The many names — and hats — of Darryl Hopkins, N.L.'s own Renaissance man
On the wall behind Darryl Hopkins hangs a watercolour painting, the kind you might find in a cabin or a house of an older generation.
It's a landscape painted in a mix of sorbet shades: grass painted like honeydew, flowers in hues of cantaloupe and watermelon. If you look closer, you'll see an image of Godzilla. He's sketched the monster in lipstick "to make him nice and glossy."
"You get found pieces of kitsch art in second-hand stores, that are worthless and kind of ugly, then you just add a little bit to them," Hopkins explains.
It's one of an array of offbeat art forms the Newfoundland actor and musician has dabbled in over the years.
Hopkins, sometimes called Avalon Stanley, has spent years on the theatre circuit. He's about to repeat his role as Wayne in Between Breaths, Robert Chafe's play exploring the life's work and obsession of Dr. Jon Lien. The play, a production of Artistic Fraud, tours New Brunswick this month. The play's last tour was in Prince Edward Island in the spring of 2021, and it's showed in other provinces since 2016.
"I think this will be like 130 or 140 times," he says, reflecting on how many times he's recited the script for audiences from Ontario to Atlantic Canada.
Hopkins also played in stage productions of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and, just last month, in Rig. "I'm at the stage where I'm tired of hearing my own voice," he laughs.
A film without a script
For an actor weary of speaking, working on Ian Foster's 2022 short film Close to the Bone must have been the ideal project.
Conceived by Foster as a "silent film in the sense that the music tells the story along with the imagery," Close to the Bone was an opportunity for Hopkins to work without a script at all.
"If I have a script, I want to respect the writer's words," Hopkins says.
But on Close to the Bone, he felt liberated to improvise. "Your face and your body tell the story, and the music tells the story," he says.
"As a musician himself, I'm sure he brings some of that spirit to Close to the Bone," Ian Foster says of Hopkins. In this unspoken role, Hopkins plays a man losing his sense of stability as he witnesses his wife's physical deterioration to a degenerative illness. Instead of dialogue, this story is told through Foster's music and lyrics.
"I've seen Darryl in numerous films and plays over the years and knew he had the depth required to bring complexity to the role," Foster said.
Who is Avalon Stanley?
If you're a follower of local music in St. John's, you may also know Darryl Hopkins as Avalon Stanley of the band Avalon Stanley and the Isthmus.
The pandemic and a few changes in band membership have resulted in a temporary hiatus, so his gigs tend to be solo these days. "There was a lot of momentum built up in 2018 and 2019, and I'm still trying to piece it back together to get an album done," he says.
So, where did the name Avalon Stanley come from? "I guess my parents thought I was important, so they gave me four names," he says: in the middle, Avalon for his grandfather and Stanley for his uncle.
He sometimes used "Avalon" in his early acting career, he admits, to rank higher in alphabetical listings.
A face for all seasons
If you watch any television or movies filmed in Newfoundland, you'll spot Hopkins somewhere on the screen.
He's played a constable in Murdoch Mysteries, a prison guard in Frontier, and a drug dealer on Republic of Doyle. Eagle-eyed viewers of Hudson & Rex will find him playing three different characters.
A film that doesn't show Hopkins's face is Maudie, in which he worked as Ethan Hawke's stand-in.
He remembers Hawke singing a song about Uma Thurman one night at the Fisher's Loft in Port Rexton and hoping to bond with him over music.
"I was a bit ridiculous and gave him a CD copy of the band's 2014 EP in the craft truck one evening," he recalls.
Sublime and ridiculous
You'll have to chat with Hopkins for a long time before he'll bring up his accolades, though.
When pressed, he'll tell you about Touch, a short film by Noel Harris, in which he plays a man in debt to a loan shark. For his performance, he was awarded best male actor in the short film category at the 2017 Monaco International Film Festival and best actor in a short film at the 2018 Social World Film Festival in Italy.
"I'm better at self-deprecating humour than at boasting," he says.
While he may not like to brag, he's happy to tell you all about the Godzilla "artworks" in his house. "There's another one in the other room that's the Last Supper, and Godzilla is behind Jesus," Hopkins says.
Between Breaths will begin its New Brunswick tour on March 16 at the Fredericton Playhouse with a pay-what-you-will show.