Cummins a High Roller on Dice

He is damaged like all of us. I think he has taken his licks in life and has learned to survive rather than just live. Patrick is looking for something to heal him, whether it be love, religion or alcohol,” says Martin Cummins of the police investigator character that has earned him a Gemini nomination for best actor in a continuing leading role on Dice, itself nominated for best dramatic series.

Cummins describes the noir-ish thriller, a majority Canadian coproduction between Montreal’s Cite-Amerique and the UK‘s Box TV, as a psychological mind-bender between a killer and a detective. The first season of the series (six one-hours) was set in a small, largely deserted Canadian university town, opening with the brutal murder of a young woman. For season two, the setting will move to Star Lake, a fictitious community that holds a fabulous facade of peaceful resident retirees, natives, and gamblers attracted to its native-run casino. But of course, not all is as it seems.

“It’s a wonderfully written script. The characters are developed so well that it’s hard to do bad work,” says Cummins, who won a Genie Award in 2001 for best supporting actor for Clement Virgo’s Love Come Down. Cummins also wrote, produced and directed the feature We All Fall Down, about rough living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, which also won a Genie.

Dice was conceived by Cite-Amerique president and producer Lorraine Richard and producer Greg Dummett, and scripted by UK writers A L Kennedy and John Burnside. Gub Neal and Justin Thomson Glover of Box TV are the show’s UK producers. Cummins says he tends to prefer British programming to its North American equivalent because of its brave content and quality of writing.

The $6-million series was shot in and around Montreal over 45 days through summer 2001. Directed by Rachel Talalay (Touching Evil, Band of Gold), with DOP Jean-Pierre Trudel capturing on Super 16 motion picture stock, the series also stars Aidan Gillen and Gina McKee, Canadians Brendan Fletcher (Turning Paige, Scorn), Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall), sometimes jazz singer Dorothee Berryman and Gary Farmer, and Hollywood actor Fred Ward.

Canadian broadcasters include The Movie Network, Showcase Television, Series+, Movie Central and Super Ecran. In addition to Box TV, foreign investors include France’s TF1 International, which provided a distribution advance. Cite-Amerique International, in conjunction with Box TV and Intermedia, is managing sales in the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

Dice’s second installment was to go to camera this fall, but has been held up due to the recent amendment to sale-and-leaseback tax-credit regulations in the UK, whereby copro TV series are essentially excluded in favor of features. Until financing on Dice is finalized, the actual shooting dates remain up in the air. Meanwhile, Cummins says he has read the first five hours of the new six-hour season.

One of the actor’s most memorable – yet least favorite – moments during the filming of Dice was a mishap that led to a head injury.

“It was a scene where Aidan Gillen gave me a shove on a slippery floor. The camera was hand-held and it followed Gillen. I slipped and hit my head on a corner of a table. As I lay there in a pool of blood, someone said, ‘Hey, where’s Martin?’ I had to get four stitches and come back to finish the day. It was pretty funny.”

Cummins says acting in features allows him more creativity than TV usually does, but he is lucky on Dice in that the stylistic approach is similar to that of an indie film. Although he has proven he can wear many hats on a project, Cummins remains focused, adding, “I enjoy doing all of it, but first and foremost I am an actor.”

by Noelle Stapinsky