TORONTO - John Dunsworth is being remembered as a vibrant actor whose drunken demeanour on the "Trailer Park Boys" belied his great intelligence and alcohol-free lifestyle.
Word of the Bridgewater, N.S., native's death came last night in a statement on his Twitter feed, which said he had a "short and unexpected illness."
He was 71.
Lucy DeCoutere, who co-starred with Dunsworth on the "Trailer Park Boys," says for a guy who didn't "drink a drop, he was the most affable drunk in the country."
DeCoutere adds that Dunsworth was the most positive and hardest-working guy around and had a great philosophical depth.
Many stars have posted tributes about Dunsworth on social media, including members of the "Trailer Park Boys" cast as well as Canadian rockers Rush and actor Tom Arnold.
Dunsworth's character Jim Lahey was an alcoholic trailer park supervisor and former cop who often had a drink his hand and aviator sunglasses on.
It was an ironic role for Dunsworth, said DeCoutere.
"He wasn't a drinker but I guess because he could embody the inhibitions that come from being intoxicated, he was able to add the nuance and subtlety that comes from being a raging boozehound," she said Tuesday in a phone interview from Italy.
Mr. Lahey's relationship with shirtless Randy (played by Patrick Roach) was groundbreaking, she added.
"He was the first gay hero on TV — with his relationship with Randy — in Canadian television. They were the first gay couple on Canadian TV."
Mr. Lahey often stumbled and fell to the ground and Dunsworth had a "super kinetic" energy on set, said DeCoutere.
"Not only was he spectacular in the physical stuff, he looked for it," she said.
"I can't count the number of times I saw John Dunsworth in his underwear in a housecoat flat on his back in the dirt of a trailer park. He also was a guy of great philosophical depth.
"I've had really great chats with him, and I don't necessarily remember what we talked about but I just remember how I came away from his chats always feeling nurtured and taken care of."
Dunsworth was also known for playing reporter Dave Teagues on the supernatural drama series "Haven."
DeCoutere said he was a mentor to many.
"He was so invested, told everyone that they should act as much as possible all the time, even if it wasn't necessarily a project about which they were super fired up, to continuously be immersed," she said.
"And he practised what he preached and did everything. He was involved with as many productions as a human can be. I think it's interesting that 'Trailer Park Boys' was the thing that put him on the map because it didn't necessarily showcase how as an actor who wasn't a caricature he was also very effective.
"He was an archetype in that show but he could also do the more nuanced stuff and it was impressive."