Saturday, October 04, 2008

Corner Gas - Oct. 4, 2008



Gas Pains

The final season of Corner Gas will mean 
a return to square one for its cast members. 
Even for a veteran like Eric Peterson.

By Eric Kohanik

I’ve always had a tremendous respect for Eric Peterson.

No, it’s not because of his first name. It’s because he is truly one of Canada’s most compelling actors.

My respect for Peterson stretches way back to the late 1980s and early ’90s, when I would simply gobble up his performances as Leon Rabinovitch, the scrappy, left-wing lawyer he played on Street Legal, a CBC drama series that was set in a downtown Toronto law office.

You can still catch reruns of Street Legal on cable, every weekday on Canada’s version of Bravo. Originally, though, CBC aired the show on Friday evenings, as a lead-in to its simulcasts of CBS’s Dallas.

Yes, this was back when TV was worth staying home for on Friday nights.

Peterson has done a ton of TV guest stints since his Street Legal days, popping up on shows ranging from Touched by an Angel and Da Vinci’s Inquest to Puppets Who Kill and two Trudeau miniseries, in which he portrayed the legendary Tommy Douglas.

Peterson has done a lot of theatre work, too, which he refers to as his “steady employment.” For the past few years, though, his steady employment has been the role of Oscar Leroy, the crabby dad of Brent Leroy (Brent Butt) on CTV’s Corner Gas.

Oscar has become a Canadian TV icon. His exclamations of “jackass!” have become as much of a signature for him as “meathead!” became for Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) on All in the Family.

Corner Gas begins its sixth – and final – season on Oct. 13. According to Butt, the show won’t be going out with a bang. When the final episode wraps up, it will be just the end of another day in the fictional Saskatchewan town of Dog River.

For Peterson, though, the end of Corner Gas will mean things have come full circle.

“I’m a Canadian actor, you see,” the amiable Saskatchewan native told me as we huddled in the corner at a CTV media event in Toronto back in June. “Now, I go back to square one again. Once the series is over, I go back to looking for work. I’m back to scale salaries. But that’s my life.”

It will be the life of most of the Corner Gas cast. But then, it’s the plight all actors face – even a respected veteran like Peterson.

“People aren’t banging my door down, Canadian producers, to get me to do things for them,” Peterson smiles. “So, on that level, when the series is over, it’s quite a bucket of cold water in the face again.”

Like most actors, Peterson says he is “always thinking about what the next job is going to be.” So, is the next role he wants to tackle going to be a comedy or a drama?

“The next role I want is just a role,” Peterson laughs. “I don’t even dare think of choosing, making a demand. Basically, you never get far above, ‘I’ll do anything they want me to do.’ “

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