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  • Annette Dawm

Introducing Sean Towgood

Sean Towgood is the creator, writer and co-executive producer of the new CBC Gem comedy, You’re My Hero. He also stars in it as the main character Ian, a young man with Cerebral Palsy.

The show revolves around Ian, his room-mate, Eric (Vas Saranga) and Eric’s girlfriend, Sam (Tina Jung) as they try to navigate adulthood.

As Sean explained, “While disability is a part of the show, the show is also really just about three friends and the relationships that they have with each other. So not only is it about disabilities, it’s about people…. I tend to do comedy in a character-driven way first. Rather than a joke being the joke, the character’s interactions are the joke…. Also, I try to approach issues related to disabilities with humour, rather than sort of lecturing people about it.”

Although the show is a comedy, from the beginning, Towgood wanted to focus on “quiet moments” between the characters in order to get to know them better. For example, when Ian meets Sam for the first time, she asks him “What’s your story?” and Ian feels like he must explain why he is disabled. In reality, Sam just wants to know why he is at a Lil Derp concert.

“I think sometimes in more traditional comedies, quiet moments might be overlooked or tossed on the cutting room floor—which I understand because a lot of comedies are about pacing and keeping the energy up.”

Sean wrote the first draft of what would become You’re My Hero five years ago. The project received a lot of rejections at first. He was either told “no” or “not right now” and eventually he wanted to give up. Then his writing partner, Cassidy Civiero (who also plays Amy) came along:

“They brought the whole project to a new level. They brought my excitement for it back! Then we had our producer, Kevin Wallis. Cassidy knew Kevin previously. Cassidy said, ‘We have this thing. Do you want to take a look at it?’ and Kevin really liked it! ….That’s kind of a boiled down version of the process….I got pretty lucky with how everything came together! With some good luck and hard work, we got it made!” He added that “the key is to keep pushing through” when someone says no.

The title of the show stems from an interaction Ian had with his boss, Al (Ali Hassan). Al claimed that Ian was his hero because he was able to cross the street by himself. “Sometimes people like to give us credit for existing, you know?” Sean laughed. He hoped that other disabled people would be able to relate to Ian’s story and say, “Hey! That happened to me!”

“…. The feedback on the show from the disability community and from a broader audience has been incredible and it makes me feel great…. People are really connecting with it and it’s super cool for people to connect with something that we’ve been working on for so long.”

Sean encouraged people to keep posting about the show online in order for it to continue:

Tweet at the show! Instagram the show! Tag me! Tag CBC Gem! Be as visible and as vocal as possible. If season two happens, I would love to continue to tell the story of Ian, Eric, Sam and Lil Derp and Darrell. I’d love to keep that world going.”

Ian’s world also includes his rival, Rex. Played by George Alevizos, Rex is Ian’s opposite. His positive, upbeat personality seems to irk Ian more than it should. Sean thought there might be a hint of jealousy there, although Ian would never admit it. In real life however, George and Sean are friends: “George is a great guy and he’s really fun to be with on set. He’s phenomenal!”

Towgood had high praise for all of his cast-mates, but especially for Tara Spencer-Nairn, who plays his mother. “What more could I ask for?” He beamed. “To have her sign onto this project and say, ‘Yes, I want to do this!’ That was a huge moment for me….” He added that everyone involved was just as excited to be a part of the show.

“They said, ‘Yes! This is something we want to do. It’s something we believe in. We believe in the writing and we believe in the story.’ Honestly, without the cast and the crew stepping up and going above and beyond, this show would not be anywhere near as good as it is! People really believed in it and they really wanted to make it! I’ll forever be grateful to them for that!”

The production company also made an extra effort to keep things accessible. At the bottom of every call-sheet (which is like a schedule for the actors and crew) they wrote, “Please keep aisles and entrance ways accessible for wheelchairs.” Although it was a seemingly small gesture, it was incredibly important. Sean said it was just one of the reasons why his crew was “phenomenal”.

“That was the moment when I was like, ‘Oh man! We’re doing something pretty cool here!’ There was also an episode of the show where my character, Ian comes out of a wheelchair van. We do a close-up of the van door opening and the ramp coming out. That’s when I was like, ‘We’re doing something unique!’ because I know I haven’t seen that shot on TV before.”

Although the future of You’re My Hero is yet to be determined, Sean mentioned that he has other projects in mind that he would like to develop.

Finally, when asked about his career advice for others, Sean Towgood replied: “If you have an idea that you’re passionate about, just keep going. I know what it’s like to hear someone say, ‘Just keep going. It’ll happen eventually.’ But there’s a level of tenacity that I had to have to get this made. Don’t be afraid of allowing other people to help you along your journey because I definitely, definitely did not do any of this alone! So don’t be afraid to ask for help but also know what you want out of the project. Be aware of what the core value of the project is…. We had discussions about what I wanted this show to be and we kept that all the way through. Don’t be afraid of a no.”

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Photo courtesy of CBC Gem.

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