Jared Keeso goes from Listy to Letterkenny

Jared Keeso is a “good ol’ Canadian boy” junior hockey player turned actor who’s biggest role was portraying Canadian icon, Don Cherry.

As a kid, Keeso was like most, believing, and hoping, hockey would one day pay his bills. He grew up in small town, Listowel, Ontario, eventually playing for their Jr. B hockey team, the Listowel Cyclones. He went on to play for the Strathroy Rockets and a year of Jr. C for the Kincardine Bulldogs.

Decision time came for the rough and tough kid, who’s last name is synonymous in the small town on Highway 86 in Ontario.

“When I was like 17, I was playing Jr. B, I thought I’d be going off on a [scholarship] somewhere, I thought hockey was going to be my life,” said Keeso. “My dad helped me get that out of my head. I was never a big points guy. I never scored a lot of goals. I was a banger. So once I got the hockey notion out of my head, I went straight into acting.”

While growing up, Keeso liked a lot of unconventional television for a kid his age, like The Three Stooges. When it came time to apply to school, the only thing that interested him was acting. School didn’t last long to say the least for Keeso, so, when he was 19-years-old and his final season of hockey ended, he hopped in a jeep with a couple buddies – Ryan Hube and Dave Westra – and drove from Ontario to Vancouver, BC to pursue his acting career.

He may owe his parents a thank you for not allowing him to sit and home and pushing him to pursue acting. Keeso will be in the new Godzilla film, after minor roles in Smallville, Monster Warriors and Search and Rescue. But his biggest break, was being casted as Don Cherry in the CBC mini series, “Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story.”

“That took forever. I was living in Toronto and had just been on a road trip with a couple buddies to go see the Cubs play at Wrigley. On the way home, I get a call from my agent saying they’re casting a young Don Cherry. So I got home and prepped the stuff as quick as I could,” Keeso told Sports UpFront. “I went in for the audition and from that take, Don and Tim and Cindy Cherry, they watched all the tapes together and they chose mine. But, the CBC fought them on it, because I was so “green” and I hadn’t really done anything. They auditioned me again in Vancouver, and then I had to go down to Los Angeles and meet the director, read for him, and do a makeup test, to make sure they could age me. So after three auditions in three different cities, in two countries, they finally convinced CBC to give me the part.”

Keeso nailed the part. He won a Gemini Award for, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Program or Mini-Series. Before it even launched on CBC, Cherry promoted the film on Coaches Corner.

“Don really liked the first one. Don didn’t like the second one,” said Keeso. “I feel kind of bad about that because the first one after he saw it, he called me and went on Coaches Corner and said how good he thought it was and Ron MacLean really gushed about it. That was like a life highlight for me. But there wasn’t that same enthusiasm about the second one (…) I wouldn’t say he didn’t like it, but he didn’t care for it as much as the first part.”

Keeso has kept his hockey roots alive in his new acclaimed web series, “Letterkenny Problems.” He and friend Nate Dales star in the series. It’s not funny, it’s hilarious. Maxim Magazine recently called it, “like Trailer Park Boys and Kids in the Hall knocked up a farm girl and made a beautiful hilarious baby with several genetic abnormalities”. They do short-skit YouTube videos.

“Letterkenny is based on the small town life and the problems you have, but it’s a complete embellishment. We’re having fun with it. What were trying to do is cover all the demographics of a small town; hicks, skids, hockey players, maybe some city folk come into town, all the things that face us,” said Keeso. “It’s based on life in my hometown of Listowel, Ontario. It started as an anonymous twitter account me and my best pal – Jordan Beirnes – started called “Listy Problems.” I had a good feeling about Letterkenny but I definitely didn’t expect we’d be getting 100-thousand views in a day and that we’d get half-a-million views in a month. I didn’t expect it to be that good or garner the attention it did. So I was very happy about that.”

Letterkenny Problems is made by Keeso’s production company – Play Fun Games Pictures.

“I do it out of pocket, I pay for everything, I write everything,” says Keeso. “My dog is the logo – he looks pretty sharp. He’s a boxer-pitt cross, he really got the best of both breeds. He’s been such a stand up guy, ever since he was a pup, just so gentle, so smart, I’m pretty proud of him.”

Not so tough seeing a small town kid from Listowel, Ontario playing Grapes after all.