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TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

X Company 304: Writer Nicolas Billon on the heartbreak of “Promises”

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen X Company Episode 304, “Promises.”

In our Season 3 premiere preview, X Company co-creator Mark Ellis emphasized that Second World War spies didn’t survive for long in the field.

You’re not supposed to live a lot of weeks, if you do live,” he said. “We wanted to be truthful to that history.”

This week’s episode, “Promises,” written by Nicolas Billon, reiterated that point in heartbreaking fashion when Harry (Connor Price), the team’s youngest member, was killed while trying to escape a train headed for a Nazi concentration camp. Since this is the final season of the series, a major death or two was expected. However, the suddenness of Harry’s death at a relatively early point in the season was shocking.

That was part of the point, according to Billon.

“I think that’s how his death is emotionally received by the other team members,” he says. “It’s such a shock, and it’s just so hard.”

Billon built a career as a successful playwright–penning the plays The Elephant Song, Iceland and Butcher–before making the switch to television. “Promises” is his first television credit. He joins us by phone to tell us more about his choice to become a TV writer, Harry’s death and what’s coming up for the remaining team members.

You had a lot of success as a playwright before taking part in the Canadian Film Centre’s television lab. What made you want to move into television?
Nicolas Billon: I think the decision was based essentially on the fact that most, or at least a lot, of the best writing that I was seeing was on television, and this was very exciting. And there are some stories that I want to tell that are clearly suited for the stage, and then there were a lot of stories that I wanted to tell that were not suited for the stage and better for film or television. In a lot of ways, I was much more interested in the long-form narrative that television provides.

Did you go straight from the CFC to X Company?
I did. One of the great things about the CFC program is that you get to meet everyone in the industry while you’re there, and one of the people that I met was Lesley Grant, who is the supervising producer on X Company. She liked the pilot that I wrote while I was at the CFC, and I believe she is the one who gave it to Mark [Ellis] and Steph [Morgenstern].

How did your experience in the writers’ room differ from your experiences writing plays? 
One of the major advantages of writing for television is that you get to break the story as a group and then go off and write individually. In some ways, it’s kind of the best of both worlds, because you have all this brain power available to break your episode and get all the beats out as best as possible, and then you get to take that, go away and write an outline and script by yourself. To me, it’s really the marriage of two really efficient ways of writing.

Now let’s get into some plot points. You killed Harry! Why was that decision made?
Well, needless to say, the room was quite torn about the decision to kill Harry. I think in a lot of ways because we knew that Season 3 was the final season, we knew that it had to be the highest in terms of cost to the team. There’s the increasing danger of getting further into enemy territory, and Harry is one of the major repercussions of Sinclair’s mistake of confessing in Episode 303 that Klaus had died. And ultimately, we also wanted to acknowledge the fact that the reality of being a spy in World War II was that you had a life expectancy of six weeks in the field, and those who were least likely to survive were the radio operators. So in some ways, we had to acknowledge that reality, and as heartbreaking as the decision was, it felt like the right time and it felt like the right story for Harry to lose his life.

With Harry gone, what’s going to happen to Neil and Alfred as they head into Poland? Will they stick together or work separately?
That’s a hard one to answer without giving too much away! But it’s not something that we’ve seen much of in X Company, to have the team separated. I think it’s a really interesting obstacle to see how they’re going to surmount it and deal with it.

Faber was taken hostage by the Polish resistance. Can you hint what will happen with him in the next few episodes? 
I think what’s so great about where we leave Faber off at the end of 304 is that it’s really a low point. It’s one of the first times we’re seeing him not in uniform, and I think it’s going to be a real test for Faber not only as a double agent but as a human being the next couple of episodes.

Heidi offered Aurora a job in the very ominous sounding Race and Resettlement department. What will her new employment entail? 
Just from a narrative point of view, what’s great about having our teams in different places is that we’re going to be able to see two different sides of the war in that Aurora is in deep cover embedded in the heart of the war machine, while Alfred and Neil are going to be with the Polish resistance. We’re going to get to see two sides of the struggle in a way I don’t think we’ve ever seen on X Company. That’s very exciting. And generally in terms of Aurora, what she’s going to discover while working at Race and Resettlement is just how deep the horror of the Nazi war machine runs.

Sinclair finally told Krystina he will send her out in the field. Will she be seeing major action this season? 
Well, in the writing room, we’re such big fans of Krystina, and so this is going to be a very big season for her. But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a season where all her wishes are granted or at least granted when and where that she hopes they will be. That’s not to say that she won’t go into the field, but there’s certainly some bumps in the road ahead.

This was a dark episode. What was the most difficult scene for you to write? 
Oh, boy, there are so many to choose from. This is definitely a dark episode. Obviously, Harry’s death was probably one of the hardest, but I would say the death of the little boy and his father was also really tough to work with. Generally speaking, when you’re dealing with trains filled with Jewish prisoners on their way to a concentration camp, the entire thing seems totally surreal. It’s hard to fathom the human cruelty and depravity that that requires. And yet it happened. It’s very hard even to speak about it.

What scene are you most proud of?
I think a lot of the scenes with the little boy inside of the train I really found quite moving. I think perhaps my favourite scene is when the cappo is going around and talking about where they’re headed, and he can’t quite bring himself to say that they’re going there to be killed, and it’s the little boy who says it, I thought that was a really lovely moment.

What can viewers expect next?
It’s such a roller coaster ride. All the things that are going to happen in Poland are going to be very exciting, and once they move on to Berlin, when they’re in the literal heart of the monster, those are going to be some pretty amazing episodes.

X Company airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Cardinal… meet “Delorme”

Last week, Cardinal‘s cold open introduced viewers to the focus of the series, the murder of Katie Pine, and the lead character John Cardinal (Billy Campbell). Our first glimpse of Cardinal was a slow zoom to a head shot as he sat in his car conducting surveillance. We learned his back story, watched how he approaches a case. We also learned he has some secrets yet be uncovered and we are left to wonder whether or not he is a “dirty cop”.

This week, Cardinal starts with the same initial slow zoom establishing shot but this time its gaze is upon  Lisa Delorme (Karine Vanasse). To recap some key points about Delorme from last week: she has been transferred to Homicide from the Financial Crimes Unit under the direction of Corporal Musgrave, RCMP (David Richmond Peck) to investigate her new partner John Cardinal. At the close of the premiere, Delorme was ordered by Sergeant Dyson (Kristen Thomas) to meet with Musgrave instead of attending with the rest of the department to the Curry crime scene. But we need to ask, why did the RCMP choose her? And why would she agree to such a transfer? What secrets does she keep hidden? This week we peel back some of Lise Delorme’s layers.

We begin the morning after Cardinal’s discovery of a second victim in an abandoned home. Delorme is just arriving at the crime scene and Sergeant Dyson reminds her, her priority is the murder investigation and the department, and not whatever Musgrave has her working on. It’s decided Cardinal and Delorme are heading on a road trip to Delorme’s first autopsy. Her partner/boyfriend/husband Josh (Alden Adair)–I am not too sure what exactly this pair really are–is clearly not pleased with the arrangement (do I detect some insecurities here?). We also learn Lise and Josh have been trying to conceive a child, but without success.

Confined to a car for several hours, Delorme uses the opportunity to try and get to know her partner a bit better. However she soon realizes this process is a double-edged sword; the more she knows about Cardinal, the more she respects him. The same proves true for John when Delorme shares her thoughts on the timeline for Katie Pine’s death; the killer held Katie captive for a week before he murdered her. Delorme continues the search for intel on Cardinal. Why two phones? One is designated for his daughter, Kelly (Alanna Bale), who is away at school in Toronto. This way she can always reach him. Watching Vanasse and Campbell watch each other is fascinating. These two are doing a dance, constantly readjusting their positions, reevaluating each other as they circle each other and this case. Director Podz is using pregnant pauses to his advantage as he dishes out this story to the audience.

(Did any of you catch Delorme’s rule of thumb for men? “If I ask a guy five questions before he asks one back, then he’s a douche.” Interesting theory!)

We arrive in Toronto and witness Delorme’s first autopsy. This one proves grislier than most (Blunt certainly has the imagination for gory murders!) and elicits “tabarnac!” (one of several throughout the episode) from Lise. Several wounds, multiple fractures, a few screwdrivers thrust through the skull and all wrapped up nicely with audio tape. The tape is a trail. Not only is our killer escalating, he tied this murder to the Katie Pine case.

Back in Algonquin Bay, Josh decides to drop in at the department to surprise Lise. Cue the testosterone. There was definitely a bit of a turf war there on the part of Josh.

Meanwhile Ronny, the fisherman who found Katie Pine’s body, now feels it is necessary to watch over Dorothy Pine (Gail Maurice). OPP Detective Commanda (Glen Gould) has a chat and gifts Ronny with some soil from the fairgrounds where Katie was last seen alive. Ronny has already seen one side of Katie, now he must see the other side of her, the side that lived.

Lise, needing to blow off steam because “Whinging Josh,” let it slip to her family they are trying to have a baby,  goes for a late night drive and happens upon Cardinal on his way to the casino. She makes the call to Musgrave but he orders her to back off (WHY?). She follows Cardinal, despite her orders, and makes the discovery Cardinal is cashing in old chips for cash. The next day Cardinal recognizes Delorme’s car from the casino and lets her know, subtly, he is aware she is investigating him.

The last scene introduces Eric (Brendan Fletcher of The Revenant), Edie (Allie MacDonald of Young Drunk Punk) and  Keith (Robert Naylor of 19-2), who I think we can safely assume is their next victim. For those who have not read Forty Words for Sorrow, we don’t have one killer but rather two. They picked out this victim from the bus depot and followed him to the local bar. Edie laced Keith’s beer and they make the decision; Keith is next.

A couple of lingering questions: why is Cardinal going to the trouble of freezing the raccoon until he can bury it? What is up with Lise and “Whinging Josh”? Is anyone else sensing  Lise and Josh are not meant to be? I have a feeling the Lise-Josh-John triangle may heat up. And what is up with Musgrave? His “displeasure” with Delorme disobeying orders was just a tad over the top and not at all professional!

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Cardinal airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

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Link: An On Set Chat with ‘Mary Kills People’ Star Richard Short

From Melissa Girimonte of The Televixen:

Link: An On Set Chat with ‘Mary Kills People’ Star Richard Short
“Des is absolutely a grounded realist, and as far as he’s concerned, that would probably mean that he’s an atheist or an agnostic. It’s clinical, it’s based in science. There’s compassion, but once there’s a dead body, it’s a dead body. That’s not being unfeeling toward the client. Religion is an important point to raise because we’re talking about a show in which some of the people asking for this [assistance] will be deeply religious, and you have to respect that.” Continue reading. 

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Link: X Company’s Lara Jean Chorostecki on Krystina’s action-packed Season 3

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: X Company’s Lara Jean Chorostecki on Krystina’s action-packed Season 3
“We had talked about it since Season 1, how they wanted to do more with her, but it’s a big story. The whole time period has so many stories to tell and Krystina had always been, from the beginning, someone back at the camp, but also someone they wanted to make room for in the larger story. I’m really happy they were able to do that and I know it had always been an intention that we talked about.” Continue reading.

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Chuck & Danny’s Road Trip set to debut on Food Network Canada

From a media release:

Food Network Canada is ready to take Canadians on the most epic Canadian culinary adventure with Chuck & Danny’s Road Trip premiering Friday, March 3 at9 p.m. ET/PT. The original six-part series sees chefs and best buddies Chuck Hughes (Chuck’s Day Off) and Danny Smiles (Top Chef Canada Season 3) hit the open road in their fully loaded RV, visiting Canada’s most spectacular regions and three National Parks. In each location, the duo source the finest regional ingredients and cook up unforgettable one-of-a-kind campground feasts for celebrated local chefs, farmers and artisans. Their cross-country RV adventure celebrates Canada’s natural beauty and delicious homegrown ingredients, honouring Canadian cuisine and local food producers as Canada gears up for its 150th birthday.

For years, the Montreal-based duo have been a team creating exquisite dining experiences for guests at Hughes’ critically acclaimed restaurant Le Bremner. Digging into their locally sourced sensibilities, Chuck and Danny seek out the freshest and wildest array of flavours from dedicated food producers, artisans and local chefs as they crisscross Canada and experience the RV lifestyle. From bagging seaweed in wet suits to digging for quahogs, harvesting wild rice in a canoe or foraging for juniper on ATV’s, they go to any lengths to get the best local ingredients.

Chuck and Danny’s journey spans Vancouver Island, British Columbia to Prince Edward Island National Park, PEI. With a passionate appreciation for local food, Chuck and Danny’s Road Trip takes an inspired approach to camp style cuisine, served up with the enthusiasm only true adventure-loving chefs can deliver.

Locations and local chefs featured include:

  • Episode 1 takes place in Prince Edward and Hastings Counties, Ontario and features Justin Cournoyer, owner/chef of Actinolite.
  • Episode 2 takes place on Vancouver Island, British Columbia and features chef Dan Hudson.
  • Episode 3 takes place on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia and features Brooke Winters, owner/chef at Bnurtured Trailer.
  • Episode 4 takes place in Rouge National Urban Park, Ontario and features Elia Herrera, executive chef at Los Colibris.
  • Episode 5 takes place in Fundy National Park, New Brunswick and features Pierre A Richard, chef at Little Louis Oyster Bar.
  • Episode 6 takes place in Prince Edward Island National Park, PEI and features Ross Munro, owner/operator at Prince Edward Island Culinary Adventures.
The series extends online with exclusive content including a tour of Chuck and Danny’s Fifth Wheel RV;  Chuck & Danny’s Road Trip playlist which showcases a full roster of Canadian music featured in the series courtesy of Dine Alone Records; recipes; fun food facts; galleries and much more. To learn more about the series and watch episodes online after they premiere, visit www.foodnetwork.ca.

Chuck & Danny’s Road Trip is produced by Force Four Entertainment, in association with Corus Entertainment’s Food Network Canada.

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