TORONTO — Christopher Plummer has found a convenient acting gig during the COVID-19 pandemic — right in his own home.
The 90-year-old Canadian stage and screen veteran stars in the series “Departure” as an investigator looking into a mysterious plane crash over the Atlantic Ocean.
The Toronto-shot series made its Canadian premiere Thursday on Global and started production on season 2 in the city last month.
The Connecticut-based Plummer was able to shoot the first season on set in Toronto, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made that difficult for season 2.
No matter — a film crew is going to the three-time Oscar nominee instead.
“The Sound of Music” star says all of the scenes he has to do for season 2 at the moment depict him on the telephone, so he’s able to film them at his own desk.
“I don’t have to go anywhere or lift a finger. I’m thrilled,” the Toronto-born, Montreal-raised performer jested this week in a phone interview.
“Departure” also stars Archie Panjabi of “The Good Wife” as an investigator who works alongside Plummer’s character and is reeling from the recent death of her husband.
The six-part Canada/U.K. co-production follows their team as they wade through political tensions and conspiracy theories while searching for survivors of the British aircraft, which went missing en route from New York to London.
Other cast members include Canadian actors Allan Hawco as one of the pilots, and Kristian Bruun as one of the passengers.
Asked if the series made for any nervous feelings about being in the air himself, Plummer said he’s never been “entirely comfortable” on planes, especially smaller ones. But he often had the luxury of flying on the now-retired, supersonic passenger airliner Concorde in his heyday.
The film studios footed the bill of his Concorde flights, he said, noting he felt comfortable flying on them because the flights were fast and some of the pilots were well-trained in the Second World War.
“That was the last glamorous moment of flying, was the Concorde,” Plummer said. “We used to get up with a shirt and tie and blazers, and then you would drink with free champagne endlessly all through the flight. Great stuff.”
Plummer said he was attracted to the project partly because he wanted to work with Panjabi, whom he admires “enormously.”
“She’s a terrific actress, and even more importantly, a terrific woman,” Plummer said. “She’s just delightful and funny, and we had a wonderful time.
“I don’t think I was very good in it. But I have certainly had fun with it.”
Yes, even an esteemed Oscar winner who’s put on masterful performances on Broadway and at the Stratford Festival can sometimes have doubts about his work.
In this case, his uncertainty was over the tricky technical language of his character, who works at the Transport Safety and Investigations Bureau.
“He talks technically, because he’s one of those guys, and it’s hard to remember some of the strange language that technology uses,” said Plummer, who won an Academy Award for “Beginners” and two other Oscar nominations for “All the Money in the World” and “The Last Station.”
“So it’s not the most comfortable script in the world, but it’s interesting.”
Plummer has been living in the U.S. for many years but has returned to Canada many times for work.
“I feel like I have a home in Canada, although I don’t, because I’m in Canada almost as much as I’m in the States,” he said. “So I don’t feel I’ve turned my back on the country.”
Plummer has said many times in recent years that he has no plans to retire, and indeed that’s still the case. He said he’s signed on to some other projects besides “Departure” and hopes a COVID-19 vaccine will emerge so he can tackle them.
In the meantime, he and his wife, actress Elaine Taylor, are healthy and taking precautions during the pandemic. They’ve only dined out once, in an outdoor setting.
He is “slightly bored,” though, he said with a chuckle.
“Fortunately, we’ve got enough land that I don’t need to see any of my neighbours, so we’re safe. I haven’t practically stepped outside of the house for months.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 9, 2020.
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press