Actor Martin Cummins looks like a lazily sensualist relative of James Dean. There’s that same brooding intensity, the stubble on his chin, the awkward pauses for effect. Then there’s Irish actor Aidan Gillen Queer As Folk, drop-dead handsome but enjoying every minute of his turn as Glenn Taylor, a charismatic psychology teacher who sports boyish charm and freshly scrubbed manners.
By chance, they’re two of the hottest TV actors around these days. And they’re co-starring in the new Canadian-British miniseries Dice, which rolls into view tonight at 9 on the Movie Network. Shot in and around Montreal, it’s a cross between Twin Peaks and Psycho, a tautly terrific thriller set in a small university town where everyone is pretty weird. Cummins (Dark Angel, Poltergeist) is neatly cast as compulsive detective Patrick Styvesant, searching for the killer of pert college student Sally Quinn. The chain of suspects includes Mark McKinney as a very strange salesman of a vacuum-packing service, Callum Keith Rennie as a long-haired freak who lives on society’s margins, Fred Ward as a rumple-faced private eye, Gina McKee as a harassed housewife, and Brendan Fletcher as Sally’s student lover, the chief suspect in the murder case.
“Yeah, it is different,” Cummins says of the show. He’s in almost all the scenes and gets to show his acting chops in ways fans of the TV series Poltergeist could never have imagined. “It was terrific to look up, and there would be Fred Ward in the next scene, and I just like the way he’s handled his career, always going for the unusual. I stayed in the same apartment block as Callum, and we both have pit bulls, and we’d race them around.”
“I think I was chosen because of Gub Neal (executive producer),” Gillen says. (It was Neal who picked Gillen to portray the hedonistic Stuart in the original British version of Queer As Folk. “The writing was just so good,” Gillen adds. “I didn’t want it to be tawdry.”
Instead, it roared into a huge ratings success around the world. And Neal, then Britain’s Channel 4’s chief programmer, sold the US rights for an instant remake currently being shot in Toronto. Gillen, 33, had never worked in Canada and liked Montreal. It reminded him a bit of Dublin, he says. “Not the architecture, the people.” Since Queer As Folk, Gillen has worked constantly. He co-starred in A&E’s recent three-hour production of Lorna Doone and won awards for the small-budget British film, Low Down. He talked on the phone from London, where he’s starring in a new stage production of Chekhov’s Platonov.
Cummins is Vancouver-based and has already landed his next gig as the resident villain on this season’s Dark Angel. “It’s funny, but after Poltergeist folded I thought I should try LA. And we sold our house and were beginning to move, and this offer came up, and it’s right back in Vancouver. And I think it’s for the best, as my little boy is starting kindergarten.” Cummins, 31, has been acting since he was a teen, when he did the rounds of such Vancouver series from Danger Bay to 21 Jump Street. Married to former Baywatch beauty Brandy Ledford, he has already directed his first movie, last year’s We All Fall Down, co-starring Helen Shaver and Nicholas Campbell.
Nov. 12, 2001