Entertainment

Canadian Hollywood stars coming home this summer for Canuck projects

Film and TV star Cobie Smulders, comic Will Sasso and showrunner and screenwriter Chris Haddock are among the Canucks who say they are happily returning north for various ventures.
Cobie Smulders is looking to produce a show in Canada in the near future. (Associated Press)

The pull towards Hollywood is hard to resist for many Canadian film and TV stars.

But for some performers who've found success in the United States, the pull to return home can be just as strong.

Film and TV star Cobie Smulders, comic Will Sasso and showrunner and screenwriter Chris Haddock are among the Canucks who say they are happily returning north for various ventures.

Sasso stars in the summer CBC-TV series Fool Canada, a hidden-camera comedy that pokes gentle fun at random Canadians. The Mad TV star said he was immediately interested when the CBC pitched him the show.

"Anytime I get to come home and work, it is special for me," Sasso said during a CBC promotional event in May.

"Because I really want to be back here working as much as I can. I'm from Vancouver and friends of mine will shoot something up in Vancouver and they'll be like, 'Ugh.' They've never been to Vancouver and they're like, 'They got me stuck in Vancouver for three months.' I'm like, 'No, you're being set free. It's one of the most livable cities in the entire world."'

Sasso, whose big-screen credits include The Three Stooges, says he feels some responsibility to support his homeland's film and TV industry.

Lure of coming North

"As a Canadian, I feel like we all have a stake in the business here. And no matter how far you stray — and I've been down in L.A. for a long time — no matter how far you stray you have a stake in the state of the business.... It really does matter and I'm always rooting for the entire country."

Smulders says that's one of the reasons she's trying to develop a comedy for Bell Media, starring her Canuck pal Paul Campbell of CTV's Spun Out.

"I'm really, really excited to start shooting in Canada, bringing a television show that's made in Canada by Canadians is really, really exciting for me to do," says Smulders, who would stay behind the camera as a producer if the project gets the green light.

Production company Project 10 describes the single-camera comedy Beyond Repair as the story of a charming out-of-work actor who is forced to grow up when he meets the nerdy son he never knew he had.

Smulders, who gained fame on the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother and now has a recurring role in the Avengers franchise, says she loves being in a position to hire Canadian "writers, crew members, actors, producers, directors."

"I grew up in Canada and the first thing that I did was went down to the States to find work because there wasn't really anything that was either hiring me in Vancouver or just going on. So I'm really excited to provide a show that we can hire local talent."

For Canadian screenwriter Chris Haddock, returning to Canada after working on HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" in Brooklyn, N.Y., meant getting a chance to try out the lessons he learned on the U.S. set.

"That was the first opportunity in about 15, 20 years where I hadn't been showrunning my own material and that gave me a really good look at the showrunner's job from a distance," says Haddock, whose celebrated Canadian TV titles include Da Vinci's Inquest and Intelligence.

"At Boardwalk they were either making some similar mistakes that I was making or they had figured out how not to fall into that... So I found it very, very, very handy."

Haddock returns to CBC this fall with his new espionage drama The Romeo Section. But returning to conventional television after working in the world of premium cable is an adjustment, he admits.

"You aren't given as long a leash to succeed or fail. Whereas on some of the cable outlets, because they're given season-long orders, implicitly you're given more time to (succeed)," he says.

"I'm probably somewhere in the middle here with the opportunity at the CBC — I have to be quick out of the gate and the expectations are high."

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