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Letterkenny actor from Coquitlam praises hometown

Tyler Johnston, the Pinetree secondary graduate who plays Stewart on the Crave show "Letterkenny," speaks highly of growing up in Coquitlam.

In the last episode of the last season of Letterkenny, Wayne and the townsfolk are out for blood after his sister is humiliated.

How their old-fashioned justice plays out marks the start of Season 9, which begins streaming on Crave in Canada on Christmas Day.

The Skids have an interesting year, said Pinetree secondary graduate Tyler Johnston who plays the drug group’s leader. 

“Stewart gets back into the music world,” said Johnston from his home in East Vancouver during a press blitz last week. “He has some fun.”

But as for another romantic shot with Wayne’s sister, Katy (Michelle Mylett), “that’s a hard no. It was kind of a flash in the pan.”

Johnston filmed Season 9 last November in Sudbury, Ont., and had planned to get back on set in the spring before the global coronavirus outbreak.

His main role on the highly acclaimed T.V. series, which has spun off its own lexicon, came after years of auditioning in Metro Vancouver. 

While growing up in Coquitlam — where he attended Pinetree Way and Panorama elementaries and Summit middle, on Westwood Plateau — Johnston and his sister, Kelsey, put on plays in the living room and often exchanged ideas about acting, he said.

By that time, the Vancouver filming scene was booming, and their mother enrolled them into acting classes. Every week, she dropped them off at the Lougheed SkyTrain station and they walked off at Granville. 

Her aim, Johnston said, wasn’t necessarily to get her teenage kids into the industry; rather, she wanted them to improve their social and public speaking skills, which she felt would help them throughout their adult lives.

At school, in between Adanacs lacrosse and hockey, Johnston also took theatre classes with Shanda Walters and Nicole Roberge, and he remembers both teachers as being “very, very influential people” in his earlier life. “They were a positive reinforcement, and they encouraged you to explore.”

Roberge, who was covering a maternity leave for Walters, cast “TJ” — as he is known — in the lead role of Ren McCormack in Footloose, in his Grade 11 year.

“Tyler was a fantastic student,” said Walters, who is now at Heritage Woods secondary. “His work was mature, and he balanced the demands of starting his professional career with high school. He was humble about his successes and always easy to work with.”


By 16, Johnston had landed a Doritos commercial (featuring a T-Rex) and was out on auditions regularly for T.V. and film jobs. In his Grade 12 year of 2004, he appeared in the T.V. series Romeo! followed by a number of recurring roles on television shows including as Samandriel/Alfie/Matt Pike on Supernatural, as Danny Lubbe in in the HBO Canada comedy Less Than Kind and as Alexi Giffords in The Killing.

In 2012, he won the part of Young Don Cherry in Wrath of Grapes, where he played against the older character version portrayed by Jared Keeso.

Three years later, when Keeso turned his Letterkenny Problems series on YouTube into a T.V. series, he tapped Johnston for Stewart. Johnston remembers reading the character description: Man in his 30s. Long, black hair. Studded necklace. Head Skid. “It was really going against type,” he said.

Since then, the Leo Award winner and Canadian Screen Award nominee has developed a solid working relationship with Evan Stern, who plays Stewart’s sidekick Roald. As soon as they get their weighty script, “we run the lines over and over,” he said. “Evan and I hammer them into our heads so when we’re on set, we’re comfortable and we can play. We get to react.”

Johnston even admits to doing quick online searches to the learn the pronunciation of some of Stewart’s words, before filming begins.

As for his ties with Coquitlam, Johnston said he likes to get back to see his school friends and his dad, who lives in the Austin Heights neighbourhood.

Johnston is proud to call Coquitlam his hometown and, on Letterkenny’s North American tour stops, he gives the city a shout-out during cast introductions. “I don’t say I’m from Vancouver. I say, ‘I’m from Coquitlam, British Columbia.’”

Roberge, who now teaches at Riverside secondary in Port Coquitlam, said TJ often sends her a text or photo from his sets, which “lifts me up as a teaching artist and pal…. Watching his much-anticipated Letterkenny episodes crack me up something fierce.”