Chet Cooper: Were you affected by Sandy?
Rick Howland: We got quite a bit of rain. Nothing really bad happened here, though; no major portions of the city knocked out or anything.
Cooper: Nothing really bad happened—until this phone call.
Howland: (laughs) Yeah!
Cooper: Where do you film Lost Girl?
Howland: In Toronto, on the west end of town.
Cooper: Does most of the cast members fly in, or are most of them Canadian, as well?
Howland: The majority of us are Canadian and live and work in Toronto. Anna Silk, who plays Bo, the lead character, and one of the other actresses were [living] in LA before the series. Anna flies up and stays for the year while we’re in production, and then goes back after we’re done.
Cooper: A lot of productions shoot in Canada because it’s often less expensive with the currency exchange rate.
Howland: Yes. Canada also gives tax credits within certain provinces.
Cooper: Tell me a about your character on the show.
Howland: Trick is 2,000-year-old bartender. He runs the Dal Riata, which is a bar but also a way station. All Fae who come into that part of the world have to check in with him, whether they’re Light Fae or Dark Fae—meaning good or bad. It’s a way of keeping track of everybody. Also, Dal is neutral ground, so when they’re in the bar they can’t fight. They have to get along. In season 2, we find out that Trick is Bo’s grandfather.
Trick used to be the Blood King a long time ago, and he still is a Blood Fae, which means that what he writes in his own blood becomes true, so he can manipulate the future. But there’s always a karmic kickback. At the end of season 1one, he uses his blood to change the future and help Bo, and it inadvertently awakens the Garuda, an even more evil presence than any Dark Fae we’ve ever come across, so we end up having a battle at the end of the second season.
Cooper: I saw some images of you on the show, and you don’t look a day over 1,500.
Howland: (laughs) Thank you! I’m aging well. I guess it’s the Blood Fae part of it.
Cooper: Was the show adapted from a book?
Howland: No. Apparently the stunt guys had an idea for a show that was based on a succubus. [In medieval folklore, a succubus is a female demon who appears in dreams, and takes the form of a woman who seduces men, usually through sex.] Their idea was Lost Girl, but darker and even more sexy. I think they approached Jay Firestone, the main producer, with the idea, and he got Michelle Lovretta, the lead writer for the first season, and she put the thing to a fine point, bringing Lost Girl to life.
Cooper: And she wrote it in blood and changed the future.
Howland: (laughs) Somebody did.
Cooper: Now that they’ve revealed that your character is related to the lead, does that secure your role for a few seasons?
Howland: I think so. The show’s going to go on forever, I hope. I’m really enjoying it. It allows me to do a lot of different things, so I don’t get bored. We’ve done three seasons so far. Season three comes out in January. They’re promoting it on Showcase.ca. For season 2 we did a pre-show, and we’re doing that again for season 3. Soon we’ll hear back about whether there’ll be a season 4four. I have high hopes.
Cooper: When you did the last Showcase, what question did fans ask you?
Howland: I often get asked, “Who do I love working with the most?” The truth is I love working with everybody. I enjoy all my scenes with all the other actors, because they all have different elements. With the girls, I get to be a protector and father figure. While with Kris Holden-Ried, who plays Dyson, I get to have these kinds of warrior/soldier-after-the-battle drinks in my lair, and plan what to do next.
Cooper: What I heard you say is that you don’t like working with anyone, and none of the scenes are all that interesting.
Howland: Hey Chet, don’t turn this around on me; I’ve got to come out sounding like a nice guy! (laughs)
Cooper: Do you play Trick as a moderate guy or do you play him as a fellow who’s holding back a temper?
Howland: He’s not mean, but you don’t want to upset him. At the same time, if you need help, he’s going to be there for you. He’s a very open, considerate person. Somebody who’s been around for 2,000 years either shuts down and knows no one, or learns to accept people for who they are. I think Trick’s done that. Bo, the main character played by Anna Silk, always comes to Trick for information about the Fae world and to get advice. He’s a father figure, and an encyclopedia. At one point the character Kenzi calls Trick “Trickopedia,” because he has all the information.
Cooper: (laughs) Does Trickopedia have a wife?
Howland: He was married a long, long, long time ago, and his wife was a warrior who died in battle. You see a bit of her in episodes 13 and 22, where the Garuda has gotten hold of me and takes me through these flashbacks, trying to convince me that the choices I made back then weren’t the right ones. He shows Trick to himself, now and then, with his wife. We had a daughter and then our daughter gave birth to Bo, who gets raised by humans, discovers that she’s not human and starts trying to figure things out, which is how the series begins.
Cooper: Is your daughter, Bo’s mother, alive?
Howland: Yup. And you come across her eventually. She’s played beautifully by Inga Cadranel. She’s in episode 13 also, which is one of my favorites. In it I end up having to buy this drug to see into the future, and I go to this drug dealer who has lost her vision, and it turns out that she and my character were lovers a long time ago, which she mentions.
Cooper: So she was your “blind” date?
Howland: That’s a pretty bad. But she wasn’t blind when he first met her. I think she went blind later. She’s also a truth-seer; she knows when people are lying. She can flick her long fingernails and make [people] tell her the truth. It’s a cool trait; she’d be a great person to have around.
Cooper: What’s your acting background?
Howland: I started acting in high school because I needed an art credit, and I was terrible at drawing. My very first class, I was bitten. And then I just started doing shows in school and went on to a university for a year, and then to another university for another year, and then I just went out and started acting.
Being short and having a disability, it’s been a battle to break down barriers, but I’ve found directors, writers and producers who like casting outside the box. I get roles that are anybody kind of roles that are written with depth, and they’re also for people who look different. That’s great.
When I was very young, I spent a lot of time in and out of plaster casts. I have osteogenesis imperfecta—brittle bones—over 80 broken bones since I was born. I’ve also had surgery a bunch of times. So I spent a lot of time watching television and I thought to myself at some point, ‘If I want to make a difference in this world, if I want to not feel like I’m so different when I’m in a wheelchair or on my crutches, I’ve got to get used to people staring and pointing or making a comment to the person next to them.’ It’s hard to be pointed out like that, but then on TV you see these people who are getting pointed out, and it’s out of respect, because they’ve got this body of work. So I decided at some point—and I’m not sure when—that that would be what I needed to do in order to make it maybe slightly better for the next little kid who comes along and looks different.
Cooper: And I’m trying not to make a joke about “body of work.”
Howland: You should write down your jokes and try stand-up
Cooper: I joke a lot—and some of it is funny. But you have to be a good actor to make it in stand-up, and I’m not an actor. Every comedian in the club has great jokes, and it sounds like they ad lib, but that’s an act. That’s why you see so many TV shows coming out of the stand-up arena.
Cooper: I used to publish a magazine that dealt with humor.
Howland: Mad magazine?
Cooper: National Lampoon.
Howland: I was close.
Cooper: I had a lot of writers around me, and I’d go to open mic with them, and they’d have great material, but they couldn’t make it work onstage. I’ve talked to Robin Williams several times, and when he’s not on, he’s not funny. But then he hits the stage and bam!
Howland: Improv is more like acting than stand-up. I’ve done both. But you’re right: There’s an art form to stand-up, and you need to find what works for you. I know comedians who’ll be going along in their usual routine, find that it’s not working, and switch to another set of jokes, because they’ve been performing them for years. I look at Jerry Seinfeld, a brilliant stand-up comedian, and his wickedly funny show… Or Larry David’s genius [on Curb Your Enthusiasm], but if you look at his cast, they’re all comic actors. Robin Williams can actually do drama, too. When you talk to him, he doesn’t have to be in joke mode, he can be in regular-guy mode. He can access that darker, dirtier, emotional place where human beings go.
I like doing it all. I can do stand-up, improv or a sketch show. Drop my pants in front of an audience, no problem. Make sure I’m wearing some colorful funny-looking boxer shorts. But to do stand-up—or what I find even harder in the performance vein is playing guitar and singing—I have to fight those nerves, push them down. Nervous energy can be really useful for an actor, because it can get you into the scene. But with music, it can get in your way.
Cooper: Do play an instrument?
Howland: I play guitar and a tiny bit of mandolin—I’m teaching myself that. I play harmonica a little bit. I’ve got two albums on iTunes. They’re kind of my own homegrown albums. I’ve sold a couple this year; thank you fans out there! I’ve been writing songs since I was 16 or 17. It’s one of those things I’ve always done to get the bad energy out: Beat up a guitar instead of myself.
Cooper: Many years ago I interviewed a drummer who also has brittle bone. He’s only broken his arm a couple of times, and the doctor’s like, “You can’t do this. It’s way too risky,” but he just kept going. He’s been able to sit in with some really big bands over the years. I cannot remember his name. He had fairly long arms, and it was interesting to see him just beating the heck out of those drums.
Howland: My arms are quite long, too, and if you have a lot of breaks in the longer bones, they can shorten and your spine kind of gets shorter, which also then makes your arms look longer. I know that for sure. But I’d have to agree with the doctors in terms of that particular guy because drums are impact, but if he’s in control of it and he’s doing it and he’s developing it well, he’s actually strengthening those bones by doing light impact.
Cooper: I think their concern was him hitting his wrists on the metal rims.
Howland: Oh, right.
Cooper: Apparently it only happened once or twice. Eventually he got so good that he didn’t feel like it was that much of a risk.
Howland: Because he’s in control. [Did you know that] in a fight scene, the victim is actually in control? So if you and I were having a fight scene on stage and you were going to be choking me, you would put your hands up toward my neck, I would grab your wrists with my hands, and I would control the look and how much weight was going on me from you.
Cooper: I did not know that. That’s interesting.
Howland: So then the person who’s the underdog actually has the power. Hopefully, anyway. If somebody loses their balance and falls on you, that’s something you can’t avoid. But for the most part, that’s the way it works. The only time I’ve ever hurt myself on stage was when a guy in my comedy troupe lost his balance and fell on me, and I blew up my ACL. I didn’t do comedy for quite a while after that. It’s fascinating. I like hearing [stories like the one about the drummer], especially with another person with my condition.
The disease isn’t going to keep us down. Doctors are going to say, “You’ve got to be careful.” Your parents are going to say, “You’ve got to be careful.” And you’re like, “Yeah, but I’m still going to do it.” I’m still a human being. I still have that brain. I still have the intention, as everybody else does, to go out and do what I want to do.
Cooper: (laughs) Loved ones are inclined not to let the child fall, but having a child fall sometimes is not a bad thing.
Howland: Exactly. My parents were great for that. I’m really thankful to them for not making me cautious to the point where it kind of bled into the rest of my life, like, “Oh, I can’t do that. I’m not going to go outside. I’m not going to do that!” And then suddenly I’m not doing anything. They actually did the opposite. “Go do it. Don’t hurt yourself. Be careful, but go and do it.” They were like, “You’re going to be an actor? Really? Don’t you want to do something else?” “No, not at all.”
Cooper: “You don’t want to be a wrestler?”
Howland: I played one once. It was in The Jesse Ventura Story on NBC. I had a tiny part in it as a wrestler, and I actually wrestled Chris KCanyon from World Championship Wrestling. It was even more set up than wrestling might be choreographed. I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes. I don’t know if you grew up with wrestling, but I grew up with George “Tthe Animal” Steele and [Jimmy] “Superfly” Snuka and stuff like that. George “Tthe Animal” Steele always had the claw maneuver. I loved that. He’d grab somebody’s head and squeeze it, they would fall to the ground and he’d win.
Cooper: My girlfriend does that.
Howland: (laughs) So you’re familiar. I said to Chris, “Okay, if we’re going to wrestle, we’ve got to be really careful here. No picking me up, no body slams, nothing like that, but I’d really love to put the claw on you.” He was like, “Oh, that’s awesome!” So he does this running around, jumps, bounces off, flips around me, does all this acrobatic stuff, makes it look fantastic, and then falls right into my hands. And I squeeze his head and he falls to the ground and I win.
They had, like, I don’t know, 400 or 800 extras in there, and background people as the audience for the wrestling, and they were loving it, because they like Chris KCanyon. He’s actually a star. Theyre were cheering and everything. So when I put him down and the guy does the three count, the audience went crazy. It was exhilarating.
Cooper: The fans weren’t mad at you?
Howland: They were happy I won.
Cooper: I thought maybe they were so diehard that they might come after you.
Howland: They had to do whatever the director told them to.
Cooper: Oh, this was for a scene—and not reality?
Howland: It was a scene. I would never actually get into a wrestling ring, ever, unless I was, like, the guy with the bullhorn.
Cooper: So they set the scene where there is already a live audience in place?
Howland: Yeah, we were shooting a show.
Cooper: What other roles have you played?
Howland: In Canada, I was in a movie called Bon Cop, Bad Cop. It was co-written by a guy named Patrick Huard, who is actually the comedian of Quebec. It’s a story about a French cop and an English cop, and there’s been a murder on the border between Ontario and Quebec—one being English and the other French. So the English cop arrives from the English side, the French cop arrives from the French side, and they each try to push the crime off on the other. But their captains tell them that they have to solve the crime together: There’s a serial killer killing hockey players in the NHL.
Cooper: And you’re the killer?
Howland: No, I play Harry Buttman, who is a spoof on Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the National Hockey League. I wear a blond wig and a flashy suit. You probably don’t know this, but in the ’70s in Quebec, politicians were being killed and disposed of in the trunks of cars. So [Huard] thought it was funny to make that a running joke in the movie, and my character spends most of the movie in the trunk of a car.
Cooper: Who was doing the killing in real life?
Howland: I don’t know; I don’t even want to say that it might have been mob-related, but—
Cooper: It sounds like organized-crime.
Howland: There is or was a strong organized-crime thing in Quebec, but I’m not sure if it was related.
Cooper: Do you speak French?
Howland: No, unfortunately. I was supposed to. But I was in and out of school so much with broken bones that by the time I got to high school, they were like, “You don’t know French?” I was like, “I know, you didn’t teach me.” And they were like, “Well, you don’t have to take it anymore.” And I was like, “Okay, thank you.” And I stopped taking it. I regret that now. I got tutored at home when I couldn’t go in to school for English and science and math. If they’d given me a tutor for French, I’d be completely bilingual by now, which would have been great, because that would have given me another province to make money in as an actor.
Cooper: I love the fact that you say bilingual and in your mind it’s immediately English and French. Here, if you say bilingual, everyone would think it’s English and Spanish.
Howland: Canada is multilingual; I think there are more people in the country who speak Chinese. It is the second-most-spoken language in Canada. French may be even lower down than Ukrainian.
Remember those cartoons when we were kids growing up about “How a Bill Becomes a Law”? There was the one about how America was a melting pot. You all got in the same pot and kind of stewed together. I always liked the idea of that everyone who comes to America gets to be a part of the American dream. But Canada is more of a tossed salad…
Howland: … The different people come in, but they don’t blend together and get stewed down. They keep their separate crispiness, but they’re all in the same bowl that is Canada.
Cooper: It is interesting how different communities start to gravitate to geographic areas because of people they know who have moved there, so they keep growing into that particular area. California is a melting pot, too. We’ve got a lot of people from all over the world who come here.
Howland: People say that no one’s actually from Toronto, and that everyone comes to make a living and go to the big city. But people do grow up in Toronto;, at the same time a lot of people do come here, and I would expect that California is similar.
Cooper: The people who are originally from here brag about it. Have you been to the States a lot?
Howland: I was down for New York Comic Con a couple weeks ago. Thankfully it wasn’t the same weekend as the storm. Otherwise there would have been a lot of superheroes washed away.
Articles in the Kurt Yaeger Issue; Ashley Fiolek — Off Season, But Still Racing Around; Geri Jewell — Let’s Vote for Each Other; Humor — A Day in a Life; Philippe Croizon — Quadruple Amputee Swims Four Straits; Paul Pelland 2 — MS, Eat My Dust!; Rick Howland — His Lost Girl Fantasy; Solo-Dx — Silence Never Sounded So Good; The Sessions — The 38-Year-Old Virgin; Kurt Yaeger — ‘Son of Anarchy’; China Press — Art of the Exchange; Chinese Lessions — She’s 86, Teaching From the Heart; DRLC — Enforcing the ADAs; ABILITY’s Crossword Puzzle; Events and Conferences… subscribe