Speaking with Nova Scotia–based musician, actor and documentary filmmaker Leigh Macinnis is a bit of a trip in itself. On the long-running Canadian comedy-turned-Netflix-series Trailer Park Boys, Macinnis plays assistant trailer park supervisor Donald (who may or may not be living a double life as his twin sister, Donna). Suffice it to say, Macinnis has spent a great deal of time in drag.
Macinnis is also the real-life cousin of “Bubbles,” Trailer Park Boys actor Mike Smith. Thanks to the advent of TBP‘s spinoff subscription network, Swearnet, Macinnis was able to launch a docu-series of his own. Trippin’ With Leigh is not a mockumentary, but an in-depth and honest investigation of how (and why) the world does hallucinogenic drugs. We spoke over the phone to discuss his upcoming second filming, grab some travel tips and clear up a nagging question about cheeseburgers.
How did Trippin’ With Leigh come to be?
I decided I wanted to get into acting and knew the guys who were working on Trailer Park Boys. I had an idea to travel around the world and try different hallucinogens. Mike [Smith], Robb [Wells] and JP [Tremblay] were originally supposed to come with me, but then they got the rights back to TPB and focused more on that.
We tried to get funding for Trippin’ With Leigh, but all avenues were a no-go. Then the boys started Swearnet and decided to do Trippin‘ through that. We launched an Indiegogo campaign in June of 2015, which raised quite a bit of money, and they kicked in the rest to get it produced.
How did you decide which other drugs to try out once the first episode had wrapped?
I had a stroke in 2011, so I had to see if it was still something I could actually do physically and ended up deciding to continue once I started reading into some of the stuff I wanted to try. Drugs like ayahuasca, peyote and San Pedro — people use them to heal different ailments, both physical and mental, so I started focusing more on that aspect. In the first episode, Peru, you can see how the concept changed from going around the world [and] just getting fucked up to more of a spiritual quest.
“Well, basically I’m going to Finland to drink reindeer piss.”
How was the food in Peru?
Awesome, every bit of it. It’s all organic and fresh, and there are lots of different flavors going on. The national dish is ceviche, which was really good. I ate a lot of fish, fruits and vegetables. When I went to the jungle, all I ate was fresh fruit and vegetables that whole week. I had potatoes and corn I’d never seen before — there are more than 400 different kinds of potatoes in Peru. I tried grubs, which were actually really good — you barbecue them, sprinkle salt on top and they taste almost meaty. And as far as meat goes, we had guinea pig that tasted like a cross between…I don’t know, but it wasn’t like chicken. Alpaca tenderloin was really fantastic, although after seeing the alpacas in Machu Picchu I felt kind of bad eating it. Oh, and Pisco sours are great.
Speaking of Peruvian flavors, what does ayahuasca taste like?
It tastes very woody and earthy — it’s almost like chewing on bark, but not at all in an unpleasant way. Just a bit bitter.
Frog venom is a hallucinogen you tried. What does frog taste like?
Okay, that’s a misconception. If you lick certain frogs like these, you have about 40 seconds to live, so I wouldn’t suggest licking frogs in Peru or anywhere, really.
We did the Sapo ceremony, where they collect frog venom on sticks, mix it with some spit and scrape the venom off with a knife. Then they make burns in your arm using a stick from the fire and [the venom] is absorbed through there.
Shows what I know. Where are you heading in the second round of filming, and what are you trying?
I want to go to Finland and talk about this mushroom called Amanita muscaria — “holy mushrooms” — used for ritual purposes. It’s not being used a whole lot nowadays, but there’s still this cool history behind it. Reindeer in Lapland eat the Amanita muscaria during a certain point in the winter, and the toxins in the mushrooms, which are deadly to humans, filter out in their livers. The actual psychoactive properties of that mushroom pass through and…well, basically I’m going to Finland to drink reindeer piss. There’s a whole story of how Christmas began as well, connected to that mushroom.
So, shamans used to collect this reindeer piss on the 24th of December. Then they’d go into smoke huts, drink the piss and get high as a kite. It’s supposed to give you a sense of flying, so that’s where the whole flying-reindeer thing came from. I’m hoping to do a sort of nontraditional Christmas episode.
That is nontraditional, yet educational! Where else in Europe are you going?
I want to do a history of absinthe. I’ll start in Prague, follow the absinthe trail to France and end in Amsterdam because of course a lot of Impressionist painters used to drink absinthe when they were painting. In paintings by Van Gogh and Picasso, you can see that incorporation of a very vivid sort of hallucinatory vision.
What’s the biggest difference about traveling with the intent to try hallucinogens? Do you have more patience with jerks at the airport? Travel lighter? Worry about getting in trouble with local authorities?
I definitely travel light on these trips, which I think helps give me a sense of purpose. As for getting in trouble, everything I’m doing is actually legal in the country I’m traveling to. I don’t do anything illegal during filming.
The only foods you’ll see in Trailer Park Boys are chips, candy, chicken fingers, hot dogs, bologna sandwiches, French fries, the occasional pizza and of course, cheeseburgers. What does everyone actually eat on set?
The on-set caterers’ food is really good. We actually eat a lot of vegetables, believe it or not. Every day they serve something totally different, but they always have salads and vegetarian dishes. I loved the sandwiches they’d put out for us, especially the turkey, cranberry and cheese. They do pasta, like some really good spaghetti, and yeah, one day they did actually serve cheeseburgers.
Watch the first full episode of Trippin’ With Leigh for free on Swearnet, and support the fund to send him to Europe. Season 11 of Trailer Park Boys premieres March 31 on Netflix.