By Claire Bickley -- Toronto Sun, September 5, 1997
Callum Keith Rennie breaks into his harsh barking laugh at the notion that he is a man with a plan.
"My career has been so meticulously planned. I thought I would get into it late at 33 because I thought that would give me a greater advantage," he jokes.
But four years later the actor finds himself as the second lead on the most popular drama in Canadian TV history, something which doesn't yet mesh quite comfortably with his image as one of the country's hardest-working actors in independent film.
"Not any more," Rennie says, slapping his hand on the couch in his on-set trailer. "I'm on Due South!"
Not that he's complaining.
"This is the highest-end show in Canada. I think it's the best-written, the best-produced, the funniest and weirdest and quite subversive in its own right. Having me aboard creates even some more of that, I think," he says.
Then he grows serious.
"You do a lot of work and then as soon as you're on a successful show, all of a sudden you've sold out."
Some of it is unspoken. Some of it is film friends saying to him, in a certain tone of voice, "Wow, I couldn't see you on that show."
Some of it is a projection of the anxieties of an actor who made his name in rough-edged roles like a punk rocker in Hard Core Logo, drug addicts in Curtis' Charm and this year's Men With Guns, a smalltown, smalltime criminal trapped in a cycle of violence in TV's For Those Who Hunt The Wounded Down.
Production was mere days away when Rennie agreed to play the Chicago police detective partnered with Paul Gross' Canadian Mountie. David Marciano, Gross' co-star for the show's first two seasons, had pulled out in a contract dispute. Then Rennie heard that his character was named Stanley Kowalski. And that he had an ex-wife named Stella.
It gave him pause.
"It's like I didn't see myself as the character. You're respecting a premise that has already been set up and to respect the premise and still try to do your own work of what you believe is right, it was a bit hard coming in. I was a bit unsure about that. How broad it was. How broad it could be."
It didn't help that the first few scripts of the season had already been written with Marciano in mind. Some dialogue didn't fit right in Rennie's mouth, something exacerbated by episodes being shot out of sequence.
"It would have been great to come on and be just like as nervous and retarded as I was and have some of that come in because it would have been easy to play that, being out of my element trying to do somebody else's job," he says.
"The first couple episodes were tough because you've got a lot of f------ people looking at you going, 'Oh, is he going to do that?' I hate that. I'll never do it again because it's not wholly ever going to be yours."
He's only here now because his Due South deal is for a single season. His American agents advised him against doing even that.
"They'd rather have me in L.A. doing films. But I'm a good f------ Canadian. Either that or I'm terrified. You don't have to write that. 'Callum's terrified.' Don't write that."
It's the longest commitment so far from an actor who squirmed at six months duty on the pay TV series My Life As A Dog.
"I like working on lots of different gigs so that was a bit hard. You get to play a character and discover lots of different things about him but there's also you can get, maybe, safe," he says.
"If I felt like we were going to be doing this for another two or three more years, somehow this would feel more like a burden. Knowing it's a year with maybe they'll make more, I'm open to that. I'm not open to being locked in."
He'll make more money per episode of Due South than he's made on any film, on any three films he's done. But when Due South takes a production break, he'll go back to a lesser paycheque on Don McKellar's next feature film. In January, he'll be seen in McKellar's CBC comedy series Twitch City.
When Due South wraps next Spring, he may make that trip to the U.S. or work in Europe for a while, he says.
"By the time March comes around, I'll in my own mind feel like have to take a break from Canada. It's not a clever idea to glut yourself in a market. My Life As A Dog is playing, Due South will be on and Twitch City will be playing all at the same time. It could be like, 'Callum, f--- off, we're sick of your stupid, f------ face.'"
Maybe he'll drop out of sight altogether.
"I may move to New York and go to school - acting school. I suck."