Chopper Thom, an eight-year-old Golden Retriever, who shares his home with Jimmy and Christine Thom and family, is making his hometown acting debut in Wife Begins At Forty opening August 6 at Upper Canada Playhouse.
On July 27, despite a busy rehearsal schedule, the star was graciously able to spare The Leader a few moments for an interview.
Chopper, with your debut at UCP in Wife Begins At Forty, you are following in the paw prints of such stars of stage and screen as Rin Tin Tin, Sandy, Nana and Asta. What drew you to acting?
All those dogs you mention had personal trainers and dog doubles. I prefer method acting. I do all stunts and scenes on my own. Early on in life, I recall watching Katts & Dog and the Littlest Hobo. I think that’s when I got the acting ‘bite.’
This is your first major role, starring as Chopper, the Harper family’s dog. What unique qualities do you feel you are bringing to this play?
Actually, this is NOT my first role. For the past seven years, I’ve been working as a greeter at Atel Air. As for the rest, I can pant, drool and wag my tail on cue. I am also very good at improvisation. I am, in fact, a dog: that is my unique quality.
How have rehearsals been going? Any special challenges?
Boring! The actors are mediocre, if not mundane. And the director’s a drip.
Fellow cast member Walter Learning, at an earlier press conference, described you as a… “joy. He loves everyone.” How do you react to this praise?
I wouldn’t believe anything Walter Learning says. Seriously, have you ever talked to the man?
How would you generally characterize your relationship with the other members of the cast? The crew?
I’ve only recently met the cast, but I’ve already become quite sociable with some of them. (pause) Actually, I ignore the cast! I prefer the company of the crew, especially the three lovely stage management females. Nice legs. I’m working on dinner and a date in Cornwall.
You’ve been working closely with director Richard Bauer. How have you helped him with staging and character motivation in your scenes?
In terms of motivation, well, it all comes down to treats. I’m a very active dog and I like to try new things at rehearsal. Because of that they’ve put me on a short leash. As I mentioned before, Richard is fairly clueless. I generally create my own blocking and motivation. In the end, I make him look good.
You’ll be making your acting debut in front of a home town crowd. Does this worry you at all?
No! As long as the check clears, I’m happy. Seriously though, as you probably know the people of South Dundas are the best audience anyone could play for. It will be a pleasure to tread the boards in front of them. And just to let local folks know, I’ll be signing autographs at the Dog Park at a yet to be confirmed date.
What lies ahead for you, Chopper, once you have this play under your collar?
I’m very excited. Once the show closes, my owner says he’s going to get me tutored. (He says it may calm me down). I also plan to take voice lessons. I hear they are making Lassie! The Musical!
Any final observations about life on the stage and/or the big screen, Chopper?
Alfred Hitchcock once said something like ‘Golden Retrievers are all heart and no brain’.
If that’s the case, how come I have a group of people who feed me, bring me water and walk me? I also have my own driver and trainer. So who’s the fool?
(Many thanks to Playhouse artistic director Donnie Bowes and Wife Begins At Forty director Richard Bauer for assisting Chopper with this interview.)