John Dunsworth, the man who played the iconic Jim Lahey character on the Canadian comedy Trailer Park Boys, has died at the age of 71. His daughter confirmed his death in a statement posted to his official Twitter account Monday, saying Dunsworth “left this world peacefully after a short and unexpected illness.” The statement didn’t specify the type of illness, and the family asked for privacy.
Dunsworth is survived by his wife and four children (three daughters and one son). His daughters Sarah and Molly are both actresses, and Sarah appeared in Trailer Park Boys using the same name. She lived with the character Lucy in the trailer park and was mainly seen as her best friend.
Trailer Park Boys tweeted from its official account that the cast was shocked to hear of the sudden loss of Dunsworth.
Dunsworth was born in Nova Scotia on April 12, 1946 and got his start as part of the local theatre and acting community. In 1970, he converted an abandoned building into a playhouse that became the city’s first alternative theatre production house. In the late 1980s, he founded a casting agency and became one of Halifax’s most renowned casting directors.
During the mid-1990s, he met the show’s director, Mike Clattenburg, while trying out for a part in a short film titled One Last Shot. The character in the film was a drunk pet store owner and was the early version of Lahey. Upon signing on for Trailer Park Boys, he developed the character further.
The Jim Lahey character in the show proved to be legendary. He portrayed a frequently drunk ex-cop turned trailer park supervisor at Sunnyvale Trailer Park and had a live-in shirtless boyfriend named Randy (Patrick Roach). Their alcohol-fueled clashes with Ricky, Julian and Bubbles made for some hilarious moments on the show.
Watch some of Dunsworth’s best moments as Lahey in the video below.
NOTE: The video contains profane language.
Trailer Park Boys portrayed the life of the Sunnyvale residents, some who were ex-convicts. The show premiered on Canadian TV in 2001 and lasted seven seasons but didn’t see a rise in popularity in the United States until it was released on Netflix in 2008.
The show was slated to end after its seventh season, but it was picked up in March 2014 when the actors who portrayed Ricky, Julian and Bubbles purchased the rights to the show and partnered with Netflix. They released two more seasons and three more specials and were given the green light by the streaming network to produce two additional seasons after those found success. Season 11 of the hit show was released on Netflix earlier this year on March 31 and it was revealed in June that the show was renewed for a 12th season. Filming had been underway since the summer.
Although his character was rarely seen without a bottle of alcohol, Dunsworth wasn’t a drinker. He revealed to to Saultstar.com in 2008 that he had a “hard time being the poster boy for alcoholism.”
“I don’t like to see people get pissed (drunk),” he told the news outlet. “It’s a waste of their lives.”
In a 2010 interview with the Sarnia Observer, he joked that Lahey is nothing like who he actually is.
“I’ve been drunk maybe five times in my life but all by mistake,” he told the publication. “Why would anyone give up their equilibrium and fall over and puke on themselves? Why would anyone want to do that?”
In 2016, Dunsworth admitted that he previously suffered from a gambling problem and launched an online campaign aimed at banning video lottery terminals in Nova Scotia.
“Not everyone who is affected by this terrible problem is ready to step up, but increasingly, the silence is being broken by a volunteer group who thinks they can make a difference,” Dunsworth told The Globe and Mail. “We want to begin a campaign to once and for all say game over to VLT use.”
Most recently, Dunsworth and Roach were out on a North American comedy tour, where they portrayed their Trailer Park Boys characters in front of live audiences.
They were scheduled to appear at The Social in Orlando, Florida on October 17 before heading northeast. The last date of the tour was to be on November 14 in Morgantown, West Virginia.
In his time away from acting, Dunsworth was an avid boating enthusiast and owned a yacht known as The Emerald Princess.
Dunsworth told Saultstar.com that he enjoys traveling and seeing what Canada has to offer.
“This is a beautiful country, and I encourage people to get out and see it,” he said to the news outlet. “There’s no place you go where you don’t find really interesting things. There are unique people wherever you go.”
Dunsworth’s death and influence on the acting community was felt on social media, as many former colleagues, fans and those within the entertainment industry remembered the late actor.