Shaun Majumder is really hoping that if he builds Majumder Manor, tourists will come to his beautiful hometown of Burlington in rural Newfoundland.
The "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" star is embarking on a quest to transform his sleepy hometown (population: 349) into a bona fide tourist destination. And luckily for us, he's filming it all for the new W Network show "Majumder Manor."
Majumder, his fiancée Shelby, his family and their other collaborators certainly have their work cut out for them. While there's no denying that scenic Burlington is stunning, it doesn't currently have the infrastructure to support a tourism industry. There are no hotels, no cafes, no tour operators. That's where Majumder's 'vitalization' project comes in, as he calls it.
We caught up with Majumder to chat about his vision for Burlington, what it's like sharing the hometown spotlight with "Canadian Idol" finalist Rex Goudie and rumours that he and Shelby plan to tie the knot at Majumder Manor.
How did you celebrate when you realized your fundraising tour raised enough money to move forward with the Manor project?
It was great. It was really, really cool. All that money that we raised, which was about $12,000 - $14,000, wasn't specifically for only moving the project forward. That was to be used to help small businesses and setting up the BCBI, which is the Burlington Community Business Initiative. Eventually the goal is to be able to issue small business loans to people, let's say they want to start up a café or ATV tours. Right now, you have to understand, there's nothing there. It's a blank slate. It's so funny, someone said to me yesterday, 'So when you say small, does that mean there's only one Tim Hortons?' And I was like 'Tim Hortons? What, are you crazy?' There's a gas pump and a variety store, and that's it! [Laughs]
I love that Burlington has a sign bragging about you and Rex Goudie. Do the two of you have a rivalry going on?
No, not at all. There's no rivalry. We're actually really good friends, and always have been before any of his pseudo-Canadian fame and my pseudo-Canadian fame. It's been good, man.
Will Rex be popping up at all throughout the season?
Yes, absolutely! He'll be in there, here and there. There's a great story where he and I went hunting for clay. We're not sure if it's going to make it into the series, but it's definitely going to be on our website.
How did your family react to the idea of being on TV?
My sister is very much like me. I actually was inspired to start acting because she did. I think she likes it. And my Dad is one of the funniest people because he tries to be funny and he's kind of not. [Laughs] We just watched a cut of episode 4, and Dad and Liesle, his wife, have one of the most amazing love stories ever. And in episode 4, they tell their story on the show. People are going to bawling in their macchiatos for sure when they watch it. It's a really beautiful story.
What's it been like for you living in Burlington again while you're working on this?
I love it. I really do have something in my DNA, there's something about that place. For some people, you grow up in a small town, you move, and then you have all of these memories, and then you go back and you're like oh! Ugh! No, no, no, this is not what I remembered at all, I hate it! [Laughs] In this case, I feel like when I go back to Burlington it's actually more valuable to me now than it was when I was a kid.
When you're back, do people ever treat you like Mr. Hollywood? In the first episode we see hints of that during the town hall meeting...
I do live in Hollywood! I'm not [in Burlington] 24/7. So who's going to be there to count the pennies, says Rudy. [In one of the scenes of the first episode.] These are details that we need to work out, and he's right. There are a lot of challenges that we face with this project. But as far as treating me like any kind of celebrity, that doesn't exist there. I'm just Shaun going home. That's how people look at me, and that's the way it should be.
Some of the locals have pretty strong rural Newfoundland accents. Were there ever any discussions about using subtitles?
[Laughs] Not yet! But I don't know if we're going to need it. If it gets in the way of telling the story, then yes, we have to put subtitles. Do you think we need to?
No ... but when I was watching the scene with the fellow who has the museum in his house, I wasn't sure about a couple of the things he was saying.
[Laughs] Well that's OK then! I don't mind that. Because that's like going to Newfoundland! If there's a very important thing being said and you can't understand it, we'll either cut around it or add subtitles.
Do you even notice it, since you're from there?
Oh yeah. I notice it! But I do understand it. It's so funny. On one of Shelby's first trips there, on a Christmas trip, we were all sitting around the dinner table playing this game called Blurt, where you take cards and have a partner, and you have to say what the word is without saying the word. And Shelby could not understand a thing anybody was saying [Laughs]. She's from Michigan, she's like, "What the f--k? Where am I? What planet did I land on?!" So playing high-energy board games is definitely a challenge when you go to Newfoundland for the first time. But you learn as you go. That's all part of it!
When I last spoke to you, you hinted that you and Shelby might get married at Majumder Manor. Is that still a possibility?
That is still a possibility. It is discussed at great length in episode 4.
Ah, so it all comes down to episode 4!
No, it does not all come down to it. But it is discussed in episode 4!
So is that kind of the 'love' episode? You mentioned episode 4 is the one with your Dad and stepmom's love story...
Yeah, actually it is! It kind of has a theme in that episode. It's all about if you love something deeply enough, it's always worth waiting for.
"Majumder Manor" premieres on W Network on Monday, January 7 at 7 p.m. EST/ PST.