From the Beach to Fargo to Calgary

Atticus Mitchell had teenage dreams of being a professional musician.

Atticus Mitchell has been working regularly in television and film since his high school days at Malvern CI. Mitchell, his brother and some friends had a band that played a show in his backyard, where a chance encounter with a neighbour who happened to be an agent led to his acting career. PHOTO: Jon Muldoon
Atticus Mitchell has been working regularly in television and film since his high school days at Malvern CI. Mitchell, his brother and some friends had a band that played a show in his backyard, where a chance encounter with a neighbour who happened to be an agent led to his acting career.
PHOTO: Jon Muldoon

While those dreams may not have come true, the Upper Beach resident has been slowly building a career as a television and film actor – not bad as far as backup plans go.

Aside from yearly elementary school plays at St. Denis and St. John Catholic Schools, Mitchell didn’t have much in the way of serious acting experience when a new neighbour, who just so happened to be an agent, saw him performing in a band with his brother.

What he did have was passion, and, as far as agent Nancy Brown was concerned, potential.

“Next thing I know I’m going into the agency and reading scripts for them, and she said ‘Okay, I’m going to sign you up if you think acting is something you want to do,’” said Mitchell.

“It’s all happened really fast.”

Mitchell, now 22, started in the business while he was in Grade 10 at Malvern. He finished his volunteer hours at Malvern by delivering Beach Metro News on his street, and though he had wanted to be a musician, soon found himself with a steady stream of television and film jobs.

His first major role was in the YTV series How to be Indie, a memorable experience for Mitchell if only for how smoothly it happened.

“It was the first show I’d auditioned for, and I got it,” he said.

He was cast as one of the three main characters in My Babysitter’s a Vampire – a Canadian production picked up almost immediately by the Disney Channel in the US.

The show ended, in his words, very abruptly. That end was apparently something of a surprise for the writers, who had likely intended a somewhat brighter outcome for the main characters.

“They tried to end it on a cliffhanger, but now since the show is over, we can just assume that me and the other main characters are all dead, which is hilarious to me,” he said. “I mean, that’s the best way to end a Disney show ever – everyone dies in a giant explosion. I think it’s hilarious.”

From that show Mitchell went on to work on several movies, and was recently part of the FX series Fargo. He found the time to create a podcast called Acting’s Cool with his friend, actor Adam DiMarco.

Now Mitchell is one of the stars of the CBC show Young Drunk Punk, a semi-autobiographical series created by Bruce McCulloch. The show is based on the Kids in the Hall alum’s experiences growing up as a young punk fan in an unreceptive Calgary in the early 1980s.

From left, Atticus Mitchell as Shinky, Tim Carlson as Ian McKay and Bruce McCulloch as Lloyd McKay in Young Drunk Punk.
From left, Atticus Mitchell as Shinky, Tim Carlson as Ian McKay and Bruce McCulloch as Lloyd McKay in Young Drunk Punk.

“It’s his baby, absolutely. It’s his love child, it’s his passion project,” said Mitchell. “I’m very lucky that he thought I would be suitable to play a major part in it.”

Mitchell plays Archibald Shinky, sidekick to Ian McKay, played by Tim Carlson. Shinky is an ongoing thorn in the side of McCulloch’s character Lloyd McKay.

Mitchell says the professionalism on the set of Young Drunk Punk was remarkable. That attitude came from the top down, with McCulloch encouraging actors to push themselves constantly.

“He let me ad lib and play more than anybody else has that I’ve ever worked with, and that was a really nice breath of fresh air and a sign of trust,” said Mitchell.

The crew – many of whom had also worked on Fargo – would roll camera while McCulloch encouraged Mitchell and the other actors to do take after take, saying something new each time.

“He said, ‘One of them will be funny, I guarantee it,’” said Mitchell.

Young Drunk Punk, said Mitchell, has been the most fun of the shows he’s worked on so far.

“In terms of the friendships I’ve made from that, and how badly I’d want to go back and do a second season, it’s top of the list.”

Filming in Calgary had its own set of challenges, not the least of which was the weather – but previous experience on the North Bay set of the movie The Colony had Mitchell ready for just about anything.

“My first day I wasn’t able to shoot anything because halfway through the day the cameras froze. I didn’t actually realize that was possible,” he said.

Past musical experience helped on Young Drunk Punk too, as it’s revealed that Shinky is quite a talented guitar player.

Mitchell’s history of playing in bands meant there was no need for him to fake his guitar skills during filming.

Mitchell has been spending a lot of time lately learning lines for auditions in the US, thanks to a new agent in LA.

“The last two weeks have been extraordinarily busy, in that I’m auditioning five or six times a week,” he said. “That’s a lot of dialogue to get in your head and then shoot out of your head as soon as the audition’s over.”

Looking back over the past few years, Mitchell is glad he deferred attending Ryerson or the University of Toronto after high school. At the time, he opted to put off post-secondary education for a year while he tried to make a go of acting.

“As far as I can remember it wasn’t a particularly great year. Maybe I worked once or twice, but it was enough,” he said. “All of a sudden I realized, this was it.”


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