Kim Coates has played opposite such Hollywood big guns as Kevin Costner, Wesley Snipes and Bruce Willis, and grabbed roles in American war movies including Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor.
But the Saskatoon-born actor, who has been based in Los Angeles since 1995, found himself back home in Canada playing an unseemly and perhaps forgotten homegrown murderer and rapist, David Snow.
"Yes, yes, yes, yes," says Coates, when asked if it was the Canadian content that attracted him to the project. "That's the selling point."
Many of those on the set of A Friend of the Family, a made-for-TV movie shot largely in Alberta, which airs tomorrow on CTV, seem to agree with that sentiment. Some talk about a penchant for telling homegrown stories; others are expatriates who yearn to reacquaint themselves with their roots -- even if it is a psychological thriller based on a shocking moment in Canadian history.
Coates, whose hair was transformed into dark, mad-scientist curls for publicity photos shot in a musty church in Calgary, said he had hoped to insert some "ehs" into the script. But director Stuart Gillard, who was born in Coronation, Alta., and is now a hard-working Hollywood director, asked him to tone it down.
"I really wanted to go, 'Nice to meetcha, eh?' I really wanted to put a Canadian flavour to it," he says, but adds that the filmmakers favoured a more Canadian-American sound.
A Friend of the Family is based on Alison Shaw's 1998 book of the same name. In it, Shaw detailed how she and her husband, Darris, moved to Orangeville, Ont., in 1988, and soon became friends and business partners with Snow, the town eccentric who paid more attention to his antique dealership than his personal hygiene.
Snow would later be convicted of murdering Ian and Nancy Blackburn, a Toronto couple whose bodies were found in the trunk of their car on April 14, 1992. Snow was also convicted of a string of abductions and sexual assaults in British Columbia that followed the Blackburn killings.
It was Shaw who put the police onto Snow, after recognizing his handwriting, and penchant for military paraphernalia, in an article published in the Toronto Star in May, 1992.
"It's very much Canada," says Jon Slan, president of Slanted Wheel Entertainment -- which co-produced the movie with Calgary-based Alberta Filmworks -- when describing the reasons for his own involvement in the movie. Slan, who has a penchant for turning Canadian books into movies, is a voracious reader who rifles through books with an eye to securing the rights to this country's best stories.
"People watching television movies always are interested in true stories," says Slan. "A lot of people both in the East and West will remember -- even though it was 10, 12 years ago -- David Snow as a pretty famous serial killer."
Laura Harris, who portrays Shaw, says she was either too young or too sheltered by her parents as a 15-year-old in Crescent Beach, B.C., to remember the Blackburn murders and the rampage that followed -- but that she was drawn to the story nonetheless, in large part for reasons similar to those of Coates, Gillard and Slan.
"I love doing Canadian stuff, true Canadian stories. They mesmerize me more than most," says Harris, who now lives in L.A. and has had roles in 1998's The Faculty, the 2003 film A Mighty Wind and TV's Dead Like Me. "I'm very patriotic . . .," she adds. "It's a chance to reconnect, even if it is about serial killers."
A Friend of the Family airs tomorrow at 9 p.m. ET, on CTV.