Richard Smith-Jones (Mark McKinney) is business manager for a chaotic theater company in Slings and Arrows.
Richard Smith-Jones (Mark McKinney, right), the business manager of a Shakespearean theater company, stands alongside avant-garde director Darren Nichols (Don McKeller) in Slings and Arrows.
From Slings and Arrows, Season 2: Looking to reinvent the New Burbage Festival's image, Richard (Mark McKinney) seeks out a marketing guru (Colm Feore) at a cutting-edge firm -- called Frog Hammer.
Actor and comic Mark McKinney co-wrote the critically acclaimed Canadian TV series Slings and Arrows, which aired in the U.S. on the Sundance Channel. It's the tale of a dysfunctional classical theater company — the New Burbage Festival — that's not entirely unlike Canada's famed Stratford Festival, where many of the Slings cast have made notable careers.
McKinney co-starred in the series, playing Richard Smith-Jones, the business manager for the troupe. The show's title is taken from a line in Shakespeare's Hamlet — in the "To be or not to be" soliloquy, Hamlet moans about suffering "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."
Slings and Arrows is out now as a DVD box set; a Philadelphia Inquirer reviewer called the show "sweet, smart and seriously addictive."
McKinney is perhaps best known for his work with the sketch-comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall, stars of a TV show of the same name that aired in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was also with Saturday Night Live from 1995 to 1997.
McKinney tells Terry Gross that he liked the character of Richard — a "suit" stranded amid a creative crowd — because he sees a little of himself in the character.
"I was kind of brought up to expect people to be reasonable," he deadpans. "And I think 'artistic behavior' — particularly tantrums — used to scare me when I first got into the business. And so I always had this part of myself that was wrestling with the reasonable versus the impulsive, and I see that conflict in Richard — [he's] not sure what lane he should pick here."
Off the set, McKinney says, he's not the kind of actor who carries a performance into the real world.
"I think on the street, you'd mistake me for a horticulturist."
He talks about his history with Kids in the Hall, about his loathing for stand-up comedy and about how acting and writing draw on very different sides of his personality.
"On Kids in the Hall it was very dramatic," McKinney says. "We would go through cycles. ... When I was writing, I would be up at 8 o'clock, my place was neat, my dishes were done, I wasn't living to excess.
"And then as we sort of folded [the writing phase] and became actors, the laundry would pile up, and the nights would get later and the behavior more irresponsible. ... You're tapping into a sort of impulsivity. ... There's more of a certain type of adrenaline released when you're performing that makes you stick around for an extra beer, or watch three hours of CNN before you go to bed."