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The Off-Topic Interview: Paul Campbell

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British Columbia's Paul Campbell has spent the past several years straddling the border like a pro, starring in Canadian and US productions alike. Although he played a prominent role in NBC's high-profile Knight Rider remake, he's better known for his memorable turn as shy, soft-spoken presidential aide Billy Keikeya in Syfy's legendary Battlestar Galactica. Campbell is now set to star in Showcase's newest half-hour comedy series Almost Heroes, penned and co-produced by the Belleville Brothers. We recently caught up by phone to discuss Battlestar's legacy, the state of Canadian television and his transition to less dramatic fare. Then the conversation veered off topic a bit. My bad.

Steven Shehori: Almost Heroes is being touted as Canada's next big buzzworthy sitcom. Kind of a 30 Rock / Community vibe, humour-wise. What's the scoop?

Paul Campbell: It's a wonderful show about two brothers who try to run their failing strip mall comic book shop amidst a sea of destructive, nerdy chaos. I play the ladies-man older brother Terry, who's forced to help out his younger brother Peter (Ryan Belleville), a.k.a. the loose cannon in the family.

SS: It's a definite 180 from your Battlestar Galactica days, where you played -- hey, why am I hearing exotic birds in the background?

PC: (laughs) Sorry about that. I'm down in Mexico right now.

SS: Are you being kidnapped by drug lords? You can tell me.

PC: Naw, just on vacation with my wife.

SS: Because I know how easy it can be down there to get mixed in with the wrong kind of drug lords.

PC: Is there such a thing as the right kind of drug lords?

SS: I don't like to generalize. In any field there's going to be people who are machete-wielding madmen and people who aren't machete-wielding madmen.

PC: I'll accept that.

SS: So I try to take drug lords on a case-by-case basis.

PC: Well sure, you have to. That's Drug Lord 101 right there.

SS: If Mr. Eko taught me anything during season two of Lost, it's that.

PC: It was more season four for me. Season four was so confusing that it gave me a lot of time to reflect on other topics, such as the various types of drug lords our planet has to offer. African drug lords. Mexican drug lords. Canadian drug lords.

SS: Not too familiar with that last one. How would you describe a Canadian drug lord?

PC: Pretty affable fellow. But rub him the wrong way and he'll stab you with a harpoon.

SS: Literally? Or metaphorically?

PC: Likely both... I'm not an expert or anything.

SS: My feeling is that with most drug lords, you can really tell it's not just a job for them. It feels like they love what they're doing.

PC: Look, let's be honest: in any career, you have to love what you're doing. If you don't, get out of there. I mean, if you're always complaining about your fingers getting arthritis from stacking cash, you shouldn't be a drug lord. If you have qualms about killing off high-profile political figures, stop being a drug lord.

SS: You've got to follow your bliss.

PC: You do. Take the Colombian drug lords. They're so blissfully committed to what they do, you don't even know they're drug lords half the time. You could be in Colombia, you're hanging out with a charming stranger at the bar. Next thing you know you're best friends; you're off running through the countryside, you're climbing trees. You could hang out with this guy for six, eight, even seven months and not know he's a drug lord. And then one day you turn around and bam! Harpoon in your gut.

SS: That's a pretty big weapon to pull out of nowhere.

PC: Not the harpoon gun: too tough to conceal. Just the harpoon. Down the leg of his pants, up the sleeve of one of those long leather overcoats. Lots of places to hide it.

SS: Clearly I need to bone up on my whaling equipment.

PC: Anyhow, that's how you spot a drug lord.

'Almost Heroes' premieres Thursday, June 2 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showcase