‘Brothers & Sisters’ star poised for success

Luke Macfarlane has gone from Slipnaught to tying the knot.

Back in the 1990s, the London Central secondary school grad was the singer in a hyper-talented young band, Slipnaught.

This weekend, the Juilliard Drama Division-trained Macfarlane’s character, Scotty Wandell, is getting married on ABC-TV’s hit Brothers & Sisters. It airs on ABC tomorrow and Global on Monday.

This weekend’s season finale is the latest stop on a remarkable journey for the London-born actor. Back in the day, you could have seen him here, playing Slipnaught farewell gigs at London clubs.

Universities and colleges in Canada and the U.S. were calling. Macfarlane, 28, made his mark in theatre at Central, where the now-retired Ann MacMillan, department head and “drama queen,” helped lead an exciting program. Macfarlane went to Manhattan on a scholarship and off-Broadway on his talent before moving on to Hollywood. He would also come back to Central to share his war stories.

He was seen in Over There, an FX TV series about American soldiers on their first tour of duty in Iraq. The buzz around Slipnaught fans was that Over There paid enough for Macfarlane to settle his Juilliard bills.

Slipnaught was not your everyday high school band — and the Wandell ceremony is not your cliched TV season-finale wedding. Wandell is marrying Kevin Walker (Matthew Rhys) in a gay commitment ceremony, making history on U.S. network TV.

“From a standing outside perspective, and also as someone who is gay, I think that it’s a very exciting time,” Macfarlane recently told a Toronto newspaper. “How exciting that we’re saying, ‘This can be part of the cultural fabric, now,’ because it is two series regulars, two people that you invite into your home and you see every week. It’s telling of the beginning of more waves and I’m very proud of that.”

Macfarlane hardly needs a Free Press columnist to second that emotion, but here is one who is happy to do so. Macfarlane should be proud.

So should Brothers & Sisters. Scenes made available to The Free Press show the finale to be a TV wedding to treasure.

There is love, family, tensions, doubts, misunderstandings, rings, bitterness and humour.

There are scenes from any impending marriage, on TV. Or anywhere. Scotty sweetly chides Kevin for seeing him just before the ceremony.

Calista Flockhart’s character, Kitty, recalls an outfit that just “screamed bride” to her and Kevin, her younger brother, when they were children.

“I got carried away. I don’t regret it,” says Nora (Sally Field) of elaborate preparations she has made for the ceremony.

It is hard to believe U.S. network TV has waited until May, 2008 to make such history.

So, ABC has become the Brooklyn Dodgers of the gay wedding day, if you will. Now, which U.S. network will be the Boston Red Sox? For non-baseball fans, that is a U.S. pop culture reference to the way some major-league teams — the Red Sox were the worst, but the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees weren’t much better — simply would not integrate their lineups until years after Jackie Robinson had starred with Brooklyn, starting in 1947.

For now, it is exciting to see a London actor in such a finely poised and powerful slice of U.S. TV. Macfarlane, nicely turned out for the wedding, is in classy company.

It is not so much the cast’s other men — with the slithery Rob Lowe always good for a glimpse of TV noir — who carry Brothers & Sisters.

It is the women in the cast.

Macfarlane finds his own sense of pace and place with Field, Flockhart and other “sisters” including luminous fellow Canadian, Emily Van Camp who plays Rebecca and is even more quietly beautiful than she was on Everwood.

This viewer is not a Brothers & Sisters regular. But if it keeps giving such face time to Macfarlane, the pride of London, and VanCamp, the pride of Port Perry, that will have to change.

Whatever comes along, Macfarlane — and Scotty — can be expected to handle it with the same cool he showed back in the day with Slipnaught.

The London band included Macfarlane and other friends who had met in elementary school at Lester B. Pearson school for the arts.

At various stages, the group was known as Fulcrum or Fellow Nameless. It lasted into the new millennium with various lineups.

It was as Slipnaught that Macfarlane and his friends found out about the rock and roll name game.

Slipnaught was dogged by the similarity of its name to a U.S. death metal rock band, Slipknot. That Slipknot turned out be a scary outfit of several hundred Iowans in clown masks.

Slipknot’s metalhead fans occasionally drove many miles only to find that this progressive, jazzy, smart, charismatic London band, Slipnaught, wasn’t . . . Slipknot.

The crash of a metalhead’s dream is so often ugly, is it knot?

Slipnaught just kept making its own sound and called its first farewell gig “the Final Frontier” — final to indicate the end, but frontier for the unknown future that lies ahead.

That works for the Brothers & Sisters wedding episode, too.

The media buzz around the Brothers & Sisters wedding guarantees at least one thing about Macfarlane’s future.

When Over There’s 15 minutes of fame were over in 2005, Macfarlane was reflective. “Being in Over There is a wonderful thing, but at the same time, I don’t want it to be the highlight of my career,” he said.

Starting this weekend, there is no danger of that.

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