To many people, Paul Gross is Constable Benton Fraser, the principled Mountie who, along with detective Ray Vecchio, helped bring peace to the streets of Chicago in the CBC/CTV television series Due SOUTH.
The oldest of two brothers, Paul was born in Calgary, Alberta, but has lived all over the world, the consequence of being an Army brat. His father, Bob Gross, was a Tank Commander in the Canadian Army. Every 18 months the family moved around: from Canada to England to Germany and the U.S. and then back to Canada. In was in his early teens while in Washington that he was introduced to acting, doing plays such as Canturbery Tales and Faustus. At age 14, he was doing TV commercials. Another move ended up with the Gross family in Toronto, and Paul graduated from the Earl Haig Secondary School.
There were problems with constantly joining new schools and having to make new friends. Paul admits that he did fall in with the 'wrong people' for a while. However, he did quite well at school. The continuation of TV commercials enabled him to pay for higher education. He studied acting at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and graudated with a degree in Drama.
When Paul was 15 years old, he was given an Opportunities for Students grant that paid for a summer at the Stratford box office, where he was very impressed by what he witnessed. He vigorously pursued Canadian regional theatre and began writing. One of his models was the U.S. playwright Sam Shepard, and the darkness showed in his early works. What also showed was his facination with father/son relationships. His first play, The Deer and the Antelope Play, won the Clifford E. Lee National Playwriting Award and the Alberta Cultural Playwriting Award. This was not a one-time occurrence, for his second play, The Dead of Winter, did exceptionally well at the Toronto Free Theatre.
He was then invited by artistic director John Neville to be the playwright-in-residence at the prestigious Stratford Festival, where his play Sprung Rhythm (about a delusional heart surgeon), was produced in co-operation with the Toronto Free Theatre. He held the same position, under artistic director Robin Phillips, at the Grand Theatre Company in London, Ontario. Paul's other play, Thunder, Perfect Mind, a 'sci-fi multi-media rock extravaganza', was produced by the Toronto Free Theatre and ran for a year at Toronto's McLaughlin Planetarium.
His writing skills soon extended to television. He earned a 1986 Gemini nomination for Best TV Drama for his screenplay of "In This Corner," an episode of the CBC series For the Record. He also penned the critically acclaimed CBC drama Gross Misconduct about the life of hockey player Brian Spencer (which starred Due South co-star Daniel Kash).
Paul's film and television appearances have been numerous, and his characters just as varied. He has run the gamut: from quiet farm hands (Getting Married in Buffalo Jump) to dead rock stars (Whale Music), as well as a skeptical minister in Buried on Sunday. His television appearances have been just as diverse. He appeared in the Kirk Douglas role in CBS's remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, as a yuppie in the hilarious Canadian handyman show, Red Green, and has appeared in two miniseries (Chasing Rainbows (an 18-month shoot which he equated to a 'prison sentence') and Tales of the City).
Besides film and television, Paul has earned accolades for his stage performances. He won a Dora Award for Best Performance in the title role of Romeo and Juliet (1985) and a Dora Award for Best Performance for his role in the 1988 North American premiere of Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Toward the Somme.
It is his role as upright Mountie Benton Fraser that has brought him worldwide popularity and new fans. Just like fellow actor David Marciano, he didn't want to do the show at first, and creator Paul Haggis didn't even know if he wanted Gross for the role, but a meeting proved fortuitous and Constable Benton Fraser was cast.
Paul felt that the fact that he and David Marciano were so similar to their characters: he was from a rural area, and David from a city, that it helped their on-screen relationship.
However, even Paul Gross will point out that he is not the Mountie the fans see on the TV screen. He's strongly opinionated, which shows in his interviews, and he has yet to kick the smoking habit. He performed his own stuntwork on Due South but only within reason, as he enjoys the physical activity and challenge.
Paul has been quoted as having no idea why the show is so popular, and honestly did not expect the series to make it past the first season before cancellation. However, the fans were attracted to the quirky humor and the relationship between the virtuous Fraser and the streetwise Vecchio. That combination obviously worked well, for despite two cancellations from CBS, the show was resurrected for a third season, primarily from foreign funding.
When Due South was resurrected for the third season, Paul returned as Benton Fraser -- and also assumed new duties as Executive Producer and writer. For all this work, he earned an estimated salary of $2-3 million per season, and was the highest paid performer in Canadian entertainment history at that time. He wrote several episodes of the last season of the series. His favorite episodes include "Gift of the Wheelman" and "All the Queen's Horses," and his episodes "Mountie on the Bounty" and "Call of the Wild" are of a similar style.
Post Due South
Despite his busy schedule, he has made time for one of his other passions: music. He studied classical guitar as a teenager, but that activity was curtailed by a broken finger. In 1989, he was writing rock'n'roll lyrics and performing with his band, the Bone Men. In the Fall of 1997, he and writing partner David Keeley released their country-western album Two Houses. He made a music video out of one of those songs, "Voodoo," and did another video for a Due South related song, "32 Down on the Robert Mackenzie." He completed the song (along with Jay Semko and Dean McDermott) entitled "Santa Drives a Pickup," which was showcased on the Due South episode "Good for the Soul." He and David Keeley released a second CD, titled "Songs of Love and Carnage," in 2000.
Paul is married to stage actress Martha Burns, whom he met in 1983 while they were both in the play Walsh. She played an Indian Princess and he portrayed a Mountie. Martha is well known for her performances at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and guest starred in the third and fourth seasons of Due South episodes, "Spy vs. Spy" and "Call of the Wild." They have two children, Hannah and Jack, and reside (along with their pet dog Chester) in Ontario, Canada.
Paul also lends his hand to numerous charitable events and hosting duties, such as the annual Gemini Awards.
To relax, he reads, or goes fishing and camping. He also enjoys skiing and horseback riding, the latter which he learned as a youth on his parents' ranch. He has a few ambitions: to play Richard III, but his main one is "to be driving out on my parents' ranch and hear one of my songs on the radio."
Paul Gross has appeared numerous times at the Stratford Festival (Ontario) in the past few years.
Paul continues to keep very busy. In late 1999, he appeared in the Canadian telemovie Murder Most Likely, based on the real life incident of ex-Mountie Patrick Kelly, who was convicted of the murder of his wife. This movie is the first from his production company, WhizBang Films, and was featured on the cover of many television magazines when it aired. Paul wrote and starred in a movie about curling entitled Men with Brooms. He's also starred in several other movies such as Wilby Wonderful and H2O, and in television series such as Slings and Arrows.
For even more detailed (but somewhat dated) information, please check out the extensive Paul Gross FAQ!
Born: April 30, 1959
DUE SOUTH ROLE
Constable Benton Fraser
Internet Movie Database
HOW TO CONTACT
Whizbang Films, Inc.
53 Ontario Street, 1st Floor
Toronto, ON M5A 2V1