TORONTO (CP) _ Mike Smith, better known as Bubbles from "The Trailer Park Boys," admits to being somewhat astonished that he’s become one of Canada’s most recognizable comic faces with his Coke-bottle eyeglasses, jutting jaw and kitty-cat obsession.
"It’s really weird," Smith said in a recent interview to promote the DVD release Tuesday of the critically acclaimed "Trailer Park Boys: The Movie."
"I never even intended on being an actor."
The TV series has long been a hit for Showcase, but the movie arrived in theatres last fall to raves from movie critics, even landing on many Canadian critics’ year-end Top 10 lists. It was nominated for a best-picture Genie though it lost last week to "Bon Cop, Bad Cop."
Smith was simply a musician and an acquaintance of Mike Clattenburg, the creator of "The Trailer Park Boys," when he asked him for advice on how to work as a soundman for film and television productions.
"I used to have a rock band called Sandbox and Mike had a band called Big Ethel, and they used to play with us sometimes, so I kind of knew Mike that way," Smith recalls in a rare interview conducted out of character.
Clattenburg _ childhood friends of the other two Trailer Park Boys, Robb Wells and Jean Paul Tremblay _ told him to come to work on his project, the early version of "The Trailer Park Boys" TV show.
"And I said yes and I went over and I met Robb and J.P., and started doing sound on that. And one day I was just doing this character on set that I’d always done since I was like 12 or 13 or 14 years old. I didn’t have the glasses but I sort of flipped my hair over to the side and talked in the voice and Mike saw me doing it."
And the rest, so they say, was Trailer Park Boys history.
Clattenburg liked what he saw and asked Smith to come to his house later that night.
"I went over and he got me to put the glasses on and he took out the camera and started asking me questions. I thought we were just screwing around, but I realize now it was an audition."
Bubbles, in fact, is an integral part of "The Trailer Park Boys," both on the small and big screens _ the kitten-loving boy-man, who lives in a shed next to Julian’s trailer after being abandoned by his parents as a young child, is the Trailer Park Boy everyone roots for.
"That’s kind of the role of Bubbles," Smith says. "You’ve got Ricky and Julian. Ricky’s obviously not the brightest guy but he’s got a huge heart, and then Julian, he’s the scammer who’s always coming up with the scams while drinking heavily.
"They’re the only family Bubbles has and he’s kind of caught in the middle and wants to keep those guys out of jail. So he inherently has that sympathetic quality where you want him to succeed."
In the real world, Smith says, Bubbles has his share of female fans. Robb Wells, who plays Ricky, says his castmate is popular with the ladies, many of whom want him to keep his Coke-bottle glasses on.
"Interesting … he’s just saying that probably because when he was doing the interview his girlfriend was sitting beside him," Smith says with a chuckle.
But he allows that "girls do seem to adore Bubbles. It’s the kitty-cat thing and that he’s just very innocent and sweet."
Keeping the glasses on, however, is something Smith says is a tough thing to do. At the beginning of every season of the TV show, he suffers headaches and an aching jaw as he returns to character.
"Because I haven’t been doing it for so long, the first week or so I have a really sore jaw every night," he says. "I get headaches but it’s so far out of focus that my brain just says now ‘there’s no way’ and it shuts down."
He does have one thing in common with his character, however _ his love of felines.
"I love kitties," he says. "The one that we used in Season Four when I go to jail and I bring the cat to jail with me _ that’s my actual cat. His name is Vincent _ Vince the Pince, I call him, because he was born with no bones in one of his feet. He only has two toes but they’re an inch and a half long so it looks like a lobster claw."
"I really love that kitty," he says.