Lorne Cardinal reflects on the iconic Canadian TV series and its new life as a cartoon

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Although it’s an entirely new format, getting back into character as David Quinton was like putting on his “favourite old shirt,” said Plains Cree actor Lorne Cardinal.

For 10 years Cardinal played the local police sergeant in the fictional town of Dog River on the CTV comedy series Corner Gas.

Now, after a four-year hiatus following a six-season run that included 107 live-action episodes and a feature-length film, the cast will be reprising their roles – as the voices of cartoon characters.

While the original series became a national favourite with Canadian audiences, Cardinal never expected the show to get a third act.

“After we finished filming the movie, I thought that was it,” lamented Cardinal. “It was a very sad time because when you film a show like that, the cast and crew become your family. When the band has to break up, so to speak, you get a lull of depression but something else comes up and you move on. That’s what acting is all about – the next challenge.”

After the movie, Cardinal went on to act in numerous TV series, including FX’s hit drama Fargo. He even wrote and co-directed a documentary, called Chasing Lear, which followed August Schellenberg’s 40-year-dream of an all-Native King Lear hitting the main stage of the National Arts Centre.

The challenge now is voice acting in an old role. For the animated version of the series, half the cast records in Toronto while the other half recites lines in a Vancouver sound studio.

“It takes a bit of getting used to,” said Cardinal. “You have to rely more on diction to emphasise the beats. It’s funny because I find I’m still acting physically even though no one sees my body or face.”

He also doesn’t have his partner to play off. Tara Spencer-Nairn, a.k.a. Constable Karen Pelly, is part of the cast’s Toronto contingent while Cardinal resides in Vancouver.

Cardinal is also anxious about how the new show will play with younger audiences. “The episodes are all at least as funny as the live series and I’m hoping it will attract a new, younger generation of Corner-Gas-heads while satisfying the stalwart fans.”

It’s all about the fans, continued Cardinal.

“Without them we wouldn’t have done a movie or an animated series. I’m honoured that our fans love the characters that we created and that they still resonate with our audience.”

He applauded the writers for pushing the limits with the show’s new format. While the familiar rhythm of small-town humour is captured in the new medium, the show can now boldly go where it’s never gone before.

“Since we’re not concerned about the cost of building sets or how it will look playing out in real-life, the writers can push it a lot further,” Cardinal observed. “If we want to, we could do Corner Gas in Space.”

They don’t – yet – go to space, but they do imagine a dystopic Dog-River-future in homage to Mad Max: Fury Road. They then flash to a Sasquatch fighting a unicorn to death in the next episode so…  “We do a lot of strange things with this one,” chuckled Cardinal.

Corner Gas Animated premiered April 2 and Cardinal was ecstatic to be joining the ranks of the Lone Ranger’s Tonto, G.I. Joe’s Spirit Iron-Knife, and King of the Hill’s John Redcorn as one of the few animated First Nations characters to be featured on a North American television network (excluding APTN).

The series airs every Monday at 8 pm on the Comedy Network. “Now I’ll be thin and pretty forever,” joked Cardinal.


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