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Heartland’s Heather Conkie teases Season 11 ahead of Sunday’s return

To borrow a horse saying—appropriate in this case—we’ve been champing at the bit for Season 11 of Heartland to return to CBC. This Sunday can’t come quickly enough thanks to last season’s final episodes. For those who need a refresher, Ty (Graham Wardle) returned from Mongolia in time to meet his new baby after Amy (Amber Marshall) gave birth. Mitch (Kevin McGarry) and Lou (Michelle Morgan) were on the outs after he saw her holding hands with Peter (Gabriel Hogan) and Georgie (Alisha Newton) and Adam (Kataem O’Connor) were rebuilding their friendship. Throw in Caleb (Kerry James) and Cassandra (Kaitlyn Leeb) tying the knot … let’s just say there is a lot of follow up on starting this Sunday.

Thankfully, Heather Conkie, Heartland‘s showrunner, was available to talk about last season and give us a sneak peek into a Season 11 that will see a refresh of the series and some new additions.

Before we get into some Season 11 tidbits, let’s do a post-mortem on Season 10. Perhaps the biggest story was Amy and Ty welcoming a baby into the world. That was the natural next step for this young couple but were you nervous or excited about adding a baby into the mix?
Heather Conkie: I think it was a mixture of both. We knew we might be painting ourselves into a corner, but it was the absolute natural next step. It felt right and we wanted their marriage to have other things to explore, so parenthood is a big theme this season. It also was connected with a little bit of experience. My own daughter was pregnant and I was going through that with her, so writing Amy’s pregnancy was very much a reflection of what I was going through in my own life. That helped us and continues to because my grandson is now a year old and I’m seeing what she’s going through as a mother. It’s really helped that perspective. We’re filming Episode 11 and 12 and the one wonderful thing about the pregnancy being over is that Amy can ride! We really missed writing that for her last year. Most riders ride into their pregnancy but we didn’t want to invite controversy because there are so many people who believe that it is dangerous. We had to go a whole year without being able to do the things that Amy does. This year is so great because we can have the Amy as we know her back. She can ride and she’s building her client base back up; her reputation as the miracle girl was missing in action.

I never realized how much the pregnancy would affect the storylines.
Usually the episodes centre around her and a horse story. We transferred a lot of that over to Georgie and had Amy working with horses because she could still do that. We had some wonderful scenes of Amy doing liberty work with horses. We also used dreams a lot and riding in dreams! [Laughs.]

The benefit of not being able to have Amy work with horses was that you were able to expand Georgie’s story a lot last season.
It really did allow us to explore trick riding more and all of the things Georgie came up to the plate to do.

Now, you didn’t make it easy on Amy and Ty. First, Ty was away in Mongolia for much of the season and then when he did come back, he was very sick. Were you surprised by the negative feedback you got having Ty gone for so long?
[Laughs.] We do like to put people through the wringer a little bit. No, we knew there would be a pushback but it also gave us the opportunity to go outside the box as well. The Mongolia footage and his storyline gave him an aura of a more romantic hero. When he came back he was grown up; it changed the character. And, quite honestly, when you have actors on a show for 10 seasons they need a break. Graham really wanted a break and we weren’t about to do anything drastic with the character. We love Graham Wardle and so do the fans, so it was a compromise to go a little outside the box a little bit and give him a break in the most creative way we could without getting rid of the character, which I never want to do. This is a family people have grown up with and losing a member of the family would be as harsh as if it was really happening to a member of someone’s family. People do need change and the character needed change. As a result of that, we’re writing a much more grown-up Ty.

We’re facing challenges most shows don’t get to. It requires a freshness and even if Graham had said he wanted to do all 18 episodes last year it still needed a freshness and we would have done something. In fact, this year, people are saying that the show feels completely fresh. I’m so pleased to hear that because we’re so close to it. There is a wonderful atmosphere on set. Everybody is thrilled to be back and because of the parenthood theme, it’s changed the dynamic, which is great.

When we pick up this Sunday, where are we at with Ty, Amy and the baby?
It’s fun because they’re in the loft right off the bat and are really squashed in there. [Laughs.] Ty is very protective and it’s a totally different side to him. He’s almost protective to a fault. It’s funny, actually.

Speaking of protective, we can’t forget Lou, who is never afraid to share her opinions about anything. 
She does. It’s a very good family dynamic. The twins that play the baby are adorable and it’s added a flavour before that we had with Katie as an infant. I had kind of forgotten the neat stuff that you can do.

Do we have a baby name yet?
We reveal it in the first five minutes of the first episode. We had a contest to name the baby and it’s incredible that the winner was the name I’ve been toying with for a long time.


There is a wonderful atmosphere on set. Everybody is thrilled to be back and because of the parenthood theme, it’s changed the dynamic, which is great.


Let’s talk about a rocky relationship: the trio of Lou, Mitch and Peter. What can you say about these three in Season 11?
Last season, Mitch read the wrong signal and up and left when he saw Lou holding hands with her ex. So, this year … let’s just say it’s reignited but it’s something that’s going to go on for a long time. It’s timing with these two. Anyone who has been through this knows it’s all about the timing between the ex and the new person. Plus, she’s got this crazy offshoot of Maggie’s in New York … they are in two separate worlds. There is a definite chemisty between the characters.

Peter plays a big role this year. Episode 2 is quite astounding. Gabriel Hogan gives a performance that I’ve never seen before because a ghost from Georgie’s past comes back and he has to help her deal with it. It’s just the most moving episode I’ve ever seen. And Alisha is incredible. She astounded everyone.

Speaking of performances, Shaun Johnston continues to knock it out of the park as Jack. There were some killer performances from him in Season 10.
Everybody forgets that he’s one of the characters who really is acting. He’s not that age, he doesn’t walk like that, he doesn’t talk like that … you just sink into the character and totally forget that it’s Shaun. He has some incredible scenes with Ty this year. Jack is a big father figure for Ty and has been. Last year, the scene between Jack and Ty before he went away to Mongolia … it was one of the most beautiful scenes ever because he was acting like Ty was going off to war. It was just beautiful and Shaun had a hand in writing some of the lines as well because he has such insight into the character.

Where are we at with Georgie and Adam’s relationship this year?
It’s a very strong friendship between them. He is still with Olivia. She’ll be 17 in storyland so she’s going through some complicated relationships this year. There is a fellow named Wyatt [Dempsey Bryk] who was only in one episode last season and he plays a larger part throughout the entire season. And we throw a new face into the mix halfway through, so lots going on in a very complicated love life! Georgie grows up a lot, and most of it is due to Episode 2.

Wow, a lot happening in the first two episodes!
Yeah, the first two episodes are key. Last season, Tim offered Caleb the job at the rodeo so he’s a partner. Caleb and Cass are very much involved this year as godparents.

What else can you say about this season?
There is a very wealthy family that becomes part of Georgie’s world. We’re taking her back to her roots as well as with Amy. Georgie gets a chance to be very involved with this very high-end show jumping horse right off the top in Episode 1, which has Olympic dreams. That’s the road we’re taking Georgie down, the equestrian show jumping world. She wanted to do it, and it’s such an interesting world. Georgie is on social media, and there are hate sites devoted to taking down people in this very competitive world and she becomes involved in that and dealing with people making up stories. We found this beautiful area that just begged us to use it, so we’re using it for this family. It’s a nice contrast to life at Heartland.

What about the new family? I know Kate Drummond is guest-starring this season; is she part of the family?
The family has their own private, cross-country jumping course. We do cross-country jumping and a fox hunt this season. This family has it all, including a very good-looking nephew who takes an interest in Georgie. Kate Drummond plays the mom and she appears in Episode 8.

Anything else you can tease about Season 11?
It’s a huge season for Tim. He starts looking to the future, some uncertainty and regrets of the past. He goes on quite the journey this year. I don’t want to say too much, but he’s doing an incredible job. We’ve given him a lot to do this year because he’s just so good. You’ll see a different side to Tim for sure.

Are you looking forward to Amy and Ty as parents? What are you hoping to see in Season 11? Let me know in the comments below!

Heartland returns Sunday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. on CBC.

 

 

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Photo gallery: Murdoch Mysteries Season 11 sneak peek

With the Season 11 premiere of Murdoch Mysteries just days away, CBC has released four images in advance of Monday’s new episode, “Up from Ashes.” Yes, we wish we had more pictures as well, but we’ll take whatever we can get!

No, the images do not reveal the fates of Inspector Brackenreid, Dr. Julia Ogden and Constables Crabtree, Jackson or Higgins—we’ll have to tune in on Monday for those reveals—there are still some pretty treats contained in this quartet.

In the first picture, Det. Murdoch sits in a chair in front of Miss Marsh (Tamzin Outhwaite). Is he out of jail, or just given a reprieve from his cell? Who, exactly, is Miss Marsh and why is she speaking to Murdoch? Is he pleading his case? Is she on his side, or against him?

In the second photo, Murdoch is giving serious side-eye to someone. It’s not apparent who.

The third image is a wide shot of Murdoch and Detective Watts. Murdoch is shackled, so we know he’s in police custody. Who is it he and Watts are looking at? It kind of looks like Councilman Williams, who got Murdoch into this mess in the first place.

In the final image, Murdoch is giving a wry smile to the man seen in Image No. 3. I’d guess it is indeed Councilman Williams; I recognize that stiff collar anywhere!

 

How excited are you for Monday’s Murdoch Mysteries return? Do you think anyone was killed in the Season 10 finale? Let me know in the comments below.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of Christos Kalohoridis for CBC.

 

 

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TV Eh B Cs podcast 69 — Mann on a Mission

Jon Mann is a graduate of Acadia University (POLS, 2011) and the New York Film Academy (Screenwriting, 2013). In 2012, he wrote the documentary Drink ‘Em Dry which premiered at Harvard Law School, making Jon the youngest person in the school’s history to present written work (at age 22). After Harvard, the film Drink ‘Em Dry is now in universities and colleges in North and South America, Europe, and Australia. Drink ‘Em Dry was also nominated for Best Canadian Documentary at the Canadian Labour International Film Festival (2012). In 2014, Jon completed his first feature-length documentary, Project Power, which follows the social movement against the sale of NB Power to Hydro-Quebec in 2010. In 2015 Jon co-wrote and directed the short-film Rearview which racked up wins and nominations at film festivals worldwide.

In 2017, Jon and production partner Rob Ramsay’s project Wolfville was selected for the 2017 National Screen Institute’s Totally Television program.

Listen or download below, or subscribe via iTunes or any other podcast catcher with the TV, eh? podcast feed.

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Bad Blood: Kim Coates headlines City’s Mafia mini based on the life of Vito Rizzuto

It’s a story from the pages of Canadian history. Bad Blood, the six-part miniseries debuting Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on City, reaches into the history of mob-influenced Montreal to tell the real-life story of Vito Rizzuto, who had everyone from city hall to motorcycle gangs under his command during the 1990s.

The project, from New Metric Media (Letterkenny) and Sphère Média Plus (19-2), is toplined by an incredible cast led by Kim Coates, Enrico Colantoni, Maxim Roy, Tony Nappo, Michelle Mylett, Paul Sorvino and Anthony LaPaglia. Adapted from Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto’s Last War by Antonio Nicaso and Peter Edwards by Simon Barry (Continuum) and Michael Konyves, Bad Blood is a deep dive into Montreal’s seedy underbelly, a blood-splattered thrill ride in Canadian history. Back in 2013, before New Metric Media was formed, producer Mark Montefiore was going through his morning routine of reading news outlets and noticed an uptick in mob hits in Montreal. One person kept popping up in the stories he was reading: “mob expert” Antonio Nicaso. After six months of coffee with Nicaso and discussing general Mafia-themed ideas, Vito Rizzuto’s name came up. Nicaso, Montefiore learned, was writing a book about Rizzuto with Peter Edwards, the organized crime reporter for the Toronto Star.

“I said, ‘I want this story.'” Montefiore remembers during a break filming Bad Blood in snowy Sudbury, Ont. “We closed the deal on the manuscript on the Friday of December 2013 when we had the ice storm. On Monday, December 23, Vito was dead.” Rizzuto died from complications from lung cancer at the age of 67, but he’d left a trail of bodies in his wake that had suffered more violent fates. Montefiore and his New Metric Media partner, Patrick O’Sullivan, always pictured Bad Blood as a miniseries that picked up with Rizzuto (played by Anthony LaPaglia) getting out of prison until his death and following how a man who built an empire based on bringing people together and working together built an empire.

Thursday’s first episode sprints out of the gate, with Rizzuto’s right-hand man—the fictional Declan Gardiner (Kim Coates)—setting the scene and describing how Rizzuto united the Irish gangs that ran Montreal’s ports, the Italians who controlled business, politics and government, the bikers who ran distribution and the Haitians who handled street-level distribution of drugs to construct an empire. Viewers learn that even the police are in Rizzuto’s employ (Sphère Média planted a sweet 19-2 Easter egg in the first script.) and that anyone who attempts to take down Rizzuto will experience a major hurt thanks to Declan and loyal bodyguard Gio, a fictional character played by Tony Nappo.

“I was cast early on and then I read the scripts as they came in,” Nappo says. “I got to the end of each script and I couldn’t wait to see what was going to come next.” Gio and Declan are around Rizzuto all the time, Nappo explains, describing his character as a ninja who observes and protects, a soldier who is never going to refuse orders.

For Coates, Bad Blood came at the perfect time in his career.

“I took some time off [after Sons of Anarchy] and was offered some TV roles and I turned them all down,” Coates, who also serves as a co-producer on Bad Blood, says. “I wanted to focus on films. This was handed to me—they sent me the first three scripts—and every 20 minutes I would come out and say to my wife, ‘This is unbelievable.'” He got on the phone with the producers, committed to the project, and passed on Godless, Netflix’s western TV series from Steven Soderbergh. Scheduling eventually allowed for him to do both, but Coates was willing to drop Godless entirely in favour of Bad Blood.

“I know what everyone is wanting to do with this project,” Coates says. “I’m not afraid to tell everyone what a great job they’re doing. I’m so proud to be involved with this. It doesn’t have to perfect, but it does have to be honest.”

Bad Blood airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on City.

Look for more coverage of Bad Blood from our set visit late last year in the coming days, including exclusive interviews with actors Enrico Colantoni and Brett Donahue, and authors Antonio Nicaso and Peter Edwards.

 

 

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No “Tomorrow”: 19-2 clocks out for the last time

I just didn’t want any of my favourite characters to get killed. Yes, that was the low bar I’d set for myself heading into Monday’s series finale of 19-2. As long as Ben, Nick, Bear, Audrey and the rest closed out the show intact I would be happy.

But would “Tomorrow,” written by Bruce M. Smith and directed by Louis Choquette, come through? With an episode synopsis teasing, “The squad works a full moon shift. Suarez and Beatrice get unexpected news. Ben’s brother brings him a gift from home and the squad races to prevent a tragedy,” I wasn’t sure. The full moon brings out the crazy and the weird and the word “tragedy” resulted in heart palpitations, especially with so much drama in last week’s instalment. Was Ben finally free of the mob? Did Nick make a mistake having Farah’s ex-husband arrested? And just who was that mysterious grave dug for?

“Tomorrow” began innocently enough, with 19 attempting to stop the driver of a stolen snowplough from wreaking havoc in the city. The guy finally stopped—after running out of gas—and we were given a treat a long time coming: Audrey and Tyler were teamed for the very first time. We also found out why they’re paired up: Dulac wanted to ride solo. Suarez’s arrival on the scene meant confirmation nothing bad is going into Ben’s file and that Ben had a summons to appear in court regarding the arrest of Farah’s ex.

Then, with one phone call, emotions were high: Ben’s brother, Mark, wanted to meet up with some their father’s items. But before the siblings could suss out the details, 19-2 pulled over a truck packed with metal storage drums. One was leaking, which led to the most Canadian of storylines: stolen maple syrup. 19-2 is not known for its comedic moments, so Nick slipping in syrup and landing on his ass was a scream. One final shot of the liquid oozing into the street—on a sub-zero night, no less—had me concerned that storyline wasn’t headed for a fun conclusion. Suarez spinning his car in it furthered my fear and I yelled at all three to get the hell off the road. Luckily, the storyline never went further than that.

Meanwhile, Bear had her hands full when a young woman, her baby and her father showed up at 19. Dad wanted to file a restraining order against his son-in-law, but his daughter chalked it up to a misunderstanding. 19-2 has dealt with spousal abuse before and I suspected this case would get ugly fast. The woman, Joanie, didn’t want to make a statement, and the trio left. One dropped 911 call later and Audrey and Tyler were plunged into a horrific situation: Joanie’s dead father surrounded by blood splatters up the wall and all over the room. (I visibly cringed when Tyler went down the hall to search other rooms and breathed out in relief when no one else was there.) It was all-hands-on-deck to find Karl Lucas—assumed to be the perp—before he could find his wife and baby.

As for Dulac, Suarez’s damaged car meant they teamed up for the night. There was a frank discussion, and Dulac revealed he was stuck in 19 because his family isn’t filled with quitters. Dulac is a fascinating character. At first, I figured he’d be the comic relief but he’s turned into a deeply conflicted guy who just doesn’t fit in with the rest of his squad.

Dulac and Suarez thought they had captured Karl, but it wasn’t him. Instead, Karl arrived at Joanie’s house while Nick and Ben were there. 19-2 had their guard down—Suarez and Dulac thought they had him in custody—and things went from bad to awful. No, no, NO, I said out loud as the thumping music began and Karl entered the home. Thankfully, Suarez realized his mistake and Ben alerted Nick as Karl lunged forward, swinging a hammer; the duo subdued Karl without injury (Karl wasn’t so lucky.) It was emotional enough to have Ben cradling Joanie’s baby in his arms; having Amelie there, telling him it was “a good day,” and it suddenly got very dusty in my basement. (Darn allergies!) That was good news. Even better news? Bear’s assignment came in: she was 19’s new sergeant.

When Ben and Mark did connect, Ben was in for a surprise: a dead deer their father shot but couldn’t keep because he’s not supposed to have access to firearms. There was a bit of symbolism in this: Ben has been referred to as “Bambi,” by Nick since their first day together and Ben has had visions of the innocent animal dancing in and out of his life during the last four seasons. Was the dead deer a symbol of Ben’s innocence dying? It sure felt like that’s what Smith was telling us. The butchered deer gave Audrey and idea … and she was off.

Nick saw his personal life rebound from two weeks ago. After heading to the waiting room while Ben was in court, Nick ran into Farah’s son, Antoine, and learned his father had stolen $800 from him. The pair bonded over fathers with criminal pasts and candy, leaving the door open for a possible reconciliation with Farah.

Some of the most memorable and enjoyable scenes in 19-2 are when the squad gets together to celebrate, so I was thrilled to see the key characters reunite for a tourtiere feast at Ben’s place. We were introduced to Tyler’s gal pal—the dispatcher he’s been speaking all sultry to all season—and Liam swung by too. We were also shown those left out of the party; the living in Dulac and Gendron and the dead in J.M., J.P., Amelie, Kaz, Houle and the high school gunman. So many ghosts haunting 19.

“Nick,” Ben yelled to his partner in the show’s closing moments. “It was a good day.” Nick nodded, smiled, and left to meet Farah.

Who have been your favourite 19-2 characters? Which storylines have you enjoyed the most? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

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