Q&A: Allan Hawco

This actor/writer turns St. John’s into a character in his Republic of Doyle


If you’ve tuned into CBC’s Republic of Doyle, you’ll notice one huge star beyond the show’s cast—the city of St. John’s, Nfld.

From its colourful “jelly bean” houses to The Duke of Duckworth—Hawco’s favourite watering hole—the historic city plays a big role in the fast-moving, quirky adventures of lovable private eye Jake Doyle.

And Hawco, who is not only the show’s star, but also its co-creator and writer, says he’s proud to showcase his hometown. I caught up with him on the streets of The City of Legends, filming an episode.

St. John’s has been called a character in the show—why did you set Republic of Doyle here?

I wanted to make a show that Canadians could watch and feel proud of their country. This show is not pretending to be somewhere else. The setting is St. John’s, and it had to be this town. If we made a show set somewhere else, it would not be this concept.

There’s a quirky, comedic edge behind the drama. Is that a nod to Newfoundland?

There’s a certain element of the show that has to be in Newfoundland. We’re doing a cop show—a kind of private eye mystery/adventure—with a certain level of comedy and suspension of disbelief. It’s not all reality; it’s fun, there are silly parts and that’s how the city informs the show. We don’t take things too seriously here.

Locals say they love the way you’ve captured the city. How is it portrayed?

I’m in love with this city. The way I see the city, there’s a cosmopolitan side to it. It’s an extremely artist-driven town with a certain level of sexiness that I see. I wanted people to see the city the way I see the city.

You’re a busy actor—co-owner of the company theatre in Toronto—why live in Newfoundland?

I’ve always lived here. I split my time between here and Toronto for 10 years. I didn’t want to be a vacationer. I pay taxes here. I get all of my fuel from this place, the architecture, the landscape, the people.

Do you have any tips for visitors; things they must see or do in Newfoundland?

Go to the Bell Island Mines. They’re iron ore mines, once the largest submarine iron ore mine in the world. It’s not a working mine any more, it closed after World War II, but it’s just cool to go down there. Gros Morne [National Park] is a must-see. And the hiking trail up on Signal Hill. It’s a cliffside hike I love, looking across the city and seeing icebergs crack at the mouth of the harbour.

What about favourite spots to eat and drink?

O’Reilly’s [Pub] has fantastic music all the time. The Duke of Duckworth is the best place in town for fish and chips—but Ches’s Restaurant and Leo’s Fish & Chips are great, too. Raymond’s is a great new restaurant, Blue on Water, Gypsy Tea Room . . .

Why does the Duke of Duckworth Pub have such a big place in the show?

All of us just love hanging out at The Duke. We really came up with the idea for the show there.

Republic of Doyle was an instant hit—with a million viewers per week in Canada alone—why do you think we love it?

We’re in 96 countries, too. I think people wanted something they were allowed not to take too seriously. You get a laugh from beginning to end. We’re not going to show the sick side of humanity. There are bad guys, but no one is really totally bad—within darkness, there are all kinds of light.

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