Arnold Pinnock is a UK born Canadian actor who began his career at Toronto’s Second City MainStage. His career has since sky-rocketed and we had the opportunity to speak to him about his newest role in a Canadian sitcom called Young Drunk Punk.
What is Young Drunk Punk about?
Other than the fact that Young Drunk Punk is a very funny show, it’s set in the ‘80s and based loosely on Bruce McCulloch from Kids in the Hall and his life growing up in Calgary. It’s about the shenanigans that the main character (Ian McKay) and his friend Shinky get themselves into throughout their post-high school life.
It’s really, really funny and the fact that you’ve got the ‘80s aspect in it is quite hilarious. It sets up a lot of great situations for comedy. I’m very proud to be a part of this show as well.
How did you get involved with Young Drunk Punk?
Just like every other character, we all auditioned for it but when I read the first script, the comedy definitely spoke to me. I love the timing of it, the double entendre of the scenes or lines.
There’s just multiple layers of comedy within each scene and that is rare to get. It’s usually just ba-dum-puh and that’s it, but there was so much going on in it. Comedy is hard — it’s very hard — and that’s what excites me about it; it’s the challenge of getting all of those layers of comedy so precise within the time period given.
It was really exciting so once I was on board, I was flabbergasted. And, of course, to work with Bruce McCulloch — for me, he’s a legend so I was pretty psyched about that.
The writing on it is very good, it’s brilliant, it’s top-shelf, it’s “off-the-chain”. And you’ve even got border cities that can pick it up on the Over-the-Air digital antennas out west.
One of the things that I really do like about it, is the fact that it really does challenge you as an artist. When you first read it, you grasp the basics, then when you read it again you see the multiple layers and situations that set up something two episodes ahead or brings back something from three episodes back. That, to me, is really good writing and a really good show-runner.
Tell us about your character, Mr. Orenstein. Do you connect with him in any way?
Definitely not with his last name — there’s not a lot of brothers I know walking around town or in the ‘80s with that name. I try to connect with almost every character I can, that’s the job, but the thing I do like about him is that he cares about the kids, Shinky and Ian, to the point where he’ll try to help them after school or after the class. He wants them to be people that are going to contribute to society in a positive way and that aspect of him I do connect with, especially with the youth. Any chance I can, I like to give back.
But, he is a drill sergeant and he does see things being done his way. That combination, I think, is always comedy because as tough as he may be, there’s always that sweetness to him that wins out at the end to try and help the kids and I think that’s kind of cool.
He wouldn’t want everyone to know that he’s got that gooey part of him — there’s no doubt about it — but it’s definitely evident in the way that he treats the kids and on the final note of the episodes that he’s in, you can always tell that there’s this good naturedness to him.
Tell us one thing you love about your character and one thing you dislike about it.
I love his ‘fro — and I just want everyone to know that that’s MY hair and I love rocking that thing. These days everyone has their hair cut low so it’s different and he has the moustache, so really he could be an ‘80s cop with the whole look. Think about it: Orenstein becomes a cop — don’t hesitate to put that out there.
Jennifer, who does the clothes, has done such a good job with that period that every time I fly in from Toronto and go to see her in wardrobe, I’m excited because I’m wondering what she’s going to put me in today. She’s just top-notch when it comes to the wardrobe and designing what we’re all wearing.
I also like the way my character interacts with everyone — from Lloyd, to Belinda, to Ian and Shinky, who I have most of my scenes with, and I just really love the way that we can interact and it’s very fun.
I wish he would wear warmer clothes in Calgary where we shoot, I really do. Sometimes, it’s cold!
What did you do to prepare for playing this character?
I did some homework regarding the time period which was really important and asking the writers and Bruce about a bit of backstory, because this is all really based loosely on his life, so there was an Orenstein somewhere in his life. Was it a brother with a ‘fro and a moustache? I don’t know but, nonetheless, here I am.
When I start working on characters I work with the physicality first. I brainstorm the character: how does he walk? How does he move? How does he turn his neck? Is he left-handed or is he right handed? Does he purse his lips? Does he hesitate before he talks? That’s how I work on characters.
So with Orenstein, I started with the walk first and then, just the way he listens to people and how he phrases his dialogue and, next thing you know, I’ve just formulated this character. And that was the cool thing about it; they organically manifest themselves when you water them and really nourish the process of building a character.
In the episodes coming up, he’s been working on something for a very long period of his life and that is actually his main goal — to succeed in getting this out to the world; he’s a multilayered individual, he’s not just a guidance counsellor and he’s got so many things going on. And he reaches out to Ian and Shinky to help him orchestrate this goal that he’s been wanting to do for most of his life.
The show is set in 1980. What was your life like in 1980?
I had ‘fros — I can’t remember if I had actual platform shoes but I had some for going to church and they were cool to walk around in. Of course the hair, the plug-in afro pick and I’m sure I experimented with a little bit of a Jheri curl at the time.
When I think back to it, ‘80s for me was just music and music is a big thing in my life. I grew up in Scarborough so I had my turntable and my buddy across the street, he had the crates of records, so I’d have to go and knock on the door, he’d bring the crates over and you’d mix that slow jam for the girl you had a crush on at school. I had the JVC, just like everybody else.
And I’m from a West Indian-British upbringing so my mom didn’t understand playing records at 10 o’clock at night. But the ‘80s were cool and I try to bring my ‘80s into my character, just a touch.
You’ve been in so many great movies and series such as in Life With Derek, The Incredible Hulk, Lars and the Real Girl, Carrie, Beauty and the Beast, The Listener... What was your favourite role to play and why?
They were all so good at the time but that’s a really tough one. I’ve been very blessed to work on a lot of shows and movies and I love all of my characters, but two are my favourite.
I did a movie called Exit Wounds with Steven Seagal and I played this kind of crooked, sleazy car salesman. That was a lot of fun — it was with DMX and Anthony Anderson and we just really hit it off. I’ll never forget that we were shooting by this posh car dealership up on Dupont that sells Aston Martins and Jaguars and I was never going to be in that place, but we did a great scene.
Another one was a character in Beautiful People. I played this eccentric, but not over-the-top, gay designer in New York. It was really cool because I was only hired to work one day and that one day turned into two years. That just boils down to being a Second City alumni and working on characters. Once again, that was a character that started from physicality and backstory, which is what we do as actors; his delivery, adding certain things to the character that made it unique and you can do all these things without going over-the-top or making them stick out. It’s just small things that maybe no one will pick up on, but you will; they’re building blocks for you to add to your character that makes them three-dimensional and a lot of fun to portray. It’s all for the love of your character.
What’s next for you or do you have any other projects coming up?
I am doing a movie in Montreal called Incendo, it’s a movie of the week. I have things going on in Vancouver which I, unfortunately, can’t say, but they are really exciting. I’m also doing some things in a new show, Heroes Reborn, which is wicked and a couple things that I’m producing as well.
I do photography as well so I’m working on doing a photography book for 2016, which I’m really excited about.
I just love being an artist and in my background with my parents, their mindset was: you graduate and you get a job. So, to be an artist — it was very strange for them to see their son doing this. I’ve been blessed to have success, so they were very happy after a while and nothing felt better than to know my parents were proud of me — but my mother still wanted to know, “When are you going to play a pastor?”