June 18, 2013

Ruth Myles: Comedy is part of the package for Randal Edwards on new Canadian sitcom

Ruth Myles / Calgary Herald

“Fifteen interviews later,” Randal Edwards is swigging a Red Bull, trying to keep his energy going during the recent upfronts in Toronto. The yearly ritual involves talent from the crop of new TV shows premiering in the fall promoting their wares in a day jam-packed with interviews and appearances.
The former Calgarian is fully caffeinated and raring to talk about Package Deal, a new made-in-Vancouver sitcom premiering on CityTV this fall. (The network is broadcasting a sneak peek on Tuesday.) In a break from the single-camera trend, the series is filmed by multiple cameras in front of a studio audience.

“It’s as close to live theatre as TV gets. It’s a meeting of both worlds. It’s unlike any other TV job I’ve had. It’s a unique animal,” Edwards says. “Seeing it done with a live audience, I couldn’t see doing it any other way because you get so much from the audience itself, with instant feedback. It makes the show. It really gives the show the life it needs.”

Package Deal is about a successful young lawyer, Danny White (Edwards). His family dynamic is blown when his new girlfriend (Julia Voth) learns her beau’s relationship with his two brothers, played by Harland Williams and Jay Malone, is a little too close for comfort.

Edwards, who played Noah on The Best Years and has a recurring role as Mr. Townsend on Degrassi: The Next Generation, says he wasn’t sure the makers of the show really meant to cast him, seeing as he doesn’t have the comedy background of his co-stars. Although executive producer Andrew Orenstein (Malcolm in the Middle, 3rd Rock from the Sun) brought in writers who’d worked on series such as Roseanne and The Cosby Show, he made it clear that one thing stood above all else.

‘I was very intimidated. . . . (But) the first thing that Andrew said when we got there was ‘In my house, funny rules. My words aren’t precious. If you find something funnier, pitch it.’ And we all made a promise to put forward the funniest, best product that we can.”

And the 31-year-old actor soon got used to playing his part in the ensemble, trading barbs with his onscreen brothers, as well as an icon of the Canadian comedy scene: Eugene Levy. Levy guest stars in the premiere, as well as two more instalments of the 14-episode season, while Pamela Anderson plays a therapist in a three-episode arc.

“It’s an amazing thing when you drop a bomb and you’ve hit the joke on the screws and the place erupts. You are addicted!” Edwards says. “On the flip side of that, you drop one and it’s crickets out there, the silence is deafening.
“It’s a great way to say, ‘Okay, we’ve got to brush that one up.’ And you go and rewrite, bring in new dialogue on the fly. It’s such an amazing, vulnerable place to work in and from, which frankly, I haven’t felt since I was on stage.”

A sneak peek of Package Deal airs Tuesday on CityTV at 10 p.m. The series will air this fall.

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