It’s clear Dennis Cound is a natural performer. Even after a long drive to Nakusp from his current home in Kamloops, the quiet and slightly rumpled Cound’s expressive ability is evident.
Shaking my hand, he apologizes for his crop of facial hair that he’s growing out in order to audition for a part in a Biblical movie being shot in the province.
“My girlfriend hates it,” he told me, but it’s not coming off until he’s done the audition.
Dennis grew up here in Nakusp, but moved to Kamloops and became a trainman at B.C.’s senior terminal there. Working at the railway for decades has rubbed off on his art as well, inspiring one of the two screenplays Cound has written. It’s eerily similar to Unstoppable, the movie with Denzel Washington.
“I almost threw up,” Cound said, when he watched it, “because that’s my play.”
Of course, being a professional trainman, he saw gaping holes in the Hollywood version, but it was reassuring to see that something so close to what he writes could get produced.
Cound has been acting in film ever since he went to an open casting call in Revelstoke for the movie The Barber where he was a stand-in for Jeremy Radford. That step into the movie biz was a life-changing one, and once bit by the performing bug he never looked back.
“I knew ever since I was told I walk funny,” Cound said in answer to my question about when he realized he was an artist, “I’ve got too much on the right side of the brain.”
Performing has always been in his blood, with impressions and funny voices just being part of life growing up. Our conversation is peppered with impressions of Doctor Phil, Dianne Sawyer and others.
Cound recently completed an intensive voice-over workshop with actor Michael Daingerfield in Kelowna and is now hoping to do web-based work from his home studio.
“To have a voice in a Pixar or Disney film would be a dream of mine,” he confessed.
“I love film and the whole thing of performing,” he told me, “This is my thing.”
And you can tell. He’s been in Battle In Seattle with Woody Harrelson, who he says is a lot like his character from Cheers, very personable and won’t tolerate snobbery from anyone.
“People don’t know a lot of what happens behind the scenes,” Cound remarked after telling me a story about Harrelson dressing down a contemptuous crew member who treated the extras poorly.
But Cound’s talents are broader than just film. He is also an accomplished carver, working in bone, antler and stone. His work has been referred to as the finest in western Canada, a compliment the reserved artist is amazed by.
“I’m not looking for praise,” he said, “I just like to do what I do. It’s a drug.”
His girlfriend Lee-Ann Meakes knows it, and lets him know that he’s brilliant.
“I’m honoured if people are willing to pay their hard-earned money,” he told me, and aims to create scenes that “tweak different emotions in people.”
Animals are a favourite theme, and Cound credits his train work with his deep appreciation for wildlife, getting to see them in their natural habitat far out on remote train lines.
A lot of his work is donated, and that makes him happy too.
When I ask him if he had to choose one kind of art over the rest, what called to him the most. He was silent, taking time to stroke his biblical goatee as he thought about it.
“That’s a tough choice,” he mused, “but acting, performing wins by a hair.”
“I like making people laugh,” he explained, “I like making people laugh in particular.”
If that is his aim, then Dennis Cound is off to a great start. In the past week he has auditioned for the third Flicka film, been to the premier of a short film he was stunt choreographer for, gotten a new agent and started searching out web-based voice-over work. He also recently finished Afghan Luke, a feature directed by Mike Clattenburg of Trailer Park Boys movie fame where he plays a reporter alongside Nick Stahl.
The artistic gene has been passed along to both his daughters Taylor and Miranda, with Taylor specializing in drawing and sketching while Miranda has her dad’s performing flair.
“She needs her own show,” Cound says, beaming with pride about his kids.
As we say goodbye, I recall the beginning of our interview when I asked about the Japanese character on a pendant around his neck. Cound revealed an admiration of the samurai culture, and the idea that every moment should be savoured fully, something he obviously has taken to heart.