"I chose acting because I love to perform and I love to adopt a different personality. I like to change my personality. To be Jim Lahey, sadly, all I really find myself doing is turning up the volume a bit on John Dunsworth and acting a little bit more of an asshole than I really am."
– John Dunsworth
Guy MacPherson: How are you?
John Dunsworth: A hundred percent.
JD: Don't forget, that's only 50 proof, boy.
GM: Where are you right now?
JD: We're halfway between Moncton and St. John.
GM: Are you doing a tour?
JD: We just finished four days and we're heading back to Halifax.
GM: Are you going all across the country or just coming out to BC?
JD: We just jump all over the place.
GM: Wherever someone will have you?
JD: Well, our agent tries to coordinate it so we don't get too fucked over. Next week we're going to Guelph and then to Grand Prairie and then out to BC. We try not to go to BC and then come home again, if you know what I mean.
GM: Yeah, that's probably wise. It's just you and Randy?
GM: When did you develop this act?
JD: It's more or less, I would say, we're capitalizing on the good feeling of people for Trailer Park Boys, which is contemporary Canadiana. And so we go out and we just expose ourselves to them, if you know what I mean.
GM: (smirks) Not really.
GM: You expose yourself to them?
JD: Yeah. For example, we have a little schtick that we do and a couple of contests, including a trivia contest. But we open the floor up to questions from the audience. And that actually is what makes each show different is because we get different questions. Now, sometimes they're all drunk and they're like, "What kind of cheeseburgers do you like, Randy?" or "Lahey, would ya fuck off?!" But a lot of the times we get really interesting dialogue going. And people want to know about one of the characters or one of the episodes or what this meant. And there's a lot of sharing, as well. Sometimes people from the audience will actually share a really wonderful piece of information how Trailer Park Boys changed their life or saved their father's life, or something like that, you know? Sometimes it's a pretty spiritual experience, believe it or not.
GM: It's really quite the phenomenon, the show, isn't it?
JD: It's taken on a life of its own.
GM: I can't think of another Canadian show that has had that impact.
JD: I guess there's a little bit of a renaissance and people in Canada are – I could be totally wrong here, but I think more than ever we're looking for icons. I know myself, I am so proud of Stephen Lewis I can't tell you. I always thought Jean Cretien was a big thug, but when I think that he kind of single-handedly kept us out of Iraq, I get a whole different feeling for the guy. You know, I think Canada's pretty special. For us to be able to break loose from the kind of stereotypic American bullshit programming and be allowed to do it and be encouraged to do it and supported by Canadians, that's the phenomenon to me.
GM: Is your show in the States yet?
JD: It's played on BBC America. I don't know what the present status is. Randy and I, neither of us are kinda privy to distribution but we do know that it's playing in Australia and England and Ireland and God knows where else.
GM: Do you know the reaction it's getting over there?
JD: I understand that the climb to popularity is leaps and bounds ahead of establishing a fan base in Canada.
JD: Yeah. Because I'm told that it's played everyday on one of the stations in England.
GM: Hmm. So soon you'll be playing pubs in England.
JD: It has been discussed. But Randy and I lately, offers have been coming in from strange quarters. We had an offer last week for a voice-over for cartoons in England. And two weeks ago we had an offer for a film being shot in Ireland. We wouldn't be playing Randy and Lahey.
GM: So this has really changed your life, hasn't it? You've been an actor for a long time.
JD: Yeah, 40 years.
GM: And obviously in nothing like this, that's had this kind of impact.
JD: Absolutely not. I mean, the biggest rush I ever had in terms of national audience, I did 15 episodes on Between the Covers on CBC.
GM: Gee, I don't even know what that is.
JD: I'm a great fan of CBC radio. You've got CBC radio 1, 2, and 3. I love CBC 1, which is news programming a lot and local news. But it has a lot of world coverage and it's a little less biased than CNN.
GM: I'm a big fan of it, too, although they just changed the format recently and now they're playing pop music all day.
JD: It pisses me off that one asshole can get into CBC and change the whole ethos of the organization.
GM: Is that what it was? One person?
JD: Yeah. But the thing is, some people get to be henchmen. You'd think it would be a woman because whenever they make big cuts to a corp they always put a woman in so she can take the fall. But my problem with this is that... CBC television to me is not as valuable as CBC radio. Because the television is mostly entertainment programs. And CBC radio, I think, is a national treasure because it really does pull the country... Well, you can get a real good national view from CBC radio.
GM: Julian, Ricky and Bubbles were here two years ago. So they go out as a group, then you and Randy go out as a group?
JD: They don't do all that much. I would say that in the last six months, we've done as much as they have in the last six years. I mean, I don't know because I'm not privy to everything they do. But sometimes they go to ballgames and things like that just for fun. But in terms of going to clubs and Yuk Yuk's, I would say that we're setting the pace. And I think they'll probably follow. I think what we're probably going to do – and again, I'm not sure on this – we might be doing a North American tour ensemble.
GM: All five of you?
JD: Maybe more than five of us. Because the film's coming out next year. I don't know if they have decided how they're going to promote it but I know they always do something to promote things like this. For us it's a big deal because we're going to be opening right across North America.
GM: When they were here two years ago at the comedy festival, the response was unbelievable. I don't know if you heard about that or not.
GM: They played a theatre here, along with several other comics, and the crowd just couldn't sit through the other comics. They were all drunk and they wanted to see Bubbles and all that kind of thing. But is it like that everywhere you go?
JD: I'm not sure. I know that Bubbles is probably more popular than John Lennon in Canada right now. I can't explain it. You have to ask yourself about lucky stars and about destiny and whatever and what kind of hereditary seed was carried through to all of a sudden blossom in this kind of philosophically profound but seemingly helpless idiot. And why he becomes the star. There's just no explanation. I mean, men and women alike, young and old alike. Most people just want to hug Bubbles and say, 'It'll be okay, buddy.' It blows me away. So I have no illusions about Randy and Lahey's popularity. We're popular because we're part of the show. I think those three guys stand alone and just smile and people would go nuts.
GM: Where do you live?
JD: I live across from Peggy's Cove on St. Margaret's Bay. Right on the ocean.
GM: Is it crazy for you guys? You're in smaller towns back east.
JD: No. No, the further west we go, the more incredible the fan response.
GM: Oh. So back there they just go, 'Oh, it's you guys.'
JD: You got it exactly. Just a simple, 'Fuck you, Lahey.'
GM: Is there any confusion between you and the character that you play?
JD: For me, yeah. Half the time I don't see any distinction. I don't have the same kind of proclivities that Jim Lahey has. I mean, I don't get piss drunk and I don't like to diddle boys. And I am a little bit of a megalomaniac but as I grow older I think I'm more of a liberal power seeker. I like to feel like I'm in control. Jim Lahey likes to feel like he can control. I don't need to manipulate anybody else in my life; I just like to feel like I'm captain of my own ship.
GM: Do you feel like you lose a bit of your identity wherever you go because people think Mr. Lahey.
JD: You would be amazed. I've always been a bit of a narcissist. ... People come and say the nicest things to you. And even when they say 'fuck off Lahey, you fucking asshole', there's love in it. If I was in the business for the fame, I've certainly accomplished my goals. But I chose acting because I love to perform and I love to adopt a different personality. I like to change my personality. To be Jim Lahey, sadly, all I really find myself doing is turning up the volume a bit on John Dunsworth and acting a little bit more of an asshole than I really am. It is a really weird distinction when I'm out there because I do a radio show on Wednesday morning. And it's John Dunsworth using Jim Lahey's voice to express John Dunsworth's views on politics. And I use Jim Lahey's notoriety to campaign against video lottery terminals in Nova Scotia. And there is a cross-over there and I do capitalize one on the other. I haven't used my fame and fortune yet to prey on vulnerable females, which is one of my urges. And I don't drink or smoke dope before I do a show or before I do a performance. So I would have to say that there is a real definite defining line between Lahey and Dunsworth.
GM: Is the radio show on a commercial station out there?
JD: Yeah, it's on Q-104. We're talking about syndicating it. Because it's very funny. I talk about everything from George Bush to fecal flamboyancy.
GM: To what?
JD: Fecal flamboyancy.
JD: I have a flamboyant fecal fetish.
GM: Do I want to know about that?
JD: You have to understand the true meaning of shit to have insight into the universe. Ever since Adam said to Eve, 'Stand back, Eve, I don't know how big this thing's going to get', there's been a lot of bullshit in communication. Most religions are based on pure horseshit. If you're one of those guys or gals who likes to have a look in the bowl after the ploppin's over, then you'll want to go to my website, email@example.com. Follow the link to piss on tradition. So it's that kind of stuff, you know. Every week it changes. Last week I was a politician. The week before I was selling eternal salvation and trying to get people to invest in our pump-up septic prophylactic slicing system. That kind of stuff.
GM: Do you take calls?
JD: We used to. For the first couple months we took calls but it was an hour and a half punctuated by three minutes of commercials and it was just sort of boring so I opted for a two-minute commentary every week.
GM: How much time does filming the show take?
JD: We work three or four months a year. This year we did six episodes over a period of about six weeks. And we did the movie over a period of about six weeks.
GM: Is a lot of it improvised?
JD: A very small percentage is improvised. Like, under ten percent. And usually that happens after we take care of business, if there's time Mike Clattenburg, the director, might say, "I got what I need. But let's just go for it boys. Pull out the stops." And some of that will make the movie perhaps, and some won't. But we do at least two drafts of the scripts, then we rehearse it with the text and sometimes on the spot Clattenburg tweaks us and says, "That's not working." It's really comfortable and wonderful when the person who's the generator and the head writer can be there and direct and make changes. Most of the time you're doing American MoW's (movies of the week) or ever Canadian scripts and it's sacrosanct. One of the producer's wife or husband wrote the script and you can't change one fucking word and it's pretty restrictive.
GM: So that's the same in both the TV and movie version?
JD: Yes, thankfully. Mike Clattenburg still holds the proprietory rights and directorial prerogative, which makes it, I think, pretty damn exciting.
GM: How long is this show going to run, do you think?
JD: We're in season six and I would say that we're just peaking now. That's what I'd say. I think season six is probably our best season yet. It's only six episodes but it's really good stuff from my experience.
GM: Six episodes isn't much. Why only six?
JD: Because we had to do the movie at the same time. And when you're using the same cast and same crew and a limited budget, I mean what can you do? We don't have a huge... Trailer Park... I mean, I don't know the difference but I would say that Corner Gas is a bigger budget than Trailer Park.
GM: They have a pretty big budget, I think.
JD: We're chicken feed. That's why Randy and I tour around – to augment our salary. Randy quit his job as a manager of a water company to do Trailer Park Boys.
GM: When did he quit? The website says he still is the manager.
JD: Not anymore. Last year his company gave him an ultimatum and said, "You have to make a choice." Because Randy hadn't had a vacation for five years. Every ounce of his vacation time was taken up in shooting. And the AD's, the assistant directors, would go to great pains to take advantage of all his vacation time and book him in accordingly.
GM: You'd think a company would want somebody of that stature working for them.
JD: Well, they changed their mind immediately when he said, "I'm sorry boys, I'll see you later." They hired him as an expert and they sent him all over the country to do training. But this year he signed his final papers and decided to just be a Trailer Park Boy.
GM: He must feel pretty good about that.
JD: Well, there's a lot of costs. I'd have to let you talk to him. I know he loves being part of the show, that he feels a great camaraderie. And I know that he really loves going across Canada. When we go out to the west... I mean, we were just talking before you phoned about... we have a couple days off there and we're just going to go and we're just going to open our eyes and take it all in. I was out in Vancouver a couple of times when I was working with ACTRA, the union that I used to be an officer in. I remember going down to the waterfront there and they had this beautiful boat club and I just wandered to the docks and just felt like I was right at home. I'm an avid boatsman here in Nova Scotia.
GM: Will it be harder for you two to just go out and wander now with people stopping you all the time?
JD: No, if we don't want to be noticed, it's real easy. You just put a hat on and Randy puts his shirt on. And if I don't talk, people don't notice my voice, and I just look like any old guy.
GM: Is the show making fun of that type of person or glorifying it? Because you really attract the trailer park kind of people.
JD: I don't think that's true. We have everything from English and philosophy professors to Bay Street lawyers to principals. A 94-year-old woman started a fan club. We've got ten-year-old kids. A lot of them are trailer park type people but the people that we're portraying in the trailer park are not characters drawn from trailer parks but characters drawn from life. Everyone knows one of the guys in the park, or two of them. Everyone knows a Ricky or a Bubbles or a guy who runs around without his shirt on and his gut hanging out. You can call us trailer trash if you want, but we exist everywhere. And Trailer Park is not a spoof and it's not a comic, sardonic look at the foibles of losers; it's a cautionary tale. I think if you look at Jim Lahey and how he gets piss-faced drunk, I don't think people want to be like that. And we're not making fun of drunks per se; we're using alcoholism as a driving force for a guy who's basically... I mean, how many people in this world, in North America especially, are piss-faced drunk? I'd say ten percent. So half of them love Jim Lahey and half of them say that's ridiculous, nobody drinks like that. I mean, I overdo it... You want to say hi to Randy?
"There are some similarities but I mean in real life I'm not gay. In real life I wear clothes. In real life I have a commerce degree and I'm smart. And I'm not quite so patient, I don't think, in real life. I'm very patient with Mr. Lahey and his drunkenness. But there are other similiarities. Randy's a very loyal person; so am I in real life. I'm trustworthy and so is Randy. And maybe once in a while I'm greasy like Randy."
– Patrick Roach
Patrick Roach: Hello?
GM: Hey there.
PR: Hey, buddy.
GM: So this was your first acting job, right?
PR: Yes, it was.
GM: And now here you are teamed up with a guy who's been at it for 40 years. How intimidating is that?
PR: Not intimidating at all. I treat John Dunsworth as my mentor.
GM: Is he? Does he give you little tips?
PR: He gives me tips all the time. We work through our stuff to make it real good. And I'm the best assistant to him in real life. Same way as I am on the Trailer Park Boys.
GM: So he's the boss.
PR: He's the boss, but he keeps fucking up. He forgets his hat in places and I find it for him. And he loses his keys. He's like a cluster fuck, but I'm there to assist him and bring him right back to life.
GM: He mentioned that you just quit your other job, your day job.
PR: Yeah, I quit a year ago in July.
GM: How long were you doing that for?
PR: I was doing that since around '93.
GM: Was it a good feeling to leave? Most people go, 'I'd love to quit my job.'
PR: It was a little bit of mixed [feelings]. I mean, I had a good job, steady income, company vehicle, you know? You could pay your bills. To the acting world, which is totally unpredictable. But I've got a good education. I can make it as an actor or I can make it as a business man. I'm having the time of my life working with all my best friends and meeting all the fans across Canada. It's pretty awesome. That supplies the great feeling. You know you're going into something that's really great.
GM: So for five years, or thereabouts, you did both.
PR: Yes, I did, yeah. I used all my vacation time to film Trailer Park.
GM: So how was that when you were at work? You were a salesman?
PR: I was the regional sales manager.
GM: So did people go, 'Hey! Randy is my salesman!'
PR: Yeah, they would. They'd say, 'Holy geez, you wear a suit and tie?' I'd say, 'Well, I'm only an assistant trailer park supervisor. I need to get another job to make ends meet.'
GM: It must have helped you with your sales when they'd go, 'Hey, we've got a star here.'
PR: Yeah, I got a few more sales because of it.
GM: You've got a couple kids, right?
PR: Yeah, I do. Yeah.
GM: How old are they?
PR: Rebecca's six and Cody's four.
GM: Can they get a full appreciation of what's happening with you?
PR: No, they've never seen the show. They've never been to the set. Too much swearing. It's not for kids that young. They know that dad doesn't wear a shirt and stuff, but they don't quite totally understand it.
GM: What age do you think you would start letting them see it?
GM: Oh yeah?
PR: Yeah... No, I'm teasing. I don't know. I'd have to see how good a head they have on their shoulders. Nowadays we see kids all the time, and some of them are quite young. But some young kids have a good head on their shoulders. They deal with a lot of shit at school these days: the drugs, everything, all the pressures and whatnot. So I don't think the kids really want to be like Ricky, Julian and Bubbles or whatever, right? As long as they have a good head on their shoulders, they should be fine.
GM: Before the series, were you as comfortable taking your shirt off as you are now?
PR: No. Now I'm much more comfortable taking the shirt off than before. Once everyone in Canada has seen you with no shirt on, it's like, ah, what the hell.
GM: I would never take my shirt off in public.
PR: Once you get used to it, it's nothing.
GM: How much alike or different are each of you from the characters?
PR: I'd say there are some similarities but I mean in real life I'm not gay. In real life I wear clothes. In real life I have a commerce degree and I'm smart. And I'm not quite so patient, I don't think, in real life. I'm very patient with Mr. Lahey and his drunkenness. But there are other similiarities. Randy's a very loyal person; so am I in real life. I'm trustworthy and so is Randy. And maybe once in a while I'm greasy like Randy.
GM: As your buddy there was saying, it really attracts not just the small town drinking crowd; it attracts the philosophy professors.
PR: Yeah, it attracts anyone from any walk of life. Right? You can be a janitor, you can be in jail, you can be a prince, maybe even a prime minister, who knows? It's one of those things. We're very lucky to be able to bring joy into people's homes across Canada and in other parts of the world. So I mean we're just the luckiest guys in the world.