Roughing it with Tommy MacDonald

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There is a small staff, with only about eight behind-the-scenes people making sure everything runs smoothly, including only one cameraman. A small make-shift production room is located in the room adjacent to MacDonald’s studio with three members of the crew set up with a small television monitor and laptop computers.

Tommy MacDonald (right) with former shop teacher Frank LaBollita, who is holding a picture of MacDonald from when he was in the 6th grade. (Jeffrey Pickette photo)

Donnelly, who is present for each filming, sits in the background of MacDonald’s studio, just a few feet from the action, but instead watches what is being filmed on a five-inch hand-held remote monitor. It allows Donnelly to view each shot as the viewer will see it on television.

“For me to be able to direct the show and for me to be able to see what the cameraman is seeing, I literally need to be there with him and that helps me to shape the show visually,” Donnelly said.

MacDonald said the show has a broad appeal so its target audience is “everybody,” even the non-woodworker. “I don’t cook ever, but I enjoy watching cooking shows,” he points out.

He grew up watching Norm Abram on shows like This Old House and The New Yankee Workshop and now follows in his footsteps in a sense, hosting his own do-it-yourself program. Abram, a native of Milford, was known for his flannel shirt, but MacDonald will opt for the more basic t-shirt and jeans look for his show. On the flag box episode, for instance, he wears a chocolate-colored brown t-shirt, light blue jeans and brown shoes.

“I feel dressed up, to be honest with you,” said MacDonald, laughing. “That’s how I work. We don’t work with collared shirts and khakis. I’m in a shop doing woodworking and that’s the atmosphere that we want to create — it’s a real woodworker doing real work in a real shop in a real work environment.”

It is this sort of authenticity that drew Donnelly to MacDonald. She liked his humor, energy and his ability to be “one of the regular guys,” and as a result, saw someone who could bring a “unique and fresh perspective” as a host on a woodworking show.

“One of the things that is emerging is that you just kind of see Tommy be Tommy on television, which is always what you want,” Donnelly said. “You can never make somebody on television be what they’re not. You just want them to be the best they can be, and that’s what I saw in him, which was that he is a very unique and wonderful and talented personality and really like nobody else.”

“I’m only good at being me,” MacDonald said. “I strongly believe in what I’m doing and I believe that I can do this for a long, long time.

“Norm Abram really did inspire me to woodwork 25, 30 years ago,” he continued, “and I hope to be able to do the same for this new generation of woodworkers coming up.”

Above: Tommy MacDonald and special guest Al D’Attanasio pose with members of the Canton Veterans Honor Guard after filming a segment for Rough Cut. MacDonald is holding a flag box he built on his show. The flag placed within the box was folded during an on-air demonstration by the Honor Guard. (L-R) Master Sgt. Edward J. Lehan USAF (Air Force), 1st Petty Officer Jack O’Neill USN (Navy), MacDonald, D’Attanasio, Sgt. Gerald B. Gallagher USMC (Marines), Sgt. Robert DeYeso AUS (Army), and Col. Frank LaBollita AUS (Army). (Jeffrey Pickette photo)

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avatar Posted by on Jul 22 2010. Filed under Citizen Classics, Features.
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