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TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

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.

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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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21 Thunder season finale: Between a Rock and a Hard Spot

Is it possible to cram any more anxiety-riddled storylines into one show? Sure, if you toss in loads of special effects with million-dollar budgets perhaps. But 21 Thunder series writer Riley Adams outdid himself with the season finale. Most loose ends were satisfactorily tied up in very plausible ways and yet questions remained open, leaving an opportunity for the show to grow should the series be picked up for Season 2. More on that later.

I saw this episode broken down into three distinct sections: the lead-up to the match, the match itself and the aftermath. With that in mind, let’s dig in.

Everyone was feeling the pressure from the upcoming U-21 friendly between the Thunder and London. And then several of our favourites had additional pressures to contend with. Principally, Junior (Emmanuel Kabongo), Nolan (RJ Fetherstonhaugh) and Christy (Stephanie Bennett).

We opened with the police as they took Junior in to be questioned in connection to the Isaac Boka (Ryan Allen) murder. The police accused Junior of hiring Bamba (Clauter Alexandre) to kill Boka. Before they could press for more answers including those regarding Gregoire’s ring, the Thunder’s attorney arrived and escorted Junior out because the police had no immediate intention to arrest him.

Meanwhile, Nolan, still feeling pressured by Declan (Colm Feore) to throw the match against London, seized an opportunity to confide in Coach Davey (Ryan Pierce) only to learn he too is in on the match fixing. This only added to Davey’s own grief, rendering him useless when Christy sought him out for coaching advice. Her questions falling on deaf ears with Davey sent Christy to her mother, former coach Grace (Susan Bain). This nicely set up a reconciliation between these two strong willed women—cue a tear or two. They used the moment to bridge the chasm that had existed between the two for years, and ultimately Grace advised her daughter: “You take the fight to them.”

In the meantime, Emma (Clark Backo) was left waiting in the departure lounge at the Montreal airport, having taken Nolan’s parting advice to heart. She was off to Dublin to attend medical school. That was until she ran into Alex (Andres Joseph) at the airport—how about THAT tender moment between those two? Flight delay after delay left them time to talk through Nolan’s behaviour of late, piecing his inconsistencies together until they realized Nolan’s deceit was only a guise to protect Emma. Screw Dublin, it was back to the football pitch for these two.

That brought us to Lara (Eileen Li), who was entirely fed up with being under the thumb of Mangano (Bruce Ramsay) and his boys. Clearly a woman of higher intelligence, she was busily crafting a new plan. And, how much did we love that Russian roulette scene with Kevin (Kyle Mac)? Holy cojones, Batman!

Dawn on game day arrived complete with a threat of violence against Davey and Nolan should they fail to perform for Mangano. Then Christy gave a nice little pep talk to her team that effectively ran down the season’s events as she prepared us as viewers for the coming climax: the match we have all waited for.

Game time arrived with Fatima and Sly (Themala Mpumlwana), Grace, Emma, Alex and Mangano’s hit man  all in the stands. Anyone unable to attend were glued to their sets watching as referee Desjardins (Trevor Hayes), Assistant Coach Davey Gunn and Nolan were all working against a win for Thunder. Frustrations mounted amongst the team. Upset by a lousy call from Desjardins, “Snacks” (Kevin Claydon) sacrificed his troublesome knee and took him out of play. Then Christy put two and two together, realized Davey was undermining her and ordered him off the field. That left Nolan, faced with a game deciding free kick in extra time and all too aware that he alone was the only man able to swing the game for London. “We win or we lose with you Nolan.” Since he had nothing left to lose he responded with “What the hell?” After all, he believed Emma was safely on her way to Dublin.

With that, the Thunder won. Pandemonium broke out in the stands, at Lara’s and in the prison. A double-crossed Mangano was left without his winnings and a victorious Declan pronounced, “Did you really think my boy would kneel to you?”

The final four minutes were a flurry: a shiv fight between Declan and Mangano in the prison left Declan bleeding out, the hit man’s attempt to hunt down Nolan was effectively waylaid by Davey, and a lost Sly in a crowd of celebrating fans.

The season closed with a happy, albeit suspicious, ending. Gregoire (Kareem Tristain Alleyne) conveniently returned from the dead and obviously wearing his ring; the very ring that was removed from Boka when he died. And finally, Emma ran into Nolan’s arms as they enjoyed this double-edged victory together.

As I mentioned at the top, we are left wondering if there will be a Season 2, and there are threads that writers have left dangling that leave that possibility open:

  1. How will Lara and Kevin’s new money making scam pan out?
  2. Is Declan dead?
  3. What now for Coach Davey Gunn?
  4. Was Gregoire somehow involved in Boka’s death?
  5. Can Emma and Nolan’s relationship survive any fallout from Mangano et al?

I reached out to series writer Riley Adams on the occasion of the season finale for some parting comments and he had this to share:

“We are so proud to have created a show that embraces the Canadian values of diversity and opportunity while reflecting the highest international standards of craft in acting, direction, photography and design. And we are thrilled the international marketplace has responded so enthusiastically. We will be announcing in upcoming weeks our international partners for Season 1 and seasons to come.”

There you have it Thunder fans! I guess we wait for news about a possible Season 2. Congratulations to the 21 Thunder team for producing a superb program that reflects Canadian diversity and inclusion. A great metaphor for the beautiful game. I for one enjoyed tagging along for the ride.

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UBCP/ACTRA Awards Announces 2017 nominees

From a media release:

The UBCP/ACTRA Awards honours five members for work done in the past year. This peer-adjudicated performer awards show shines the spotlight on the talented performers here in BC, and provides an opportunity for industry professionals to share in the celebration with the nominees and winners. The 6th annual red carpet gala takes place on November 18, 2017 at the Vancouver Playhouse.

“This is going to be a great year for the UBCP/ACTRA Awards with this deep pool of talent as nominees. Here in BC we have always known that our actors, crews and locations are unparalleled and it is wonderful to see our local industry growing and being recognized around the world,” says Alvin Sanders, President of UBCP/ACTRA.

The 2017 nominees are:

BEST ACTOR

  • Alex Barima, Cypher
  • Richard Harmon, The 100 – God Complex
  • Adrian Holmes, 19-2 – Gone
  • Ty Olsson, A Surrogate’s Nightmare
  • Ben Ratner, Ganjy

BEST ACTRESS 

  • Rukiya Bernard, Van Helsing – Seen You
  • Tammy Gillis, Menorca
  • Chelah Horsdal, The Man in the High Castle – Fallout
  • Jennifer Spence, You Me Her – Like Riding a Vagina Bike
  • Camille Sullivan, The Unseen

BEST EMERGING PERFORMER

  • Maxine Chadburn, Cadence
  • Hannah Cheramy, The Hollow Child
  • Adam DiMarco, Marrying the Family
  • Isaac Keoughan, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – The Chicago Way
  • Aiden Longworth, The 9th Life of Louis Drax
  • Graeme McComb, DC’s Legend’s of Tomorrow – Compromised

BEST VOICE 

  • Andrea Libman, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – Rock Solid Friendship – Pinkie Pie
  • Rebecca Husain, Beat Bugs, With a Little Help from my Friends – Buzz
  • Nicole Oliver, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – A Royal Problem – Princess Celestia / Daybreaker
  • Vincent Tong , Fruit Ninja, Fruitful Multiplication – Durian Gray aka RinJin   
  • Vincent Tong, Chuck’s Choice, Sunny Daze – Joey Adonis   
  • Vincent Tong, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Hard to Say Anything – Feather Bangs

BEST STUNT

  • Simon Burnett, Jon Kralt, Leif Havdale, Corry Glass, Supergirl – Homecoming
  • Curtis Braconnier, Arrow – Legacy
  • Lauro Chartrand, Colby Chartrand, Prison Break – Ogygia
  • Chad Sayn, Lloyd Adams, Prison break – Contingency
  • Eli Zagoudakis, Arrow – Fighting Fire with Fire

The UBCP/ACTRA Awards will be held on Saturday, November 18, 2017 at the Vancouver Playhouse with over 600 industry professionals including UBCP/ACTRA members, press and politicians in attendance.

The Union of British Columbia Performers (UBCP/ACTRA) is an autonomous branch of ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists), the national organization of professional performers working in the English-language recorded media in Canada. ACTRA represents the interests of 22,000 members across Canada – the foundation of Canada’s highly acclaimed professional performing community.

 

 

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