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Fort St. James’ Playfair nabs second Leo

A pair of local hands has wrapped around another trophy at the Leo Awards.

A pair of local hands has wrapped around another trophy at the Leo Awards.

The gala celebration of the British Columbia screen arts industry has become one of Canada's most prestigious events in the sector of film, television and internet performance.

As one of the world's leaders in the making of those productions, B.C. has a host of talent both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes, so Dylan Playfair knows how difficult it is to take one of those trophies home. Yet, at the recent ceremonies held in Vancouver, it was his name once again called out, giving him two now, in his career, and he almost nabbed a third on the same night.

Playfair won in 2014 for Best Supporting Performance By A Male Actor In A Television Movie. That was for his portrayal of Marty Howe in the film Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story.

This year he was up for a puzzling combination of roles. He was in the running for Best Performance In A Youth or Children's Program/Series for his role as Kooky-Dough in Some Assembly Required. It was a part that could only be described as dumb-dumb slapstick.

Then again, he was also in the running, and ended up winning, for Best Performance By A Male In A Short Drama for his heart-aching role in Never Steady, Never Still, the short movie directed by Kathleen Hepburn.

"It was actually set in Fort St. James which is kind of interesting," said Playfair who comes from the most famous family to ever call Fort St. James home. He is the son of Jim, the associate coach of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes. He is also the nephew of Larry, a longtime NHL defender with the Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres. Underneath all that hockey fame (Playfair himself played for the BCHL's Merritt Centennials and his two brothers are also having youth success on the ice) also has a deep name in the forest industry of the Central Interior.

Playfair has a neighbour now, who will be upping the town's national reputation. Hepburn, his director in Never Steady, Never Still, moved in, too.

"We have summered at the same lake, here, for the past couple years," Playfair said. "She has a cabin further down the lake so it's a really small world. We didn't meet until the audition so we didn't even know that."

The film has earned so much acclaim as a short that Hepburn is turning it into a feature length movie, but the character he played will not be reprised in long form.

"I'm not in it," he said, but without any bitterness. "You know, Kathleen Hepburn was really awesome about the whole thing. She said, you know, there is an energy behind an 18-year-old's eyes (the age of the character). I'm 24 now. That's cool. I told her I plan to be a director one day and (casting choices) aren't something you can put on yourself. It's different if you show up for an audition and you don't know your lines or you don't know who you're auditioning for or you haven't read the script - that's on you."

Playfair helped Hepburn with some location ideas, since the

film will also be filmed in Fort

St. James, and helped connect her with local people who might be able to help with the production in other ways.

It's the kind of sportsmanship one might expect from someone steeped in elite sports. Playfair has plenty of examples to draw on for these values. In addition to a highly engaged family, he had a lot of role models in the NHL. Unlike most kids, he got to be in the same room as those role models, and he points at Coyotes star Shane Doan as one of the best.

"I'll go down there, and it'll be months and months that have gone by since I've been around the team, and he'll see me in the hallway, stop what he's doing, come over to shake my hand, and it's not small-talk. He'll genuinely want to know what's happening in your world. And another guy who has those similar qualities is Jared Keeso. You see the success that Shane Doan has had with those attributes, and you see the success that Jared Keeso is getting, and that is absolutely 100 per cent the people I see and want to be like. I strive to be in that category."

Keeso is the star of the TV show causing Playfair the most career buzz these days. CraveTV is burning bright with the cultish success of Canadian small-town comedy Letterkenny. It's a six episode sitcom that started with YouTube episodes. The humour is aimed at mature audiences and critics are falling over their thesauruses for the show being called the next Trailer Park Boys or Corner Gas with its pants down.

In Letterkenny, Playfair plays, get this, a hockey player, and, get this, a smartass dumb-dumb. It sounds close to a lot of roles he's already had, but interspersed on that list of credits are a growing number of diverse roles demanding deep emotion and subtle characterizations.

"I guess I'm not pigeonholed anymore. I'd been going out for the jock roles, but now my resume goes a little beyond that," he said.

It even includes the words "producer" and "documentary" over a topic as far from dull-minded as a young aspiring talent can get. And it also has the word "award" attached.

"We (along with Kyle and Levi McCachen) produced a documentary called The Drop which was about the declining youth vote in North America and around the world. We actually ended up winning an award at the Beverly Hills Film Festival. If you believe it, we beat out a documentary that Morgan Freeman had produced. It was our first time producing anything, but it was something I was passionate about. At 18, I was told to vote and my parents impressed it on us, so we made a movie about it."

Playfair is also appearing in upcoming productions It Stains The Sands Red, Gorgeous Morons, Travelers, and plans for more episodes of Letterkenny.

The Leo Awards organizers should perhaps keep Playfair's seat warm at next year's award show.