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Jason Priestley Details Physical Transformation for His Role in ‘Borje — The Journey of A Legend’  (Exclusive)

Jason Priestley is opening up about undergoing a major transformation to portray talent scout Gerry McNamara in his new limited series, Börje — The Journey of A Legend.

“I said to [the director] Amir Chamdin, ‘Amir, I look nothing like Gerry McNamara, not even close.’ He’s got brown eyes,” Priestley, 54, exclusively told Us Weekly on Monday, April 29, about taking on the role of the real-life scout. “And he said, he said, ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s cool. What do you want to do about it?’ I said, ‘Well, I guess the hair and makeup and eyes and teeth and everything.’”

Priestley explained the multiple steps needed to become McNamara changed how he approached the project. “And it became a real character piece for me because I had to go through hours of hair and makeup every morning,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun to take on Gerry. He had a pretty specific voice, and so I got to mimic all those things.”

Filmed in 2022, Börje – The Journey of a Legend makes its U.S. debut on Thursday, May 2, with its first two episodes, followed by two episodes per week. The series airs on the Viaplay streaming service and follows the story of the late Börje Salming, the famed hockey defenceman who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Priestley portrays McNamara, the respected talent scout who brought Salming to Canada to kickstart his NHL career.

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Ironically, Priestley worked closely with McNamara long before the role in Börje was offered to him. In 2023, the actor interviewed the talent scout for a documentary about Harold Ballard, who owned the Maple Leafs from 1972 until his passing in 1989. The face to face experience helped Priestley figure out the idiosyncrasies needed to help bring the character to life.

börje-–-the-journ_663143da81c0e, Jason Priestley
Jenny Unnegård

“Gerry, he speaks in a southern Ontario accent and his voice is a little bit nasally, so all of my dialogue had to get into that in that pitch and in that tenor, which was fun,” Priestley told Us, noting that the challenge of portraying a real-life — and very much still alive — human being made the project even more exciting.

“I always carry a lot of responsibility if [I’m playing real] people, especially like Gerry McNamara [who] is still alive,” he said. “I took a lot of pressure on myself to make sure that everything we did was great and exceptional because I didn’t want the wrath of Gerry when the project was over, and it is always that way.”

börje-–-the-journ_663143d2bbd4d, Jason Priestley
Jenny Unnegård

Priestley added that he’s played “several historical figures” throughout his career, but there are fewer expectations when those people are no longer around. “I mean, the good thing about them is that they’re all dead,” he quipped, “but you do carry a certain amount of weight when you’re actually portraying real people.”

Although Priestley’s role is certainly pivotal, the series mainly revolves around Salming (portrayed by Valter Skarsgård) himself. The hockey legend, who was the first Swedish player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, played professionally for 23 seasons — 16 with the Maple Leafs — before retiring in 2016. He died in November 2022 at the age of 71 after a years-long battle with ALS.

Just months before his death, Salming was able to visit the set of Journey of a Legend in Stockholm. There, Priestley had an opportunity to meet the legend he watched every Saturday night while growing up in Canada.

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“By the time we were making the miniseries, Börje was already sick, and so he actually came to the set one day while I was there, which was really thrilling for me to get to meet him,” Priestley recalled to Us. “He was a guy that I looked up to so much throughout my childhood. It was pretty remarkable, and he was a beautiful guy. He got taken from us far too soon.”

The first two episodes of Börje — The Journey of A Legend premiere on the Viaplay streaming service Thursday, May 2, followed by two episodes per week on May 9 and May 16.

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