Before we announce the winners of the 2011 My TV Awards, we’re proud to present the My TV Nominee Interview Series.
The actor behind one of the main villains on Canada’s best TV show, Being Erica, came back in the show’s final season to lend the character a reassuring dash of pathos. Adam MacDonald, who played Josh MacIntosh on the just-ended CBC hit took some time to talk with us about the character and his experience on Canada’s biggest non-Degrassi hit.
How did you first get into acting?
Well, it’s actually kind of funny, I tried to do a couple of plays in high school, but I got kicked out of both of them. Because the teacher, she wanted me in the play, but she thought I was too—following my instincts too much, and she didn’t like the way I was approaching the craft, in her eyes, and all this stuff. So she kicked me out. But I never lost interest in it. I always thought it would be a great way to express yourself. And then, only years later—I did music for a while with some bands and stuff, but nothing came close to that feeling I had when I was acting and learning characters and all that stuff—then I got involved in 1997. I joined an agency and they had—you know, it was one of those agencies that was kind of bad news, so you pay to be in the agency, you pay for headshots, and you pay for all these classes on the weekends, and I went in and did one, and there was a—oh, God, I was like, twenty at the time—and they had this exercise where you had to act like a cat. It was ridiculous. But I did it. And the guy kept praising how much he liked it. So I felt pretty good from that moment, from playing a cat. I was hooked. I was just… hooked. Hook, line, and sinker. This is amazing, this felt great. So I pursued it very, very heavily after that.
What have been some of the favorite projects that you’ve worked on?
Being Erica is one of them for sure. Wild Roses was another one, and I loved working on The Def Leppard Story—I got to live out my fantasy of being a rock star. Snow in August was pretty big for me too, the Showtime film. I like stuff where I can do accents. There’s one I just did, that I hope turns out really well. I played a French inspector in the Transporter HBO series. So that’s been the most gratifying so far, in terms of work.
As a Montrealer are you committed to staying in Canada, or is a move to LA something you’d be interested in?
I did do the LA scene for a while. We all kind of do it. We all do pilot season, we go down for two, three months when we have a manager or an agent. I did tests out there a couple times. But I don’t know, I wouldn’t – see, my goals are kind of changing, lately, in the past couple of years. I’ve been directing films—short films—and stuff. And I really, really, really want to start making feature films. That’s really where my direction, my energy’s going, so I’m about to embark on my first feature film with Fella Films. But I’m need to stay here to do it. Because I made a decision a few years ago, I’m either going to move to LA, and continue to do acting—and I have a bunch of friends down there who I could stay with—or, I’m going to continue making films and—because it’s much easier to make a film up here in Canada, than it is in the Statea—so I’ve tried to stay here, and I’m inches away from starting my feature film. We’ll find out soon if we’ll start shooting in June. So that’s why I’ve stayed here. Otherwise I’d be down there, for sure.
How’d you land the role of Josh?
I went in— I don’t know if you know this, but I was the first person cast in the show, apparently. Which is kinda weird. They told me that, anyway. I went in for an audition and I almost didn’t go into the audition—that’s what’s so weird about life, you know? I was like, “No way—I’m not going in for this!” Because the casting had described him as a Jewish guy, uptight, works in finance and all that. I never play those kinds of characters, I don’t have that look, I just—I just didn’t feel right at all. So I almost said, “No, I’m not going to go in for this.” And so, when I went in, they said “Have fun.” So I went in and just had fun. I just did whatever I wanted, I was screwing around. But it resonated with them, they loved the choices I made. And then they changed the last name—I don’t remember the original last name of the character—but they turned it into Josh MacIntosh, because of my look or something. But it was something else before. So they called me in again to audition a couple of times, and then they cast me in the role. But that was back in 2007.
In the first three seasons of the show, Josh is pretty strictly a villain. How’d you try to humanize him?
At first, in the first season, Jana [Sinyor, creator and producer of Being Erica] told me about that episode, on the balcony in the blackout, where I tell Erica about my feelings for her. And I knew that was coming, so I knew that I could kinda get away with some “there is a good side to this person, and it’s just a sad, a tragedy that he’s in love with someone and wants to get close to her, but he’s with someone else just to get close to her.” There’s something really desperate and sad about that. So I tried to keep that side of him, and I knew it was coming, so I felt safe, I felt that episode would kind of clear some things about him, instead of being so one-dimensional. In the beginning, I tried to give him humor, too. In the first episode, and in the one where we were playing twister, or whatever we were doing, I was trying to inject as much fun in it as possible. So if you hated me, and hated the character, at least you got laughs and that was worth something, so that’s what I went for.
And as you mentioned, one of the major through-lines for your character, even early on, was your feelings for Erica, but it only came up like twice in the whole series. Was that something that you were playing in every scene, sort of underneath, when you’re talking to Erica?
Yeah, yeah. It especially came—I was told that, like I said, from the beginning, by Jana. She knew where the series was going from the beginning. It was kind of bizarre. Like, she knew at the pilot, like she was telling me at the pilot this was going to happen. I was like, “Wow. Okay.” So yeah, so I had that luxury. So… there was one scene, I remember in particular, where I kind of forgot that, and they reminded me, like, that’s the undertone of this scene, so I was like, “Oh, yeah, I forgot. I’m in love with her.” So I don’t remember the dialogue from the show that well, but the scene was in the kitchen where she finally confronts me, throws all this stuff back in my face, which makes me really emotional, which is what they were going after. So it turned the scene into something completely different. And it worked out really well. But that was definitely one where everything was the undertone, even in the scene where I went into the bar and got punched out by Kai—which was a lot of fun. That was all that motivated me. All that motivated me was my love for Erica. That was really good place to launch from.
Through most of the series you were pretty mean to Erica, and had far more scenes with Sam than her, was it hard to buy into that, or to sell that particular relationship?
Um, you know, I don’t know. Yes and no. They’re both so different in their approach and how they work, so I just kind of listened to them and didn’t think much about what was going on underneath, and tried to play the surface value of the scene, and then finding what was underneath while we were working together. But they made it really easy because Erin [Karpluk, who played Erica] is such a good actress, and she really gives it 100% all the time, so I could really feel that energy from her, that she kind of knows something that I don’t, or that I kind of know something that she doesn’t. With Sam it was in the writing, that I wasn’t in love with her, so it was kind of simple that way, to work with them. We all knew what we were doing. She knew I wasn’t in love with her by the second season, so that played up every scene that we were in. So it made it a lot of fun.
As you said, one of Josh’s key scenes takes place during the infamous blackout. Was it fun recreating recent history in the flashbacks?
Yeah, it was so cool, ‘cause I lived in Toronto when it happened. I was living with my girlfriend, who’s now my wife, and I remembered when that happened. So when we were shooting the scene it brought me back, and I thought, “Oh my god, we’re doing something that happened in our city,” and I thought that was really really really really cool. But we shot that scene like, really late at night and that was the last scene of the day, and I drank so much Near Beer—you know, like, 0.5, not 0.5, like, non-alcoholic beer—that I felt drunk. I just drank so much of that. All day I was drinking that beer because in every scene in everything, that really helped. That’s what I remember from that scene. Drinking so much beer.
What was the youngest age you got to play on the show? Was it fun to channel someone who is not quite as experienced as you are?
*Laughs* I don’t know. I think in the first episode of the fourth season, that one, I think when we went back to Florida and all that, I think that was the earliest I got to play. Because apparently we were just starting my relationship with Sam, so I remember reading the script and figuring that all out. So it was like, a really strong contrast. Because what happened in the present, I was much older—I was four years older—than when you first met me in the series, and then the scene was happening in 1996, or 1997, or whatever it was. So like, ten years before. So that was the biggest contrast I’m sure.
Even when he’s Erica’s patient in the season four premiere, Josh really struggles with getting his side of the story heard. Do you feel like the character resolves his issues the last time we see him?
Uh, do you? *Laughs* No, I’m kidding. Seriously, I think so. Personally, I think so. But I was kind of joking about that, asking you. You know, a lot of the fans of the show contacted me, after that episode, and said how emotional it made them feel, and they got to see Josh in a completely different light, and all this stuff. Because some of the fans are so passionate, and they thought it did [complete his story], and that’s what made me feel really good, because that’s what we were all going for—to see some humanity, some resolve, some peace in him.
Do you feel like you got to the end of his arc, or do you think he could have gone on much longer?
Well, I’d call it Being Josh. Oh, goodness, he has a lot of problems. Yes, I think that was it. By the end of it, I kind of knew that was the end of it for Josh. And I gave Jana a big hug, because we’d been working on it for four years, on and off, and I wasn’t in season three, basically at all. So to give me that kind of gift of the premiere of the last season, with that kind of material—I was overwhelmed, I was so happy. Because they really wanted to resolve Josh, and finish that arc as well. I think they did, beautifully. That’s why when I got the script it felt like a gift. I could really sink my teeth into it and kind of go for that objective. And I definitely felt that the end of the scene—I remember doing the scene with Erin, that last scene—and that episode, and my god, it goes on for three and a half minutes or something. It’s a really, really, really long scene, and we got completely lost in it. Meaning, we really started playing together and it was just so much fun and I was like, “What a great way to end my experience on Being Erica, with something like that.” It was just a blast to do it. I loved it.
Being Erica’s famous for shooting on locations all over Toronto. What were some of the best places you’ve been?
ViaRail! *Laughs* Well, definitely that loft. That penthouse loft where we shot the blackout scene—that was incredible. That was something like a two million dollar penthouse loft and that was the balcony of the place. It was just like, “Wow. Jesus, it’s huge.” It was incredible. It had a little bar in the loft and sort of, just to get to see these little places in Toronto was cool. But the most memorable was definitely in front of ViaRail at Union Station, because we’re shooting that scene when we first see each other and kind of a crowd gathered around. And that was really bizarre. I’d never experienced that before. Some of the fans noticed her right away, asking for her autograph and picture, but then all of a sudden, there’s more and more and more people. It wasn’t a huge crowd, just a little crowd, but they were definitely prominent. And I could see them, behind Erin, when they were shooting my coverage, so I kind of had to suspend my reality, like, “Who are all these people, looking at me?” It was kind of weird. But it was great to be outdoors and everything, and I take the train often, so actually shooting right in front of it and then actually walking through the sliding doors, I was like, “Wow. This is neat.” It was fun.
You mentioned that you’re hoping to start a feature in June, where do you go from here and what are you working on? Can you elaborate?
Yeah. The film is called Backcountry. I wrote it about a year and a half ago. I got a producer from Fella Films named Thomas Michael involved, he’s done a couple of films, with Fella Films. We have our two lead actors that are attached to it—Sarah Power, and Jeff Brute. And we’re really close, like I said, because we went through all the motions, and the producer, the guy that I’m working with is really close with Fella Films. So when he brought the project to them, they were really excited. Because essentially the film—it’s very similar to Open Water, I don’t know if you’ve seen that film—but it’s Open Water in the woods. And it’s telling a Canadian story that actually happened to a couple of campers. Hair-raising tidbits here and there, it’s about two people who go out camping, and then they eventually get lost, and then they encounter the wildlife, and will one of them walk out alive?. It’s kind of a like a thriller, drama/thriller, with elements of horror in it. And Fella Films got really excited, cause it’s very doable, this kind of film. So we worked on the script, really, really hard, on the script, got it really tight over the past year, but Fella Films is in LA, so I had to fly there a couple of times to finish all this process. But Fella Films did put money into it for packaging deals, so there’s already money invested in it, and that’s why we’re really excited. This isn’t Thomas Michael’s first rodeo, so he’s seen this before, and he really believes that it’s gonna happen. But, you know, I’ll count the chickens when they hatch. And we’re almost there, so that’s why we’re getting the final word soon. So we’re all kind of crossing our fingers, and if that happens, then we’ll be shooting in June, and hopefully it’ll be released in the fall.
What would you consider the highlight of your career so far?
Talking to you! *Laughs* What do I consider the highlight of my career, so far? Wow. Oh, do you know what I’ll say, honestly? It’s not about so much the project, it was just about things that are possible—I think one of the highlights of my career was, well, I always wanted to work with Jennifer Love Hewitt, when I was younger. I saw her stuff when it came out and I always thought that she was really cool, and I said, “One day I’d love to work with her,” but I believed it. You know what? It’s gonna happen. I just knew it. And within a year—not even—when I was sitting across from her in a bar doing a scene, it dawned on me that I really imagined this, that I pictured this was possible. I’m sitting there looking at her, going “Oh my God.” That was one of the most amazing moments. Just kind of, believing in positivity and making something happen. But doing that project with her was kind of a highlight, just to believe that really anything is possible.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Just thank you so much for the nomination. That’s great. I’m so flattered. And so happy to be part of it. This is just great. Thank you so much.