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Keir Gilchrist debut on ‘The Winner’

TORONTO (CP) _ Just days before the debut of his big role on a new sitcom on a major network, 14-year-old Toronto-based actor Keir Gilchrist was feeling "pretty excited" but completely relaxed.

"It’s a big thing because I don’t think a lot of my friends have ever really seen me on TV," Gilchrist, co-star of "The Winner" that debuts Sunday on Fox, said with an air of maturity, wearing a beat-up biker jacket in an artsy diner.

"But I don’t feel any pressure _ like, there’s nothing really on my back if it, you know . . .," he said before stopping himself. "Whatever happens, happens, right?"

It’s a good attitude to have, given the unpredictability of launching a sitcom.

And given Gilchrist’s background, it’s understandable why he would have such confidence.

Born in London, England, the teen with the shaggy brown hair started studying acting as a young boy and took classes in Boston and New York City before settling in Toronto with his family at age 10. His dad works in marketing at an indie record label in the city, and his 10-year-old brother, Evan, is also acting and has landed a few small roles.

Since then Gilchrist, a self-described "goofball" who has a penchant for Monty Python films and punk music, has made guest appearances on "Queer as Folk," "Missing," "Doc" and "ReGenesis," and had a recurring role on the kids’ TV series "Life With Derek." He’s even voiced a character on the animated comedy "The Family Guy."

This latest role, however, is his biggest yet, as it’s a project of two of his idols _ "Family Guy" creator-writer Seth MacFarlane and writer Ricky Blitt of Montreal.

"I’m a huge ‘Family Guy’ fan _ like, the biggest _ and I can’t go through a conversation with someone without mentioning ‘Family Guy’ at least 15 times," said Gilchrist.

He landed the part of Josh, a 14-year-old hypochondriac, after meeting with "The Winner"’s casting directors and going through a nerve-racking audition process that he thought he’d blown in Los Angeles.

The sitcom, which is filmed in front of a live studio audience, stars Rob Corddry (the bald correspondent on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart") as Glen Abbott, an under-developed 32-year-old virgin who still lives with his parents in Buffalo.

Glen forces himself to embark on his "wonder years," however, when his first love Alison (Erinn Hayes) _ a single mom and the only girl he’s ever kissed _ moves back to Buffalo with her son, played by Gilchrist.

There’s quite a bit of adult content on the show, which Global will air starting March 11.

The premise involves Glen relying on Josh to help him get through the parts of puberty that he somehow missed. In one of the episodes, Glen visits a shady massage parlour to learn some tricks on intimacy while Josh waits outside.

But Gilchrist shrugs at such scenarios, saying he’s grownup enough to handle it.

"I actually kind of find that stuff more fun than playing it safe," says Gilchrist, who gets his schooling by tutors while he’s on set in L.A. and attends a special high school for professional kids while in Toronto.

"My parents didn’t always believe in, like, making sure I never saw any movies with that kind of subject matter or whatever, so by the time I got to it, it was almost just normal and I love doing that kind of stuff."

"The Winner" pilot was filmed last April and the crew didn’t shoot the other five episodes until the following October.

The result? "From the first episode to the second, I’ve grown (several) inches and my voice has changed," laughs Gilchrist.

Despite the travel headaches, Gilchrist says he enjoys living away from L.A. and feels like Toronto is his home, where he can chill out with his "homies," who often react indifferently to his acting roles _ with the exception of this new one.

"(When) I started high school, if I mentioned the show or whatever, they’d be like, ‘Oh, cool, you’ve got a TV show, blah, blah, blah,"’ he said.

"But then if I mentioned I was working with Seth or Rob or whatever, it was like, ‘What?’ … they were really, really surprised. And then if I mentioned ‘Family Guy,’ it was like, you know, it’s kind of a weird look you get _ they think you’re screwing with them, basically."