The second thug on the left is now the toast of Hollywood North.
Steve Molison is this year's winner of the Leo Award for Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series, one of the top trophies in the B.C. film industry.
Molison, working under his full name: Steven Cree Molison, is known all across Canada as the strong-arm strip club owner Daryl Fraser in the hit series Blackstone but he used to be known around Prince George - mostly to police - as the strong-arm gym owner and founding member of criminal motorcycle group The Renegades.
He might still be a member, had it not been for a motorcycle crash. It was May 19, 1997 and the impact was so violent it caused him physical and mental trauma needing years of therapy.
"I lost my marriage, I lost my business, I lost my house, I was out of [The Renegades], I lost everything and had to start my life over again," he said. "But that movie Reindeer Games came to town."
Through contacts in the movie industry, he was given the chance to do stunts in the film and chauffeur the actors. One of them was Ben Affleck, and the two had the chance to have some conversations. Molison expressed his lifelong love of acting; Affleck urged Molison to pursue it but not to take a chance on shortcuts. Any craft requires lessons from a reputable school.
Molison signed up for lessons at the William B. Davis Centre for Actors Study in Vancouver, operated by the famous Smoking Man from the X-Files television series.
"I graduated on May 19, four years and four blocks from my bike crash," he said. "That accident was my ticket out."
He retained some of the aggressiveness from his past life of organized crime. During his schooling, he sent out his biography package to every casting director and agent he could find an address for. On his graduation day, one of them was in the audience and recognized him. She approached Molison, they struck up a representation arrangement and soon Molison was getting film jobs.
First, he got offers for stunts in Vancouver-based shows like Los Luchadores (which also featured regular appearances by Prince George's Sonya Salomaa) and UC: Undercover.
Acting gigs soon followed, starting with minor bit-parts that built him a reputation and relationships in the busy Vancouver industry. For television he did three episodes of Da Vinci's Inquest, two episodes of The Dead Zone, appearances in Smallville, Stargate SG-1, Shattered, and others. On the big screen he scored credits in Brokeback Mountain, The Fog and Afghan Knights.
It was one part in particular that has now cemented Molison's credentials. The acclaimed series Blackstone has won fans and critical acclaim for its two seasons on Showcase and APTN networks. It tells the story of a fictional Canadian First Nation and its dramatic internal politics. It was up for six awards at this year's Leo ceremonies.
"We won four categories that night," he said. "I was sitting at table Blackstone and a couple of the other actors won theirs [Tantoo Cardinal and Frank Cassini as best female and male supporting actors, respectively], then I won mine and as I was leaving the stage they had to hustle me around because the production team was called out for winning the best dramatic series so we all had to be up there again. I can't describe the feeling."
For context into the Leo Award's cache, the female winner in Molison's category was Meg Tilly.
It was the first time, he said, that his carpenter's skills ever felt eclipsed by his thespian experience. But he soon got put back in his proper place when the taxi taking him and a friend home that night drove off at the friend's stop with Molison also out of the car. He had no choice but to walk the rest of the way home.
"That's life, and you have to remember that," he said. "You can be basking in the flash of joy and exhilaration and attention, and then you're walking alone in the dark with your trophy."
He also realized that the award got handed to him within a week of the 15th anniversary of his crash.
Molison was back in Prince George for months, taking a break from the Blackstone filming schedule and working with his hands on some renovation projects to keep his blue-collar spirit alive, he said. He also wanted to stir his Metis blood so he visited some local facilities to talk to at-risk aboriginal people about the hopeful paths available to them.
He also got to watch his 11-year-old granddaughter play the part of Duncan in a school production of Macbeth.
"She's never known me as anything but an actor," he said.