[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
It’s been a dark journey this season on Coroner, with sprinkles of joy scattered here and there, and many of them courtesy of the delightful human Thom Allison, who joined the series as coroner Dr. Elijah Thompson. Initially brought in to cover Jenny’s sabbatical, he stayed on when she returned, imbuing the office with a delicious saltiness. I chatted with Allison this week about coming to play in that world.
The role came his way after Season 4 showrunner Adriana Maggs, who directed Allison in Hudson & Rex last year, conceived a part for him. “The whole show’s been a bit of a gift. [Last year] I got a call from my agent saying he had a call from the casting director saying they wanted to write a part for me in Coroner. I’m like, ‘I’m sorry? What do you mean?’” he laughs.
“I haven’t had a huge film and TV career. I’ve had a pretty good one, but I’m still kind of new in many ways. [I’ve done] a handful of things. So I thought, ‘What’s going on? Who’s writing this? If they want to write this I’m in.’ I knew [series creator and Season 1-3 showrunner] Morwyn Brebner from years ago but we haven’t talked for years [so I thought] it can’t be her.”
“And then a day or something later, I got a message from Adriana Maggs [that she was] writing this role for me. When I read the first script, I just laughed my ass off. And then I read episode two. I was laughing out loud. He was so salty with Jenny. He’s such a pill.”
While initially conceived as a much shorter arc, Allison kept getting asked to return and ended up clocking nine episodes in Season 4. A fun, ongoing throughline has been Eli’s animosity toward Roger Cross’s Donovan McAvoy. “That was in the script, they just wrote this thing that he didn’t like McAvoy and [it] just kept coming. Roger is the sweetest guy ever. We had met of course before with our two shows [Killjoys and Dark Matter]. We got along so well and would just laugh and laugh between takes. Me being such a cow to him was joyful beyond words. Eli is all business and self-important.”
One of the reasons Allison was thrilled to join the show was its widespread representation. “I feel so fortunate. The representation has been so extraordinary. On Coroner, the people of color and the character of Eli, even though he doesn’t have a boyfriend, he was clearly a gay character, but it wasn’t like he was a stereotype of something else,” he shares.
“He’s a person with opinions who’s not afraid to be a bad guy, which is great. I was so proud to be part of a show that was so inviting to everyone’s life. I’ve been very lucky that way. Everyone’s kind of just getting on with it.”
This weekend, you’ll be able to hear Allison in Apple TV+’s Pinecone & Pony animated series based on the book “The Princess and the Pony” by Kate Beaton, where he plays the wizard Greymoon. As is often the case with animation, the series took some time to come to fruition, and the casting process was spread out over several months. At one point, Allison found himself doing a callback while running back and forth between tandem theatrical directing gigs.
He was thrilled to voice the character when the show was picked up, and loved that his character, and the show, bring representation to younger viewers. “The wizard is a gay wizard. It’s been a real thrill to be a part of the world that’s inviting everyone,” he says.
“It was so much fun. The recording sessions were hilarious. We go into this world [and get to] find and do stuff. [They allow so] many takes so you get to make some interesting choices, which is more fun for me. It was this big [virtual] party of the director and producers and me in a booth alone and I’m on their screen. They’d suggest things and I’d try stuff. I just laughed and laughed.”
In Thursday’s Coroner season finale, there’s an extended Twin Peaks-esque sequence that I won’t spoil that Allison loved shooting. “[Director] Samir Rehem was so amazing. He was explaining it to us. In the moment, we just trusted everyone. [There were times I thought], ‘I don’t even know what you’re talking about [or] what’s happening, but [I’m] game for it,'” he recalls. “I mean, I love weird. We knew we were on a ride. It was so fun to do. My God, we had a ball.”
Photos Courtesy of CBC and Apple TV+.