TORONTO — When Mark Critch stepson the set of “Son of a Critch,” wearing his dad’s signature aviator framesand a 1980s-styled fully buttoned suit and tie, it’s a chance for the 48-year-old actor to reminisce about his upbringing.
“The weird thing is that a lot of my family’s furniture is on set. I’m dressed like my father, so every now and then while we’re filming, I have this weird, strange memory,” says Critch, who resumes the role of his father, Mike Critch, in the second season. “You get lost in it and I forget that this show is about me. These characters are ghosts, and these people are making these ghosts real for me.”
Based on his 2020 memoir, the second season of “Son of a Critch,”set in the 1980s, resumes the St. John’s, N.L., life story of a 12-year-old Critch, played by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth.
The 13-episode series, which airs Tuesday nights and streams on CBC Gem, now sees Critch’s young self move through a new school year having lost his girlfriend to another and watching those around him mature — physically and mentally — at a rate he isn’t prepared for.
Also returning is Malcolm McDowell as his grandfather Patrick (Pop) Critch, and Claire Rankin as his mother, Mary, among others.
The “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” star says he’s yet to be repelled by the uncomfortable familiarityof miningold ground from some misfit younger years.
“If I was going to embarrass myself across the country, at least I got to embarrass myself in the way I wanted to,” says Critch. “I got one chance at this, and one way to go about this was to try to make this as palatable and sellable as a show as I possibly could.”
The first season of “Son of a Critch” was a successful property for CBC, drawing in about 941,000 viewers and cracking the top 30 programs of the weekwhen it debuted around this time last year, Numeris figures show. It remained in the top 30 until the start of February, however dropping to 710,000 viewers.
“I’m surprised that different people relate to me even if they didn’t grow up in Newfoundland in the 1980s,” says Critch. “What I’ve learned is that as different as your life can be, those human emotions of being bullied and falling in love — we all share those things when you break it down.”
Other homegrown events in the new season based on Newfoundland’s storied history include the visit by Pope John Paul II, Newfoundland’s beer strike of 1985 and the ice storm of 1984 that left St. John’s without power for days.
Critch says that he initially had no clue whether or not the show would resonate with audiences.
But telling his story honestly, alongside co-creator, showrunner and former “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” partner Tim McAuliffe, is what Critch says truly mattered to him.
“This show is like the shell of the house I used to live in, but now it’s filled up with a different family and different memories,” says Critch when speaking of his fellow actors on set. “It’s not often you get to see an old man in Malcolm McDowell arguing with a kid on set about football.”
Returning to set felt like summer camp, says Critch.
Ainsworth also says he felt at home during production of Season 2.
“It’s my first time coming back to a character in anything I’ve done, so it was interesting to go through that and realize that it was kind of like putting back on some old clothes,” says Ainsworth.“I think it’s just comfortable in terms of how we shot it this season, it’s like we’ve created a family.”
Rankin, whose credits also include “Molly’s Game” and the stage production of “Dear Evan Hansen,” agrees. She says that fostering relationships on and off set affected the dynamic of the show in a surprisingly meta kind of way.
“We were always asking each other for ideas through the process and I think that’s extraordinary,” says Rankin. “We’ve built our relationships so beautifully — it’s like we were a band and the jazz was just a little smoother this time around where we’re all just riffing off of each other in a really cool way.”
Noel Ransome, The Canadian Press