Virgin River: BC actor likes difficult nature of his character, Brady

Vancouver-based actor tries to find childish joy in the tough-guy character he inhabits in the hit Netflix, B.C.-shot drama.

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For Benjamin Hollingsworth, playing Dan Brady on Virgin River is the kind of job that keeps an actor wanting to act.

For many fans of the Netflix show, Brady has always been an interesting baddie. Now, as Season 5 is about to drop, Hollingsworth says his character’s character is about to get a lot more complicated.

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“There’s a tension there, an inner storm that is brewing,” said Hollingsworth during a phone conversation earlier this summer from his Vancouver-area home. “It’s not just clearcut that he’s a bad guy. That’s not interesting, it’s never interesting. And it’s not clearcut that he’s a good guy. People just don’t do a 180 overnight. It’s nuanced, and I love that about it. For me, when I can get a part like that, I’ll play that for as long as they’ll let me.”

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Netflix will release the fifth season of Virgin River in two parts: Part 1 on Sept. 7, and Part 2 on Nov. 30.

A sixth season has been green-lit, but, at press time, the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America strikes had suspended shooting. Hollingsworth did this interview with Postmedia News before the actors went on strike.

When it comes to dishing on the Netflix series’ return, Hollingsworth can’t say much except that Brady, who was exonerated for the shooting of Jack (Martin Henderson) at the end of Season 4, now has a chance for a major life reset. The question is, will he use that get-out-of-jail-free-card for good or evil?

“He still has a lot of things to figure out. And this season there is still very much an external force that is pressuring him. I can say that,” said Hollingsworth, keeping major plot plans quiet.

As for his romance with Brie (Zibby Allen), well, that is a situation that gives Hollingsworth another interesting acting avenue to venture down.

“We heard him say he loved her. That’s the first time he said that to a woman. And so it’s all uncharted territory for him, which again, is very interesting to play whenever it is a character’s first,” said Hollingsworth, a National Theatre School of Canada graduate.

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Photo of Benjamin Hollingsworth
Actor Benjamin Hollingsworth says the very popular Netflix series Virgin River leads to lots of fan interaction in the real world. Hollingsworth plays reformed bad guy Dan Brady on the hit show. Photo by Courtesy of Netflix /jpg

Shot in the Lower Mainland with Squamish as the exterior backdrop, Virgin River is a huge success. Based on the bestselling book series by Robyn Carr, Virgin River has been among Netflix’s most successful series. Its fourth season amassed 277 million hours viewed in its first 28 days. It has been in the streamer’s global top 10 in more than 70 countries over its four seasons to date.

“I think it has to do with the sense of community that is in the show,” said Hollingsworth, who grew up in small towns in Ontario. “I think what everyone can relate to is the feeling of comfort that comes from knowing there are others there to help. And I think that was really missing during the pandemic, and that was something a lot of people needed to be reminded of. Our show offered some of that comfort television, in a sense.

“I can describe our show as apple pie. It’s nothing new, but if you do it right, it tastes really good and it’s good just about any night of the week.

“You also have beautiful B.C., and a lot of people haven’t seen it before. It’s showcased so well in our show.”

While the show’s popularity is confirmed through viewing numbers, reviews and longevity, Hollingsworth has a more hands-on, grassroots’ metric to further underscore the idea that people are watching the soapy medical, small-town drama.

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“Just about once or twice a day someone will say, ‘You’re Brady!,’” said Hollingsworth, who also gets recognized from his role on the CBS-TV series Code Black and USA Network’s Suits. “It’s funny because, I think sometimes that people don’t quite know immediately when they see me where they know me from.”

But once they clock him, he gets some interesting feedback. Especially from those in the business of looking out for bad guys.

“At my daughter’s daycare, I was in the waiting room with another mom, and she finally said: ‘I’ve got to apologize, the last couple of weeks I’ve been shooting you all these looks. I thought I recognized you and, I got to say, I’m a police officer and my radar went off. ‘Is this guy sketchy? What’s going on?’ Then she realized I was in Virgin River, and she said she was so embarrassed,” said Hollingsworth, who is the father of three young kids aged seven, five and two.

Another time Brady’s bad ways drew attention was when Hollingsworth was travelling, and his TV persona became a talking point among border agents.

“It’s funny, one of them was getting trained and one of them knew who I was and the other didn’t. He is asking me all the questions and then we’re done. He said: ‘By the way, I love your show and I just hope you are not anything like your character otherwise we can’t let you into the country,’” said Hollingsworth adding: “When you meet me in person, I put off a very different vibe than Brady.”

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For years, Hollingsworth was based out of Los Angeles and, like many actors, came up to Vancouver to work. But that all changed when COVID-19 hit, and people had to make choices about where they were going to hunker down.

“We had the kids and then the pandemic happened, so we decided instead of jumping back-and-forth we would try and make B.C. a home for them and anchor them here,” said Hollingsworth. “Part of the reason why I took Virgin River when it was offered to me was that I just finished doing Code Black and it was a very different show.

“And also having been in L.A. so long I was attracted to the idea of shooting up in Canada and bringing my kids up there. Two years ago, in 2020, I had my third child, Juniper, up here. I love Canada. I love spending time here. That’s one of the best parts about the job.”

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Virgin River actor Benjamin Hollingsworth’s five favourite Vancouver-area hot spots:  

Vancouver restaurant for a night out with his wife Nila: Myers: “The Botanist at the Fairmont at Pacific Rim, that’s our new favourite eat spot.”

With the kids: “Earls and the Joey’s and things like that are so good with the kids’ menus, and they still have tasty things for adults. My wife is a vegan and our kids are vegetarian, so they have some good options for that.”

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Picking up sweet treats: “There’s this bakery called To Live For (Nanaimo Street in East Vancouver), it’s a vegan bakery that is insanely good. Any time we are remotely close we stop in there and pile up with more sugar than anyone should digest, ever.”

Photo of Benjamin Hollingsworth
One of actor Benjamin Hollingsworth’s favourite Vancouver spots to grab a treat is the East Vancouver vegan bakery To Die For. The Virgin River star admits he is a bit of a sweet tooth. Photo by Jenna Berman /jpg

Tips for people visiting Vancouver: “If you are just brand new to town, you have to rent a bike and ride around Stanley Park, even just around the city.

“The other thing I would tell them to do is to go up Grouse and the (Capilano) Suspension Bridge. You can kind of pair them together. I tell them to check out the views on the way up to Cypress.

“I would tell them to go Squamish because it’s beautiful up there and they can check out Jack’s Bar the Watershed Grill (Brackendale), which is a working restaurant where you can go and sit down next to the river and have something to eat.”

Squamish restaurants: “While I’m filming on location in Squamish, one of my favourite things to do is stop by Sunflower Bakery for the tastiest doughnuts on Earth. We really love The Salted Vine. It is a really nice dinner spot.”

Day off go-to: “We either go down to a beach and do a picnic and have the kids put their life-jackets on and kind of kick around in the water.

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“There are a lot of great lakes, and we just pack up the kids in the car. We love Rainbow Park on Alta Lake in Whistler. It’s a great spot. A little beach that goes to the water and then that amazing mountain view.

“Or, sometimes, next to the rivers in Squamish, which are stunning this time of year because of the glacier melt. It’s really cold, but you get that turquoise beautiful blue water.

“The hikes are insane around here,” said Hollingsworth, who also pointed to biking as a great Squamish pastime. “I’ve got the bike stroller behind me, and the boys are on bikes. We’re a full biker gang.”

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