TORONTO - Edmonton writer-director Chris Craddock last saw Alan Thicke about two weeks ago at the Whistler Film Festival in B.C., where they celebrated the Canadian premiere of their offbeat comedy "It's Not My Fault and I Don't Care Anyway."
"Even then he was going so hard," he recalled in a phone interview on Wednesday, a day after Thicke died of a heart attack in Los Angeles at the age of 69.
"He had a flight delay, came into town, caught the screening, did a talkback, did a thing. He was always going 100 miles an hour and I think that's the way that he liked it."
Indeed, it seems the U.S.-based Thicke never slowed down — and never stopped being a champion for Canada, where he grew up in Kirkland Lake, Ont.
"He would come to Canada a lot and he was always pitching shows," said John Murray, vice-president and executive producer of Toronto-based Insight Productions.
"They weren't necessarily Canadian but he never lost touch with the Canadian business. He would sometimes pitch you a show because he knew it might be right for the Canadian TV landscape, or it might be something he knew a network might be interested in here."
Before Thicke became a star in the U.S., with roles including wholesome patriarch Dr. Jason Seaver on "Growing Pains," he worked on various TV programs in Canada. They included his own talk show, "The Alan Thicke Show," a radio show with Alex Trebek, and behind-the-scenes work on "That's Show Biz," an early variety show conceived by future "Saturday Night Live" creator Lorne Michaels.
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While he established roots south of the border, he continued to return to Canada for various events and to participate in — and pitch — a wide range of projects.
Craddock said he recruited Thicke for the Edmonton-shot "It's Not My Fault and I Don't Care Anyway" after getting him to do a guest spot on his Canadian series "Tiny Plastic Men."
He was a "hungry artist" who craved grittier roles. He relished the chance to play a self-help guru who takes his philosophy of "perfect selfishness" to a whole new level when his daughter is kidnapped.
It was a role that flew in the face of the great American dad image he had on "Growing Pains" and was an ironic one he embraced later in his career.
"Alan was a funny guy and had a real sense of humour," said Craddock. "He was aware of his image. The irony wasn't lost on him, so he did a lot of ironic turns."
Thicke's recent "Unusually Thicke" reality/sitcom hybrid series was another example of that, as was a project Murray was developing with him a few years ago.
Murray said it was a scripted buddy comedy series called "We Met in Rehab" and focused on an aging iconic TV dad who meets a younger rock star in rehab.
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It was close to getting picked up by one network, and while it didn't get the green light, Insight hasn't given up on the premise, said Murray.
"He was just really a pleasure to work with," he said. "Obviously he was well known and iconic and famous but he was very, very down to Earth, he was really easy to work with, he treated you like an equal and he was always very enthusiastic about everything you did.
"He was very proactive, he had a lot of energy, oh my God. He was just always thinking up new shows."
Craddock echoed Thicke's humble nature, noting: "he always had a story and an anecdote for anybody."
"Even just recently when he was flying back to L.A. from Whistler, he stopped in the airport and recorded a video for my neighbour, who's a big fan, and sent it to my phone so that I could put it on her Facebook and she got a thrill out of it," said Craddock.
"He was that kind of guy. He made time for people. It's a real loss."