Ready for prime time
Cloverdale’s best-known electronic repairman is ready for his close up.
Allan Dann has a small part in the season premiere of TV’s Fringe, airing Friday night.
Earlier this month, a small cast and crew from the Sci-fi drama filmed a few scenes at Dann’s Electronics, a heritage landmark that’s occupied the same storefront at 5657 176 Street since 1932.
The eclectic shop is graced with a high-ceilinged showroom, which is filled with vintage and new TVs, stereos and kitchen appliances.
The store’s false-front and heritage look has made it a popular backdrop for film and TV productions, from Jennifer’s Body (2009) and Hot Rod (2007) to an episode of the TV series Masters of Horror.
Fringe is set in Boston, where the FBI’s Fringe Division explores unexplained phenomena with the help of an institutionalized scientist played by John Noble. It also stars Anna Torv, Lance Reddick and Vancouver’s Joshua Jackson.
It’s been described as Lost-meets-the X-Files.
The Fringe director didn’t want to change a thing about the shop for the Sept. 1 shoot, other than change a few lights.
He must have figured the genial proprietor was perfect, too, because a few days before the cameras rolled, Dann – the 87-year-old proprietor – was asked if he wanted to appear in a scene.
Since Dann doesn’t watch the show, he asked his daughter Kathleen – a Fringe fan who lives in Hawaii – what he should do.
“She said go for it,” said Dann, a father of four who’s been married to his wife Brenda for 61 years. (After visiting the hair and makeup trailer, he joked that his wife would be wondering what he had really been up to that day.)
He didn’t have to memorize any dialogue; it’s what’s known in the business as a “walk on part” – bigger (and better paying) than being an extra.
Dann’s scene took place in his service shop, past the sign that says, ‘Employees only.”
His acting job involved taking some items off a shelf, placing them in a basket, then crossing the narrow aisle as the scene’s principal actor walked past him, then doing the same thing on the other side.
“Anyway, it was fine,” said Dann, who wouldn’t reveal who the actor was. “It only took a few minutes.”
He’s not even sure if viewers will be able to recognize him in the short scene – or even if his face will be visible.
“It was just a little part.”
A lifetime of involvement in service clubs and community organizations has given him plenty of practice in public speaking, but he’s never acted before.
“Never, never, no,” he said, shaking his head emphatically.
But he wasn’t nervous about his small role, despite his lack of experience or formal training.
“I’ve taken part in quite a few organizations in and around Cloverdale,” he explained, pointing to his time as president of the B.C. Junior Chamber of Commerce and his volunteer efforts with the Cloverdale Rodeo.
He was also part of community efforts to build Hoffman Manor retirement home.
But he’s most proud of his 35 years as a fire brigade volunteer in Cloverdale.
“Everybody who worked downtown was in it,” he said.
Dann’s Electronics is the oldest continually operating, family-owned business in Surrey.
Allan Dann grew up in the apartment upstairs, and the building itself is on the city’s heritage register. It was built in 1920, and was initially the Royal Bank branch. The store was originally run by his dad, Ernest Hugh Dann, and Allan took it over in 1973.
“I may be the longest-running merchant in Surrey, for all I know,” says Dann, whose resume extends back to the Second World War, when he was in the air force.
“But that’s another story,” he grinned.
He had high praise for the production crew, which not only ensured he had a ride home, but returned bright and early the next morning to tidy up.
Dann, who still works six days a week, admits it’s unlikely he’ll embark on a TV career.
“It was quite interesting,” he said, reflecting on the experience a few days later. “But I wouldn’t want to do it for a living.”