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Janna is a staff writer for The Hudsucker. Born and raised in a small Ontario town, she made her move to Toronto for university and immediately fell in love with the excitement and pace of the big city. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from York University, specializing in editing and screenwriting. She currently works as an assistant editor for a television production company. Janna loves stories told in all mediums, especially film, and takes herself to the movies as much as she possibly can. She can generally be found taking a Zumba class, exploring some of Toronto’s lesser-known gems, or relaxing with her fluffy feline roommate.

Private Eyes: REPUBLIC OF DOYLE’S Mark O’Brien

Canadian television has been making bigger and bigger waves these past few years, with many shows reaching international audiences and earning praise from critics and fans alike. Debuting in 2010, CBC’s Republic of Doyle is an award winning comedy-drama series set in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The show follows private investigator and former police officer Jake Doyle (Allan Hawco) and his father Malachy (Seán McGinley) whose cases find them involved in all sorts of dealings—not all of them on the right side of the law. Canadian actor Mark O’Brien plays Des Courtney, a young Private Investigator working for Doyle & Doyle Investigations, specializing in the technological side of things.

Aside from his role as Republic of Doyle’s fan-favorite Des, O’Brien can be seen in NBC’s Hannibal in the role of Randall Tier, a psychotic serial killer. He has also been featured in CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries and Syfy’s Warehouse 13. He also starred in the 2010 Sundance Film Festival selection Grown Up Movie Star alongside Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany.

In an exclusive interview with The Hudsucker, O’Brien chats with us about directing, working in Newfoundland, and gives us the scoop on what’s to come in the sixth and final season of Republic of Doyle.

Courtesy of Mark O'Brien

Courtesy of Mark O’Brien

The Hudsucker: How did it feel to be able to shoot a show right in your hometown?

Mark O’Brien: It was perfect. I was close to my old friends and family, in a place that I love very much. I was also very proud to shoot there because we were showcasing the province that means the world to me. It was fun to share that with people. It was also an ideal opportunity to become intimately aware of acting for television. I had the good fortune of learning a lot of important things in the shelter of my hometown. That’s a rarity in this business. It made the learning curve much smoother for sure.

The Hudsucker: The Season 5 finale of Republic of Doyle was a doozy. What was the fan reaction like? Did you know, before coming back to film Season 6, that Leslie would live?

O’Brien: I had no idea what was going to happen. However, I would’ve been surprised if Leslie died. Krystin Pellerin is beyond integral to the success of this show. She’s a wonderful actress and a lovely person, and it would’ve been a real downer for the audience. I don’t think Republic of Doyle is the kind of show that could kill off a character like that. The danger for the characters is always there, considering the work they do, but I also believe you have to think of your audience, and I think the writers made the right call in keeping her alive. My character was left in a similar fate at the end of season three, and I gotta tell you, keeping that a secret (that my character lives) is very difficult. Everyone asks what you’re doing every day and you can’t tell them you’re shooting. I may have lost some friends during that time…

The Hudsucker: How does it feel for Republic of Doyle to be in its final season?

O’Brien: It actually feels just right. I’m enjoying watching the show like a fan, and I’m happy with what we’ve done and looking forward to moving on and trying new things.

The Hudsucker: What can fans expect to see from Des and the rest of the gang this season? Will Des finally impress Malachy?

O’Brien: Haha. That’s a good question! Malachy is a tough nut to crack. But he also knows that he has a power over Des, so he likes to screw around with him in that way. And McGinley is fantastic at doing that. I’d be lying if I said Des doesn’t get put through the wringer again this season. I’ve gotten really good at pretending to get hurt. But as the season moves along, things get pretty intense and Des’ relationship with Tinny takes some interesting turns for sure.

Courtesy of Mark O'Brien

Courtesy of Mark O’Brien

The Hudsucker: What’s it like working with such a diverse, talented cast?

O’Brien: That’s a tough question. Every cast member is very uniquely talented. Allan Hawco is the most present actor I’ve ever worked with. Lynda Boyd has the rare ability to make everything sounds natural—sometimes I wasn’t sure if she was saying the lines or just chatting with me. Sean McGinley is a strong presence, completely committed to each scene, and never, ever forgets a line. Marthe Bernard is exceptionally conscientious, and always makes sure the scene is the best it can be. And I wish I got to work with Krystin Pellerin more. Our characters had very few scenes together. She reminds me of a movie star from the 1950s—a present-day Ingrid Bergman.

The Hudsucker: Do you have any funny or memorable stories from being on set, either this season or in seasons prior?

O’Brien: The first day I directed was huge for me. I’d directed a lot in the past but it was quite different wearing a new hat amongst the crew. It’s a dynamic shift for sure, and it’s new and exhilarating. It was something I’d wanted for a long time so it was probably the biggest day for me in six years on this series.

The Hudsucker: And you got to direct another episode of Republic of Doyle this season. What’s it like to both direct and act in a project? What was the biggest lesson you learned while doing so this time around?

O’Brien: Directing and acting at the same time are the most creative moments of my life. Your mind is completely ingrained in what you’re doing. It’s very liberating. You’re really in the moment, because you’re thinking 50 things at once, yet remaining true to the scene as an actor. It’s a great test of one’s creative capacity—not to say that mine is very big. I learned the importance of making a quick decision and sticking with it. There’s not much time for pondering on the set. I’ve always felt very strongly about collaboration and listening to opinions of others, but once those opinion and ideas are put forward, you really have to make a decision and just do it. Confidence is paramount.

Courtesy of Mark O'Brien

Courtesy of Mark O’Brien

The Hudsucker: If you were going to get into the P.I. business, what sort of cases would you want to investigate?

O’Brien: The ones that have no possibility of me getting shot.

The Hudsucker: What was it like working Hannibal? Would you like to take on another dark role like that again in the future?

O’Brien: That was an exciting experience. I’ve been a fan of Mads Mikkelsen for years, and he lived up to the hype. He’s a true professional, and he’s incredibly funny. We had a great time on those episodes. I love those kind of roles. I’ve played very few straight characters, reacting to a circumstance. I’ve often played the off-kilter characters creating havoc, whether it be comedy or drama. And there’s something explorative in that. You’re trying to find something that connects you to these men, which is a task. There’s a reason as to why people are the way they are, and I think the more introspective you are as a person, the more it helps in connecting those dots. I thought of my character on Hannibal as a man who created an exterior blank slate so he could get by in the world, but there’s a thunderstorm going on inside him.

The Hudsucker: What do you do when you aren’t working?

O’Brien: My wife is an actor as well, so we spend a lot of time apart. So I try and see her as much as possible. Outside of that, my life is movies. It always has been. Going to the movies is something I always make time for. I’m also an avid reader and hockey fan. I don’t have a whole lot of interests because I’m so intensely dedicated to the few things I love, so there’s not much time for anything else.

The Hudsucker: What’s coming up next for you, now that you’ve finished filming Republic of Doyle?

O’Brien: As I’m writing this, I’m shooting a guest star role on a new Syfy series called Killjoys. And next month I start shooting Jeremy Lalonde’s new feature How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town. It’s an incredible script with some of the best actors in the country, so I’m very excited about that. I also just finished a directing a short film called Who Is Hannah?, which we’re currently editing. And I shot three movies last year that are all in post-production. I’m keeping busy! Mostly, I want to create interesting, original projects that challenge audiences.

Republic of Doyle airs Wednesdays at 9pm EST on CBC.

To keep up to date on Mark’s upcoming projects, Like him on Facebook or Follow him on Twitter.

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