Dunsworth brings positive trailer park message to Fanshawe

For playing a character intoxicated with dysfunction; a man that has crawled into a deep dark hole and drowned himself in loathing and Alberta Premium, a self-destructive and drunkenly dangerous individual, John Dunsworth couldn't be further from his infamous alter ego.

Also known as Jim Lahey, the drunken Trailer Park Supervisor from Trailer Park Boys, Dunsworth and his extremely positive attitude have the world comfortably sitting in the palm of his hand. This past week the Nova Scotia native graced Fanshawe College with his many dimensions not once but twice!

Fanshawe students were entertained by Lahey and Randy (Pat Roach) Monday night, with their hilarious comedy show that had the duo singing, dancing, drinking, cursing and celebrating life with fans.

However, the real treat was the next morning when Dunsworth was the special guest in an acting workshop for the Advanced Film making students. Appearing as himself, Dunsworth dipped in and out of many characters, offered industry advice and life lessons, referring to his vast acting career, which stretches back to 1967 when he graduated from Guelph University in the Dramatic Arts.

For someone who has had great success in Regional Theatre, received awards in the Atlantic Film Festival, runs their own casting company, and has developed the infamous character Jim Lahey, what advice do you offer these students?

I think just my experience. I told them what I thought were the important components of art, craft and as Goethe said, “He who has science and has art, religion too has he, who has not science, has not art, let him religious be.” (What?!) I mean, if you have a presentation and a personal point of view, that's what I try to teach. You have to develop for yourself your own ideas and your own objectives and the heck with what other people think or what's the flavour of the month. What's it that you want to say or what you want to do?

You talked to the students a lot about variety, and how important it is. How essential is variety for you?

It keeps me young. I mean, I'm 63 and I feel as young as you do. I look at you and I can't see the difference. You know, I don't feel all that proud about a lifetime of accomplishments. I feel my best work has yet to come. Every play that I am in, every movie I am is my favourite one at that point.

Whenever anyone asks me about Countdown To Liquor Day all I say is “Jim Lahey.” You really took that character to a new level. As an actor what did that take for you to go there?

When you commit yourself to something, I think it becomes inherent. To play Jim Lahey you don't need that metaphysical, you don't need to have that underlining causality, you just play the moment. I think what you saw with Jim Lahey is that it's not so much a commitment to the character, but John Dunsworth really having a good time. Just feeling so fortunate, I mean I bet there are about 5,000 Canadian actors who would love to be in that show and I got to be in it. And the reason I got to be in it was, about a dozen years ago (Mike) Clattenburg (writer/director for Trailer Park Boys) called me up and said, “do you want to be in a little movie we're making?” and I didn't say “how much?,” and it's a good thing because there wasn't any money involved. It was for the love of it. Mr. Gungho, that's me, Mr. Gungho.

Watching you in the seminar and even in your performance with Randy, I was surprised to see how much of a positive person you actually are. How much does that mean to you, to have such an enthusiastic perspective in life?

If there is something you have in this life that is plaguing you, or is causing you great grief, then you cannot live your life to the full. Whether it's debt, whether it's a sickness, whether it's someone picking on you, a bully at school or whether your wife is a bully. You know there are so many people in this world who are going to bed hungry or who are dying of malnutrition. I'm the luckiest bugger in the world! My brother was a lawyer and he quit and he works for poor kids in Nicaragua, said to me once, “John never compare yourself to other people because it will make you vain or really depressed,” but I do compare myself to other people and I think I'm very lucky. We shot in the Caribbean for the movie. It was great. A week in a five-star and getting paid to be a drunk, I should not be positive?”