By Nathaniel G. Moore
Things are looking bright for Annex actor Paul Bates this summer.
In addition to a highly anticipated show The Soaps—a Live Improvised Soap Opera at Toronto’s Fringe Festival this month, the entire cast of CTV’s “Dan for Mayor” are up for best ensemble for a Canadian Comedy Award, which will be announced in the fall.
The Soaps, produced by The National Theatre of the World, will riff off the backstage politicking and nervousness that is typical in a Stratford Festival playhouse. Different versions of this play have been running all year at The Comedy Bar on Monday nights.
According to Bates, the play will take you backstage and expose this environment, and the personalities, “those characters who populate that world.”
“It’s more about the intrigue and the drama that goes on,” said Bates.
As for the comedy award, the announcement was a pleasing shock to the actor, who was a guest host announcing the nominations online earlier this month.
Bates plays Jeff on “Dan for Mayor,” a character who can best be described as an awkward and sometimes self-involved oddball who is Dan’s best friend. He just bought the local bar, but up until recently, Jeff worked as a manager at a photocopy store.
The popular show is an urban comedy that has elements of “The Office,” “Gilmore Girls,” and “My Name Is Earl.”
“It’s about a guy who has no experience being mayor in a medium-sized city,” said Bates, who feels the show is much more about the entire cast than an individual focus. “It’s very character-driven … with moments of understated, deadpan humour that sometimes gets physical and goofy.”
“Like Seinfeld, each of the characters has their own story line, and every character is given moments to shine and trouble to get into.”
Before landing his spot on the popular Canadian sitcom, Bates was a senior writer for “The Hour With George Stroumboulopoulos,” and was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award for his performance as former mayor Mel Lastman in the hit musical comedy SARSical.
The 13 episodes of season two were shot in eleven weeks, on average four days per episode two episodes at a time. “The interior was shot in North York sets at the old Air Force base in Downsview,” said Bates, also revealing the exterior of the fictional town of Essex is shot in Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo.
Speaking about his character, Bates is pleased with how he’s evolving on the show. “Jeff changes in season two a lot, he was Dan’s campaign manager and worked at the photocopy store, and is still very much into being the master of his domain,” says Bates, with a hint of mystery and excitement in his voice. “This season Jeff bought the bar and runs it. He’s still a good guy, still buddies with Dan, but what you see later is this power struggle between Fern [former bar owner] and Jeff.”
Bates said Jeff has a good work ethic and has a “I’m-in-charge kind of vibe.”
In addition to season two and the fringe show, Bates co-wrote the 75th Anniversary special for the CBC called “Long Story Short” which will feature Martin Short. “It’s a thrill for me because I’m a Second City alumnus.”
Fans can expect the special in late summer or early September.
As for Fringe, Bates promises death, and some major swerves. “We’re going to kill someone … beyond that we don’t plan any of it until it’s happening on stage.”
“Dan for Mayor” airs Sundays at 7:30 pm until Aug. 28 on CTV. The Soaps—a Live Improvised Soap Opera, plays as part of the Fringe at the Bathurst Street Theatre (736 Bathurst. St.).
Annex writer Nathaniel G. Moore is the author of the novel Wrong Bar and co-editor of Toronto Noir.