Flying High: Interview with Arctic Air's John Reardon

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Omnifilms Entertainment

John Reardon as Arctic Air's Blake Laviolette

In the first season of the CBC drama Arctic Air, TV audiences were introduced to the struggling airline located in Yellowknife (the capital and largest city of the Northwest Territories in Canada) and the team of people risking everything, even, in some cases, their lives, in order to keep the business from going under. Among the high-flyers is Blake Laviolette, a young, good-looking “Top Gun-type” pilot who is secretly involved with his coworker and fellow Arctic Air pilot Krista Ivarson.

Blake’s romantic rival is Bobby Martin, a Vancouver businessman whose late father co-founded the airline with Krista’s father Mel. His return to Yellowknife stirs up plenty in his personal and professional lives as well as the lives of those around him. All this character interaction has been terrific dramatic (and comedic) grist for the storytelling mill and, going into the show’s second year, actor John Reardon has used all that to help build upon his performance as Blake.

“It’s a fascinating duality because Blake is a bit of a cocky hotshot pilot who, I think, just found himself in the north and Yellowknife as a bit of a stepping stone to moving to what he probably considered his dream job,” explains Reardon. “However, once he gets there, he starts to realize that there’s something about that part of the country that gets to people. In fact, it starts to get to him and he begins to fall in love with the north, followed by Krista [Pascale Hutton]. The priorities he had before all this end up changing and Blake becomes almost a prouder Yellowknifer than anyone else.

“One of the challengers in playing this character is that Blake finds himself quite surprised at how much he really enjoys the community. I think he starts to realize that maybe he’s in exactly the place he wants to be as opposed to sort of dreaming about the future and where he thought he’d end up. Also, he loves Krista very much, but knows that she has a great deal of history with Bobby [Adam Beach]. There’s obviously an attraction between the two of them that my character can never live up to in many ways because Krista and Bobby have known each other since they were little kids.

“A trap with Blake would be playing him as constantly angry or jealous with Bobby or with Krista and hers and Bobby’s relationship. However, I think he really just cares about Krista so much and wants things to work out between them. So his sort of main priority is to make her happy and then, hopefully, everything works out. Even though Bobby is his competition, Blake likes him and under different circumstances if the two of them weren’t competing for the same girl, they would probably be friends.”

It was Reardon’s prior involvement in another TV series and his association with its producers that subsequently led to him being cast in Arctic Air.

“I had worked before with Ian Weir [Arctic Air creator/executive producer] and [executive producer] Michael Chechik on a CBC show called Edgemont almost 10 years ago,” recalls the actor. “So I already knew the two of them, but when casting began for Arctic Air I was actually doing another show, so I missed the first round of auditions. At one point, though, I went in for a callback session. I don’t believe either Ian or Michael were there at the time, so I put myself on tape and hoped that they’d take a look at me again. They did and before long I found out that I’d gotten the job, which was pretty exciting.

“My contribution to the show’s pilot was very quick. In fact, I just came in on the last day for a big wedding scene that they were filming in Abbotsford on the outskirts of Vancouver. It was a bit of a party atmosphere and everyone had already been working together for 10 days. I arrived for a couple of hours and shot my one scene. I remember feeling a little jealous because everyone seemed to be having such a good time, and I was just starting to get to know everybody at that point. It was great fun, though, I immediately fell in love with the cast as well as crew and everyone made me feel very welcome right off the top.”

As the actor previously mentioned, Blake may have originally considered Yellowknife as merely a pit stop in his life, but the character has since come to realize that the area as well as the locals have much more to offer.

“Again, I feel Blake has definitely become more comfortable in his surroundings,” says Reardon. “There’s a scene, I believe it’s in episode seven of the first season, where Blake talks to Bobby about the north as well as his ambitions and admits that in a number of ways he finds himself falling in love with that part of the country.

“In the very beginning, Blake was somewhat more materialistic. He always had the nicest flight bag, wore the Top Gun-type jacket and was probably much more into image as well as perpetuating this image and career that he wanted to have in the future. As time has gone on, though, he’s blended into the community better and made a lot of friends at Arctic Air. In the process, Blake is realizing that he’s happier much happier enjoying where he is as opposed to constantly being driven by his ambition.

“In season two of Arctic Air we could see a bit more of an edge to my character. I think he wants things to change, but doesn’t know how to make that a reality. Blake might also be dealing with certain emotions - not unlike a lot of men in the world - that he didn’t necessarily know were there or has buried deep down inside himself. Perhaps those emotions come out in angry or frustrated ways. He’s not the man we met back in the first season, and that’s made him even more fun to play this year.”

White Chicks, Scary Movie 4 and TRON: Legacy are among the actor’s feature film credits. In addition to Arctic Air, he has appeared in a variety of made-for-TV movies as well as guest-sports on such series as The Twilight Zone, Tru Calling, Andromeda and Hellcats. Reardon also had recurring roles on the Sci-Fi dramas Painkiller Jane and, most recently, Continuum.

Painkiller Jane was a fun role and I had a ball working with Kristanna Loken [Jane Vasco],” says the actor. “In most of the episodes I’m either half-naked or naked in a shower with Kristanna. Funnily enough, my wife [actress Meghan Ory] did an episode of the show, and she had a scene where her character sucks the life out of Kristanna with a kiss. So my wife had a kissing scene with Kristanna in the same episode that I had a kissing scene with Kristanna. It was pretty amusing.

“As for Continuum, I just love working with Simon Barry, the show’s creator. I think he’s brilliant. There are a number of secrets that I guess will be revealed over the course of the series, but the thing is they’re very good at giving the actors specific notes about how we should be interacting with other characters or playing scenes. We really don’t know, though, where our characters are going. So it’s actually pretty interesting going in with these notes and thinking, ‘OK, what could this mean for my character?’ I’m definitely hooked on the show and intrigued to see where it’s going to go.”

Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Reardon studied Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London as well as improv comedy at The Second City in Los Angeles and Toronto. While at Mount Allison University, Reardon considered pursuing a career in medicine, but growing up, his dream was to become a professional athlete.

“I played college football and sort of hoped that I might have a chance at doing that for a living,” he notes. “I had done some theatre, though, and improv, and while I was offered a few tryouts for the CFL [Canadian Football League], I decided that acting was probably where I had the greatest chance of doing something that I’d enjoy the most and probably would have the most longevity.

“If I had ever gotten to a point where I was fortunate enough to play pro sports, it probably would have been fairly short-lived given that I’m a pretty slow, skinny guy with not the best hand-to-eye coordination. So a career as a wide-receiver wasn’t the way to go,” jokes Reardon. “I’m very glad that I did stick with the acting, and I’ve been very fortunate, like I said, to have worked with guys like Ian Weir and Michael Chechik and I’m just extremely grateful to be part of a show like Arctic Air.

“To be honest, I would be here all day, every day if they would let me. I’m sure everyone would get tired of me after a while, but I just really love being on-set and around this cast and crew.”

Arctic Air airs on Canada's CBC Network on Wednesdays @ 9:00 p.m. EST/PST. Please note, all Arctic Air photos copyright of Omnifilms Entertainment, and Continuum photo copyright of the Showcase Network.

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A native of Massachusetts, Steve Eramo has been a Sci-Fi fan since childhood, having been brought up on such TV shows as Star Trek and Space: 1999. He is also an Anglophile and lover of British TV. A writer for 35 years – 17 of those as a fulltime freelancer – Steve has had over 2,500 feature-length…

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