19-2 star Jared Keeso creates CraveTV's first original series
Remember that guy from that small town you once drove through? Or maybe it was the guy back home who always wore a plaid shirt and jeans? Or maybe he worked the produce stand every second Saturday?
Anyway, that guy now has his own show. Really!
Embodied by 19-2 star Jared Keeso, that guy is Wayne — the main character in the new CraveTV web series Letterkenny. The titular Ontario ghost town has been fictionalized as the home of 5,000 blessed souls, all of them either hicks, skids, hockey players or Christians.
“The content is just so silly,” says Keeso, who’s also the show’s creator, co-writer and executive producer.
“We’re not trying to do anything profound. We’re just trying to be goofy and make people laugh. People can interpret that any way they want, but I’m certainly prepared for people to come along and take my head off.”
Letterkenny, CraveTV’s first original series, is based on the Letterkenny Problems web shorts, and before that, the anonymous Twitter account Listowel Problems that Keeso and his best pal created to spoof his old stomping grounds — local bar, Irish festival, hockey arena and all.
“I was reading (the tweets) one night and I called my pal and said, ‘We have to blow our cover so everyone knows that we’re behind this, but I think if I shot this it could be pretty funny,’” says Keeso, fired up as a Buick LeSabre at a demolition derby.
“We definitely didn’t anticipate getting to the 12 million views mark. I think it’s impossible to predict what’s going to be viral on YouTube. But we’re thrilled it did, that’s for damn sure.”
Like Corner Gas and Trailer Park Boys before it, Letterkenny’s six half-hour episodes bank on rural universality — those quirks of small-town living that define an experience that you can’t help but giggle your arse off at.
“It’s not directly linked to my hometown of Listowel, Ont., but it’s certainly a portrait of small-town Ontario in general. Which I don’t think is far off from small-town Manitoba, or small-town Alberta or even small-town Wisconsin or Idaho,” says Keeso.
The main characters, including Wayne’s bud Daryl (Nathan Dales) and sister Katy (Michelle Mylett), are sharply drawn. The dialogue crackles with freshness and goes down as smooth as a bottle of Bud Light. The opening scene alone references Tinder, PokerStars.com, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Justin Bieber.
“I think that’s one of my strengths, those regional gold nuggets, you know. Just the small-town wisdom, the quotable dialogue. I hear a lot. If I hear a gem it goes right into the script,” says Keeso, who fit Letterkenny around his 19-2 schedule.
Keeso won a Canadian Screen Award for his role as police officer Ben Chartier in 19-2, by the way. It’s stored at his parents while the actor transitions from Vancouver to Montreal. The Bravo series wrapped filming Season 3 in December, and the network has yet to announce an air date.
“I think that it’s so important for actors to be writing and creating their own stuff in their downtime, and using the money they make in this business to create their own things,” says Keeso.
“It doesn’t cost that much and the world is so big. Instead of waiting for the casting calls, instead of waiting for the jobs, create your own opportunities. You’re creating an audience and a fan base and it’s just so easy — I think more actors should be doing it.”
Letterkenny is now streaming on CraveTV