Audiences may remember Tim Dixon from Rosebud Theatre’s ‘Our Town’ (2013), but his relationship with Artistic Director Morris Ertman goes back to Vineyard Theatre’s production of ‘Damien’ in 1983. Since then, Tim’s done theatre across western Canada, including ‘The Music Man’ (Centre Stage); ‘The Seafarer’, ‘Mass Appeal’, ‘Talley’s Folly’, ‘Cotton Patch Gospel’ (Pacific Theatre); ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (Chemainus Theatre Festival); and ‘Faith Healer’ (Onion Theatre). Film and TV credits include X-Files, The Age of Adaline, Lake Placid, Cold Squad and Supernatural. Alberta born and raised, Tim married his college sweetheart, Debbie, in 2013 and lives with her on Vancouver Island.
Where do you call home? How long have you lived there?
I’ve been calling Nanaimo, B.C. home now for almost four years. I moved there when I married my college sweetheart (I know, right? Great story, too long for here.) For those not familiar with Nanaimo (pronounced like the bar, which is where it comes from, of course), it’s about the size of Red Deer. In fact, I like to call it Red-Deer-By-The-Sea.
What’s your ‘must-have’ morning ritual?
Coffee. Made with fresh ground beans and fresh cold spring water. Hmmm. Excuse me, I need to make a cup right now in fact…
…okay, I’m back.
Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition? Least favorite?
I never miss watching It’s a Wonderful Life and Scrooge starring Alastair Sim. In fact, Sim’s laugh after he’s “converted” influenced the laugh I developed for Kris Kringle.
In ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, your character (Kris Kringle) claims to be the real Santa Claus, living in a 1940’s retirement home in New York City. As an actor, do you make a decision whether or not you believe him?
You know, early on in my character work, I thought I would have to, but in fact I realized that, regardless of whether Kris is deluded or is actually Santa Claus, the situation for him is the same: he believes - in fact he knows, that he is Santa Claus. He testifies as such, under oath, in a courtroom. So all I have to do is start from there. I leave it up to the audience to decide the truth for themselves, and in fact the story leaves room for both conclusions, in my opinion. But as the actor portraying Kris, the choice has already been made.
How do you step into Santa… make him a more complicated human?
It’s certainly possible to play Kris as a caricature, so to avoid that I’ve drawn on a few sources to add some richness and character to him: my German grandfather-in-law, David Suchet’s portrayal of Hercule Poirot, my wife (who truly loves children, and whom I’ve observed taking great delight in watching and interacting with them), and I think folks may see a bit of Edmund Gwenn’s performance from the 1947 film. As for voice, I didn’t want to give Kris a straight British upper-class accent; I wanted to add some elements that suggest he’s lived in many places over the years, so I’ve brought in some German and Dutch flavoring. I know that’s at the risk of having people think I can’t do a straight British accent, but I hope most are thinking, “Now where is he from? I can’t quite place it.” It would certainly please me if they did.
Are there other roles on your bucket list? Any particular play or character you’d love to sink your teeth into?
I don’t know about specific roles, but there are plays I’d like to do – more Shakespeare, especially Lear. Waiting for Godot, Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the list is too long to include here. I’ve been fortunate to have done a number of plum roles over the years, for which I’m grateful – Father Damien, Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, and now Kris.
You have an established resume for both film and theatre. Do you have a preference? As an actor, is there a difference in how you approach them?
Certainly. As Michael Caine once said, the camera is the best lover you’ll ever have; it watches you very closely, and picks up every little detail, so a performance can be small, intricate, and realistic. Often, all you have to do is undergo the thinking process of the character, and your body will do the work for you. Unfortunately, that can also lead to a lot of half-whispered dialogue, which with my aging ears gets increasingly difficult to hear as an audience member. I’m fortunate that I started in theatre, where the performance needs to be big enough to be read by everyone in the audience, yet still feel natural and even intimate. Some film actors can struggle with that apparent paradox initially when they try their hand at stage work. As for my preference, I love them both, because both forms affect an audience in very different ways.
What’s currently inspiring you?
Music. I have pretty small “c” catholic tastes, all the way from classical to metal. [Also] I love foreign film, because it gives me a window into another way of looking at the world, and shakes up my conventional thinking. Animation, oddly, is a great source of inspiration, not only conventional cartoons but experimental work from the NFB and artists just coming out of the schools.
What’s been the most surprising part of the process for ‘Miracle on 34th’ Street’?
For the longest time, I had trouble reconciling Kris’s insistence that he never lies, and yet he appears to lie to Susie at the end about getting the present she wants. (I tried to find a way Kris might “discover” he does have the present after all, but the script didn’t seem to indicate where that happens.) Then I realized Kris may in fact not be lying but “pretending”, as he taught Susie how to do. He pretends not to have the gift, in order to see if Susie will believe in him even without it. It’s a risky move, but as someone once said, “blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.”
Lastly, what does Tim Dixon want for Christmas?
To spend time with family and friends, especially my wonderful wife who gave me permission to be here.
To enjoy the Christmas displays, the lights in the night, the songs.
Maybe a nifty little gadget or two. I’m a sucker for them.
Oh, and world peace would be nice. Or at least, whirled peas.