On TV, most bartenders serve the dual purpose of keeping a customers’ glass filled as well as listening to his or her troubles. Although the customer gets to bend the ear of the person standing behind the bar, it is rare that the tables are turned and viewers are given a glimpse into what makes the bartender tick. That is not the case when it comes to the character of Fitzpatrick “Trick” McCorrigan on the long-running Canadian-made supernatural TV series Lost Girl. He is the bartender and owner of The Dal Riata, the only pub in town that serves as a neutral “watering hole” for the Light and Dark Fae, a powerful supernatural species that has been at odds for centuries.
Trick is, however, not someone to be solely defined by his professional façade. He is a man of many, many secrets, and spending the past five years helping peel back the layers of the character has been a true joy as well as a pleasant surprise for actor Rick Howland, who plays Trick.
“When I first started out on Lost Girl, they [the show’s producers/writers] weren’t entirely sure of the direction that they were going with my character,” notes Howland. “Originally, Trick was meant to be a much smaller role, but as we went on, they must have liked what I was doing, because they kept giving me more to do and involving Trick more in the storyline. Acting-wise, the biggest challenge for me with that was to carry the history of what Trick had behind him, including the fact that he was a 2,000 year-old bartender and former blood king who had all the history of the Fae world at his fingertips. Part of that involved me dealing with lots of different props and old books, something I just loved and that the production team was amazing at bringing together for me.
“I remember when I originally tried out for the role it was like any other audition. I was sent the character breakdown and [audition] sides and I went in and did my thing. I had two or three callbacks and was up against other actors who were smaller in stature than me, because that was kind of what the casting people were looking for. When I first got the breakdown for Trick and read it, all I could think was, ‘OK, this is my guy. I can play this character, for sure.’ I kept that in mind and walked into the audition with the intent of trying to win the role, and it worked. They liked me for what I was doing and thought I brought the qualities they were looking for in a kingly leader, including someone who could hold their own against the Dark Fae.”
The Lost Girl pilot, It’s a Fae, Fae, Fae, Fae World introduces audiences to the show’s heroine, Bo Dennis (Anna Silk), a powerful succubus and member of the Fae species who has the ability to drain the life essence out of another living being with a single kiss. On the run for years and unaware of her true origins, Bo finally attracts the attention of the Fae. They want her to pick a side, either Light or Dark Fae, but, instead, Bo chooses to remain neutral and focuses on putting her powers to good use while trying to uncover more about her past and where she came from. This was the start of a brand new adventure not only for Bo and the other characters, but also Howland and the rest of the show’s cast and crew.
“We filmed the pilot in February and it was very, very cold,” recalls the actor with a chuckle. “Because this was the pilot, no real sets had been built yet, so we were shooting out on-location in the city of Toronto as well as places such as Hamilton. Right from day one, there was a wonderful sense of family amongst the cast, crew and production team, and genuine feeling that we were making something special. It was really exciting to be a part of that, and that continued for the next five years. It was a great experience and truly enjoyable to go to set day after day and work with such a loving group of people.”
As Howland previously mentioned, Trick was once known as the Blood King and has the ability to change the future by writing it with his own blood. An extremely powerful and dangerous tool, he once used it to end the war between the Light and Dark Fae. Trick formed an immediate bond with Bo, serving as her friend, mentor and confidant. Towards the end of Lost Girl’s second season, he revealed to her that he was her maternal grandfather. That not only took Trick’s and Bo’s relationship in a different direction, but also his relationships with other characters.
“Starting out with Bo and Trick, it was all about him having to conceal his background and all his secrets from her,” explains Howland. “At the same time, he had to kind of care for her, and as Trick slowly began to realize who Bo was and her destiny within the Fae community, he became more of a father figure and then a grandfather to her. When it comes to the two of them, Trick had to be caring and insightful, yet not give too much away. He had to sort of bide his time with Bo and hold back certain bits of information and knowledge from her that could have turned everything around them on its ear.
“As that relationship grew, the show’s writers then started to branch out and explore more of Trick’s relationships with other characters like Kenzi [Ksenia Solo], Hale [K.C. Collins] and Dyson [Kris Holden-Ried. His relationship with Dyson was especially interesting; they had known one another for 1,000 years or more, and Kris and I worked really hard in bringing that familiarity between them out in our respective performances.”
Along with the writing on Lost Girl, the show’s sets, including The Dal Riata and Trick’s lair, helped Howland further immerse himself in the Trick character as the seasons went on. “The bar was a terrific set,” he says. “It was built especially for me, so it was very much ‘my bar’ and it gave me a real feeling of presence standing behind the counter. Height-wise, it also put me at the same eye level as everyone else, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was really pleased that the production team took into consideration my thoughts and requests when it came to designing that raised area of the set behind the counter.
“As far as Trick’s lair, when they started building it, I [jokingly] asked them, ‘Wow, can I just move in?’ and then it got even better when they began adding all the artifacts and turning it into what you see on TV. Although the space above it was supposed to be Trick’s bar, this was Trick’s home. It held his heart as well as all his knowledge, and at the beginning of each season I would walk into that set and really take it all in, do you know what I mean? I’d do the same thing with Trick’s bar, but because the lair was such a closed off little space, I really felt its vibe. For me, that place was, again, the heart of Trick and who he was.”
Of all the Lost Girl episodes he worked on, does the actor have a favorite one or even a scene that is especially memorable? “There were so many scenes that were fantastic and fun to do for different reasons,” says Howland, “ but insofar as a specific episode, it would have to be 213 [Barometz. Trick. Pressure], where my character faces off against the Garuda,” says Howland. “That was a great episode for Trick and it gave me quite a bit to do. I had such a good time working with Raoul Trujillo, who played the Garuda. He’s an incredible actor and made quite an imposing figure as the Garuda, especially with his flaming wings.
“Shooting the scene in the drive-in with Alisen Down, who played Isabeau, Trick’s queen, was a blast, too. We had to shoot that scene twice, once there in present day at the drive-in, and then a second time when it was projected as part of Trick’s past, which was filmed on a different day as well as at a different time of day. Coincidentally, the weather was actually quite similar, which worked well, and Alisen and I were wearing historical type of garb as opposed to the show’s usual contemporary clothing. To have to match that scene and perform it in the exact same way as the first time was a challenge, but a lot of fun, and Alisen did a phenomenal job.”
Sadly, Lost Girl’s fifth season is its swan song, and, not surprisingly, filming the finale was an experience of mixed blessings for Howland. “It was sweet and sour,” recalls the actor. “It was very cool for what we were doing, but it’s also a sad thing when a show like this ends because you come to think of it as a family and you build relationships that will go on for a long time. It’s a meeting ground and a place where you all converge to do something together and everyone is focused on trying to tell the best story possible. It’s quite a special energy that is created, and it’s so sad when it’s over.
“With regard to my character, I really enjoyed playing Trick. I could have easily gone on for another five seasons because I wasn’t bored. You hear about actors leaving TV shows because they feel like they’re done and need to move on in order to do something else. Trick had so much depth, though, and I feel there was a great deal more that could have been explored from his history, but now that we’re done, I’m ready to move on to whatever is next for me.”
Having worked for over 20 years in the industry, Howland’s interest in acting was initially piqued thanks to his effort to fulfill a practical need. “I think I did dream of becoming an actor when I was quite young, but it didn’t actually surface and become obvious to me until I needed to have an art credit in order to graduate high school,” he says. “I’ve always liked drawing but only wish that I was better at it. I’m not very good at transferring the pictures in my head onto a piece of paper, so back in high school, a friend of mine suggested to me, ‘Why not take an acting course and see if you can get your art credit that way.’ So I did, and that’s when I was bitten by the acting bug.
“My dad thought I should go into computer programming, and there were all sorts of other potential career avenues I could have taken, but when the acting bug bit, it bit deep. After graduating high school, I spent a year at York University. However, I wasn’t accepted into their acting program, so I left and went out west for a year, where I took acting classes and did a couple of shows. Eventually I returned to Toronto and spent two years trying to get an agent. Due to my size, though, it was a bit of a trick convincing an agent that that was a plus and not a minus.
“I was finally able to sign on with an agent, and when I did, I almost immediately started working. One of my first professional gigs was on the CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] Television series Side Effects, but most of my performance ended up on the cutting room floor just due to an overrun of time with the episode. From there, I began doing commercial work, including ads for Canadian Tire and even playing elves in Christmas commercials. To this day, I say that I’ve worn enough green felt to redecorate an entire pool hall,” jokes Howland. “I’m very thankful for all those jobs, because they gave me not only experience but also exposure to get farther along in the business. It’s an up and down industry at the best of times, and when you have a unique look, it can be even more difficult. However, it also allows you to get roles like Trick, which was amazing, as well as my roles on such shows as Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye and Traders, which was another great kind of coup role that I really enjoyed playing because they were all regular guys, not some weird creature.
“When I booked the role of Trick, one of the first things I asked was, ‘He doesn’t have any extra ears glued onto his head or other types of prosthetics, does he?’ I was assured that he looked just like me, which I thought was pretty awesome.”
Along with his acting, Howland is also an accomplished musician. “I recorded five songs and put out an EP the middle of last year, which I actually recorded over a two year period in South Africa,” says Howland. “My wife and partner in crime, Nadia, is from Cape Town and we try to get back there every winter just to get out of the cold. By happenstance, a friend of Anna Silk’s from Lost Girl is South African, and Nadia and I met her, Marita, at Anna’s wedding. My wife and I kept in touch with Marita and we’d run into her every so often.
“I had been trying to sell one of the songs I’d written [She’s a Goddess] to Lost Girl. The production team liked it, but I had never had the song produced. Marita introduced me to a record person as well as a drummer, and the record person said, ‘Let’s produce your song.’ So we did, and then we produced another song, and the following year we produced three more and I released the EP. I put it out there to all the radio stations across North America via a digital distribution system and I sell hard copies of the CD on my website.
“For me, music was an escape as a child growing up with a disability. I have what’s called osteogenesis imperfecta, which is brittle bones. I’ve broken over 80 bones since I was born, but that hasn’t stopped me. In fact, it’s probably pushed me to go harder, but, again, music has been a nice escape for me, and a great reason to dance in your living room for exercise. Between the ages of 10 and 13, I picked up a guitar, put it down and picked it up again. Eventually I learned enough to play chords as well as a few songs, and then I began writing my own songs. So it’s since been a creative outlet that I can do for myself that doesn’t require the production of a play or a TV show, but still allows me to get my work out there.”
Whether he is standing in front of the camera or behind a microphone, Howland derives a tremendous amount of pleasure from each creative venture and is grateful for every opportunity he has to express that side of himself. “Each role that I’ve gotten to play are like little achievements, and pretty much everything I’ve done in this business has been fulfilling for me,” he enthuses. “It’s such a good feeling when you get that call telling you that the part is yours and that you’re being given another chance to do what you love. That thrill, though, is always balanced with the fact that you’re taking on a great deal of responsibility and there are a lot of other people behind you working to tell this story. So when you step up to that plate to prove yourself, you have to be sure to do the best job possible.”
For more information on Rick Howland, including how to order his music, check out his official site - http://rickhowland.ca - Season five of Lost Girl is currently airing in the States on Syfy, Friday nights @ 10:00 p.m. EST/9:00 CT. As noted above, photo copyright of Shaw Media/Showcase, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!