Tag Archives: Mouna Traoré

Murdoch Mysteries: Simon McNabb on “Merlot Mysteries” and saying goodbye to another character

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched Season 11, Episode 2, of Murdoch Mysteries, entitled “Merlot Mysteries. 

Monday’s newest episode of Murdoch Mysteries had it all: a gruesome murder (poisoning!) right off the top, humour (Murdoch drunk!), sweet CGI (winery swiping!) and … another character departing the series. But, unlike Constable Jackson—who died in a hail of gunfire—Rebecca James (Mouna Traoré) exited the morgue to begin her own practice in Chatham, Ont. In our second Season 11 exclusive interview with the writing staff at Murdoch Mysteries, we discuss the season so far with writer and co-producer Simon McNabb, who co-wrote the episode with showrunner Peter Mitchell.

You’re going to hear it from the fans. That’s two Murdoch Mysteries in two weeks!
Simon McNabb: It’s going to be interesting to see what the fan reaction is. In Episode 1, even though people love Jackson—he has become a fan favourite in the last few seasons and a fan of the writer’s room—there was so much at stake coming into that episode and people had great fears for who and how many lives could be lost that there was a bit of relief mixed with the disappointment that Jackson is gone. In Episode 2, we’re saying goodbye to Rebecca and I think that might blindside some people and they’ll be surprised to see her walk out of the morgue.

Peter told me last week that Mouna Traoré was leaving because of other projects, and the door was left open for her to return.
Absolutely. It’s something that we’ve talked about and whether or not she comes back this season remains to be seen.

Who is the wine expert in the writer’s room?
Both Peter and I are pretty familiar with wine, with regard to drinking it. We are not experts in terms of knowing the varietals and the regions, so some of it was picked up from other writers in the room and some of it was a crash course in documentaries and reading about the history of wine, especially in the region. I think we learned just enough to skate by.

I love the back and forth between Murdoch and Det. Watts [Daniel Maslany]. Having Murdoch not be an expert in something was refreshing and fun, as was having him defer to Watts.
I love watching those two together. When we first came to the idea of introducing a new detective into the show on a part-time basis last season it was always immediately a concern, ‘How can this character be likable and smart and good and his job and still be different from Murdoch?’ Then it became, ‘How do we use these two distinct personalities and let them bump up against each other and complement each other during the course of a murder investigation?’ We thought it would be a great idea to have something that Watts knows more about than Murdoch, a real rarity. As a teetotaler and devout Catholic, wine seemed to be a no-brainer. Of course, Murdoch knows nothing about the history, details and different varieties of wine. Watts is a blank slate and we could do whatever we wanted. So it was great to have Watts be the expert and have Murdoch catch up.

A few fans have put forth the comment that Watts reminds them of Columbo. Was that the intention?
It certainly wasn’t intentional when we conceived of the character. At the same time, I think it’s something that we noticed as we started filming him. I would say the result of the similarity to Columbo is an amalgamation of the choices that were made by all sorts of people. Some of it was in the writing of the character and some of it was the costume department making him a little ragged, which came a little bit out of the writing. It was a choice. We could have made him a scatter-brained person who is dressed to the nines. And, also, a lot of it came from Daniel. I don’t know how familiar Daniel is with Columbo or Peter Falk, he’s so young he may never have seen it.

With Rebecca leaving and going to Chatham, where does that leave Julia and the morgue?
We’ll have to see. Julia can’t be on her own entirely in the morgue. She still has other responsibilities in her life and other interests in her life in the Suffrage Movement and the asylum, which we don’t explore every week but is a part of her life. As writers, when somebody leaves it’s always the opportunity to do something else. And whether that character will be somebody who is ongoing or just somebody who is there for a week or two, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Either the CGI budget is bigger this season or it’s cheaper to do it … Murdoch swiping the winery buildings out of the way to see the lay of the land was very impressive and effective.
I think it’s a combination of effects getting cheaper and a spending a little more money to do something special. We came up with that idea in the writer’s room and knew it would be very effective.

Let’s talk about the additions to the writing room this season in Dan Trotta, Natalia Guled and Noelle Girard. What has it been like having three new folks in the room with you?
All three of them have been fantastic and it’s been really exciting for all of us old hands to work with new people and get some fresh voices in. We loved everybody we were working with before, but there hadn’t been a change in the writer’s room in any way in, I believe, five years or four full seasons. To do, sort of, almost half of the writer’s room stepping aside and half stepping in was different and took some figuring out and feeling out of who everybody was and what they were going to bring to the table, but now at this point in the season we’ve been together for six months and feel like we’ve been working together forever.

Got a comment about Monday’s episode? Let me know in the comments section below.

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

Images courtesy of CBC.

 

 

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Murdoch Mysteries’ Season 9 end and what’s to come in Season 10

Spoiler alert! Do not read on unless you’ve watched Monday’s season finale episode of Murdoch Mysteries, entitled “Cometh the Archer.”

OK, did anyone really believe Julia would die in Monday’s season-ender? Not a chance—especially because the show was renewed for Season 10—but that was one heck of a ride? Plenty of fans, myself included, wondered who from Murdoch’s past would return to cause troubles for the pair. Turns out it was Eva Pearce, the disturbed young woman with an obsession for our favourite TV detective who not only attempted to murder Julia but kidnapped Murdoch and plotted to have his child.

Cinematic in scope, and featuring Julia on horseback and firing an arrow (who knew she could do that?!), “Cometh the Archer” concluded a season chock-full of drama and heartbreak. We chatted with MM showrunner Peter Mitchell, who took us back over the past 18 episodes and gave us a peek into what’s coming in Season 10 straight from the writers’ room.

There were a couple of cast changes this season. The first was saying goodbye to Emily Grace and welcoming Rebecca James. How did the addition of Mouna Traoré change-up things for you and the members of the writers’ room?
Peter Mitchell: I think it was fun and we sort of eased her in a bit. We gave her increasingly more stuff to do. It’s interesting, because she really has to play against type, which is something that not many of our characters have to do. Mouna the person is a lot more outgoing and vivacious than Rebecca the character. It was tricky trying to find a balance. In the upcoming season she’ll become a more dynamic personality as her confidence increases.

OK, so you’re confirming that Mouna will be back for Season 10.
Yup.

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Let’s talk about the other big change, adding Roland to Julia and William’s lives. He made a big impression on the fans and you’ve already stated that this is a procedural drama and not a domestic drama. In the season finale, adoption was mentioned by William; does this mean Roland is gone for good or could he return? Or are we headed for adoption?
We could be headed neither way. [Laughs.] We’re talking about that right now. It was a moving thing and a charming thing to have this baby in their lives for a while, but we haven’t really focused on that part of Season 10 yet.

How many Season 10 episodes have you written so far?
We haven’t written any so far. We’re still kicking around ideas and stories for the first half of the season.

Let’s talk about Crabtree. He’s had some bad luck in love, but things were looking up last week when he made a connection with Nina Bloom, played by Erin Agostino. Any plans to give him a more permanent love match next year?
Nina is the kind of character we always want on the show because she’s very polarizing. Half the fans love her and half the fans hate her, which means we want her! [Laughs.] As Season 10 begins, he does have a permanent partner. Whether that lasts for the length of the season, we’ll find out.

OK, let’s talk about “Cometh the Archer,” written by yourself, Simon McNabb and Jordan Christianson. How early on in the planning of this episode did you have, “Julia gets shot” written on the wall?
I think we had “Julia rides a horse” and “Julia shoots a bow and arrow” before. That was Hélène’s simple list of demands, “Can I ride a horse this year and can I shoot a bow and arrow?” Let’s come up with a scenario for that. It probably at the two-thirds mark of the season that the idea came to be of how we were roughly going to end the season.

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I assumed, wrongly, that every season of Murdoch Mysteries is planned straight through with a beginning, middle and end, but that’s not the case.
I probably happens with some shows, but we have the liberty of not having to have everything approved up and down the line. They trust us. We never really consider how things will end until midway through the shooting. A season is three acts and we go into it with Act 1 and Act 2 planned and then, generally, things that happen in the first bit of the season helps inform us how we’re going to end it because things come up, you know?

Now, unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Constable Worseley! What were the circumstances surrounding Sean Harraher’s departure?
Interesting story. It was Sean to who came me and said, “Hey, could I die this year?” I said, “Yeah, sure man.” I think it adds a nice bit in the finale, a nice little scary bit, but it wasn’t a question of having to go down and tell someone who’s been an extra on the show for seven years that he’s not coming back.

You’ve directed this episode. This isn’t the first time you’ve done that, but I did notice some interesting overhead shots you used. I’m thinking of when Julia was in surgery and when Brackenreid was questioning folks at the hotel. Why did you choose that style of filming?
I’m always trying to tell a story with the minimum amount of shots because our shooting schedule is so short. This felt like a more cinematic episode and you don’t really get the shock of Julia Ogden’s operation unless you’re right over top of it. There’s blood everywhere. A bunch of the back half of the episode was going to be Murdoch lying on his back and I was committed to that type of shooting so I just tried to integrate that into the overall episode so it didn’t turn into this weird perspective change. And my friend, Gary Harvey, does such a dynamic job of directing his episodes that he kicks my ass a little bit. [Laughs.] I was like, “OK Harvey, two can play at that game!” You have the horses and the wilderness and all that scope. We were blessed with weather in that we got a bit of snow and it had a bit of a McCabe & Mrs. Miller feel to it.

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A lot of fans were speculating as to who it would be from William’s past who’d return in the finale. How did you decide it would be Eva Pearce, played by Daiva Johnston?
I was really interested in the back half of the script when I was writing with the guys. It could really only be played by a female and the idea of giving a little bit of an edge with the sexual angle and that weird song she sings. We hinted at the Black Hand in the episode before but, ultimately, in terms of the love triangle of Eva mounting William and it causing Julia to wake up is a more interesting dynamic.

Where do we go from here? What can you tell me about some of the stories you’re breaking for Season 10?
I think there will be some unexpected returning characters to the show. We’re also looking at adding a couple of semi-recurring characters onto the show. We’re mining some historical figures that we want to bring in like we normally do. We’re seriously kicking around H.P. Lovecraft right now, just in time for Halloween! He’s a very interesting character who was about 15 years old at this time. I also think we’ll be dealing with the Toronto fire in some shape of form because this is the year. It’s also an Olympic year and I know somebody who is an archer and somebody who is a big soccer fan, both of which were events at the Olympics in St. Louis.

We also have to deal with some of the events from the final episode, some of them lighthearted—does Murdoch build the house this year?—and the exploration of Crabtree and his new girl and how can she possibly fit into this world? We’re also going to see Rebecca at medical school and how that works with her being a black woman there … we’ll see and learn a little bit more about her.

I’m constantly amazed by the people I work with. We’re sitting here with 12 or 13 fairly solid murder mysteries already that don’t feel like ones we’ve done before.

What did you think of Monday’s season finale? What do you want to see happen in Season 10? Comment below or via Twitter @tv_eh.

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Murdoch Mysteries’ new kid on the block: Mouna Traoré

Mouna Traoré proves perseverance pays off. The Toronto-based actress auditioned several times for a Murdoch Mysteries role and didn’t get it. The most recent time she was successful, landing the plum role of Rebecca James, an African-American woman who has come to Canada and landed a gig at Station House No. 4. Initially tasked with cleaning up the morgue, viewers have learned she has been studying medicine in the United States.

Now she’s under the tutelage of Julia, and hopes to blossom. We spoke to Traoré on the phone while she waited for a ride to her latest job.

I understand you’re waiting to be picked up for a ride to your next gig. Can you tell me about the role?
I’m shooting a film now called Brown Girl in the Ring that’s based on the book by Nalo Hopkinson. It’s a dystopian, sci-fi film about a girl living in 2049 Toronto and how she’s battling with herself and her grandmother over whether or not she should step into these superpowers that she has that are connected through their spirituality.

That couldn’t be any different from the role we’re seeing now with you playing a character in 1903.
Yeah, I’m going from the past to the future. It’s been a really interesting year.

How did you end up being involved in Murdoch Mysteries?
What’s funny is I’ve auditioned for the show multiple times over the years and I never got the parts. I was always really bummed out. One of the last auditions that I had was for the Ragtime episode and my friend Tenika Davis ended up getting the role; she was great in it. I auditioned for this role and didn’t really expect it to be as big as it became. I only imagined it being a one or two episode thing. I love to audition for shows in other time periods and had a lot of fun in this one and I got the part.

Murdoch Mysteries is an established show. Was there any kind of nervousness on your part on that first day?
Oh my gosh, I was nervous for the first three months! It’s really intimidating to walk onto the set where some people have been working together the entire time. I’m really the new kid on the block. I always put a lot of pressure on myself not only with the work but in fitting in and wondering where to sit in the cafeteria. Do I sit with the grips, or the extras or the cast? It’s so silly, but I guess I’m still a bit young and new to the game.

So, where did you sit?
I feel like I sat with the sound guys!

Photography by Christos Kalohoridis, courtesy of Shaftesbury
Photography by Christos Kalohoridis, courtesy of Shaftesbury

You have several episodes under your belt. Have you gotten used to having your hair up and wearing layers of clothing?
No! I’m always wondering if there will be an episode where I don’t have to have my hair up. I have a lot of hair and would love to let it loose, but I know that’s not what was going on during the time period. Wearing the costumes has been fun, but the corset makes me cry sometimes. Not because I’m sad, but because I can’t breathe. But, actually, wearing something restrictive like that brings you into character.

We’ve gotten a little bit of background on Rebecca. We know she’s from the U.S. and had a wealthy patron who was helping her gain medical knowledge. What else can you say?
She is really, really curious about medicine and, of course, she wishes she could complete her schooling and practice medicine, but maybe she feels there are too many obstacles in the way and it’s more important to take care of herself than get back to medical school.

What kind a research did you do into ladies of this time period?
I specifically looked at black Victorians and people of colour in that time period because I think we see media jump from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement. There is all of this great stuff in between and a wide variance of the black experience in Canada and the U.S., and how long black people have been in Canada. We had black people in Toronto at this time and they were all over Ontario and upstate New York. Even though this single character can’t carry all of that, it gives a glimpse into that part of history and, hopefully, interested viewers will do their own research.

Does Rebecca experience racism?
Yes, of course. She’ll face her own challenges in the next few episodes and even though Dr. Ogden and Det. Murdoch are really kind to her, not everybody in the community shares their sentiment. We will see, as the season progresses, not only how Rebecca deals with racism, but the other characters as well.

What’s been your experience with the fans so far?
I haven’t heard too much so far. I know the show has a huge fan base and I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say. I’m also doubly intimidated by that. I also feel very grateful that everyone is so open to a character like Rebecca James.

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

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Murdoch Mysteries introduces new character in Rebecca James

Just a week after a tearful goodbye to Dr. Emily Grace, Murdoch Mysteries is introducing a new character.

Rebecca James, played by Mouna Traoré (Rookie Blue, The Book of Negroes), appears for the first time in tonight’s new episode, “Barenaked Ladies,” as the morgue’s cleaner. Julia is back as the coroner in Station House No. 4 and working on a corpse when Rebecca shows up for her overnight shift.

“Over time I become suspect that she knows a lot more than she’s letting on,” Hélène Joy told me during a set visit earlier this year. “She knows anatomy, she seems to be pulling in the environment, so Julia starts giving her books to read, and over time it becomes really obvious that she’s much more than she admits.” Not much is known about Rebecca at this point, but that changes in the weeks ahead when a bit of detective work reveals much more about Rebecca’s life and what brought her to Canada.

Mirroring real events in history as Murdoch Mysteries does, not everyone is happy with the attention Julia is giving to an African American woman.

As for the rest of Monday’s episode, it’s much lighter in tone than last week’s swan song. There’s still a body count, but Carol Hay’s script calls for several light moments too, including the usual stuff from Crabtree and a couple of zingers from Julia.

And the case of the week? A brilliantly twisted story based on an iconic piece of art you’ll have to see to believe.

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

 

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