Note to agents: If Kevin Smith wants to see Tyler Labine for a role, tell him.
“I was really, really excited,” Tyler tells OK! of being courted by Kevin for the CW’s Reaper. “I was really flattered.”
Not so fast though. The 29-year-old almost missed out on the role of Bert “Sock” Wysocki on the dramedy at the daft misdoing of his handlers.
“Kevin Smith had been asking to meet with me for three weeks but they didn’t think that I would want to do a CW show. And I was like, ‘You idiots! If Kevin Smith ever calls and asks me to meet with him, you say yes!’ ” Tyler says.
There was nothing to worry about once the two met and “bonded immediately over the fact that we’re kind of overweight guys with bears in Hollywood trying not to be constantly compared to Jack Black.”
It wasn’t even an hour later that Tyler received word he landed the part of Sam’s (Bret Harrison) lovable and hilarious sidekick on the hellish show — about Sam whose soul has been sold to the devil and must now be a bounty hunter — and he couldn’t feel more prepared for it.
An acting veteran who’s had more misses than hits under his belt despite critical acclaim, Tyler couldn’t wait to get back to his comedic roots after a handful of dramatic endeavors, including the short-lived but beloved Invasion.
“I just feel like I’m getting a chance again to sort of put some of these great character pieces that I worked on really hard and I’m having a chance to put them out there again,” he says. “It just feels like I have the kind of tools at this point in my career to do a total schticky hour-long buddy comedy.”
Not to mention the supreme wit and impeccable comedic timing. Week in and week out, Tyler steals the show as the slothful but incredibly amusing and loyal Sock, who tags along with Sam on his soul-collecting adventures as often as he unleashes a wisecrack from his mouth.
“I guess I get a lot of the comedic one-line zingers,” he says. “I ad-lib a lot of those lines. After we shot the pilot they kind of gave me a little bit of freedom, so usually they give me an inch and I take a mile. But a lot of the little one-liners that people seem to love so much that have been quoting them to me are usually the ones that I’ve made up. It’s very flattering.”
A notorious slacker, Sock has no ambitions in life other than avoiding work at The Work Bench, but Tyler believes there’s more to him than meets the eye. “He has all the physical attributes of a slacker, but as soon as Sam says he sold his soul to the devil, I’m like, ‘Wicked. What do we do?’ So [he] may be a slacker in the traditional sense, but he seems to be bit of a go-getter deep down.”
The same could be said for Tyler’s path to acting, an ambition he didn’t truly unearth until his late teens despite working consistently.
The middle of three boys, Tyler was mugging for the camera at an early age with his brothers, Cameron and Kyle, in their native Brampton, Ontario, Canada. “[We] liked to make movies with our video camera in the basement. We would like script movies and then cast all our friends in the neighborhood,” Tyler says. “You know, make all these ridiculous franchise movies called like Chung and The Adventures of Chung and stupid, stupid things that kids see.”
Seeing her sons’ unbridled enthusiasm as an opportunity stock up on college funds, Tyler’s mother locked up an agent for her boys and shepherded them to auditions. Still, the boy who dreamed of being a drama and English teacher didn’t think much of it until he booked Breaker High his first semester in college. “Then I just started really pursuing it actively and I haven’t really looked back.”
In seven years, Tyler’s amassed more than 30 credits, ranging from 2Ge+her (“really fun”) to his upcoming film Control Alt Delete, a computer masturbation flick written and directed by Cameron (“a social commentary — a satire”). He made the move to Los Angeles in 2000 but has found himself back in Vancouver filming Reaper. That’s just as well since he’s been working on an album with his hip-hop group Self-Dep that includes his brothers. “It’s taken us like seven years to do eight songs. I think we’re going to call the album Definition of a Decade.”
Acting remains his top priority though. And why not? It’s given Tyler, who tied the knot with actress Carrie Ruscheinsky in June, material for marital gags.
Asked if marriage is like selling his soul, Tyler laughs, “Oh that just sounds so grim! No it’s nothing like that. I made a joke like that and I’d just got married a week before and I thought, “Oh I’m a jerk! [But she] thought it was funny. That’s why I married her!”
By Joyce Eng