Tag Archives: Tara Spencer-Nairn

A (Corner) Gas of a time on MasterChef Canada

Tuesday’s “Cooking with (Corner) Gas” episode of MasterChef Canada was full of challenges for the Top 7 home cooks. They had to compete in a Mystery Box Challenge and, FINALLY, a classic MasterChef Canada Tag Team Challenge. But just hold on and let me tell it in order.

As the seven remaining home cooks entered the kitchen they saw a MASSIVE Mystery Box. What could be in it? Or perhaps, who could be in it? Tonight’s challenge was elevated diner food and the contestants got a little bit of help from the cast of the hit series Corner Gas Animated, including Brent Butt, Tara Spencer-Nairn, Lorne Cardinal and Nancy Robertson. For me, it was a good opportunity to add one more great Canadian series to my watch list. For the cooks, winning would give them a huge advantage in the upcoming Elimination Challenge.

All of the cooks rushed to the pantry and got baskets full of delicious products. And then there was Beccy, who had just a couple of grapefruits, eggs and butter. I was looking forward to seeing what she had in her creative mind and what the judges would get in the end. The atmosphere in the kitchen was easy and fun. The Top 7 cooks were cooking passionately and had so many great ideas, like chicken and waffles from Eugene, a Japanese play on steak and eggs from Kaegan and a tuna melt from Marissa. But chefs Claudio, Alvin and Michael made their choice and decided to try three dishes out of the seven; the lucky ones were Nadia, Andy and Beccy. Nadia made a stuffed French toast with smoked applewood brie and spicy berry fig sauce and the judges loved her brie! Beccy cooked an elevated diner pie with grapefruit and basil with Italian meringue and crumble; the presentation was extraordinary. Andy prepared a Thai Burger with vegetable tempura.

Chef Alvin was very impressed by Andy’s dish … and he was the home cook who won the challenge. Which dish would you like to try?

The Elimination Tag Team Challenge was a replication of an Asian box with five different dishes. It contained perfectly crafted Chinese bao with pork belly, cucumber and Asian pear, jellyfish salad and Banh Mi sandwich, and Takoyaki. And for the dessert? Fried banana in coconut batter. The home cooks had 70 minutes to master the box. Andy was safe from elimination but as well had a power to make teams for the Tag Team Challenge. He made Eugene and Beccy a team, Michael G. and Kaegan the second team and Nadia and Marissa the third. The heat was on. The teams were rushing to finish. The normally quiet Beccy was very vocal, urging Eugene to work faster. The judges started to sample the dishes. The first team to get all of their items in their box were Kaegan and Michael G. The Banh Mi was great, the takoyaki and the bun were good, but the bananas were burnt. Beccy and Eugene missed a couple of details but still made a great box. Nadia and Marissa, unfortunately, disappointed judges and Marissa left MasterChef Canada.

MasterChef Canada airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

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TV Eh B Cs podcast 81 — Wine and McDonald’s with Corner Gas Animated’s Tara Spencer-Nairn

Note: Unfortunately, something weird happened in the downloading of the files for Tara and my conversation. The result is some crosstalk that is, at times, super annoying. I sincerely apologize to my listeners and Tara for this. 

Tara Spencer-Nairn returns as the deadpan police officer Karen Pelly in Corner Gas: Animated—airing Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on The Comedy Network—a role she played in the Gemini-winning, No. 1 rated CTV sitcom Corner Gas, earning a Gemini Award for Best Ensemble Performance in 2007 and two Gemini nominations in 2004 and 2006.

A graduate of the Vancouver Film School, her big breakthrough came in 1999 when she was cast in the highly acclaimed New Waterford Girl. The film screened at the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival and received seven Genie Award nominations including Best Picture.

Spencer-Nairn appeared in the recurring role of Sandy in CTV’s hit drama The Listener. She has appeared in numerous other television productions including The Outer Limits, The Strain, Murdoch Mysteries, Waking Up Wally: The Walter Gretzky Story, Flashpoint Saving Hope and Degrassi. Most recently she could seen in the third season of Syfy/Space hit series Killjoys as a recurring guest star.

Spencer-Nairn was born in Montreal, raised in Vancouver and now calls Toronto home. The youngest of three siblings, the actor spent 12 years as a competitive gymnast. She is married and the mother of two young sons.

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Corner Gas returns with “magic and sorcery” in Animated series

When I first read the news Corner Gas would be returning—this time as an animated version—I scratched my head and asked myself a few questions. Why are they doing this? Didn’t everyone do what they wanted over six seasons of live action? What would make this different?

“I didn’t want to do something for the sake of doing something,” creator, writer, actor and executive producer Brent Butt says of Corner Gas Animated, debuting Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The Comedy Network. “The legacy of it was too important to me. I’m up for a shameless cash grab—don’t get me wrong—but it had to feel right.”

“I honestly thought that the movie was it because Brent is a man of his word and said that was it,” Tara Spencer-Nairn says. “But then I busted Virginia Thompson one day in a Shoppers Drug Mart shortly after the movie came out. I was in line and saw Virginia and she was on her phone saying loudly, ‘I don’t like how the Oscar character looks.’ I was like, ‘Virginia, I’m right here!'”

Thompson, the show’s executive producer alongside Butt and executive producer David Storey, admits the idea for an animated take on the lives of the folks living in small-town Saskatchewan has been in the works for years, but really gained momentum following the success of 2014’s Corner Gas: The Movie. After six seasons on CTV and a final farewell to fans with a feature film, Thompson figured that was it. But an outpouring of support—and demand for more stories from Dog River—caused the trio to recall something they’d kicked around as a joke years ago: an animated series.

“Brent, David and I got together and had lunch and said, ‘What do we want to do?’” Thompson recalls. “The animated concept kept popping up. We’re really excited about this because it really does come from Brent’s imagination and brand of comedy. It’s a different angle to Corner Gas.” Butt’s love of comic books—he and a friend started a publishing company and his first comic, Existing Earth, was nominated for a Golden Eagle Award before he left that for a standup career—and skills as an illustrator (he designed Corner Gas’ station logo) means that the world can expand beyond the limitations of physical television production.

“I think graphically,” Butt says. “I think in cartoon terms. Corner Gas was always written to be a live-action series because it was loosely based on what I imagined my life would be like if I hadn’t pursued stand-up comedy.” During production of the original Corner Gas, some of the ideas he came up with were dismissed as “too cartoonish.” Butt jokes he spent six years de-cartooning Corner Gas; now he can let Dog River and its citizens go wherever he wants with no live action constraints.

 

Being unfettered pays off within minutes in Monday’s debut “Bone Dry,” when Brent and Oscar Leroy (Eric Peterson) argue over Brent having forgotten to order more fuel for Corner Gas’ tanks. They’re dry, leading Oscar to surmise the small town will devolve into a world where people fight to the death for gas. Cut to the elder Leroy’s imagination and a riff on The Road Warrior with Oscar, hilariously, as The Humungus. Butt and Peterson are reunited with the rest of the original Corner Gas cast—Gabrielle Miller as Lacey Burrows, Fred Ewanuick as Hank Yarbo, Lorne Cardinal as Davis Quinton, Spencer-Nairn as Karen Pelley, Nancy Robertson as Wanda Dollard—with Corrine Koslo taking over the role of Emma Leroy following the death of Janet Wright.

With half of the cast based in Vancouver and the other half in Toronto, a unique way of capturing their voices for the first season’s 13 episodes was decided on. The technology is good enough that each group could enter a recording studio in their perspective city and do a group read of the scripts.

“We had this lightning in a bottle with these people who were cast to populate this world and interact,” Butt says. “We had that magic chemistry that sometimes happens. That chemistry is a big reason for the success of Corner Gas. Having the actors from each city together means they can react to each other and react over the phone line in Vancouver.”

“We all play off each other,” Spencer-Nairn says. “I feel like if we didn’t do it this way we’d miss a lot of beats. There would be so much comedy lost if we weren’t working together this way and able to react to what the other person is saying live.”

“We could have done it piecemeal,” Butt says. “But there is an intangible chemistry and magic that these people have when they get together and the way they interact is magic and sorcery.”

Corner Gas Animated airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The Comedy Network.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

 

 

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Killjoys moves to the next step in the Hullen war

Man, did I love last week’s episode of Killjoys, “The Lion, the Witch and the Warlord.” Getting a chance to delve into Pree’s back story was a particular treat, as was the unending back and forth between Zeph and Johnny. Speaking of Zeph, she’d managed to open the Remnant, but closed it back up without telling anyone. Why would she do that if she’s such a devoted member of this team?

Perhaps Zeph’s actions will be explained in Friday’s episode, “Attack the Rack,” written by Shernold Edwards and directed by Jeff Renfroe. Here’s the official plot synopsis via Space:

The Killjoy rebels take drastic measures to clean house: a secret ops attack against their own RAC. Thanks to Aneela’s schemes and a mole among them, not everyone will make it out alive.

And, as always, more info from us after watching a screener.

Corner Gas‘ Tara Spencer-Nairn guest stars
We’ve seen Spencer-Nairn do comedy on Corner Gas and drama on Saving Hope. How does she do in the sci-fi realm? Swimmingly. She portrays a woman with a deep history and an uncanny way of healing from wounds. Thanks to her, Dutch and Turin devise a way to distinguish good guys from bad. Also appearing this week: Rookie Blue‘s Noam Jenkins in a devious role, and Pure‘s Gord Rand as a snide asshole. (Oh, how I miss Pure.)

Erik Knudsen returns!
Yup, he does. He, Dutch and D’avin are locked and loaded and going … somewhere. He may not have made the A-team but Knudsen’s McAvoy makes up some deeply important RAC backup. Speaking of returning folks, Fancy makes an appearance too. We’ve missed his face … and sarcasm. Fancy has a bit of a sit down with Spencer-Nairn’s character, and it’s something to behold.

Professional etiquette is key
Turns out there IS a bad time to bust in on someone you’re tracking. Thanks to D’avin, we find out when that is.

Aneela is still scary
Back when I saw Episode 1 of Season 1, I likened Killjoys to Star Wars in its tone and look. Something Aneela does during Friday’s episode certainly hearkens back to a key Star Wars villain’s abilities. I got chills. (There are actually two Star Wars references I picked up on.) And the budding relationship between Aneela and Delle Seyah Kendry blossoms more this week. I was a little wary of the pairing, but I’m all in now.

Killjoys airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on Space.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Tara Spencer-Nairn shakes off Corner Gas with Saving Hope

For six seasons and one major motion picture, Tara Spencer-Nairn played beleaguered small-town cop Karen Pelly on the wildly successful Corner Gas. And while she’s forever grateful for the experience of starring in a beloved Canadian television series and will cherish it forever, she’s been champing at the bit to play something different.

Janice Fenn is that character. Unlike the perky, sarcastic Karen, Janice is a drug addict who comes to the aid of Taylor, a 12-year-old who checks into Hope Zion on Thursday night following a motocross accident. What follows in “Heart of Stone” is harrowing and heartbreaking … exactly what Spencer-Nairn has been looking for.

Janice Fenn is definitely not Constable Karen.
Tara Spencer-Nairn: Right?! I was pretty excited about this.

Janice is the type of person Karen would try to arrest.
As soon as I got the breakdown I knew it was something I wanted to do and that I needed to do. I love Corner Gas and everything it has done for my and I’ll be forever grateful, but I feel like I’m constantly having to remind people that I’m not just a comedian and that I’m not a comedian. This was a real departure and something that I could really sink my teeth into. It was dirty and gritty. And I’m at this point in my life, with two kids, where it fits. It’s funny, I was telling my agent, ‘There’s no way I can’t get this role because I haven’t slept in days and I look like shit. I’m perfect! They don’t have to do anything, they don’t even have to put makeup on me.’

After Corner Gas and taking a break to have kids, I really wanted to come back and do something I’ve never done before. I think that’s what’s great about these Canadian shows; there are these great little characters that come along that we all get to drop in and play.

Although you appreciate it, do you feel as though Corner Gas caused you to be pigeon-holed?
Absolutely. It’s weird, because if you look back at how my career started, it’s not very funny. New Waterford Girl was funny, but in a very different way. And again, I love Corner Gas and everyone involved and if I could do a Corner Gas movie every two years, I’d be there. But I do kind of feel like I’m constantly fighting to get into rooms and show people I’m more than just Karen Pelly. And because of the success of Corner Gas, it’s been really hard for all of us to break out of those roles.


“We’re fighting pretty hard to not have strong characters, but good characters, interesting characters and characters reflective of who we are that don’t just support another male character.”


OK, let’s talk about Saving Hope and this role of Janice. She’s a tough character to play because she’s a drug addict, and therefore a little hard to viewers to like. Is it hard to portray a somewhat unlikeable character?

Well, I never thought of her as unlikeable. It was interesting working with David Wellington—the director for this episode—I trusted in him 100 percent. We really wanted to make sure we didn’t play into any stereotypes and the way the character was originally written was more of a stereotype. He really went back and fought hard to make sure she wasn’t dressed in a miniskirt. In a way, I felt sorry for her and I wanted to help her and make her better. Her choices, from the outside, look truly horrible but when you walk a mile in those shoes it’s horribly sad and heartbreaking.

Having two kids of your own, was it easy to tap into the emotions the role calls for?
Yeah, you have to go there. Having kids has become, truly, a blessing for my career because I now have a depth that I couldn’t have imagined before I had kids.

The storyline is open-ended; will you be back?
I don’t know, but let’s make that happen! I watch Saving Hope and I’ve never seen a character like her on the show. I applaud them for creating a character like this and for allowing the character to be a woman. As women, we’re fighting pretty hard to not have strong characters, but good characters, interesting characters and characters reflective of who we are that don’t just support another male character.

Are female characters getting more interesting and reflective? 
I think we’re talking about it, but I don’t think it’s getting better. I hope that talking about it is the first step. I’m in my mid- to late-30s and as an actor I do feel like I should be busier than I am. I feel like there should be more roles for me out there and it kind of breaks my heart every morning when I get up and it’s, ‘Nope, not today.’ It’s nice that it’s a big topic in Hollywood and I hope the ripple effect will happen.

Is writing, directing and producing your own projects the next step in that journey for you?
It’s something that I’m working on, yeah. At first I was like, ‘I’m just going to do this, no problem!’ And now that I’m in it, it’s ‘Wow, this is really hard!’ The stuff that I want to write isn’t necessarily network TV and as you know this industry is in flux with pick and pay. There aren’t a lot of cable shows being made in Canada. But, at the same time, I appreciate conventional network and a show like Saving Hope who create characters like Janice, but that isn’t the type of show that I want to create.

What kind of show do you want to make?
I want to make the kind of show everyone wants to make. You look at a Nurse Jackie or an Orphan Black … gritty and dirty and real. I’m not interested in being earnest.

Saving Hope airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

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