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Actor Callum Keith Rennie would blend almost anywhere in his black hoodie, jean jacket and black pants -- well, maybe not so much in the posh downtown hotel where we meet during a break in shooting Shattered, a TV cop-drama pilot in which he stars, but certainly on the street outside.

But there's something memorable about Rennie's on-screen blending over a 15-year career -- it seems longer because he's been such an essential piece of every creative puzzle. He was the romantic foil to Sandra Oh in 1994's Double Happiness, and then a key part of the ensemble two years later in the punk-rock road movie Hard Core Logo. He's bounced between Canada (Last Night, eXistenZ) and the U.S. (Memento) ever since, most recently doing the Vancouver-L.A. one-two this year with David Duchovny in the feature X-Files: I Want to Believe and in TV's Californication.

"You don't want to steal focus, you want to participate in the whole of it," Rennie says of his supporting style. "Maybe that's the Canadian in me. I don't want to step on toes."

He had filmed a couple of X-Files TV episodes back in the mid-1990s, small roles for Rennie, but creator Chris Carter brought Rennie back for a major role in the X-Files feature released this summer.

"He brings a rare quality," Carter told me last spring. "He plays a villain but I think he approaches it with a humanity, actually, that makes the character more than it could have been."

Duchovny and Rennie bonded over several late nights filming a chase-and-fight sequence in downtown Vancouver alleys last winter.

Duchovny told Rennie about his series Californication, about a self-loathing, sex-addicted novelist in Hollywood. Duchovny gave him the first season DVDs and asked Rennie if he wanted in on the second season. Rennie agreed to play a volatile record producer who hires the novelist to do his biography. Originally there for just a couple of episodes, Rennie stayed for the whole season, currently airing in Canada on the Movie Network.

"[The writers] had a vague idea of what they were going for, they were writing as we went along, so that was exciting," Rennie says. "It was adult themes, people's dilemmas about art and selling out. What was great was to come up with ideas, say: 'David, you know what might be funny?' Then an episode or two later it's there."

Rennie, a four-rounds-a-week golfer in his days off, came up with a sequence with the two characters smacking balls over the mansions into L.A.'s Laurel Canyon.

"I thought we needed more scenes where we weren't at each other, or that weren't woman-related, just doing something mindless."

Rennie was impressed at how the star set the tone on Californication's set. The two would goof off between scenes by throwing stuff into trash cans, keeping a daily score.

"David runs the show in a great way -- a cohesive, fast-moving thing. Good ideas won the day."

While Rennie was in L.A. working this summer, he was offered the lead role in Shattered, a pilot for Canwest Global about a Vancouver ex-cop traumatized by the murder of his family. The trauma has left the character with dissociative identity disorder, wherein the victim manifests multiple personalities. Writer Rick Crew's rendering is a sort of Beautiful Mind meets CSI, as Rennie's character shares an apartment with those personalities -- a tough guy (Colin Cunningham) a small boy (Quinn Lord) and a teen computer whiz (Chad Krowchuk).

Rennie's character assumes those personalities outside the apartment, as he helps a cop (Toronto's Laura Jordan) solve crimes.

"We kept on seeing everybody all across Canada. We weren't really convinced that anybody could pull it off, changing into the other characters," says Debra Beard, who with her husband, Hugh, is one of the show's four executive producers. "Somebody said what about Callum, and it just hit us. We didn't even test him."

They find out early next year whether the show will be picked up as a series. For Rennie, the two weeks that wrapped Friday marked his debut as a show's anchor.

"I haven't done it before -- you don't have to take the heat when you're No. 2 or No. 3," he says. The first day's filming involved a complicated shoot-out scene next to Coal Harbour. "As we shot, I kind of went, OK, I thought it would be weirder, more uncomfortable. It seems that with the amount of work I've done I can take on that responsibility."

And Rennie kept in touch with Duchovny for advice on how to handle the main role.

"When you're No. 1 on a show there's more questions to be answered -- the tone, things to figure out," Rennie says. "I've been e-mailing him as I go, a couple of times I just had questions."

Duchovny's advice?

"The lead leads. That was the short and sweet David Duchovny kind of answer."

gschaefer@theprovince.com
© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

From November 2008, found here.

ETA: Shattered has been green-lit for Showcase. The 13 ordered one-hour episodes are by now in pre-production (planned airdate is 2009/2010). From here. And here is the preview website from E1 Television.

Comments

( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Jul. 25th, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, thanks for sharing this!

"He brings a rare quality," Carter told me last spring. "He plays a villain but I think he approaches it with a humanity, actually, that makes the character more than it could have been."

That's one thing I've really been able to appreciate about him as an actor as of late. I would be sitting watching Harper's Island (where they really tried to brush over his character; we didn't get much character development, very two-dimensional villains) and there would be this humanity peeking through, even in a situation where (closed-minded) writers were trying to make this such an open-and-shut sort of show. Callum was there, showing us that this man who was doing simply terrible things...had motivations. He wasn't just a psychopath. Well, ha...I mean, he was a psychopath, but my point is that we got to see this motivations, and how they had tinged him; driven him to madness in a way. All these things that weren't given space and time to exist were existing in this quiet, subtle sort of way due to how he approaches playing a villain.

And I hear people say all the time lately, "Oh well, we know he's going to be a villain in this" and you almost want to see him as a 'good guy' again, but then you look at how he plays these villains, and it's just fantastic.

I really enjoyed him in Californication. I remember watching the first few episodes with him, and people watching with me would be like "God, this guy's a skeez." But he's not just this coked out playboy, there's this imperfection to the character that is really well-mastered. I'm glad they developed on that near the end of the second season. It was really a fitting role for him to play.
rchelsea2005
Jul. 25th, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)
Oops! Didn't mean to post anon!
(no subject) - exbex - Jul. 25th, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rchelsea2005 - Jul. 25th, 2009 06:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
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akite
Jul. 25th, 2009 06:11 pm (UTC)
I've got my fingers crossed that Scattered gets picked up as a series, then maybe, maybe sold to a U.S. network. I think I'd faint.
rchelsea2005
Jul. 25th, 2009 06:21 pm (UTC)
I am so with you on that one. Here's hoping!
c_regalis
Jul. 25th, 2009 10:49 pm (UTC)
It has been picked up. Thirteen episodes in pre-production right now. (See my comment to Akite. \c/)
(no subject) - rchelsea2005 - Jul. 25th, 2009 11:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
love_jackianto
Jul. 25th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
Me too! I would love seeing it in the U.S.
(no subject) - c_regalis - Jul. 25th, 2009 10:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - love_jackianto - Jul. 26th, 2009 01:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
bigbadblackhole
Jul. 25th, 2009 08:27 pm (UTC)
Shattered
It has been picked up \o/
http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/April2009/27/c5422.html

TORONTO, April 27 /CNW/ - Canwest continues its legacy of delivering bold
Canadian television as two new series - Lawyers Guns and Money (working title)
and Shattered - are green-lit for Showcase. The 13 episode one-hour dramas
begin production this summer with a 2009/2010 airdate on the channel.

Re: Shattered - surya74 - Jul. 25th, 2009 10:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Shattered - c_regalis - Jul. 25th, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Shattered - c_regalis - Jul. 25th, 2009 11:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Shattered - surya74 - Jul. 26th, 2009 08:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Shattered - c_regalis - Jul. 25th, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
c_regalis
Jul. 25th, 2009 10:47 pm (UTC)
I think it did? There is this article here. It says it's been green-lit. Uhm, that is picked up, right? As far as I remember it's not been sold to international broadcasters yet, but I think they are trying to do that right now. Filming for the thirteen episodes should start... in the next couple of weeks or so? They are in pre-production. \c/
c_regalis
Jul. 25th, 2009 10:48 pm (UTC)
Oh, right. Like bigbadblackhole said as well. Ahem.
brigid_tanner
Jul. 25th, 2009 06:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the article! Shattered sounds like a great role for him.
c_regalis
Jul. 25th, 2009 11:10 pm (UTC)
It's sounds like an amazing role for him. I can't wait to see a trailer. Or at least some more pictures. Or something.
neu111
Jul. 26th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
He plays a villain but I think he approaches it with a humanity, actually, that makes the character more than it could have been.
Agreed. And to the discussion in the comments as well. He throws himself whole in the characters he plays. That's why it would be nice to see him play a good guy again soon if possible. Even a bit dysfunctional. A happy ending wouldn't be bad either. At least a not dying ending?

Can't wait to see him as a a small boy (aww) and a teen computer whiz (eXistenZ-geeky?)

All the part about Californication is great. I love that someone was perceptive enough to let him do his thing and give us his Lew Ashby. My opinion of David Duchovny certainly went up several notches after that.

A great article on the whole (with picture &hearts), I enjoyed reading it again!
c_regalis
Jul. 26th, 2009 09:34 pm (UTC)
Yeah, well. It's time we start putting up all the newer articles as well. They might come in handy. :)

He throws himself whole in the characters he plays.
I am sure other actors do that as well. It's just that the outcome is rarely that amazing.

And yeah, a good guy. Finally. (I am afraid he'll be more than just a bit dysfunctional though. And I am not too optimistic about positive endings here. But, well, at least for thirteen episodes he won't die. Hopefully.)

I can't wait either. I want a trailer. Or some pictures. Or something, you know.

My opinion of David Duchovny certainly went up several notches after that.

Oh yeah. Mine too. Actually, my opinion of pretty much everyone involved in Californication. The whole thing is just amazing.
bigbadblackhole
Apr. 14th, 2010 02:06 pm (UTC)
c_regalis
Apr. 14th, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC)
OMG! THANK YOU! \c/
( 44 comments — Leave a comment )

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