Everything about Murdoch Mysteries, eh?

Shaftesbury’s Christina Jennings honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award

From a media release:

Christina Jennings, Chairman and CEO of Shaftesbury, was honoured at the Content Innovation Awards gala last night with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. Jennings, who founded the multi-platform content company in 1987, has been an industry leader not only in producing original TV and feature film content, but also for creating groundbreaking series for digital and social media platforms, mobile apps and VR experiences.

Shaftesbury’s award-winning television titles have been sold in 120 countries worldwide. One of the company’s best-known series, Murdoch Mysteries, is now in production on its 11th season. The series, Canada’s #1 drama, has been licensed to broadcasters in 110 countries and territories, including the U.S., the U.K., France, China, Australia and the Middle East. The company’s current television slate also includes Frankie Drake Mysteries for CBC and UKTV, and Slasher for Netflix.

As Shaftesbury continues to produce award-winning primetime television series, Jennings’ vision and willingness to explore new technologies, platforms and opportunities has led the company to successfully adapt to and address the rise of digital and changing viewership habits. In 2014, Shaftesbury launched the hugely successful digital series Carmilla on YouTube, a modern spin on the cult gothic vampire novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, fully funded by U by Kotex®. Carmilla has been viewed in 193 countries, translated in over 20 languages by fans and more than half the views across all its content come from outside North America. The Carmilla brand continues to grow – Carmilla the Movie is slated for release this fall, licensing deals are in place for publishing, apparel and accessories, and Shaftesbury is in development on a TV adaptation. The company also recently announced a partnership with Walmart Canada and Interac® for a new branded entertainment series Upstairs Amy.

Outside of Shaftesbury, Jennings serves as Chair of the Canadian Film Centre (CFC), Canada’s premiere training center for content creators. Named to top Canadian newsmagazine Maclean’s Power List of Canada’s 50 Most Powerful People, Jennings’ other recent awards and honors include Playback’s Producer of the Decade, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television’s prestigious Academy Achievement Award and the Innovative Producer Award at the Banff World Television Festival.

The Content Innovation Awards are presented by Digital TV Europe and TBI (Television Business International).




Preview: Murdoch Mysteries introduces its newest cast member

It was just two weeks ago on Murdoch Mysteries that Rebecca James announced she was leaving Toronto for her own private practice in Chatham, Ont. And, after an excellent episode featuring a return appearance of Alexander Graham Bell and the introduction of Helen Keller and hotel detective Ralph Fellows, we’ve got a new face in the morgue. As previously announced on the Murdoch Mysteries Facebook page, Shanice Banton has joined the cast in a recurring role, capably filling the void left by Ms. James.

Here’s the official CBC episode synopsis for Monday’s new episode, “The Canadian Patient,” written by Simon McNabb and directed by Laurie Lynd:

Murdoch investigates a surgeon whose cutting-edge organ transplants wreak medical havoc and run afoul of Mary Baker Eddy and The Christian Science movement.

And here’s some non-spoilery info from us after watching a screener.

Meet Violet Hart
Shanice Banton portrays Violet Hart, who is introduced immediately after the opening credits, manning a booth at the Toronto Medical Exposition. Her easy smile and good humour make an immediate impression on George. Speaking of George, he has a hilarious speech in the morgue that fans will love.

Jayne Eastwood guest stars
The veteran actress plays Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science movement, who believes sickness can be cured by prayer.

George’s gift shines
We love it when George just misses coming up with the trademarked name for a real product. He’s up to his old tricks again on Monday when he just misses naming an invention Violet is promoting.

Julia and William’s Season 11 journey?
Showrunner Peter Mitchell teased a new domestic drama will consume Julia and William’s lives this season. We’re pretty sure we know what it is after watching Monday’s instalment thanks to a woman named Marilyn Clark.

Margaret returns!
Seriously, it has been too long since Mrs. Brackenreid was back in our lives. We’re still chuckling over her interactions with H.P. Lovecraft. When we catch up with her in this episode, she’s pretty upset with her husband, and for good reason.

Murdoch‘s crew comes through
I’ve always been impressed with the work the Murdoch Mysteries does to make everything as historically accurate as possible. Everyone involved in the operating theatre scene is to be congratulated for their work on set decoration, wardrobe, special effects, lighting and camera angles. It’s stunning.

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




Comments and queries for the week of October 13

I am a fan [of Murdoch Mysteries] from the first day and have watched every episode. I was very saddened by Mouna Traoré’s departure but am so glad that the writer’s left the door open. I also absolutely love the direction that the writing is going in with regard to the two detectives. It’s good for Murdoch to keep learning (to have a growth mindset shall we say). I do hope the show maintains these characters that we have now grown to love. You know this could become a Canadian Coronation Street. —Monica

I have to admit, her character was dull. However, she brought something that was needed on the show. It is so lily white. The problem with her character was a lack of imagination on the part of the writers. They didn’t know what to do with her character. —BB

I love Murdoch and all the people on the show. A couple will be missed but thank God George is still there. Colin will be a nice turn of events he is so good and has been in everything he does. Carry on with the good work everyone; love you all. —Hilda


Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? Email Greg.David@tv-eh.com or via Twitter @tv_eh.




Murdoch Mysteries: Amanda Richer sounds off on playing Helen Keller

Monday’s newest episode of Murdoch Mysteries, “8 Footsteps,” involved a particularly interesting setting for a murder: a pitch-black room. Under suspicion? None other than Helen Keller, guest of honour at the dinner hosted by Alexander Graham Bell. We’ve seen John Tench in the role of Bell before, but never Keller, the deaf and blind American author, lecturer and political activist.

Playing the role of Keller was Canadian actress Amanda Richer, who we contacted to discuss the notable gig, being a deaf actress and some of her other work you should definitely check out.

Can you give me the Coles notes version of how you were cast in the role? Did your agent contact you? And did you have to audition?
Amanda Richer: Yes I had to audition. I have to thank Diane Kerbel for reaching out to my agent. I think I drank my weight in water prior to auditioning to calm my nerves! I wanted this role, bad, and walked into the room prepared and just poured everything I had into it! I left feeling really good. The audition was on a Monday, and on that Tuesday I was told my tape had made its way to the producers, and by Wednesday afternoon I got the much-anticipated call that the role was mine!

Helen Keller, unlike some of the characters on Murdoch Mysteries, was a real person. Did you do research into her life? I actually had no idea Helen and Alexander Graham Bell really knew each other.
Oh, I researched! I read up on every aspect of who she was; how she lived her life, and the legacy she left behind. I obviously knew who Helen Keller was, but quickly realized just how much I didn’t know about her! She was truly a political force, an activist, an advocate for human rights, and an incredible inspiration and voice for a lot of people. I didn’t realize how young she was when she met AGB, and if it weren’t for AGB, Helen would never have met Anne Sullivan, and well, the rest is history…

Helen had a close relationship with Anne Sullivan and I thought Severn Thompson and yourself did a wonderful job portraying that.
Thank you! I met Severn at the readthrough and we hit it off immediately! She is not only an incredible person, but a terrific actress. We had a lot of fun!

You already tweeted about this, but what was it like working with Colin Mochrie?
Colin Mochrie! What a guy! He is a great person with such a big heart! No matter what he’s talking to you about, you can’t help but crack up! He’s so good at what he does, so it was a pleasure watching him work.

You aren’t blind; was it difficult to train yourself not to look your fellow actors in the eye?
Being hard-of-hearing I’m very dependent on the lips, so direct eye contact isn’t something I normally do to begin with. Helen Keller was almost in her own little world being both deaf and blind, so I really tried to focus on ‘feeling’ what I’d otherwise see, and sort of shut out what was physically happening around me.

Does being deaf present a particular challenge as an actress?
If anything, I think it gives me a uniqueness! Being a deaf actress (or just deaf in general), I’ve inherited the ability to tap into another level of emotion, concentration and communication. I communicate and listen with my entire body rather than just my ears. I like to think of it as my superpower!

The challenge right now for so many deaf actors/actresses is that deaf roles are being given to hearing actors. If you want true, authentic characters and performances, that should be a huge consideration in casting.

What made you decide to go into the film and television business in the first place?
It sounds cliché to say, but I think I always knew I was headed down that road. It was more about just how I get there! After realizing my disability didn’t define me, I embraced that confidence and chased after every possibility and opportunity to be on set, both behind and in front of the camera … and here I am!

I just finished watching your short film Longhand, and it’s pretty amazing. Was it always your intention to not only be in front of the camera but behind it as well, creating your own characters and producing and directing your own projects? Why is it important for you to do that?
Thank you! Longhand means a great deal to me, and to have positive responses from people means a lot! When you watch a movie or a television show, a powerful character, performance, or storyline naturally impacts you and leaves you inspired. That feeling is exactly why I wanted to create my own work. I want to tell stories that provoke those emotions. To me, that’s the ultimate reward! Also, many actors know that you can’t just sit by the phone willing it to ring, you have to create your own work also!

I can’t let this interview go by without asking you about Deafplanet.com. That TVO series was really groundbreaking at the time. You must be really proud of it.
I’m super proud of it! It was an amazing show, and I’m just sad that it didn’t go on to get more seasons. I owe a lot to Matt Hornburg and Mark Bishop from marblemedia for sparking the acting bug in me! Being a part of the deaf community, I’m still best known for my role as Kendra, and every so often a kid will tell me it was their favourite show to watch, and to me, that speaks directly to the integrity and influence of the show itself.

And, what was it like to work on The Shape of Water as the sign language coach?
It was a dream! An absolute dream job! It was an incredible four-month journey working with Sally Hawkins. I was invited to the TIFF première, and I was just beaming with pride! The love and admiration I have for Sally is beyond words.

Geek question: Did you get to meet Guillermo del Toro?
I did! Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my Top 5 favourite films, so I totally geeked out before I met him! He is the sweetest man and just such a remarkable talent. Watching him work, and witnessing his vision being brought to life was a once in a lifetime experience! I feel incredibly lucky to be apart of it.

Last question: what are you working on next that you can talk about?
I have some secrets up my sleeve, but I’m available for hire guys!

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

Got a question or comment for Amanda? Write in the comments below!




Murdoch Mysteries: Paul Aitken breaks down “8 Footsteps”

Spoiler alert! Do not read unless you have already watched Monday’s newest episode, “8 Footsteps.”

After 11 seasons on the air, Murdoch Mysteries is still coming up with unique settings for murder. Monday’s newest episode, “8 Footsteps,” involved a particularly interesting one: a pitch-black room. Under suspicion? None other than Helen Keller (played by Amanda Richer), guest of honour at the dinner hosted by Alexander Graham Bell. We’ve seen John Tench in the role of Bell before, but never Keller, the deaf and blind American author, lecturer and political activist.

We spoke to longtime Murdoch producer Paul Aitken, who wrote the episode, about how the storyline came about, what’s happening to the morgue now that Rebecca has left and romance for Henry Higgins!

You had a lot of characters to juggle in this episode, including Alexander Graham Bell, Helen Keller, Ralph Fellows and Ruth Newsome. Did so many guests present a challenge for you?
Paul Aitken: We knew we were going to do a Helen Keller episode and that brings with it certain ideas naturally. She’s deaf and blind and that meant the plot had to turn on that. It had to turn on sound, from our perspective, because we decided to do a blind banquet. Alexander Graham Bell fits in because he was an advocate for the deaf and his wife was deaf and he seemed like a natural to include. And we like him. Of course, you bring back his various inventions, in this case, his version of the graphizer and stereoscopics.

As for Ruth Newsome [Siobhan Murphy], I think she’s great. I love Ruth Newsome as a character and the actress who plays her just drops into that role. It’s quite remarkable to see because if you talk to her, she’s a normal person, but she’s a spot-on Ruth Newsome. And we just devised a way for her to fit and we wanted this to be the episode where Higgins and her would get together. So, at the very end, we wanted Henry Higgins to win the day. Score one for Henry Higgins!

Having Henry bend Ruth back to kiss her was fantastic.
It’s my favourite scene in the episode.

Amanda Richer plays Helen Keller, and she is really deaf. Was it important to have a deaf actress play that role?
I had no prior perception of who should play the role. I thought it would be helpful to have someone who was deaf because they would have an understanding of how to articulate as someone who was deaf. Helen Keller spoke, but she didn’t speak well, and we had to find someone who would find the performance as well as to see that the deaf person didn’t speak well when she spoke. I thought Amanda nailed it.

As a television writer, were there any particular challenges to writing for a character who is deaf and blind?
I needed to get the emotion out. I didn’t want Helen Keller to speak perfectly normally. I wanted it to be difficult to understand, so I didn’t put too many words in her mouth, which is why I had Alexander Graham Bell translate. But when I wanted to punctuate the moment, I had Helen Keller herself speak. Writing for a deaf person is like writing for anyone, but I guess the challenge with that is how do you use the fact that she’s deaf and blind to change the plot? How do I work Helen Keller into the plot in a way that she isn’t just someone who is sitting there while stuff is happening around her? She might not solve the crime but she’s instrumental in solving the crime. That was a challenge, and that’s the fun of writing for this show; finding a way to make things work.

Colin Mochrie was hilarious as Ralph Fellows, hotel detective.
Yeah, it was fun. He’s this hotel detective who wants to be more. [Laughs.] He didn’t max his potential and it bothers him.

Rebecca James left Toronto in the last episode; how long will it be until a replacement is found?
I believe that happens in the next episode and plays out from there. There is a woman that is introduced and it takes a couple of episodes until she actually finds herself in the morgue.

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

Images courtesy of CBC.