maury-chaykin

Maury Chaykin appears with Kathleen Laskey in the Ken Finkleman TV comedy At the Hotel. ((CBC))

Maury Chaykin, a prolific and award-winning actor recently seen in the hit TV comedy Less Than Kind, has died.

The veteran actor died in Toronto early Tuesday, his 61st birthday, his agent Paul Hemrend told CBC News. No cause of death was confirmed, but Chaykin had been battling kidney problems.

Chaykin, born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to an American father and Canadian mother, studied drama at the State University of New York in Buffalo.

He moved to Toronto to join the theatre scene in the mid-1970s, and the city would remain his base for the rest of his life.  

Ferne Downey, national president of the actors union ACTRA, hailed Chaykin for his contribution to Canadian film and TV on Tuesday.

"Maury was an infinitely gifted actor who has left us an incomparable body of work that will be cherished for many generations to come," she said.

"We will miss his passion for his craft and his love and commitment to building our Canadian industry."

An actor with more than 120 credits, Chaykin regularly appeared in the films of Atom Egoyan (Adoration, Where the Truth Lies, The Sweet Hereafter, Exotica, The Adjuster) and Don McKellar (Cooking with Stella, Blindness ).

Other prominent appearances include Whale Music, Dances with Wolves and the TV film Canada's Sweetheart: The Saga of Hal C. Banks. He played the titular detective in a Nero Wolfe series and appeared in Entourage in a notable send-up of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

In Whale Music, based on the novel by Canadian Paul Quarrington,  who died earlier this year, Chaykin played the washed-up rock star who spends his time mourning his dead brother (played by Paul Gross) and writing music for whales. That performance — part pathos, part comedy — earned him a Genie Award for best actor.

In an April interview on CBC's cultural affairs show Q, Chaykin said he didn't consider "character actor" a negative label.

"It's been a real blessing over the years," he said. "I don't know what to attribute it to, other than creative producers and directors who see different things in an actor. And they've seen different aspects of me.

"There have been attempts to typecast me. But I've been in control of that ... by protecting myself financially, so that I'm not in a position where I have to take the same kinds of gigs all the time. The word 'no' is my protection.

"But I've been so happy with the way things have panned out, and the kind of roles that I've been offered have been interesting to me and those are the ones that I accept," he said, listing roles such as Desmond Howl in Whale Music, Uncle Arthur in Diane Keaton's Unstrung Heroes and the wealthy entrepreneur in Egoyan's The Adjuster as his favourite roles.

He also earned Gemini awards for his spots in La Femme Nikita in 1998 and CBC's At the Hotel in 2006.

Most recently, Chaykin starred as Sam Blecher, the driving-instructor father of the main character Sheldon Blecher, in the edgy, coming-of-age comedy Less Than Kind, produced by Mark McKinney.

"I'm having a great time," Chaykin said of the production, which he hailed as a "group of people who all love what they're doing."

Chaykin is survived by his wife, actress Susannah Hoffmann, and their daughter, Rose.

With files from The Canadian Press