Paul Gross may be Canadian, but it took guest star and compatriot Leslie Nielsen to show him how his character Due South's Canadian Mountie Benton Fraser would properly lace up his boots. As the clean-cut, clean-living, do- gooding Mountie, Gross certainly isn't claiming to be typecast. ''I don't think there's anyone even remotely like (Fraser) in Canada,'' says the actor from the show's Toronto set. ''I used to be a really mean, cynical misanthrope, and I was a criminal,'' he deadpans. ''But now that I'm playing this part, I love everybody.''
At first he didn't even like the role of Fraser, an utter innocent who moves to Chicago and begins working with an ethically questionable cop (David Marciano). ''It sounded pretty goofy,'' Gross says. Then he read the script for last April's two-hour Due South TV movie. ''I thought it was one of the funniest things. But,'' he adds, ''I had been reading a lot of dreck at that point.''
The surprising popularity of the movie persuaded CBS to turn Due South into a series. Despite Gross' experience starring as Brian Hawkins in the PBS adaptation of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, which aired in January, the actor says he had no idea what he was getting into. ''No one can explain to you how tiring (a series) is,'' he says. ''It's actually insane.'' Nevertheless, Gross, who is also a screenwriter and a father of two (he's married to actress Martha Burns), has found time in his 80-hour workweek to write a comedic screenplay about a nun and a convict. Ideally, he'd like to direct the production too yet not necessarily star in it. ''I'm not sure if acting is a fit occupation for an adult,'' Gross says. ''But who knows?'' he adds with a laugh. ''If there's time, maybe I'll play the nun.'' After Benton Fraser, that shouldn't be much of a stretch.