Jonathan Hayes’ Algonquin is a beautiful and moving drama set in the vast wilderness of Algonquin Park in Northern Ontario. Mark Rendall plays Jake the son of a single mother who was abandoned by her husband ten years earlier. One day out of the blue he shows up to reacquaint himself with Jake but throws their lives into confusion. Oddly, Jake decides to go to the old family cabin with him for a while, but tragedy strikes. Jake must man up to look after a young boy who has entered the picture and take his place in two families. The film is powerful and reflective and allows the performances by Rendall, Sheila McCarthy and Nicholas Campbell to shine through. We spoke with Rendall in Toronto.
Mark, you look pretty comfortable paddling and chopping wood. Do you have woods experience?When I was 17 I went on Outward Bound which is extreme camping and it was one of the best experiences of my young life. I went on a canoe trip and portage and survived in the woods for three weeks and I have a house outside the city chop wood, carry water. Algonquin is so beautiful and it makes you want to adapt. And yes I do enjoy canoeing you can see my "J" stroke that I learned at Outward Bound.
This is a terrific film, the story and performances are so authentic. The family is diverse but that’s really nothing new.Yes, it’s not a product of the times. It’s about complex family dynamics so most people can relate. There are the complex father son, brother to brother, son and mother relationships and how we deal with them and respond to them.
Your character discovers his father has led a secret double life for ten years. So why did Jake decide to take this journey with him?I feel like whether he admits it or not he always wanted that relationship. Its equal parts resentment and yearning parts to see what’s there and you see that in a lot of relationships, especially an estranged father. His father has always really nice to him and never did him wrong and Jake can see that even though he feels disservice there is innocence about his father. He has optimism that something could come of this and he’s thinking what am I missing and its chance to have something we never had.
When you play a character is it important to like him?Yes, I definitely feel there has to be a connection to the character, so I can relate. The character development is terrific and I appreciated the other characters’ arcs coming from estrangement and coldness and detachment and finding a way to become a man. It’s a rite of passage that he has to take care of brother and be a father to him and in some putting himself in the shoes of a father. I appreciated that.
You worked with two acting treasures, Sheila McCarthy and Nicholas Campbell. Tell me about the experience of it.She is a wonderful actor and the sweetest person. I loved working with her, she’s so powerful, especially that scene in the kitchen when she’s boiling the kettle and breaking the dishes one by one. And Nick’s amazing, he’s a pro and a phenomenal actor and I’m constantly inspired by his aura. He carries such energy, like I’ve rarely seen in people and sometimes you meet people and they go through the motions, with eyes that look past you and Nick is the antithesis of this. He is constantly in an alpha brain wave state and is alive and energetic.
Shooting in Algonquin must have been terrific. Did the isolation get into it?It was great. I stayed in a cabin overlooking the lake with my girlfriend and dog and it put me in his character. In the isolation you’re more focused on what you’re working. It’s a very immersive experience, being in the middle of the woods. My dream since I have a child is to live in a cabin in the woods and live off the land. I’m yearning for it. Algonquin is hell of a place. We were canoeing through the landscapes constantly feeling like we were in a Group of Seven painting. It was the lake where he died.
You’ve been acting since you very young indeed. Has it been a roller coaster?What really allowed me to continue to acting is that as an adult I took 2 years off school and felt I don’t need to go to acting lessons. There are so many interesting characters and people and I wanted to experience portraying them. I’ve had experiences and I matured and grew outside of acting.