Raccoon comedy kills

Jill Hennessy stars in Crawford

If there was ever a comedy that Torontonians could relate to it’s Crawford, a new CBC series about a dysfunctional family with a raccoon problem.

The series stars actress Jill Hennessy, who took her first foray into acting while living in Toronto.

In Crawford, she plays the mom of the family — a busy cereal company executive with a husband who has lost his ability to speak, a young personal trainer boyfriend and three children.

“The raccoons invading the home in the first episode throw everyone into chaos in a necessary way. It was necessary to upset the balance of this family to reinvigorate relationships,” says Hennessy.

“The raccoons are the instigators of a lot of really good positive stuff and a lot of comedy. It’s emotional and it’s hilarious.”

Hennessy says one of the highlights of working on the show is its mostly Canadian cast and crew. Alex Lifeson of Rush plays her character’s boss at the cereal company, and Mike Clattenburg and Mike O’Neill of Trailer Park Boys are two of the brains behind the show’s script.

“We got to know each other really fast in an intense way just by playing. You’re sort of thrown into it. You’re doing nine, 10 pages a day, and it’s sort of like, ‘Let’s try this, let’s improv that.’ So it was nice to be in a collaborative atmosphere with Mike Clattenburg and Mike O’Neill, whom I adore from Trailer Park Boys,” she says.

“I love their sensibility, and that tone you’ll see throughout Crawford, a little bit of that bizarre, dysfunctional-functional aspect and just hilarity.”

The show was shot in Toronto last spring, and Hennessy says that although she lives in New York now, she still always appreciates coming back to visit the city where she got her start.

“I love hanging out near Ossington. That area is just smoking hot right now. I went out with the cast there to a tequila bar, and we went to a place called Squirly’s on Queen Street West, which was just awesome,” she says.

“There are so many great neighbourhoods in Toronto. I was frustrated I couldn’t visit them all.”

Born in Edmonton and raised all over Canada, the actor and musician always knew she loved performing, but she never thought she could do it as a career.

It wasn’t until her Grade 12 drama teacher singled her out for the drama award that she realized she just might have the chops to make it as an actor.

“I thought, ‘You know I would love to try this acting thing. I’ll give myself a year. I’ll go to Toronto and I’ll see what I can do. I’ll waitress. I’ll do whatever I can,’” she says.

As it turned out, her gamble didn’t pay off right away.

“I worked at the Eaton Centre as a waitress and as a busboy, and I played guitar in the street, which was great,” she says. “Then I got a job in a play that was going to Broadway.”

Once in New York, Hennessy landed her big break as Claire Kincaid in TV series Law & Order.

Next up for Hennessy is a role in a Netflix TV series called Yellowstone.

Crawford can now be streamed on the CBC website and app, and will air on TV this summer.