Trailer Park Boys has gone from a Canadian cult comedy series to an essential piece of television history in the last two decades. With a cast of characters dwelling at the titular trailer park and a mockumentary style later made famous by The Office, the show was a bizarre look at a group of people who do not always get representation.
Among its quirky group of characters was Jim Lahey, a supervisor played masterfully by the late John Dunsworth. While Dunsworth fit right in with the rest of the show, his career went far deeper than trailer park jokes.
John Dunsworth’s career before ‘Trailer Park Boys’
A classically-trained actor for several decades before hooking up with Trailer Park Boys, Dunsworth made his screen debut in the 1978 short film So Long to Run, according to IMDb. While now forgotten, the short kicked off a long career that would stretch over nearly 40 years.
Nearly 20 years after his screen debut, after several low-profile roles in forgotten projects, Dunsworth got his breakout role in Pit Pony, a role that, while not a hit, helped bring him to a broader audience.
Two years later, however, Dunsworth got the role that would help define him for the rest of his career. He joined a television spinoff of the cult film Trailer Park Boys and continued that role for the rest of his life.
Dunsworth became a staple on Canadian television, not only sharing the comedic chops that propelled him on the show that made him famous but showing off his classical training with more dramatic roles.
He may have never gotten much exposure past Trailer Park Boys, but his resume speaks for himself. Dunsworth continued working as Lahey until he died of an undisclosed illness in 2017.
However, three years after his death, his work lives on thanks to his work on Trailer Park Boys.
Jim Lahey vs. John Dunsworth
Dunsworth’s Lahey was an alcoholic character who was crass, crude, and always getting into trouble. However, Dunsworth was nothing like this. When Lahey was drinking alcohol like it was nothing, Dunsworth was drinking iced tea. The degenerate Lahey and the even-keeled Dunsworth helped show how grounded the actor was.
This was why he became such a fan-favorite. He was hilarious, but Dunsworth’s training also added a sense of reality to the often ridiculous series. In one of his final interviews before his death, Dunsworth spoke about why the character resonated with so many people and how he decided to play off of his training to put on a funny but authentic portrayal.
Why did people love Jim Lahey so much?
Dunsworth was asked about what Trailer Park Boys was in one of his final interviews with Style Magazine. To him, while the show was a successful comedy that often took things to the extreme, at its heart, it was about real people.
“It’s a story of losers, but they are hero losers,” said Dunsworth (per Style). “They epitomize the weakness in humans. And it’s so successful ’cause people are watching, reveling in the fact that everyone in the show is stupider than they are.”
To strike this balance, Dunsworth claimed that he was often made fun of taking things too seriously and making sure that every action had a point besides mindless laughter.
“I get accused of being too much of a Pollyanna,” said Dunsworth (per Style). “I tell people that the sh*t winds are blowing in a counterclockwise direction and you’ve got to turn your back to it and take advantage.”
Dunsworth might not be a household name to those who have not watched him as Jim Lahey, but he’s an integral part of the show three years after his death, and the crew has continued working with him through retroactive footage since then.
Jim Lahey might have been an alcoholic miser, but the man behind him was a phenomenal actor who helped make such a despicable source of humor into a character that people could relate to, too. This might be what everyone misses most.