Mr. Dee asks, so Mr. D gets a visit from Peters

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Cassandra Szklarski

TORONTO — Get­ting com­edy su­per­star Rus­sell Peters to make a cameo on Mon­day’s episode of Mr. D was as easy as mak­ing a phone call, says teacher-turned-comic Gerry Dee.

Rein­ing him in once he showed up to ad-lib through his scenes was an­other mat­ter.

“We went off for 15 min­utes, him and I,” Dee says of a key scene in which the two class clowns vol­ley jokes freely. “There was some really funny stuff.” Of course, much of that won’t be seen be­cause the ex­change was whit­tled down for the show’s sea­son 2 pre­mière (Mon­day at 8 p.m., CBC), but Dee says the door has been left open to wel­come Peters back in a fu­ture episode.

Peters de­buts as a stuffy school board of­fi­cial who ar­rives at Xavier Academy to eval­u­ate the per­for­mance of its new­est educators — Dee’s bum­bling char­ac­ter Gerry Dun­can and his fas­tid­i­ous col­league Lisa Ma­son, played by Lau­ren Ham­mer­s­ley.

As the first sea­son re­vealed, Gerry’s teach­ing strate­gies gen­er­ally in­volve bluff­ing his way through course ma­te­rial and pass­ing the time with grandiose sto­ries about his own youth.

Sud­denly be­ing un­der the board’s mi­cro­scope forces the phys-ed jock to pull his act to­gether quickly, and that doesn’t come eas­ily for Gerry.

How­ever, Dee says it was sur­pris­ingly easy to get Peters to ap­pear on the CBC hit.

“I phoned him with one of those calls where it was like: ‘Look, I know you can’t do this, but I gotta ask,’” says Dee, who cred­its his wife with giv­ing him the cast­ing idea.

“And he called right back, which is un­like Rus­sell, and said, ‘I’d like to, I love the show.’ And that was it.”

Sea­son 2 will of­fer a deeper glimpse into Gerry’s per­sonal life, prom­ises Dee, who based the se­ries and many of its gags on his own ex­pe­ri­ences as a former high school teacher.

That in­cludes life at the bach­e­lor pad Gerry shares with his bar­tend­ing pal Bill, played by Dar­rin Rose, who gets plenty of at­ten­tion from young at­trac­tive women.

“(There was) some great cast­ing this year, I’ll say that,” Rose quips.

Gerry, how­ever, is in­creas­ingly in­ter­ested in find­ing a girl­friend. Ac­cord­ingly, this sea­son’s sto­ry­line re­veals that he’s more than just a buf­foon.

“We get to see a lit­tle softer, a nicer side of the char­ac­ter,” says Dee, adding that strik­ing the right tone was a del­i­cate balancing act.

“It’s got to be con­trolled, oth­er­wise it’s just be­com­ing a soft com­edy, right? Or a ro­man­tic com­edy, and it’s not. But it helps Gerry’s char­ac­ter be­cause we see that he’s ac­tu­ally a good guy.”

A show’s sopho­more sea­son is of­ten seen as a cru­cial test of its po­ten­tial stay­ing power.

In Mr. D’s case, it will be the sea­son that brings the show’s quirky cast to­gether and sees them set­tle into a groove as a whole, says Dee.

“It’s prob­a­bly tough for ev­ery­body in sea­son 1,” notes Dee, who mused on the show’s evo­lu­tion along­side Rose.

“But I had the pres­sure of, ‘Oh my God, if this show’s not good it’s (all me).’ So we’re kind of past that pres­sure point, now we’re more re­laxed.”

“And I think the writ­ers know bet­ter the tone of your hu­mour and also they know who to pair up,” adds Rose.

“Like how you and I are funny to­gether, how you and Jono (Jonathan Tor­rens) are funny to­gether.”

Dee says fine-tuning those dy­nam­ics means view­ers can ex­pect more screen time for Mark For­ward, who plays li­brar­ian Wayne Le­ung, and Mark Lit­tle, who plays im­pres­sion­able sci­ence teacher Simon Hunt.

Through­out, Dee says there will be a good dose of im­prov to keep sea­son 2 chug­ging along.

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