?
NR: No, I don't think so.
GM: What is it? How do you describe it? With a sitcom you think of the audience and the laughter.
NR: And the ka-boom-boom.
GM: And yet it's a comedy, so what do you call it?
NR: I think they told us once we were to refer to it as a comedic arc. And then I thought later they're probably right. I just think it's just a... I don't even know how to articulate it. It's a nice half hour show that happens to be funny. It's a comfortable half-hour show that's funny. Just a comedic half-hour show. A sitcom is so formulaic, I think. It's kind of the one-liners and sharp and edgy and all that kind of stuff. I say in all the interviews, I feel boring saying it, but it's comfortable. You feel like you're just peering in. You're a voyeur watching this strange, quirky little town.
GM: Most Canadian comedies either last three weeks and nobody sees them, or they last 25 years and nobody sees them. Either way, nobody sees them.
NR: I think it was time. I think it was time for a good show. And if not this one, another one. But thank God it was this one. But I think it was time. Because if you go down to LA – and I lived there for a while – most of the writers and the sitcom actors and comedic actors are Canadian. So it's about time that we are able to stay home and create it here without going abroad and doing it. I mean, I've done a lot of US production, and other Canadian, but mostly my résumé is fully American. And I've never been prouder of a show, period, than this. And it just happens to be Canadian.
GM: Isn't it your goal, as an actor, to get into that US market?
NR: Depends how old you are. I think it depends on the age. In your mind, you think it is, but when you've been around and you've done it for a while, you realize it comes down to the material. For me, anyway. And I would far rather be doing something like this than doing some weekly written show – and sure you're getting paid a fortune and everything like that, but I think it would be a really hard existence not getting any great joy. I mean, this really is the best-case scenario. Sure, there's always that in the back of your mind to get some kind of US exposure financially, and also because there's more opportunities creatively in some cases. I wish it wasn't the case. I wish there were more opportunities in Canada – and I think there eventually will be – just to spread your wings a little bit more. But I think one of the positives about staying in Canada is you have to be a Jack- or a Jill-of-all-trades. For myself, I'm an actor on TV and film. I'll also do radio, I'll also do live stage. You have to do a lot of things to keep afloat. And I don't think that's such a bad thing.
GM: There's potential for this show to be picked up in the States.
NR: Sure. I think it could be sold in the States. Definitely. It's universal.
GM: Even though it's set here...
NR: There's small towns everywhere. Yeah.
GM: As Eric was saying, you can't get a million viewers every week without getting the big cities. So you have big city people watching it as well as the small town people.
NR: Well, yeah, because it's about people. And I think that was the point that Brent originally was making was that people are the same no matter where they are, and everybody has their quirks. It's just in a small town, everybody's aware of everybody's quirks. So yeah, it's just a good show, you know?! It sounds so boring, but it's... it's good. I'd like to tell you there's all this going on behind the scenes: major drugs and beatings. But there's not. That happened before we all got there. We got that all out of our systems.
GM: How long can it last?
NR: As long as it's still fresh and fun to do, I see it going for a while. Because they're small stories. They're not ambitious story lines. They're very charming, simple, everyday... You can't run out of those. Basically, you know, somebody lost a shoe. They'll make a story about it. So they'll never run out of story lines because they haven't been over-ambitious with the movie-of-the-week style issues. So I think it can go a while and I think everybody probably feels if it stays fun and it's fresh and it's still positive, then it'll go till then.
GM: If you expand every one of Brent's standup jokes, it'll last 50 years.
GM: The lost shoe. There's one right there.
NR: Does he have a bit about a lost shoe?
GM: He does.
NR: Oh, does he? He does one about lost underpants.
GM: That's the one. But he ties it in with a lost shoe.
NR: See, we can't do underpants storylines until it hits cable.
GM: Do you have a favourite scene or moment from last year?
NR: From my character or just in general?
GM: In general. Or both. You probably only think of yourself.
NR: Well, I am an actor... I've always liked the scenes where everybody's together. Because you can really sense the comfortability and the chemistry. Like, I like the Grey Cup.
GM: There was a problem with that.
NR: What was that? Nobody got to it?
GM: No. It was hot.
NR: I was in velvet pants and a wool sweater. I know it was hot... Along with Wanda's other sexy outfits There was just something about everybody being together. It was the end of the first season, we knew it was special. And there was something about seeing it on TV and we're all sitting around the Ruby. That was pretty much it for us for that season. It was just very special. So personally that's one of my favourite scenes. But I love the hockey episode because I thought it moved, it had heart, it was charming, and I thought every single character had something fun to do. And they really work hard at that in every episode. But it just seemed that everybody had a nice pop in that episode.
GM: It's an ensemble cast, but it seems everybody gets a fair shot.
NR: Oh definitely. And I think that must be very hard for the writers. But they work very hard at it. Everybody gets a shot. And everybody's so different. It's very cool. So yeah, that's my favourite episode.
GM: How does this season compare?
NR: I think everything's up a notch.
GM: Really. That would be hard to beat.
NR: Yeah, but that's half the fun of it. I think because we're here, we're not really focussing on last season or the big success. It really disappears when you're here. It really is like going to mining camp. We're here, you put your hard hat on and you go. I think because the writers know us, and we know us better – last year was the discovery of our characters, but we know our characters this year, the writers know our characters – and I think there's a little bit more room to play because of that. So I think everything's up a notch. And the humour... you know when the crew is repeating the dialogue from the script, that's a good sign. And when they're relieved that the scripts are really good and not worried that anything's changed, that's a good sign. So more laughs, I think, are around this year than even last year. So I think it's up a notch.
GM: Are you going to have an episode where everyone's back in the 1800s like most Canadian shows? Like a dream sequence?
NR: Yeah, with beaver pelts and everything like that? Yeah. I'm kinda going the other way. I think we should have a space episode.
GM: You could have one of each.
NR: Why not? If we're here long enough. And maybe we can fit in Corner Gas Goes to Hawaii.