Meet Tyler Labine, the hardest working slacker in television. Of late, his hobbies include growing unruly facial hair, smoking pot and resolving issues for ghosts who can’t yet rest in peace.
That last one is a requirement for his role as medium-for-hire Kevin Pacalioglu in Deadbeat, a Hulu series now streaming on CraveTV.
The first two? Think of them as incidental perks of the job. But though the marijuana clouds in Deadbeat are positively cumulus, Labine insists they’re also positively fake.
“No marijuana plants were harmed in the filming of Deadbeat,” the Brampton, Ont., native says with a laugh.
“I smoked this very bizarre fake weed concoction that our propmaster made for me. It’s like a mix of herbal tobacco, which kills your lungs, and this readily available commercially made fake pot that can give you a little buzz, but there’s no marijuana in it.”
With a third season of Deadbeat on the way, Labine is happy to endure some frustration for the glory.
Until now, the 37-year-old actor was known as a one-season wonder: That is, he often starred in shows that only lasted a season — Sons of Tucson, Animal Practice and Mad Love among them.
“In my mind I built up this ceiling on where I was allowed to go with the success of my shows,” he admits.
But the 2007 CW comedy Reaper, about guys charged with returning escaped demons to hell, made it to two seasons. The supernatural similarities between that show and Labine’s current series aren’t lost on him.
“Reaper left a big void in my heart when it got cancelled. I loved it. I knew there was so much more in that realm that I wanted to see,” he says.
“I took Deadbeat because I thought, ‘Oh, maybe this is an unofficial continuation of what we set out to do on Reaper.’ But I think Deadbeat is a very different show.”
Deadbeat also streams online rather than airing on a conventional network — a setup that Labine says grants more creative freedom.
“(With a network show) they know what do, and they do it well. And if you don’t fit immediately into that idea or mould, you’re cut off at the knees. A lot of shows don’t even get a chance to find who they are,” he says.
“Hulu kind of just let us find it, especially in Season 2. We got our TV-14 rating lifted, we were allowed to swear, you could actually see me doing weed and it was edgier.”
Deadbeat also stars Brandon T. Jackson as Kevin’s best friend and drug dealer Rufus, So You Think You Can Dance host Cat Deeley as fraudulent medium Camomile White, and Lucy DeVito as her mousey assistant.
Guest stars so far have included Samantha Bee, Jason Biggs, Danny DeVito, Fred Armisen, Labine’s wife Carrie Ruscheinsky and his Reaper co-star Ray Wise.
“I pulled in so many favours, getting James Franco to come on the show, and Zachary Levi and Michael Ian Black,” he says. “But I do have some friends who, for Season 3, I’m definitely going to be pulling some big favours. Hopefully it won’t be as hard this time.”
One person we’re holding out hope for? Ryan Gosling, who starred with Labine in the ’90s Canadian teen comedy Breaker High, which featured students attending high school on a cruise ship.
“I never hear about Breaker High until I come to Toronto. You guys love that show! Honestly, it’s like the rest of the world 10 years ago moved on and Canadians were like, ‘No! We’re clinging on to that floating-ship show!’” he says.
“Breaker High was a great time in my life. I was only 19 years old and it was the first time in my life I realized I could be a professional actor. My plan was to be a teacher. I was going to college.”
Deadbeat is now streaming on CraveTV