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Talking Canadian TV and more with Anthony Lemke

The CANADIAN working actor
The CANADIAN working actor

Is it just me, or has TV been kind of awesome lately? But as most of it comes from south of our border and the American networks, I was left wondering if we could ever get some Canadian produced, "Event TV". I got the chance to talk to the always charming and well spoken Anthony Lemke who is one of Canada's most underrated but also hardest working actors as he has been reintroduced on the current season of "The Listener" and is also a key player on the upcoming season of the cop drama "19-2" being produced and aired on Bravo. We talked about his current work, his career, the state of Canadian TV and if we can catch up to our American counterparts and produce some Canadian "Event TV" of our very own.

Dave Voigt: You are sort of making a splash back on to TV now, how is your time back on "The Listener" treating you now?

Anthony Lemke: "The Listener" has just been an absolutely fantastic experience and just a great opportunity to come back into a series where your character has already been established. The show itself is obviously established and to be able to maintain the myth and the history of the show has just been fantastic for me as an actor. I know that there has been a real desire among the fan base to explore that mythology of Toby's powers and a lot of those things that they explored in Season 1 so bringing my character Becker back was a perfect opportunity to do that.

DV: It is also so encouraging to be able to see Canadian "Must See TV" that just tells great long arcing stories as well.

AL: I think so, especially as the industry matures. I know it is a boring thing to say but I really think that a lot of that will come down to funding models. It really does seem to come down to what kinds of networks are able to fund what kinds of stories. As we see the Canadian networks begin to expand, like Bravo who is now putting on their own original programming with something like "19-2" which falls into that more mature audience with advanced storylines that could match up with some of the offerings on the network's in the States. As our networks and producers are increasingly able to find the funding for shows like that it doesn't take much for the writing to keep up. It is exciting time to be a part of that process up here without a doubt.

DV: Do you think that our TV will ever get to the point that we get something like a Canadian "True Detective"?

AL: I hope so! I hope I'm on it as well...but you know I think it is possible but it comes back to your challenges being that we can't USUALLY get financing for things domestically and we have to go off running around looking for partners and when you have too many cooks in the kitchen it tends to water the vision of what is that you initially want to make and I think that is what we have seen happen in a lot of Canadian programs. Something like a "True Detective" is a really interesting example but I think that we are seeing shows like that or at least approaching that but boy oh boy...wouldn't it just be fantastic?

DV: It really does strike me though that we really are one or two moves away from someone like a David Cronenberg or a Xavier Dolan saying that they wouldn't want to mount an 8 episode mini-series or something on Canadian TV and it would be a complete game changer in my mind.

AL: Oh are you kidding me if a Xavier Dolan wanted to do TV, that would be event television for sure. I don't think we are far away from it, I think you are right because there are quite a few things that have happened where making good television in Canada is cheaper and more cost effective then it has ever been and the market has begun to catch up with the robustness of the specialty networks. It is definitely possible and I think that the challenge now is to break down those barriers in the artistic community as well in the way that they have been in the past 8-10 years or so in American television. For obvious reasons the large band networks are doing a certain kind of television and that is never going to change. That is where we currently are and while it has produced some high quality stuff like "Flashpoint" it is also a very episodic cop show and something like a "True Detective" really will never be made for a network like CTV here in Canada. When the networks, especially the specialty networks starting putting out fair that is a little more edgy and artistic and I think then we will see storytellers like a Xavier Dolan say "Let's do it". But what I really think is interesting is what the future of the CBC holds now that they are losing this massive revenue generator in hockey and they are going to be forced to think of themselves in a very different way. I mean a guy like a Ken Finkleman who did our version of "The Newsroom" does fall into that edgier category and are we going to see the CBC try to dig a little deeper and away from the more mainstream over the air type stuff because they have to try different things in order to keep it going and feed the's certainly possible. It is one of the models that is out there for them going forward.

DV: Now obviously on "The Listener" you are revisiting an older character but on "19-2" you are trying something new and on a network that is producing their own stuff for the first time.

AL: Being from Quebec, the French incarnation of "19-2" did so well and has been a bit revolutionary almost by going back in a way to an older type of cop story in a way. The simpler story about dudes in a police cruiser that don't require a PHD or supernatural powers almost in a Hill Street Blues kind of vein. Granted it isn't a world that we haven't seen before but they have taken the advances in not only technology as well and pushed the boundaries of what we are used to in the old precinct based cop drama. It's worked very well. I was brought in on the English side at the end of the very first season to kick off a very disturbing story line for Season 2 that we haven't started shooting yet. However I will say this that coming in to a show like this, is really a big, big honor for me and I am very excited to be a part of that kind of storytelling and I'm excited that the industry has awoken to being open to making a Montreal based story, but in English. Much like how the movie version of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" was in English, but based in Sweden and we get and we move on, telling a mature story in that kind of environment.

DV: At the end of the day, do you have a preference between TV or features or is it just a question of being happy to have the work?

AL: As a Canadian actor, with a family and a mortgage I am happy to be working steady, I'm not going to try and pretend I'm something that I am not in that regard, but that being said you do have to draw your own limits and say that maybe you don't want to work on that kind of thing or that maybe I have done enough of another kind of thing. Especially on the French side, as my breakout role was playing the husband/boyfriend type and I get a lot of offers on the French side for similar work, and I've said yes to some and no to some but it can be limiting and I am thankful to have a certain degree of flexibility and you address each project as they come along and the challenge is to make sure that more projects are always coming along.

I like to say that the work of an actor is everything that happens off the set, because when you are on set, that is the fun part, the part that most of us would do for free so you can't exactly call that your job, you just have to make sure that you have another set to go to when the one you are on is done.

"The Listener" airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV and CTV GO.

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