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Shore to Shore with Stephen Huszar

Shore to Shore with Stephen Huszar

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Desiree D

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When you hear the word shore, Saskatchewan is not likely the first place you picture, but with 100,000 lakes, there are plenty of shores to explore in this prairie province. Beyond the bare prairie stereotype is diverse geography, filled with fields, forests, and far more to discover. The province’s biggest city, Saskatoon, also known as the Paris of the Prairies, is a hometown to many Canadians now spread across the country, including Stephen Huszar.

With a love of the water and a passion for travel, Stephen has made his way from prairie shores to Chesapeake Shores, and shores around the world. He has a big heart for family, on screen and off, and brings those connections to his character, Luke Tatum. Taking a pause in his busy schedule, Stephen sat down to share more about his passion for water sports and the outdoors, the enjoyment of joining this beloved family series, and his affinity for his mom’s Saskatoon berry pie.

SC: With both of us having grown up in Saskatchewan, the first and most important question has to be are you a Roughriders fan?

SH: (laughs). Of course I’m a Riders fan.

SC: Playing Old MacDonald in grade two influenced your career path to becoming an actor. Can you share a bit more about that experience?

SH: Yeah, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, that was a few years ago. That was my first experience acting something out that wasn’t me, so being a different character, which I thought was fascinating. Obviously, I was playing an old farmer, Old MacDonald, and I was in grade two, so there was quite a bit of age discrepancy between myself and the character. I had a great old time actually, and we were singing and dancing. I remember vividly, my friend Roger was one of the farmer’s dogs, and he was in this super-hot dog outfit. So, after the play or at intermission you would see the poor guy and he would just be beet red in the face and sweating. I looked at him and thought to myself, thank goodness I’m not playing a dog. Thank goodness I’m playing Old MacDonald. I was very grateful that I got the lead in that play. I’m not sure if I auditioned for it or not, but it kind of started my real passion for performing, having fun, and making people laugh. It planted the seed. Fast forward to some twenty some odd years later, or twenty-five actually, I decided to really take it seriously. It was a wonderful experience and I have always remembered that experience on the stage and seeing my family and friends out there in the audience, clapping and having a good time, and kind of going on the ride with us.

SC: What would be your draw to the film industry over theater, or is there a draw to one at this point?

SH: Yeah, that's a good question. I've been asked that a few times and I just sort of fell into doing more film and television. I actually have not done a professional theater production yet. I'm very intrigued by it, especially now when I think about Old MacDonald Had a Farm and how much fun that was. A few of my costars and my friends are quite well known in the Broadway circuit, and when the timing is right, I think I’ll do it. I’m very much enjoying film and television right now. I’ve been able to play a wide variety of characters, and that’s what really excites me about the craft, is that I can put myself in the shoes of someone else, sometimes in a different world and bring truth to that. I’m able to do that in film and television, and I think theatre is a whole different ballgame in some respects, and it frightens me a lot as well, but at the same time I think I’m up for the challenge sooner than later. Basically, I haven’t had the opportunity yet and it hasn’t really aligned timing wise with my other productions, but if the opportunity came up, I think I’d seriously consider it.

SC: Working across a variety of genres, you have indicated that being a part of inspirational projects is important. What is the draw in sharing these stories?

SH: I just feel like there's always room for content that inspires and makes people feel better and that gives people hope. There’s also room for other content that of course tells important stories about a whole other side of humanity as well. I think on the one side it’s important to be truthful about what’s going on and share those stories, and this is one of those genres. It’s one of those areas of areas of humanity that I think is important to talk about more, to share the stories about more, and to inspire people. I think there’s often a lot of negativities that happens in the world, and we need to balance that out sometimes with inspirational and positive content. Personally, I like to be involved in all sorts of genres, but this is certainly one I feel is very important for humanity, so that’s why I like to be a part of so much of this.

SC: With being from Saskatchewan, you’ve shared your favourite dessert is your mom’s Saskatoon berry pie. If someone were to visit the province, especially the city of Saskatoon, where are two of your favourite locations or places to visit?

SH: Well, that is true. My favorite pie or dessert is Saskatoon berry pie, coming from my mom. I’m glad that we have that recorded. And by the way if anyone ever comes to Saskatoon, come by our place, as mom will have a fresh one baked for you. I have a couple places: I’m very personally tied to a place called Redberry Lake, about an hour’s drive north of Saskatoon. It’s where the Saskatoon Sailing Club is and that’s where my real fond childhood memories were created, and still are because I’m still a child. I go out there quite a bit when I visit Saskatoon and it’s just wonderful. It’s a very big lake and it’s a bird sanctuary as well. So, it’s just incredible when we’re sailing on the lake, there are many islands and it’s almost like you’re sailing through a Discovery Channel documentary on Planet Earth or something. It’s phenomenal and hardly populated as well. It’s actually an alkali lake, a saltwater lake, which makes it very unique and very healing. So, in addition to just having real peace and tranquility when you’re out there, there’s also just this amazing healing aspect, and I always feel rejuvenated when I come back. Up until about seven or eight years ago, there was also no cell service, which was awesome, and kind of cool to just disappear off the grid, which I enjoy doing at least once or twice a year. There’s also no power there too, so we’re cooking over the fire and it’s a humbling and grounding experience that I sometimes think we lose touch with when we’re in a big city. So, that’s one of my favourite places.

There are also tons of places up north of course, but within Saskatoon there’s a really cool place called The Berry Barn, and you might know now that I love Saskatoon berries. But that’s a good place where you can go and have a nice Saskatoon berry pie or some crepes and the South Saskatchewan River is beautiful there, so it’s a really nice place to hang out, and gives you a nice experience just a little bit outside of the city. So those would be two of my top suggestions.

SC: It’s wonderful to have someone who speaks so highly of Saskatchewan and can share special places that offer a different perspective than the typical impression of a flat bald prairie. Hopefully other people will consider exploring our beautiful province when it’s safe to do so.

SH: Yeah, exactly. It's kind of known jokingly as the fly over country, because you see it from the plane, or you drive through it and don’t stop. But it is beautiful, and Saskatchewan has some of the best sunsets and sunrises. On the licence plate in Saskatchewan, it says Land of Living Skies, which is true, as you have the Northern Lights and the light here is amazing, and something you have to really experience when you’re here. It gives you an appreciation of different elements that we have on the earth.

SC: If you could choose your next filming location, where would you want to go?

SH: I'd like to go somewhere in the South Pacific like New Zealand, maybe Bali, and Australia is great. I've been to all these places and obviously with the lockdown it's been difficult to travel or impossible coming up to two years now. It would be really nice to actually go to some of my favourite places on earth and work, so that’s the top of my list.

SC: Growing up in the heart of the prairies, do you feel that you’re more acclimatized to filming in cold weather? Or is it a bit tougher because you tend to film in warm weather?

SH: Filming a Christmas movie in 100 and some degrees Fahrenheit and 35 plus degrees Celsius is not easy. It’s surprising that when I see the final cut on some of these shows that you can’t see massive amounts of sweat that is happening on me, especially when I have a sweater, then a toque on, and then another jacket, and then we’re inside a barn and there’s no air, so that I find challenging. But yeah, the cold is always a tough one, mainly because your face starts to freeze when you’re speaking. I actually remember when I was on one show, it might have been my first IMDb credit called The Cradle Will Fall, a Mary Higgins Clark novel adaptation, and it was so cold that the camera froze. We had to actually stop shooting and they made a t-shirt saying Mars is cold, but Regina Saskatchewan is colder. It was something like minus 40 Celsius, which is very cold. I have softened a bit in my ability to take the cold, but it’s still in my blood. I was born on the prairies, and I come back quite often to visit family, so I still can do it and I’m excited if there’s a show in the prairies in the wintertime, so I’m always up for the challenge.

I’m shooting another show called Tribal, which is based out of Calgary. I did shoot some of it in the wintertime, but honestly it didn’t feel like it, because it was actually pretty warm. I think it was late November or early December and there was a chinook, so it was about 15 degrees and did not seem like winter.

SC: In addition to being an actor, you are also a producer. Do you wish to continue with both or are there additional areas within the film industry that you wish to explore?

SH: I do wish, and I am continuing in both. I've produced just recently a documentary and I'm looking at another feature or two to produce. So yes, I do enjoy the producing and acting combination. I don't know if I'm totally ready to start directing yet, but at some point, maybe. I feel like there's other people that are incredible at what they do behind the camera, and I’d like to team up with these amazing, very professional, and talented people. Because I have a business background and graduated from Commerce (business school) at the U of S (University of Saskatchewan), producing comes a little bit naturally to me, so I think that it’s a combination that works right now. I am definitely focusing on both moving forward. Acting has taken the forefront in the past five or so years, but as I said, if projects come up that I’m really passionate about, then I’ll seriously consider producing more.

SC: Would you also consider writing?

SH: Yeah. I wouldn't consider myself a writer necessarily. I love writing and I love editing scripts and giving feedback, so I think that’s sort of where my talent lies, because I read so many scripts. Often as actors, we’re working with writers and showrunners, and it’s really a collaborative effort sometimes to work through scenes. So, I guess in my own way I do a little bit of writing or more so editing, but we’ll see what happens in the future.

SC: Mistletoe Magic is available on SCHeartHome On Demand. Your character was also named Luke and you were working alongside Jessica Sipos. What do you remember most about your time on that set?

SH: Laughing a lot, as it was pretty funny. It was my first time working with Jess and now I'm working with her again on Chesapeake Shores, which is awesome. She's such an amazing actor and human being and we’re very good friends. That show brought us really close and we had such a great time. It was shot in a beautiful little town in Ontario, and it was gorgeous and the whole town was almost like an outdoor film set. It was amazing and I can see why so many shows are shot there. The wonderful thing about that show was the very small set and shot in a way that we were all family by the end of it, which was really nice. We got to know everybody and we’re all there for long hours, but we were all having fun. We were laughing a lot, as I said, and I really became close to everybody. For me, part of the reward about being on film and TV is you get to really connect with awesome people and you keep those friendships, and that’s one of those shows where I can certainly say that I’ve kept some very great friendships from that.

SC: If you could write a character for yourself, what would that character look like or what profession would he have?

SH: I would love to be swinging from vines somewhere in Africa, yelling or screaming as a Tarzan type of character. So, no job and preferably not much for clothes either and just exploring nature to be honest. That would be a perfect character for me. I like to keep it simple.

SC: You mentioned that you don’t watch a lot of TV, so were you familiar with Chesapeake Shores prior to filming?

SH: I wasn't too familiar with it to be honest. I knew of it of course, because of my other friends who are on the show. I actually hadn't seen the show previously, so I had to do a little bit of a catch up. It’s really great and I find the writing again, just the way things are laid out is such a treat. For certain other kinds of movies and shows that I’ve been on, there’s a little more of a formula to it, where this I feel we had more of a runway to express, to emote, and to really tackle some challenging issues in humanities, so I really appreciated that.

SC: I know you’ve worked with at least Jessica Sipos, Brendan Penny, and Andrew Francis on previous movies, so was it like old home week when you first stepped foot on the set?

SH: Yeah, it was really great. Again, I just knew a few days before we started so I sort of knew who was playing but didn’t really know for sure. Then finally when I got to set it was remembering who was on the show and it was awesome. It was just so nice to step on to a show and know people, especially when you know you’re going to be there for a while. It just makes it so much easier. In addition to the actors, I had worked with some crew on previous shows, which was amazing. So right away that just made it so much better and more fun.

SC: Although new to Chesapeake Shores, you are a familiar face to Hallmark fans. If you could describe your character in 5 words, what would they be?

SH: Currently he’s very guarded. He’s sensitive. His lack of pride. He’s very grateful because of the opportunity he has, and he’s sort of hesitant to let people in. He’s bruised and his ego has been crushed a lot and he’s a depressed kind of character at the moment.

SC: What was your first impression of Luke Tatum when you were auditioning? Has that perspective changed after embodying him on set?

SH: Well, I was lucky enough not to have to audition for the role, as the network offered me the role, so I was very, very grateful for that. Interesting story to that is that I only found out within a week of when we started shooting, which is a very short timeframe to read the script, agree to it, and then to really get into character. It was sort of boots to the ground and just focusing and really trying to connect to this character as fast as possible. Luckily the writing team is absolutely incredible on Chesapeake Shores, and I know this is the fifth season for the show but being new to the show I was so happy that they were so open and willing to talk to me and give me their back story on my character, which helped a lot since I had such a short time to really get myself into the character. I actually ended up shooting the first day of the series and was almost the last to be cast, so the process was really just focusing and trying to relate. Luckily, I had some relatable experiences in my life, and it was a really collaborative effort with the writing team and the writers. They were just awesome and working with the directors they brought on were phenomenal. So, as I said, it was a really focusing, collaborating effort and went quite well.

SC: Both you and Luke have each lost a parent, so was there any part of that real life experience that you found yourself connecting to on screen?

SH: 100% yes, of course. That was obviously a big part of it, and it does help to have a real life experience to draw from when we’re creating a character and being a character. That was certainly a major aspect that was obviously true to my experience and that I could bring to Luke. We all go through difficult times in our lives, and Luke went through a very difficult time with being in jail for two years for almost like an accident. We can all say it’s life experience and so I wouldn’t say he was totally right or wrong, but the fact is, that’s what happened to him. And going through that kind of experience really puts you at a low place obviously in your life, and I’ve honestly gone through very challenging times myself, mentally and emotionally as well, so it was a lot of drawing on those experiences and bringing it to the screen. Acting is interesting because I always feel that acting is almost like therapy, because you’re able to go back and really understand what makes you tick as a person, as me as Stephen. And when I have to do that to really draw on an experience and then apply it to a new character, I have to work through certain things. For me, it was almost a very therapeutic time to play this character and to bring him to life, so I’m also very grateful for that.

SC: Luke has had trouble in his past, but from what he’s shared, it sounds like was trying to do the right thing. Do you feel that Luke is protective or simply wrong place/wrong time?

SH: I think both. I would say that he is a very protective person and because of that this terrible thing happened this terrible thing happened in a way. Obviously, that has a significant effect on how he’s dealing with relationships and people at this point in his life. Sometimes it’s an accident or just bad luck, but it’s life. Life happens to people, and then you roll with it.

SC: Luke attempts to keep up appearances and hide his situation from those around him. It doesn’t take much kindness to have an impact, such as the conversation with Bree O’Brien. What was it about Bree that so easily reached beyond Luke’s façade exterior?

SH: I think in general it was her openness. I mean, Bree is first of all an amazing writer. She’s an intellect and a philosopher of some way and she tells stories. I think just the way she approached Luke and also offered some of that perspective about change and second chances. She didn’t know Luke’s situation then, but just the way she said that she’s a firm believer in change, it gave us a nice little interaction, and had that illuminating kind of moment of quoting poetry a little bit too. The way she was open to opportunities in life was a catalyst and really sort of gave Luke that spark to actually pursue something and step outside of his shell. She flowered something in Luke that he hadn’t thought about in some time and acted as a shift and catalyst from that interaction. The O’Briens are such a welcoming family and obviously they have their own issues going on, but just having a family that has those morals and ethics that are the base of that family and their traditions.

SC: Mick O’Brien truly stands for second chances and has extended that to Luke. Mick also seems like the first person to believe in Luke’s goodness. How do you think Mick and The Bridge have been influential in the few interactions that they’ve had so far?

SH: If it wasn’t for Mick, I’m not sure if Luke would be on the right path at this point in the show. He’s been very much of a father figure and very open hearted. It was very touching scenes that we’ve had, myself and Treat, and I’m very grateful for Treat as he’s such an incredible actor. The way he plays Mick personally touched me a lot, because I lost my father earlier on in my life, it was just really beautiful to feel that caring, compassionate side, and giving people a chance. Often that’s all you need, is for someone to just really see the goodness in you, even though you just keep getting beaten down and the world is against you. Just to have that one person to give you that chance can make all the difference, and it’s a huge impact for Luke, so we’ll see what happens for the rest of the show and hopefully for seasons to come.

SC: Have you filmed on Vancouver Island in the past?

SH: I have, just one other time, I believe. Incredibly gorgeous place and incredibly grateful having been there for over three months. It was cool because when we started shooting lockdown was very much still happening around the area, so there was literally no one there. It was me and some other cast where we were staying so that was neat. We had the whole place to ourselves and then eventually the tourists came in. It’s one of the most magical places in Canada, but even places in the world. There are so many inspiring places to go visit, hike, and so much outdoor activities and fresh air. And the seafood, oh my gosh, amazing.

SC: Where was where was one of your favorite places to film on Chesapeake Shores this season?

SH: To be honest that was my first time at the O’Brien’s house, which was amazing. Their houses is one of the most incredible waterfront properties I've seen in the world. So that was just an amazing experience for me. I really appreciate nature and waterfronts, and just the way it’s situated in a place called Nanoose Bay, is absolutely incredible. So that was one of my favourite places to be on the show for sure.

SC: Do you have any special skills that the Chessies might not know about you?

SH: I’ve done a lot of sports in my past. I’ve raced sailboats all of my life and I’m also a windsurfer. I’m a surfer, so anything with water and I’m very active in that still and I love it so much. I enjoy basically anything outdoors. I love horseback riding and hiking. Honestly, my biggest passion is to travel. I just love seeing the world, experiencing cultures, meeting people, and exploring. I mean, we live on such a beautiful planet and we’re only here for a limited time, so I try to live my life to the fullest.

SC: Since you spend a lot of time travelling, do you speak any other languages?

SH: Well, I speak very bad Spanish. I was just in Mexico for a week and a half doing a movement training course. I think I can speak Spanish, sort of, and then I start talking and there’s acknowledgment from the waiter if I’m at a restaurant. Then I keep talking and then there’s sort of blank look that goes over their face and they walk away. So, I know I lose them sort of halfway through the conversation. That would be the closest to another language I have, so unfortunately, I can’t say I’m fluent, but I’m working on it.

SC: Stephen Huszar has found his happy place along shores around the world, and this year he’s found a new home on Chesapeake Shores. Just like the O’Briens who travel but always follow their hearts home, Stephen also finds himself returning to Saskatoon when his schedule allows. To read more about his latest projects, connect with him on social media, and see where the shores lead him next.

Social Media:

Facebook: stephenhuszarofficial
Twitter: @stephenhuszar
Instagram: stephenhuszar