Interview d'Andrew Airlie by Canada.com
Andrew Airlie might play a spy mastermind on TV, but he says he’d fall apart if he had to perform any covert shenanigans in real life.
“When I was at University of Toronto, I sat the diplomatic test before I went into my master’s degree. I got an interview with a fledgling CSIS, but CSIS wasn’t very interested in me when I was in my intellectual prime — however short that window was,” he says with a laugh.
“My wife doesn’t think I’d be a good spy either. She doesn’t even let me drive across the border when we go to the States. If I’m the one driving, we invariably get pulled over for the extra check. She’s says I just look guilty.”
On The Romeo Section though, Airlie is all poker face as the master of spies Wolfgang McGee. The agents who work for him use their skills in sexiness to extract secrets from intelligence targets. Male spies are called Romeos; females are Juliets.
The Wednesday night CBC drama hails from Chris Haddock, creator of Da Vinci’s Inquest, Intelligence and Da Vinci’s City Hall. Airlie, in fact, first met Haddock while auditioning for Da Vinci’s Inquest and later also appeared in Intelligence — though to hear Airlie tell it, the bromance got off to a rocky start.
“I had a really great read at the audition and it felt like I had a good connection with him, but I didn’t get the part. I came back a couple episodes later, and didn’t get that one. Came back a couple episodes later, didn’t get that one,” he says.
After Airlie’s fifth audition for the coroner drama, his patience was wearing thinner than a membrane on Dominic Da Vinci’s own cadavers.
“I went in one more time, and Chris said, ‘Hey, man. I gotta tell you I just love your stuff. I love what you’re doing. Just bear with me. This isn’t the right one for you either, but there’s going to be something,’” Airlie says.
“I remember walking out and having that Renée Zellweger moment — you know, ‘You had me at hello.’ He had me at ‘Hey, man.’ And I thought, ‘Oh my god, I’ll do anything for you any time.’ Another couple episodes later, they didn’t even ask me to read. They just asked me to do it.”
Booking The Romeo Section, then, was a homecoming of sorts. Except it’s an onscreen home filled with shady characters, drugs, cursing, smoking and sexy, sexy circumstances.
“It’s Chris Haddock’s style for things to have gritty realism and naturalistic dialogue and not looking for perfection or perfect TV moments. Chris is happy with some accidents that happen in a scene,” says Airlie, who’s also appeared in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie and the ’90s Canadian teen comedy Breaker High.
“Traditionally you have to get things perfect, whereas Chris is a bit looser and says, ‘Just have a real scene here.’ And Chris’s working style hasn’t changed very much from Da Vinci’s Inquest and Intelligence. He’s a really generous collaborator.”
Also familiar? The Vancouver cityscape. It was a staple in Haddock’s previous shows, and he also gives it generous play in The Romeo Section.
“Often in Canadian television I think we don’t embrace some of the really interesting stories that go on inside our own borders and cities. We end up making a lot of generic TV, where we’re standing in for an Anytown U.S.A. or North America,” says the actor, who was born in Glasgow, relocated Toronto and now lives in Vancouver.
“The Romeo Section absolutely embraces Vancouver and shows it off in all its pristine beauty and gritty glory. I’m really excited for audiences to see that. I hope people here will be proud of the way we showcase the city and this mysterious, dark, exciting story.”