You may know Toronto actor Shawn Doyle for his role on the hit series Big Love or his portrayal of John A. MacDonald in John A: Birth of a Country, which earned him a Canadian Screen Award. In what he describes as “a dream come true,” Doyle will soon be appearing in the upcoming TV series Fargo, executive produced by the Coen brothers. When he’s not acting, Doyle can be found working out, whipping up raw desserts or playing paintball with his 14-year-old son.
Canadian Family: You grew up in Labrador, where your dad was the founder of a local theatre group. What was that like?
Shawn Doyle: I was around theatre throughout my childhood. It feels like a gift to have been exposed to the arts in a small mining town. It showed me there were other things I could do in life than what was expected.
CF: Do you take your son back there to visit regularly?
SD: I try to get Rhys there as often as possible. He loves it—the freedom to just leave the house and go. He gets to ride ATVs and spend time in the woods. It’s a different life.
CF: You’re acting in the upcoming TV series Fargo. What has that been like?
SD: Amazing. It’s always been my experience that, the higher the calibre, the easier the work is. When you work on high-quality writing with actors like Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman, it eliminates the heavy lifting. If anything, I always wonder if I’m doing enough; it seems too easy.
CF: You lived in Los Angeles for a while. What brought your family back?
SD: The show I was shooting there, Big Love, was winding down and it felt like Toronto would be better for a child Rhys’ age and afford him more autonomy. In Los Angeles, kids are at the mercy of their parents driving them to and fro. But he had a great childhood there—sun and swimming and lots of nature.
CF: What are your favourite things to do when you spend time together?
SD: We do typical father-son things: watch movies, shoot hoops, wrestle. His mother and I are no longer together (we share equal custody), and it’s clear he needs different things from both of us. We fought against male/female stereotypes as we raised him, but certain qualities are undeniable. Though we are both pacifists and abhor guns, he’s a typical teenage boy who digs paintball. We’ve gone together a number of times—it’s a great bonding experience.
CF: How do you stay connected when you’re not together?
SD: It’s challenging. It’s come to the point, now that he’s a teen, that I have to insist he text or phone me occasionally. I try not to take it personally and remember that he didn’t choose for his parents to split and that he has to share his time with both of us. He’s finding his own ways to deal with it, and it’s important to respect that. I just always remind him that I haven’t gone anywhere.
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