Painting of Actor Patrick McKenna

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August - November, 2012
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An Interview with Actor
Patrick McKenna

Actor Patrick McKenna 1

You've acted in some very successful TV shows: Traders, Red Green Show (and the movie), as well as acting appearances in some very well known productions such: as Stargate SG1, Robson Arms, the Outer Limits, Forever Knight, Boston Legal, Robocop, E.N.G., and the Legend of Kung Fu... How and when did your acting career begin?

I started with an open audition for the National touring company of Toronto's Second City back in 1983. Myself and a young kid named "Mike Myers" got hired that day - I don't know whatever became of him though... Second City bounced me around from London Ontario for two years and then out to Vancouver for the 1986 World Expo - there I worked with Ryan Stiles - but I don't know whatever became of him though...

I went on to tour North America as a Stand-Up comedian and from there I made my back to Toronto to join the Second City Mainstage Company in 1990. It was during this period that Steve Smith saw me performing the "Harold" character and offered me a spot on a new show he was creating called "The Red Green Show".

I auditioned for TRADERS and got it on the first round. My character of loud mouth Marty Stephens was such a break out role that offers for other shows just kept coming and fortunately I was able to grow into a busy, happy and somewhat successful actor.




Actor Patrick McKenna 2
Actor Patrick McKenna 3

What inspired you to begin with stand-up comedy?
While working with Ryan Stiles in Vancouver, he introduced me to his second home, PUNCHLINES COMEDY CLUB. The owner, Rich Elwood offered me any stage time that I might want and so I tried five minutes of original material on an Amateur Night - and oddly enough, I didn't suck. I kept at it and was offered a Headlining gig within three months. From there I hit the road and had a blast learning the craft of Stand Up and the art of "road food" - both are things you can only do for a little while.

Was there a transition between standup comedy and comedic acting? Please describe the process for you.
The transition into Stand Up from acting and back into acting again is often a difficult hurdle for performers - however, people like Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby influenced my stand up approach so there is a lot of story telling and characters within my act.

I've always tried to build on my strengths as a performer and bring them into every gig I get.

Have you always wanted to be an actor?
As long as I can remember I have always wanted to be an actor. Like many comedians my age, The Dick Van Dyke Show was a huge influence - although most of my teacher's never thought that I'd amount to much more than a homeless extravert.





Article about Margarita


There are a great many to ask about but please describe some of your recent acting projects or up coming work?
Because we were blessed with fifteen seasons of The Red Green Show, I didn't have much time to work on any other long-term projects. But since we wrapped in 2005, I have been busier than ever. I recently completed two romantic comedy films, "Everywhere" and the soon to be released "Margarita". Both were a blast to play and very different for me. I regularly guest star on shows like, The Mercer Report, Murdoch Mysteries and even got to play a father of Confederation in "Rivals - The John A. MacDonald story".


You are involved in several animated series, including Crash Canyon, please describe your work with these?
Working in animation has quickly become one of my favorite gigs. Cartoons are truly a place where you can just play and be silly and get paid for it! At the end of the day it's all about character and that is in my wheelhouse of strengths, so I look at the animated image and try to find a voice and point of view for the character that would fit.



On the request on many or your fans, I must ask: What was your favorite character/role to play?
It's always tough to pick a favorite character - I loved playing Harold Green, he is so silly and innocent and playing off Steve Smith was a great gift. But really, playing Marty Stephens in TRADERS has been my all time favorite character. Marty was so complicated in his bombastic insecurity. An actor's job is to justify the writer's intent and the writing in TRADERS was always so layered that it really forced an actor to work.

Actor Patrick McKenna 4

Actor Patrick McKenna 5

Conversely, what were some of your more difficult roles to play?
Over the years there have been several difficult roles to play - some because of the amount and vocabulary of text and others because of subject matter. I once played in a short film where my character had to be physically abusive to a woman - it was an awful experience and we rehearsed the heck out of it to make sure that nothing would go wrong. Playing a character opposite of what you believe as a person can be a challenge and/or an opportunity but it's not always fun.


What are some of your motivations behind the characters you've played? Are any of these extensions of your personality or fundamentally opposites of who you are?
Every character has a reason why they're in a story and the actor's job is to play that reason or "motivation". I have noticed a recurring theme of "acceptance" in several of my characters - be it Harold wanting acceptance from his uncle Red, or Marty wanting acceptance from the higher educated and rich to several of the romantic roles I've played wanting acceptance from the opposite sex.

I suppose that as an actor I'd have to admit that I crave acceptance from an audience, from my directors and fellow actors so there is a logical extension there. But it's all about degree - I am in every character I play but to various degrees. My characters make very different choices than I would and most are far too selfish to ever be me.


Actor Patrick McKenna 7






Do you require any research or psychological preparation to play some of your roles?
When I prepare a character I always create a back-story that may or may not be called upon - but it helps me create a full bodied person and so I try to do as much research as I can to justify my characters actions.


At many points of your career, you could have joined the Hollywood scene with enormous success, why remain with Canadian acting roles? Do you think that there will be a point in your career, where you will make the switch? Or is drawing borders an oversimplification of the film industry?
I have had several opportunities to play in America - and I flirted with the idea a few times. However, once there I found that Hollywood was not my version of "family friendly". My son was just starting High School (Police and metal detectors) my wife would not be able to work due to immigration laws and I had no guarantee that the show I was hired on would be a long term - prosperous gig - so, we made the choice to come back to Canada and stay on with Red Green and another two years of TRADERS. For me its an easy choice to stay in Canada - the quality of life just fits me better.

Although, I never say never...






Actor Patrick McKenna 9


At this point of your career, what would be a truly big project for you?
A "big project" for me now would be something of my own making - be it a film or television project. I have two projects in development and fingers crossed that something will come of at least one of them.

Out of all the film makers out there, past or present, which would be exhilarating to work with? Why?
There are so many great film makers out there but I have always been a fan of Martin Scorsese; I love his improvisational approach, his attack in a scene and the type of stories he likes to tell seem to be the ones that I like to watch.

From the past I would have loved to been directed by Preston Sturges during his screwball comedy heydays. His comedy had a comment and an urgency about it that just makes me laugh.

Which actors/actresses have you always wanted to work with?
I suppose there are several obvious answers to this question from De Niro to Streep in film, but I would love to work/worked with Sid Caesar, Peter Falk, Cary Grant or even Dean Martin because of their ease on camera. I'm in awe of the comfort and breezy way some people have in their work. I love working with Nick Campbell for that reason, because he is effortless.


Actor Patrick McKenna as Harold Green

The Red Green Show

Please describe your work/projects as a writer and also as a producer?
My first real writing was at Second City creating sketches from our improvised scenes. The beauty of that environment was the audience told you right away if you were going in the right direction and so I was able to find my comedy voice reasonably quickly.

From there I sold some scenes to Steve Smith for his show Comedy Mill and sold a half hour comedy script to a kids show called The Mighty Jungle. Those projects gave me my introduction to the writers Guild and a legitimacy that the industry demands.

Red Green was a huge opportunity because Steve has always been a mentor in my life. He allowed me to create and find my comfort zone in front of a camera, he accepted my input on the writing and in season three of the show I became one of its Producers. This allowed me some "ownership" in what happened in the show and I loved the responsibility. Steve and I went on to produce a short lived series called "Supertown Challenge". It wasn't a huge hit but our goal was to create an environment where all the hilarious people we knew in Canada would have a chance to showcase themselves and in some cases get their union cards. On that level it was a huge success. We even hired a young upstart by the name of Colin Mochrie to be our host - that was a fight at the time - I don't know what ever became of him though...



Actor Patrick McKenna 6


How would you define true success?
For me "true success" is the life I'm leading - odd but true. Any success I have is from making people laugh and that can't be a bad thing. My family life is strong, my friends and peers are people that I respect and appreciate, I'm living in a cabin in a forest, I can work when I want to, I contribute to charities with my time and money and I have my health. Happiness has got to equal success.


Who has been the greatest influence on your work?
The greatest influence in my work has probably been my father. My dad worked in construction and was a true man of honour - so I have always chose material with his integrity in mind and tried to perform it with a work ethic that I saw him practice.

On the artistic end of the influence meter I would have to say that Sid Caesar is someone I hold in high regard. Mr. Caesar did sketch, great characters and dialects and all without pushing. Plus he gathered most of the great comedy writers and performers of the television era that I grew up in.




Patrick McKenna in Metro News May 14 2012
Describe a cause, or an issue, that you are deeply passionate about.
I am currently working with two causes that are close to my heart. The first is the National Lupus Foundation of Canada and the second is creating awareness of ADD/ADHD in children and adults.

My mother suffers from the autoimmune disease of Lupus and so I travel the country to raise money and awareness for the cause. I am also one of the creators of TotallyAdd.com a website full of information and discussions about child and adult ADD. Yes, I have ADD and so Rick Green and I started this awareness campaign that has been such a success that it demanded the website. We are very proud of how many people we can help in such a short amount of time.


What are some of your interests outside of acting?
Outside of acting I like to work with my hands, mostly with lumber. I build furniture, work sheds, some home improvement jobs and even a house extension. I think I need to see something tangible in my life - acting is in a moment and then gone - a table is there to stay.








Please describe your most embarrassing moment
After thirty years as a comedian, thirty years of marriage and another twenty-five as a father - there have been several embarrassing moments! On the professional front though - I was performing at a stand up club and in the dark I could hear a couple fighting and then I could see that the man was strangling the woman he was with - so I stopped the show, jumped from the stage to save her - but it turned out that she was having an epileptic reaction and he was trying to save her. It was a little hard to carry on with the show after that.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in standup on getting started in acting? Would this advice differ for someone going into other areas of acting?
The advice that I would give anyone starting out in comedy, acting or life in general is all the same - know yourself.

You have to know if you have the temperament, the drive, honest expectations and the talent to perform the tasks that you are setting yourself up for. After that, everything else is just a suggestion.




Thank you Patrick!



Patrick McKenna Facebook

Patrick Mckenna
Facebook Page


Patrick McKenna on IMDb (Internet Movie Database

Patrick McKenna
on IMDB.com



Patrick McKenna Official Website

Patrick McKenna
Official Website





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