Canadian cult sitcom Letterkenny is, let’s face it, a very blokey show. Dealing with the exploits of hard-drinking, hard-fighting farmer Wayne (series creator Jared Keeso), his best bud Daryl (Nathan Dales), and their various friends, associates and rivals who populate the sleepy country burg of the title, the series revels in both celebrating and mercilessly lampooning the rituals of rural manhood.
But it’s not all testosterone and trucks. Right in the thick of it is Wayne’s younger sister Katy, a country girl whose liver is as robust and tongue as sharp as any of the others’. She drinks, she smokes, she’s in an amiable polyamorous relationship with two local hockey players, and she takes zero crap from anyone.
“Katy is a very tough girl,” explains Michelle Mylett, the 29-year-old Canadian actor who plays her. “She is unapologetically herself, and I think she gets a lot of her confidence from growing up in such a supportive environment. She’s very close to her brother and they really look out for each other. And his closest friends, they also have Katy’s back, and so she grew up feeling very supported and she has a lot of freedom to be exactly who she is, and she definitely doesn’t shy away from that.”
While we’ve seen a steadily growing number of strong female characters on our screens over the past several years, Katy stands out from the pack: a woman proud of her sexuality (promiscuous), her imbibing (prodigious), and her class and culture (unabashedly redneck or, in the vernacular of the show, “hick”). Mylett, who has racked up a number of supporting roles in Canada-shot TV series such as the sci-fi drama Ascension and the magical realist dramedy Four in the Morning, knew she was onto something special when her agent sent her the audition script and a link to the YouTube sketch series, Letterkenny Problems, from which the full series sprang.
“I first just read the sides and I was like ‘What is this?”’ she recalls. “It read like nothing I’d ever read before – it just read so fast! So, I just went in and did an audition, and then a couple of weeks I found out that I booked it. So, it was all very surprising and exciting, but I didn’t know any of the other cast – a lot of them were friends and they were in a beer hockey league in Vancouver together.”
Unlike her tough-as-nails character, Mylett admits to being a little anxious about joining an already tight-knit group. “At that point I was the only lead female, so I did feel a little bit nervous just because I didn’t know what to expect, but as soon as I met everyone, they’re just the nicest, most welcoming, down to earth, gentle guys. They’re really so kind and just made me feel super comfortable from day one. Which was really lucky, because it could have gone in another direction, but it’s been great.”
A lot of that is down to creator and star Keeso, who maintains what Mylett describes as a very Canadian sense of decency and courtesy on set. “He’s amazing. He’s the nicest guy. He’s actually born on Canada Day (1 July), which is so on brand. If you’ve ever seen an interview with him you might think that no one could be that nice and that humble, but he really is that way all the time. He’s set such a crazy high standard on our set on how to behave and how to treat other people and he’s never wavered from that, so he’s lovely to work for in that respect, and he’s also super funny and super respectful and we’re just lucky to be a part of his team.”
Keeso is also chiefly responsible for the show’s singular voice: Letterkenny might just be the most Canadian series ever produced, staunchly proud of its culture and revelling in its linguistic idiosyncrasies. Each episode is essentially a string of rapid-fire dialogue scenes steeped in obscure slang and turns of phrase (if nothing else, you’ll pick up a lot of hockey terminology watching this one). However, rather than being a bar to engagement, this kind of specificity is one of its key charms.
“It’s very Canadian,” Mylett agrees. “And it’s great that we’re not trying to neutralise any of the Canadian-ness to try and fit in anywhere else. You watch it and the way we speak, and the slang we use, and just the way that the show is, it’s so obviously Canadian and it’s not trying to be anything else. But once you understand some of the slang and get into how quickly we talk, it’s just about a small town, and the small town could be anywhere. You can probably relate to it if you grew up in a small town – those funny communities where there’s little cliques and everybody knows everybody. That’s a worldwide thing that everyone can relate to.”
Season 1 of Letterkenny is now streaming at SBS On Demand (and episodes also screen Tuesdays on SBS Viceland). Season 2 is coming on 5 November.