Tag Archives: Backstage

TV Eh B Cs podcast 60 — The Hewlett Dynamic

Kate Hewlett is a Toronto born writer and actor.

In addition to playing lead on The Stanley Dynamic, Kate has played a variety of recurring roles, including Sarah on The Girlfriend Experience, Mrs. Matlin on Degrassi, Paramedic Nicole on Remedy, Jeannie Miller on Stargate: Atlantis and Andrea on The L.A. Complex. Kate also played the title role in the pilot Fancy (nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award).

Kate is the co-executive producer and writer of the hit drama series Backstage.

Kate is an accomplished screenwriter and playwright. Her stage play, The Swearing Jar, was nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award, and her film adaptation won first runner up at the Harold Greenberg Screenplay Competition in 2016. Kate wrote and acted in the acclaimed BravoFACT She Said Lenny, which received the Worldwide Short Film Festival’s screenplay award and a spot on Bravo’s Top Ten Short Films. TV writing credits include The L.A. Complex, Seed, InSecurity and Turning Point. As a playwright, Kate’s credits include: The Swearing Jar, Humans Anonymous (Bridge Theatre New York), Malus Domestica (Sound Plays, Soulpepper Theatre), Use My Babies Well and Without (TAC grant). In 2017, she will be adapting the beloved children’s book What Katy Did into a musical for Carousel Players.

She is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada, Queen’s University (BA), the Tarragon Playwrights’ Unit and the Canadian Film Centre’s Prime Time Television Programme. Kate lives in Toronto with a dog, two cats and an American.

The Stanley Dynamic returns Monday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m. ET/PT on YTV.

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DHX Television brings the heat to fall with hottest programming lineup to date

From a media release:

This fall, DHX Television has the perfect cure for the end of summer blues: a sizzling hot lineup the entire family will enjoy. The forecast for Family’s suite of channels is bright as musical celebs, daring adventure-hunters and animated heroes bring the best in fall entertainment to viewers. Beginning as early as August 29, exciting new series, returning favourites and monumental finales join the programming schedule.

With new episodes debuting weeknights at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on Family Channel throughout the fall, singing and dancing take centre stage ushering in the return of fan-favourite series Backstage, The Next Step and The X Factor UK. Family’s teen block F2N continues with new episodes of Degrassi: Next Class, culminating in the gripping season finale. Family CHRGD keeps Tuesdays turbo-charged with the return of The Deep, Slugterra and Fangbone! Meanwhile, Family Jr. sparks creativity and imagination with brand new episodes of Nature CatYaYa & Zouk and Rainbow Ruby airing alongside returning fan-favourites Playdate and Teletubbies.

Family Channel – All Times ET/PT
Backstage – New Episodes Return – Friday, September 9 at 7:30 p.m.
After a whirlwind mid-season finale which saw Carly take her best friend Vanessa’s place in the show and Alya leave school to chase stardom, nothing is like what it was before the break. With missing faces in the halls, new musical partnerships forming and dancers changing positions, all of Keaton’s students are searching for answers while trying to adjust.

The Next Step – New Episodes Return – Friday, October 14 at 7 p.m.
With Regionals just around the corner, the pressure is on for A-Troupe who are determined to defend their title as Regional Champions. But tensions run high in The Next Step studio as Piper struggles with the fact that she saw Alfie and Riley kiss, and the dancers wonder how they’ll even qualify after Noah’s departure from the team. The new episodes will also feature a guest starring role by the winner of the UK’s reality competition series Taking The Next Step, which currently airs Fridays at 7 p.m.

We Are Savvy – New Timeslot – New Episodes air Thursdays at 7 p.m. beginning September 8
Hosts Tehya, Spencer and Sarah continue to keep fans in-the-know and up-to-date on the latest trends with awesome interviews, crafty DIYs and tours of cool locations. Upcoming special guests include: singer JoJo, rapper Little T, popstar Betty Who, illustrator Juliana Neufeld, astronaut-in-training Alyssa Carson, viral sports fan Mini Bautista, DIY superstar LaurDIY and more!

F2N – All Times ET/PT
Degrassi: Next Class – Season 2 Finale – Tuesday, September 20 at 9:45 p.m.
As the Degrassi girls volleyball team prepares for the championship game against Northern Tech, things reach a boiling point. Shay finds out if her relationship with Tiny is “Lola approved,” while Winston continues to second-guess his relationship with Zoe – forcing her to make an important personal decision. Meanwhile, Hunter worries that he is an angry monster who will never deserve Yael, or any relationship for that matter.


DHX Television announces casting details for Season 2 of Backstage

From a media release:

DHX Television’s Family Channel and Fresh TV Inc. announced today that production has begun on season two of the tween drama series Backstage. Following a group of elite teen performers at Keaton School of the Arts, the second season is filming in Toronto and will bring 30 new half-hour episodes of the drama, which airs internationally. The sophomore season will introduce a variety of new characters to each of the arts streams, with seven talented young actors joining the cast.

Making their mark in the new season of Backstage are:

  • Thomas L. Colford (Center Stage: On Pointe); plays Beckett, a strong and technically superior dancer who possesses a natural rebel-without-a-cause persona
  • Joshua Kilimnik (Odd Squad, Bruno & Boots: Go Jump in the Pool); plays George, a grade nine graphic design student with a wickedly smart intellect that shines through in his art
  • Stephanie La Rochelle (Heartland); plays Frances, a charismatic senior music student who becomes a mentor to the younger musicians
  • Sydney Kuhne (Dino Dan); plays Azadeh, a new student in the fashion design program who is determined to make her mark at Keaton
  • Robert Bazzocchi; plays Aidan, the epitome of heartthrob, chasing the spotlight on his quest to become a famous actor via Keaton’s drama program
  • Corteon Moore; plays Matteo, a senior art student who believes creativity comes directly from the soul and proves to rival Keaton’s resident art star student
  • Hailey Fauchere; plays Mindy, a freshman dancer who is eager to please and succeed, while leaving it all on the dance floor.

Faced with new challenges, friendships, and seven new students, the second season of Backstage opens on a new year at Keaton School of the Arts where the talented performers and artists will find themselves in fierce competition with other schools… and each other. With a huge multi-arts school competition on the horizon, will the pressure tear the students apart? Or bring them closer?

In addition to the new faces joining Backstage, returning cast members include: Josh Bogert (Miles), Aviva Mongillo (Alya), Mckenzie Small (Scarlett), Devyn Nekoda (Vanessa), Alyssa Trask (Carly), Colin Petierre (Sasha), Matthew Isen (Jax), Julia Tomasone (Bianca Blackwell), Romy Weltman (Kit), Kyal Legend (Julie) and Adrianna Di Liello (Jenna).

Backstage was commissioned by DHX Television, and is created by Fresh TV. The series’ Executive Producers are Brian Irving, who also serves as producer; Lara Azzopardi, the series’ co-creator, show runner, writer and director; Jennifer Pertsch, also co-creator; Tom McGillis and George Elliott. Directors for the series include top music video directors RT! (Snoop Dogg, Sean Paul, Shane Harte), Director X (Iggy Azalea, T.I., Drake), Wendy Morgan (Dragonette, Janelle Monáe) and Warren Sonoda (Johnny Reid, George Canyon), as well as Mario Azzopardi (Stargate SG-1, The Outer Limits, Degrassi) and Lara Azzopardi (I Am an Apartment Building, Rewind). Backstage is internationally distributed by DHX Media.


DHX Television orders second season of hit original drama Backstage

From a media release:

DHX Television confirmed today that Fresh TV will deliver a 30-episode sophomore season of the hit original series Backstage for Family Channel’s 2017 broadcast season. The popular tween drama, which debuted in March 2016, has gained international acclaim and a devoted fan- following for its layered portrayal of daily life at an elite fine arts high school. The commissioning decision comes on the heels of Family’s Big Ticket Summer Concert announcement, revealing three of the series stars – Josh Bogert, Aviva Mongillo and Mckenzie Small – will make their touring debuts as performers on this year’s concert tour, accompanied by additional performers from the show. Production is set to being this summer in Toronto.

Backstage follows a group of immensely talented teenagers as they live through the highs and lows that come with attending the prestigious Keaton School of the Arts. From the angst and disappointments to the new friendships and crowning achievements, being a student at Keaton sets you on the path to becoming a star. Lifting the curtain on how these young musicians, dancers and artists see the world, their confessions and dreams are highlighted as they sing, dance and carve out the destiny they see for themselves – making it big.

The series’ stars: Josh Bogert as Miles; Aviva Mongillo as Alya; Mckenzie Small as Scarlett; Devyn Nekoda as Vanessa; Alyssa Trask as Carly; Julia Tomasone as Bianca; Matthew Isen as Jax; Colin Petierre as Sasha; Romy Weltman as Kit; Kyal Legend as Julie; and Adrianna Di Liello as Jenna.

Commissioned by DHX Television, and with international distribution handled by DHX Media, Backstage was created and developed by Fresh TV. Executive Producers are Brian Irving, who also serves as producer; Jennifer Pertsch, also the co-creator and a writer; Lara Azzopardi, the series’ co-creator, show runner, writer and director; Tom McGillis and George Elliott. Directors for the series include top music video directors RT! (Snoop Dogg, Sean Paul, Shane Harte), Director X (Iggy Azalea, T.I., Drake), Wendy Morgan (Dragonette, Janelle Monáe) and Warren Sonoda (Johnny Reid, George Canyon), as well as Mario Azzopardi (Stargate SG-1The Outer LimitsDegrassi) and Lara Azzopardi (I Am an Apartment BuildingRewind).



The amazing race to make Family Channel’s Backstage

Lara Azzopardi has been a producer on such shows as Lost Girl, The Listener, The L.A. Complex and Combat Hospital, and totally switched genres when she became showrunner, writer and director on Backstage, Family Channel’s series about the artistic kids attending an arts high school.

Pregnant with her third child, she expected the usual six to eight-month show development so she could give birth before filming would begin. Nope: Producers Fresh TV accepted her series bible and pilot script on a Friday and greenlit it the following Monday. Filming 30 episodes of Backstage in 30 days was tough enough, but Azzopardi had just given birth, meaning baby was on-set through the entire process. Combine that with the fact her cast was made up of singers and dancers with little formal acting training, and Azzopardi’s ride has been a wild one.

I’m fascinated with the behind-the-scenes of television, and I think you’ve got to be the only showrunner I know that was hauling a newborn around during production.
Lara Azzopardi: It was not planned that way! [Laughs.] I would never have been able to do that if it was my first baby. I don’t think I would have had the courage. It all kind of worked out in a crazy way and I felt I knew kind of what I was doing. But when I think about it now, it was pretty insane.

Fresh TV pitched this “Fame for kids” idea to you. What was it that excited you about their idea?
They had put together a two-page document that had a very general synopsis of the school and stock characters of the people they wanted to see in it. I had never done a kid’s show before. I had written a freelance script at the beginning of my career for Degrassi and that was eight years ago. When I met them, they had read a spec script and a script from The L.A. Complex, and they wanted to meet me from that. I’m a huge fan of shows like My So-Called Life and Friday Night Lights, and I told them, ‘I’m interested in doing a Fame that’s grounded and, as a parent, I’d love to watch too.’ I went off and wrote a pretty big bible. I wrote fast. I’m a pretty big fan of ensemble series, so I was excited. We sent in the script on the Friday and it was greenlit on the Monday and I was due three weeks after that.

I’ve been in development before, and it usually lasts at least a year if you’re lucky. So, when I took this on I figured I had time to get notes, do re-writes and see what happens.

Lara Azzopardi
Lara Azzopardi

Not only did they greenlight it, but they greenlit it for 30 half-our episodes.
Thirty episodes.

I’ve seen the first two, and you pack so much into those two episodes that it seems daunting to write 30. Was it daunting? How did you do it?
At the time, I didn’t know what I was in for and it was happening so fast. By the end of it—and we have three stories per episode—we wrote about 97 stories. That’s credit to my writing team Kate Hewlett, Lauren Gosnell, Matt Schiller, Scott Oleszhowicz and Jennifer Pertsch. I had my baby in my arms when we started the room and were breaking an episode a day, sometimes an episode and a half a day. We wouldn’t leave the room until it was done. The baby was in the writers’ room in a sling and we were breaking from 10 a.m. until, sometimes, midnight.

The reason for the rush, too, was that we wanted to get that Friday Night Lights look, which meant filming on location, which meant a real school … which meant we would only have the school from when it let out in the spring until it went back in for the fall. We shot using two crews at the exact same time in the same location shooting four episodes as a time. We filmed 30 episodes in 30 days. I have to give credit to the cast and crew; these kids had four scripts in their heads and once and the crew were passing the scripts between them.

At the end of the day, Backstage is a coming-of-age story for all of these kids. They are figuring out who they are until graduation and even then some of them might not know who they are.

Do the 30 episodes represent one year of studies at Keaton School of the Arts?

Let’s talk about working with the kids in your cast. I’m assuming not very many had acting experience?
We cast real dancers and real singers, so I think because they all had a discipline they had worked at, they brought a drive and professionalism with them. I was nervous because we were casting non-actors and had a crazy schedule. They were up for the challenge. We had two acting coaches on hand and had done an acting workshop beforehand and I was available anytime they needed.

I like the usage of the characters speaking to the camera, like a confessional.
That came from necessity and from creative. For me, it was backstage not only in these kids’ lives but also backstage in their heads. It’s what they’re really thinking and feeling. It allowed us to be very subtle when we’re in the moment in the show and that subtext is said in the confessionals. We shot all of the confessionals at the end of production.

We meet Vanessa and Carly right away and see the first day of school through their eyes. But they have a major fallout and are at odds. Will they become friends again?
It’s a journey. I have three daughters and I really tried to write a friendship in terms of how I’d love to react with my girlfriends or daughters. There are going to be arguments and I just hope we made a show where both girls are right and wrong. There will be lots of ups and downs.

Jax is an interesting character. You want to like him, but right now he’s an arrogant jerk.
Jax is someone who has had some success and then goes to a school where everyone is good and he’s not better. There is quite a journey that he goes through over the 30 episodes and he learns a lot about himself.

At the end of the day, Backstage is a coming-of-age story for all of these kids. They are figuring out who they are until graduation and even then some of them might not know who they are.

Backstage airs Fridays at 7 p.m. ET/PT on Family Channel.