Up in Arms
by Tara Merrin
There’s something strange going on in Vancouver’s West End. The most densely populated neighbourhood in the country is being overrun by Canadian actors who are taking up residence at Robson Arms.
The highly anticipated new series on CTV, which peeks into the lives of several quirky, unconventional tenants living in a low-rise in Kitsilano, has attracted a slew of Canadian actors such as Margot Kidder (Superman), Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables) and Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall).
"The scripts are amazing," says Kidder, when asked why so many well-known actors wanted to be a part of the show. "The writing is so good, it’s really stellar. This show is one in a million — it’s so different from anything else.
"Watching it, you get a wonderful sense of being a voyeur. It’s like they have cut off the front of this apartment building and let you in to see what’s going on. It’s certainly not your run of the mill sitcom stuff."
In July 2002, series creator Susin Nielsen pitched the idea for the series, originally known as Keys Cut Here, in which every episode visits a different tenant of a old West End apartment building, to CTV.
The program, which premiered last week, was designed to give new writers and directors their first jobs on a network primetime series.
"It’s thrilling to see young new pros in action. Everybody involved in this really did their homework and everything went so smoothly," says Kidder.
"You can really feel an energy in the scripts and a chemistry between the cast. When you have something that feels that good, you know it’s going to work.”
Kidder, 56, who first appears in the sixth episode of the 13-part series, plays Elaine Wainwright, a middle-aged woman having difficulty letting go of her youth.
"She’s a bit of a floozy who tries to seduce a young man. She’s so great, I love playing her," says Kidder.
Series regular John Cassini (NYPD Blue and Se7en), who plays the building’s sleazy superintendent Yuri, says when he got the scripts for Robson Arms he thought it was some of the best TV he had ever read.
His only concern about joining the cast was that the incredible writing wouldn’t come across as well on television, he says.
“I admit that when I saw the episodes all put together, I was surprised. I didn’t think it was going to be as good as it turned out.
“There is so much story told in those 22 minutes. I really believes that’s why it works.”
Cassini, who is the only cast member to appear in all 13 episodes, says he is thrilled by the amount of talent Robson Arms has attracted. Every time a new character was added to the show, he says he became “giddy” with excitement.
“It’s wonderful working with so many different people because it keeps things interesting. You’re not always doing the same scene with the same person all the time. It was agreat experience.”
Cassini says there’s no word yet on whether the show will be given a second season.
"I think we would all like to see that happen. I would love to go back and do it all over again."