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Mary Walsh directs ‘Young Triffie’

TORONTO (CP) _ Mary Walsh has been delighting Canadian television audiences for almost 15 years on "This Hour Has 22 Minutes," hilariously portraying a number of unforgettable characters, including Marg Delahunty and her alter ego, Marg Princess Warrior.

But for years, Walsh has been quietly dreaming of the silver screen, hoping one day to make a movie out of a play she’s regularly directed in Atlantic Canada since 1985: "Young Triffie’s Been Made Away With," a dark comedy written by beloved Newfoundland essayist Ray Guy.

Denise Robert, the Oscar-winning Quebec movie producer, helped Walsh’s dream come true when she asked Walsh if there was a film she’d particularly like to make.

"Denise mentors people and puts theatrical directors with film projects, and when she asked if there was something I wanted to do, I chose ‘Triffie’ and was so delighted," says the 54-year-old Walsh, slender in a black pantsuit and lovely in person with brilliant green eyes and a thick mane of brunette hair.

Robert and her associate, Daniel Louis, are the producers of the Quebec-Newfoundland co-production, renamed simply "Young Triffie" for the big screen.

The movie, with an all-star Canadian cast that includes Andrea Martin, Colin Mochrie and Remy Girard, arrives in theatres on Friday, and Walsh was still pinching herself as she promoted the film in a downtown Toronto hotel with its lead actor, Fred Ewanuick of "Corner Gas" fame.

"Today is the first time it kind of hit me, even though I’ve seen it in the theatres. But it never really hit me until today as I started talking about the film that something I have wanted to do for so long, I actually got to do."

Working with Robert on the film, set in 1947 Newfoundland, was a joy, Walsh adds.

"In Montreal they always whisper: ‘So you’ve worked with Denise Robert … what was that like?"’ Walsh says.

"But it was great. She puts the film first, above everything, and I had never seen that before. There are a lot of producers in English Canada who are enthralled with the thought of being the producer and they kind of think the movie’s all about them, but she’s all about the movie and what’s best for the movie, and she’ll go to the wall for that. It’s very admirable."

The film, which marks Walsh’s directorial debut, tells the story of a clumsy and unpopular Newfoundland ranger who’s sent to investigate a case of sexually assaulted and mutilated sheep in fictional Swyer’s Harbour.

Instead, the squeamish ranger, Alan Hepditch, ends up trying to solve the murder of Triffie, referred to by townsfolk as "that poor young silly person" who is found stabbed to death on the shores of town.

"Mary always says he goes from zero to hero, and he does," says Ewanuick. "I like playing characters like him. They’re not the usual guys that you cheer for, but in the end they turn out to be admirable, and that’s fun to play. He completely changes from start to finish."

Walsh’s work on the film isn’t entirely behind the camera. She also plays Aunt Millie, the town’s nosy postmistress whose adult son, Vincie, has just returned from duty in the Second World War where he apparently sustained some emotional damage. He’s heard frequently shrieking abuse at his mother from his room upstairs.