I’m not going to lie—we’ve had some thirsty article here in the past. Pierce Brosnan and Sting and Val Kilmer all had a subtext of “Gillian finds this guy really hot.” Hell, there’s a bit of an implication in my Gillian Anderson article, and if I get around to Tori Amos at some point, it’ll be more than an implication. But if you ask my friends who really know me what actor tops the list of People I Would Leave My Partner For, there isn’t a moment of hesitation—it’s Paul Gross. And if they don’t know his name, it’s The Mountie.
How much of that is just Benton Fraser? Oh, some, though frankly I’m with Thatcher (Camilla Scott) and wouldn’t be able to actually be in a relationship with him. It is, however, true that Benton Fraser has some sterling qualities that anyone would want in a partner. He’s attentive. He’s thoughtful. He’s compassionate. He’s intelligent and well-read, which definitely do it for me. Now, there are fundamental differences like the whole “he really wants to live in the wilds of Canada” thing, but if you’re into that sort of thing, you could do far, far worse than Benton Fraser.
Geoffrey Tenant and I would similarly not work on a pretty fundamental level. It’s not that I don’t believe two mentally ill people should be together. And if you should never date anyone crazier than you are, that basically means mentally ill people shouldn’t date. It’s more that our particular forms of crazy would be really bad for each other, and it would go some very weird, very dark places. We both need someone who will encourage us to start accomplishing things and stop just staring at the ceiling in the dark. He’s intelligent, again, and creative and passionate, and we would feed one another’s worst impulses.
But it’s worth noting that Benton Fraser and Geoffrey Tenant are radically different characters. They’ve got certain common threads, but picture Geoffrey tasting dirt to see where a suspect had been before bombing a Chinese restaurant, or Fraser popping “antidepressants” like the TicTacs they actually were just to mess with someone’s head. Geoffrey might’ve saved Deifenbacher’s life, but he wouldn’t have done whatever the wolf wanted him to from that point on; Fraser could act, but a Shakespeare festival run by him would be very different.
Gross wrote seven episodes of Due South, and they were all classics. It’s worth noting that he gave himself songs in two of them, which I’m fine with; he has a strong singing voice. But aside from all the Randall Bolt (Kenneth Welsh) episodes—some of which are so funny I cry laughing still—he gave us the episode where New Ray (Callum Keith Rennie) is introduced. Which is to this day the best way a show has ever introduced a “replacement” to a character, as everyone gaslights Fraser that New Ray is actually Old Ray (David Marciano).
I’m also fond of Men With Brooms, which involves another dissolute Paul Gross character, this time written and directed by Gross himself. I was strangely fond of curling before I saw it, and even had a decent grasp on the rules—let’s face it; curling is not a complicated sport—but my love for it now is firmly in the Because Paul Gross territory. My friends sigh and put up with this and admit that it is a pretty funny movie even if you don’t have my weird fixation.
He’s also doing fine work by preserving what I will never not think of as Our Canadian Heritage. He doesn’t seem to have ever done one of those shorts, which I used to see when I watched Canadian TV, but he has made the movie Passchendaele, about Canadian soldiers in World War I. It’s based on his own grandfather’s war memories and the fact that a lot of Canadian history is tied up in that war, which is seldom discussed. Sure, it can be a bit maudlin at times, but it’s a fine piece of filmmaking that was clearly a passion project for Gross.
I could keep going. I’d’ve watched Tales of the City sooner if I’d known he was in it. Gunless is ridiculous fun. H2O is just ridiculous, and one of these days I need to actually watch my copy of The Trojan Horse, which I doubt is better. Getting Married in Buffalo Jump deserves to be better known, as do Wilby Wonderful and Whale Music. I’m not sure Aspen Extreme does, but it’s at least dumb fun. And if you ever wanted to see Paul Gross in a fringe jacket, well, there’s the version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea he’s in, which certainly doesn’t have much else to recommend it.