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This article was published 26/1/2011 (3485 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Like the old song says, you gotta have friends.
Allan Hawco seems to be having quite a bit of coast-to-coast success in that regard these days, thanks to the immense and rather unexpected fan/friend following his CBC series, Republic of Doyle, has generated online during its relatively short prime-time run.
At last count, Doyle had amassed more than 54,000 followers who "like" the show's Facebook page, a beyond-impressive number for a series whose popularity has grown more as a result of word-of-mouth endorsements than any concerted promotional efforts by the network.
"It was a complete surprise, a total fluke," said Hawco, the creator, writer, producer and star of the show, who was in town earlier this week to as part of a whirlwind promotional tour that includes stops at local watering holes along the way to meet and mingle with Doyle's ever-growing Facebook fan base. "I just looked one day, and our Facebook page had 30,000 followers. Then I started looking at some of the other shows out there, and it was like, wow, there's very few shows out there that don't have an American broadcaster that have those kinds of numbers. And before we knew it, we were at 50,000. And the people who follow it (on Facebook) are legitimately interested in the conversation, so I've tried to engage in it as much as possible.
"I come from the theatre world, so I know how hard it is to get an audience. So now that we've got an audience, I want to engage it in whatever way they want me to.... That's the new world, the social media, so it would be silly to not be a part of that conversation."
Republic of Doyle, which recently had its second-season premiere on CBC, follows the misadventures of Jake Doyle (Hawco), a lovable but mischief-inclined rogue who works as a private eye on the not-so-mean streets of St. John's, Nfld., solving unusual cases while struggling to keep his always-complicated romantic life from getting the best of him.
His efforts are aided -- sometimes less than others -- by his opinionated father, Malachi (Sean McGinley), as well as sort-of stepmom Rose (Lynda Boyd), and vandal-turned-apprentice detective Des (Mark O'Brien).
In addition to its solid ensemble cast, Doyle has also enticed some top-drawer Canadian talent to join in the Maritime-flavoured fun, including Gordon Pinsent, Paul Gross, Nicholas Campbell, Victor Garber and Rick Roberts.
But without question, one of the most important characters in Republic of Doyle is St. John's itself, with its rolling streetscapes, magnificent ocean views and uniquely colourful architecture.
"It's a character, but I didn't want it to be a caricature," Hawco explained. "I also wanted to make sure that people in Winnipeg or Toronto or Edmonton or wherever could watch it and feel like it was their show, too. I wanted to be able to share it, to have people feel like it's a Canadian show and not just a Newfoundland show.
"But the show is a bit of a love letter to the city, for sure, because I love St. John's so much."
Hawco, 33, whose early stage career included an appearance in Manitoba Theatre Centre's 2004 production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, said it was inevitable that his creative pursuits would someday lead him back to Newfoundland.
"When I left home to go to theatre school, I just missed home so badly," he said. "I lived in Toronto for 10 years, but I spent almost half of every year in St. John's. At the time, it didn't make any sense from a business perspective, but I just had to be there. And I guess that eventually led to this."
Hawco said he isn't bothered by the comparisons that have been made between Republic of Doyle and one of TV's definitive private-eye shows, The Rockford Files. In fact, he embraces those references as the highest form of compliment.
"My first pitch to CBC was, 'The Rockford Files in St. John's,'" Hawco recalled. "But that's where I left it, and when we started developing it, we weren't trying to do anything like somebody else.... I would say the comparison stops at the beginning (of Doyle), because we didn't really follow the model of that show.
"It's one of my favourite shows of all time.... I love that character in television, that sort of reluctant hero. And to be compared to something of that quality is very cool."
Republic of Doyle
Starring Allan Hawco, Sean McGinley, Lynda Boyd, Mark O'Brien and Marthe Bernard
Wednesdays at 9 p.m.
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