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Interview: Murdoch’s shocking season finale; plus what’s coming in Season 9

Constable George Crabtree: murderer? Surely that can’t be true, but by the end of Monday’s season finale George was locked up and charged with the death of Archie Brooks just the same. There’s more to this crime than meets the eye, but George’s bloody boots and his refusal to speak has placed him firmly behind bars and put his detective’s job in question.

That wasn’t the only cliffhanger in Monday’s “The Artful Detective”: Lillian asked Emily to move to London with her so that the two could continue their support of the Suffragette Movement in England. Emily had not made a decision by the time the show’s credits rolled. It’s been a dramatic season of Murdoch Mysteries, with such high points as William and Julia getting married to the rise of the Suffragettes in Toronto, and lows like the fall of Chief Constable Giles and Constable John Hodge.

In our last behind-the-scenes chat with the creative folks at Murdoch Mysteries, we spoke to showrunner Peter Mitchell.

Was the episode title, “The Artful Detective,” a little nod to Ovation, the U.S. cable channel that airs Murdoch under that name?
Peter Mitchell: It was a wink to that, yeah, as well as a great horse name.

I counted seven bodies in last night’s episode and all of them were pretty gruesome. How did the idea for that come about?
We usually try to do one sequential killer storyline a year and we got into the whole thing of The Most Dangerous Game. The most dangerous game is man and we wanted to get Ogden a little more involved in psychological profiling. Our last several episodes—one was pro wrestling and the one before that was girl gangs—we’d done a few lighter ones and we wanted to go out with a darker, sequential killer storyline that ultimately isn’t that. It fit the mood of winter, which we were fortunate enough to get.

What was it like filming in those conditions? It was cold enough to see breath.
It was pretty cold. It wasn’t minus-40 Toronto but it was cold. When you’re out there in temperatures hovering around zero and nobody is really prepped for it, it’s not fantastic.

You mentioned the wrestling episode. I understand you’re a fan of pro wrestling. How long have you enjoyed it?
Oh gosh, longer than my wife would care to admit. Probably around WrestleMania II or III. I kicked around doing something with those guys a few years ago and it never happened. The identical twin referees is still a stroke of storytelling genius. We just tried to throw a few things into it. Murdoch driving the ambulance was, of course, Steve Austin driving the ambulance when they took Vince McMahon away. We hit four or five really deep in-jokes. My daughter and I started going to local wrestling in Toronto which is where we found a bunch of those guys.

We’re probably going to work, a little more this year, at putting the team back together and see them work more as a coordinated unit.

OK, when we last saw George in the finale, he was behind bars and charged with murdering Archie. But I feel like there is more to this than meets the eye.

It’s Murdoch, of course there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Probably more than even George is aware of. It goes deeper than what George thinks is going on.

I think George is innocent and is covering for Edna because he thinks she is involved somehow.
He’s kind of where you are … but wrong. [Laughs.]

Where do we pick up next season?
It will pick up about five months later and George will be in completely different circumstances. Our fans are pretty diligent about changing seasons, we can never pick up right where we left off. We end a season with snow on the ground and we’ll pick up, hopefully, with leaves on the trees.

What year will it be in Murdoch’s world when we come back for Season 9?
For history it will be 1903, which is the year before the ‘Great Fire of Toronto.’

Is that something you’re working towards?
We’re aware of it, but we’re not sure exactly where we’re going to place it. You’re as aware of the numbers and the good feelings for this show as we are and we don’t see a firm end date. As long as people are ambulatory we have a decent chance of making this for awhile. I’m not sure where we will place the Great Fire and the producer on the show with me, Steve Montgomery, would probably kill me the minute I suggest Great Fire. We will get to it.

Are there some key events in Toronto’s history that occurred in 1903 that you’re planning on covering?
We’re working towards that. We’ve got our list of historical characters that we’d like to get on the show this year. In terms of actual events, we’re always researching but nothing jumps out right now as being significant to hang an episode on. I think Prime Minister Laurier will come back to town this year, I’m hoping—if we can find the right guy—Mark Twain will come to town. We might have a little bit of fun with Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Michelle Ricci told me you guys have been trying to get that character on the show for years.
Yeah, I think Crabtree will teach her how to write. [Laughs.]

What can fans expect from next season?
That’s a really loaded question. What the fans expect is not always what we deliver. I think that we did try some avenues of experimentation this year in expanding the franchise. We may have lost sight, once or twice, in our core characters. The last three episodes were basically George, George, George in terms of an emotional storyline and prior to that we had been doing stuff with Emily. We’re probably going to work, a little more this year, at putting the team back together and see them work more as a coordinated unit. But it’s Murdoch Mysteries, so hopefully we’ll still have controversial storylines and zany storylines and a little more focus on Julia and William’s relationship in the coming year.

Season 9 of Murdoch Mysteries will return to CBC later this year.

Tonight: Murdoch Mysteries, Big Brother Canada, Remedy, Tiny Plastic Men, Open House Overhaul

Murdoch Mysteries, CBC – “Artful Detective” season finale
While pursuing a sequential killer who collects macabre trophies from his victims, Murdoch becomes a target.

Big Brother Canada, Global
One houseguest will win the coveted Power of Veto—the ability to veto a nominee up for eviction!

Remedy, Global – “When You Awake”
After Melissa Conner performs what should be a straightforward surgery on firefighter Renee Hudson, Renee is left in mysterious and agonizing pain. As Mel and Jerry retrace their medical steps trying to find the cause, the cracks in their relationship are exposed. Allen’s first day in ER is complicated by the strange and violent behaviour of Tyson ‘Pitbull’ Danko, and Allen and Cutler need to work together in order to keep Pitbull in the hospital long enough to find out what’s really wrong with him. Griffin and Zoe pull together to help a still-reeling Kanaskie eradicate a bedbug problem at Beth-H.

Tiny Plastic Men, Super Channel – “Billy Blumpie and the Fudge Factory”
A sinister new man named Billy Bland (guest star Kevin McDonald) shows up to collect on the
contest prize he won thirty years ago. The prize – ownership of Gottfried Bros. But Billy is not
who he seems to be. He has a major grudge against Mr. Gottfried and he intends to destroy Gottfried Bros. Can the guys stop Billy before it’s too late?

Open House Overhaul, HGTV – series premiere
When selling a house, it takes more than a fresh coat of paint to realize its true financial potential. Designer Sam Pynn (Pure Design, Summer Home) and her burly crew are on a mission to overhaul houses on the real estate market in order to sell fast and make top dollar.

Interview: George’s rejection on Murdoch Mysteries

Poor George Crabtree. The guy is simply not lucky when it comes to love. That was driven home during Monday’s latest episode, “Election Day,” when Edna’s presumed-dead husband returned from overseas to crush Crabtree’s plans of marrying Edna and sharing a life with she and Simon.

George’s shattered love life was just one topic of our conversation with Michelle Ricci, who co-wrote “Election Day” with Mary Pedersen.

Damn you for making Crabtree cry!
Michelle Ricci: I know. Wasn’t that sad?

I kind of figured Edna’s husband would actually show up before the end of the season. Was that the intention all along or was there a chance George and Edna were going to make it as a couple?
We left it open. We weren’t quite sure in the early going. It had been eight years since Tamara Hope had been on the show and we wanted to see if she and Jonny still had that chemistry. They did and she did a great job of growing that character eight years on and having a life lived in between. It became a nice counterpoint to his previous relationships with Dr. Grace and his flirtation with Ruby. We felt it would be great to show Crabtree in a more dramatic environment, give him some curveballs and let him run with it. He did a great job. Wait until you see the finale. I was really impressed with how he took the dramatic scenes and made them very powerful.

Last night’s episode featured the return of the man some people love and others hate: Terrence Meyers.
He’s one of those polarizing characters. You either love to hate him or you love him. I always get a kick out of him because Peter Keleghan is so much fun to watch. He can really sell the ham. When you have a part like this, sometimes an actor will oversell it and not quite pull it off. But he’s one of those actors who can really pull it off and you don’t mind when he goes over the top. You relish it. Last year we had a dramatic turn for Meyers because he was implicated in a murder and things got a little tense for him. We really wanted to take it back to basics with the playful, ridiculous Meyers.

A lot of bodies. There’s a whole lot of bodies. Dead bodies. More than any other Murdoch episode ever.

It’s always fun to see Yannick play off of that. Yannick is the straight man on the show and over the last couple of seasons we’ve been trying to loosen him and he’ll sometimes ad lib some jokes. It’s always great when he goes up against Meyers because he can give it back to him. It was just the two of them going head-to-head without Clegg, the U.S. agent.

I spoke to Arwen Humphreys last week and noted the interesting remark Mrs. Brackenreid had to the Suffragette’s being a wasted vote.
A little bit of that scene might have gotten trimmed, but when we read it the first time, Arwen was wondering what Mrs. B was thinking. And then she realized that not only was Mrs. B representing women of the time but was being very true to her character in embodying that old adage that behind every strong man is a strong woman. A woman at the time would not have necessarily gone against the grain and put herself at risk the way that Ogden and Grace have. None of that would have occurred to her and by that same token she didn’t care about having to vote because her vote happened through Brackenreid. She’s telling him what to do. She’s telling him how to vote and he’s agreeing with her because that’s the way their marriage works and a successful marriage of the time works.

Will the Suffragette Movement angle continue next season?
We have some things happening next season that will change it up a bit.

Agnes Macphail was interesting to see added to the story. The first woman elected to the Canadian House of Commons.
We like to do that all the time and see where our Canadian celebrities are sitting in history. In this case it was with Women’s Suffrage and there were a ton of women we could have referenced but it’s just impossible to fit them in. We still haven’t been able to fit in Emily Stowe and have been trying forever. Mary Pedersen, who co-wrote the episode with me, suggested introducing Agnes as young girl. Technically, she wasn’t living in Toronto at the time but we had her visiting her grandfather who was going to vote that day. It was just a nice little nod to what these early Suffragette’s did to pave the way for the women who were actually able to make those gains later.

What can you tell me about next week’s season finale? What can fans expect?
A lot of bodies. There’s a whole lot of bodies. Dead bodies. More than any other Murdoch episode ever.

Is it a cliffhanger?
There is a cliffhanger, yes.

The season finale of Murdoch Mysteries airs next Monday at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Tonight: Remedy, Big Brother Canada, 19-2, Murdoch Mysteries, Tiny Plastic Men

Remedy, Global – “Our Friend, Chaos”
Before Allen Conner can process losing his job as the head of Infectious Diseases at Bethune General Hospital (Beth-H), a massive explosion tears through the basement. Though he and Griffin work brilliantly together to treat those caught in the blast, the damage is catastrophic. Striking new ER resident Peter Cutler recruits Mel in aid of a foreign agricultural worker. Chief-of-Staff Linda Tuttle looks for a scapegoat in the wake of the explosion, while the downstairs staff grapples with loss and Allen pursues a new position as an ER doc at Beth-H.

Big Brother Canada, Global
A brand new group of houseguests enter the Big Brother Canada house in the season premiere.

19-2, Bravo – “Bridges”
With the mole on the run, a devastated squad turn on each other, and on themselves.

Murdoch Mysteries, CBC – “Election Day”
Dr. Ogden and the suffragettes face a setback on Election Day, while Murdoch investigates a murder with implications for national security. Guest starring Peter Keleghan

Tiny Plastic Men, Super Channel – “Latvania 6-5000″
The guys are sent to the Latvanian Embassy to negotiate with the Latvanian “monarch-tator” Dr. Von Chaos for licensing renewal rights to the Dr. Von Chaos line of toys. But Crad’s enemy Eric has other plans and the guys get trapped in the creepy “castle” and have to spend the night.

Interview: Arwen Humphreys investigates Murdoch’s Margaret Brackenreid

It’s no mystery that Murdoch Mysteries fans are part of the reason Arwen Humphreys has gotten more screen time. Turns out Margaret Brackenreid is a favourite of watchers who made that point known to producers, who upped her initial three-line appearance into a recurring role on CBC’s Monday night period drama.

But what fans might not know about Humphreys is that she has a background in comedy, improv and has performed stand-up three times. We dug up that info, and some other scintillating facts, during a lengthy discussion with the Toronto native.

Let’s start at the beginning. How did you get on Murdoch Mysteries? Was it a casting call? How did it come about?
Arwen Humphreys : It was a casting call, and it was for a three-line role. My name at that point was just Mrs. Brackenreid and I’ll never forget those three lines: ‘Thomas?’ ‘Inside’ and ‘Come here boys and let your father be.’ That was the beginning. The scene was that she had discovered what she thought was a bomb and I thought about it a bit and realized that she’s the wife of a police inspector so there is no way that she’d freak out. I’m guessing that she’s been around a lot of stuff, so I figured she wouldn’t play it in a panicked way when Thomas came to the door. It would just be, ‘OK, come inside. It looks like we have something.’ I booked the role and was really excited because I’d been in and out of this industry for the last 20 years. Tom  [Craig] and I got to talking on the first day and I explained what I thought before going into the audition. He asked me what I thought her first name was and I hadn’t thought of anything. He said, ‘What about Margaret?’ I liked it, and in Season 2 they wanted to call her Levina, I think, and Tom went in and said, ‘No, no, no, her name is Margaret.’ And that’s what it’s been ever since.

What’s it been like being on this ride from three-line role to recurring?
It’s been amazing. Tom came down the following February and told me that the show had been renewed for a second season. They could have recast the role easily, but I think Shaftesbury and Tom have been my cheerleaders since Day 1. Then in the second season they gave me a couple of scenes and that was amazing. It’s been this slow built in a way because I didn’t know what they were going to give me every year. It wasn’t until Season 3 at Tom’s going away party when [then showrunner] Cal Coons told me they were thinking of a storyline where the Brackenreid’s son was kidnapped and that was the first time I was given a lot to do.

Between ‘Kung Fu Crabtree’ and the wedding episode … I really love how you’ve seen the passionate side of Margaret and her interests. I love any episode that gives you a glimpse into the Brackenreid history. Maureen Jennings told me that there is no Margaret Brackenreid in the books, so she’s strictly something that’s been created for the series.

And the fan support blows me away as well.

The fans are unbelievable. Anytime I’m on set I think there are different reasons as to why I’m there and one of them is the fans.

The fans are so passionate. What do they say to you on the street?
I don’t get recognized on the street because my hair is down and my energy is different. I’m more the sillier side of Margaret. I’ve actually walked through a group of fans and nobody recognized me until I was introduced. It’s a transformation for me when I go into hair and makeup. Once I have the whole getup on, I’m her. I love her strength and her heart and I love the relationship between her and Brackenreid. There is so much heart and love between them. It’s a real marriage. It’s a solid relationship.

The fans are unbelievable. They sent a petition to Shaftesbury to have me on more and I hear that they email them too. It’s so sweet and so lovely. Anytime I’m on set I think there are different reasons as to why I’m there and one of them is the fans.

Did you come up with your own backstory for Margaret?
Once we knew there was a Season 2, I worked extensively with a voice coach, Rae Ellen Bodie, and we sussed out the relationship and how it functioned. So I had a general idea. And the writers have definitely hinted at her past through things like her being arrested for gambling and that’s how she and Thomas met.

It must be fun when Margaret lets loose in a scene and play her less rigid.
My background is in comedy. I did a lot of improv, a lot of sketch and I did standup three times. That was in the late 90s and early 2000s. I was heavily involved in TheatreSports in Toronto. I did stuff with them and I did some stuff on the Second City main stage. I wasn’t part of the main stage troupe but I did perform on the stage, which was a thrill. The wedding rehearsal scene was a blast to shoot. As soon as I read that she hums the Wedding March I was at home rehearsing it and I did what you guys saw, the big flourishy thing. I did it so many times at home that I just did it on-set automatically and everybody burst out laughing. Yannick looked at me and said, ‘Now that’s funny!’ And I was like, ‘Woo!!’

Do you have any plans to go behind the camera and write, produce or direct?
I have friends who tell me that I should write, so if it was anything it would be that. I don’t know if it would be writing screenplays because I have no idea how to do that. I have a friend who keeps telling me, ‘I’m submitting something for this contest, you should too!’ And I hesitate.

Are you a student of TV? Do you like to watch it and analyze it or do you just like to sit and watch it?
While I’m watching it, I just like to take it in. But I love the craft of television writing and there is some really great stuff happening right now. I’m a binge watcher and pretty up to date with everything on television. Breaking Bad is a series you have to think about and I’ve never had a more satisfying ending with a series.

Orphan Black is crazy. [Murdoch‘s] Kristian Bruun is on it and my friend Natalie Lisinska was in it in Season 1 and I got so wrapped up in it that I was thinking of the call sheet and wondering who was first on it. And I’d decided it must be Rachel because I had totally forgotten that it was Tatiana Maslany in the roles!

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