In an episode of the seventh season of the CBC show Mr. D, student Amanda-Susan gets to be principal for the day – which means she can order around the hapless, obnoxious title character, Mr. D.
“I know nothing about chemistry, so I shouldn’t cover his class,” Mr. D says to Amanda-Susan.
“You don’t know anything about anything, when has that stopped you?” Amanda-Susan asks as she opens her notebook to take a note and mumbles “still stupid” in Mr. D’s direction.
Being taunted by a 10-year-old in the workplace may not be everyone’s ideal day at the office, but for Gerry Dee, the lead actor, producer and writer of the show, it makes his day. That’s because Amanda-Susan, and the character Faith, are played by his real-life daughters Aly and Faith Donoghue.
“I never planned on having my kids on the show. And that just kind of evolved from something and became something, and they became these little actors that I didn’t know they were capable of,” said Dee.
Dee recently finished filming the final season of Mr. D at Citadel High School in Halifax. Making his daughters part of the show was a way to keep his family together during the months of filming far away from their Toronto home. Something that was not only important to Dee, but necessary for his family.
“I wouldn’t have done it if I had to leave them,” he said.
Halifax was the perfect place to make that possible.
“Halifax became a second home for us, with [my wife’s] family living there, and filming there for eight years.”
Along with his strong family ties, Dee prides himself on authenticity. Dee was a teacher for 10 years before making his switch to comedy. He wanted to be a physical education teacher, but was forced to teach subjects he knew nothing about – which inspired the idea for the sitcom.
“It is the thing I pride myself most on as far as my contribution to the show. Making sure it’s authentic, and that’s why it works.”
Dee likes to write about what he knows like teaching, sports and having a Scottish background, because it leads to a product that feels real to him.
But now that Mr. D is coming to an end, that familiar process could change. Dee is now writing and developing scripts for other CBC shows.
“I’m very proud to work in Canada. I pursued the [Los Angeles] thing in 2003. I tried that for a year and a bit, it just wasn’t for me … The hustle and bustle of it there was very different. So, I decided to come home and try to make it here, which I’ve been fortunate to do.”
But he feels better prepared to tap the American market now. He is exploring American cities, doing standup comedy in his downtime and trying to expand his brand.
“And that is really like starting over, because down there, nobody knows who I am.”
No matter what direction Dee takes, he will take his family along with him. Still, he cherishes those special moments Mr. D gave him.
“It was having my kids, going into set and being able to work with each of them for the first time. I think the first time was really special. Every day was special, but the first time was really special, to see your kids do that.”
The final season of Mr. D airs on Nov. 7.