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Cherry quick to credit 'players' for his life story's success on TV

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There's certainly a lot more of his story to be told, but Don Cherry is quick to admit he's a bit surprised that he and his son, Tim, are getting the chance to tell it.

"I don't think a second one was in the plan at all," Cherry said of the shot-in-Winnipeg TV-drama sequel The Wrath of Grapes: Keep Your Head Up, Kid -- Part 2, which will premiere March 25 on CBC. "I think it was just because the first one did so well, so somebody came up with the idea of doing a second one. To me, because the first one was so good, you don't want to do a second one, but my son convinced me.

"I haven't seen it yet, but my son told me it's as good as the first one, and if it's as good as the first one, I'm happy."

Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story was a ratings winner for CBC, attracting more than 1.3 million viewers when it aired last year. The new drama will examine Cherry's transition from coaching in the NHL to becoming one of Canada's most controversial hockey commentators, thanks mostly to his ongoing Coach's Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada.

During a telephone interview last week from Toronto, site of CBC's winter-schedule launch, the 77-year-old Canadian sports icon said much of the credit for the first mini-series' success belongs to actor Jared Keeso and Sarah Manninen, who played Don and Rose Cherry (Keeso reprises his role in the sequel).

"It was really something, and I think Jared had a lot to do with it," said Cherry. "It's the only time, I think, when the actor could skate better than the guy he's playing. I think it's a credit to both of them that the thing went off so well.

"My wife, Rose, had a Pennsylvania accent, and Sarah had it down perfectly. My daughter helped to make sure she wore the right clothes to look like Rose.... I think the fact it was a success had a lot to do with those actors."

Cherry added that he never would have agreed to have his life story turned into a TV drama if son Tim hadn't been the driving force behind its production and the scriptwriter on the project.

"It was Tim's thing," he said. "That was the idea, that Tim was going to write it. The fact that we could talk it over -- 'What do you think of this scene?; What do you think of that scene?' -- was the reason that I did it. Like a lot of people, I really didn't want to show a lot of my personal life, but once we got started, it was OK. There were some scenes where I went, 'Are we really going to put that in there?' but we did, and it turned out good."

Cherry also said he's glad the mini-series and its sequel were shot in and around Winnipeg, because of the way the community supported both projects.

"We had more people who wanted to be extras than we needed, and we sure got some great hockey players," he said. "When I was out there, they all looked like American League hockey players. The arenas out there were just perfect, too. Tim really enjoyed it there. Everybody was excited about it -- I don't know how it would have been in Toronto, where everybody's so cynical about everything."

And speaking of Winnipeg, Grapes, how 'bout those Jets?

"I think they're doing a great job; I liked their uniforms right off the bat," he said. "Those games they were losing at the start, they were only losing by one goal. They're a hard-working bunch, and they never quit. I'm kind of concerned about the (number of) penalties they're getting, but they're fun to watch.

"I'll cheer for that team anytime, except when they're playing the Boston Bruins."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2011 D3

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