The young man on the phone is polite and articulate. Very professional.
Hard to believe this is a 21-year-old actor working his first television role on a new YTV series, if only because a person might expect more ego, more self-importance.
But while Dylan Playfair has no problem finding words and talks at length about all aspects of his latest role, as the character Knox on YTV’s Some Assembly Required, he definitely does not come across as all ego or overconfidence, though he is clearly at-ease talking to the press.
Playfair is down-to-earth and seems to partially credit his time in Fort St. James for some of the lessons which keep him grounded in reality outside the insular world of acting.
“You’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to be honest, you’ve got to be dedicated,” said Playfair.
These are things Playfair learned working in the bush doing the kind of blue-collar jobs a young man like him can pick up for a summer working in Fort St. James. Jobs at the Northern Interior Forest Products Mill and Stone’s Bay Holdings.
These jobs help keep things in perspective for Playfair, like when people say how hard a job acting is.
“I’ll be on set sometimes and I hear people saying after 10 hours on set their feet are sore or their back’s sore and I think to myself ‘None of you guys have ever pulled a frickin’ 12-hour shift on a green-chain so shut up, this is not a hard job,” said Playfair. “A lot of those lessons have come in hugely, hugely beneficial for making a career in film.”
While he was born in Fort St. James, Playfair’s family left right after he was born to head to Dayton, Ohio to pursue his father’s career in the world of professional hockey.
His dad, Jim Playfair, is now working as part of the Phoenix Coyotes coaching team, and his two brothers, Jackson and Austyn, both still play hockey.
“The unique thing about having a dad in the hockey world is I never really called any of … those places home because I never had stability there,” he said.
It was not until Playfair was in Grade 5 he began to think of somewhere besides Fort St. James as home, when the family moved to Calgary for a time.
Each year, when the hockey season was over, Jim and Roxane would return with their three sons to Fort St. James for the summer and live at their cabin in the Big Bay area on Stuart Lake.
“It’s been a blessing for sure to call Fort St. James at least a part-time home,” he said.
Dylan made the switch to acting from a family steeped in hockey, but the family is definitely okay with his direction.
“His parents are pretty open … if something interests the kids, then that’s good,” said his grandmother Beverly Playfair, who still lives in Fort St. James. “What the heck, if he’s happy, we’re happy,” she said.
Dylan may have even gotten some of his thespian genes from his grandmother, as she was involved for many years in the Music Makers theatre group, but Beverly also credits Dylan’s mom Roxane’s family with performer genes, as many in Roxane’s family are very musical.
Now the young actor calls Vancouver home, and he is continuing to film episodes of Some Assembly Required, which premiered on Jan. 6 on YTV and has been showing Monday nights ever since.
In the show, Playfair is Maxwell Knoxford III, known to everyone as “Knox” because of his last name and the number of actual knocks he takes as a thrill-seeking adrenaline junky.
This makes Knox the perfect person for the job at his friend’s toy factory as the product and safety tester.
The show is built around the premise a young teen named Jarvis Raines (Kolton Stewart) is given control of a toy company after a product of theirs destroys his family’s home.
Raines then employs a number of fellow high schoolers to help him run the company.
The eclectic ensemble cast is an interesting group, and Playfair had something good to say about each of them, and even said he was a little “starstruck” when he first met Ellie Harvey who plays the toy company’s former owner Candace Wheeler. Harvey played Morticia on The New Addams Family.
“It’s been really cool being able to watch those guys work, see different people come to the same result,” said Playfair of his fellow actors.
The show began filming in mid-August and will continue filming in front of a live studio audience in Burnaby, B.C. until the middle of February.
The live audience creates a sense of a hybrid between film and theatre, according to Playfair, who enjoys being able to feed off of the energy of the young audiences.
“The neat thing is it you get that instant gratification as to whether a joke has landed or not,” he said.
It appears the humour of the show is part of what makes playing Knox enjoyable for Playfair, a character the young actor identifies with for his “zest for life” and the love of his friends.
“When I go to set I get to basically be as goofy as I want in the realm of being able to do all the extreme sports stuff,” said Playfair, who also said in real life he was a risk-taker in hockey and he loves wake boarding.
“(Knox) takes everyday and tries to maximize his opportunities,” said Playfair.
The only real difference Playfair said he sees between himself and Knox – other than not being able to jump out of an airplane and survive the fall – is that Knox never really has a bad day.
“Knox doesn’t really get the idea behind what it means to be bummed out and I think being human that happens, that’s part of life, having ups and downs,” said Playfair.
Dylan Playfair has appeared in a number of roles prior to his latest TV role as Knox, including playing Marty Howe in Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story and an appearance on You Tube videos: Letterkenny Problems, both projects which have been nominated for Canadian Screen Awards.
Both of those roles likely benefited from his background in hockey and growing up in a hockey family, which his grandmother said she thinks meant he could identify with his characters and really understand where they are coming from.
Beverly also said she sees the same passion in Dylan she sees in his father Jim.
“He is passionate and he does want to do a good job – he has no trouble getting in there, jumping right in and doing the best he can,” she said. “If you do something you’re passionate about, you’re good at it.”
“He sort of feels like he’s found his niche I think.”
For those curious about the romantic side of the handsome actor’s life, off-screen, Playfair had been dating Paloma Kwiatkowski, the 19-year-old Canadian actress who plays Cody Brennan in Bates Motel on television and who starred in the Percy Jackson films series.
Playfair said that while they have stayed in touch and remain good friends, Kwiatkowsk is now in L.A. for the filming of Bates Motel, so they are no longer dating.