TV, eh? | What's up in Canadian television
TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

Coroner: Roger Cross on McAvoy’s flaws and “rekindled” passion for the job

Roger Cross is no stranger to playing cops. Over his nearly 30-year career, he’s been cast as just about every type of police officer, detective and special agent imaginable. However, Detective Donovan McAvoy, his character on CBC’s Coroner, is a little bit different from the others.

“I think it’s his flaws [that set him apart],” says Cross. “You learn that he might have been married once or twice, and you learn that he kind of left his old neighbourhood. He tried helping, but, for him, it was like, ‘Well, some people don’t want the help. Why am I going to bash my head against a rock? I’ll leave it alone.’”

That situation was the focus of last week’s timely and poignant episode, “Confetti Heart,” in which coroner Jenny Cooper (Serinda Swan) led an inquest into a questionable police shooting involving McAvoy’s community. According to Cross, the events of the episode “allow [McAvoy’s] path to confront him, and when that happens, he’s like, ‘OK, you know what? Maybe the fight is worth it.'”

We called Cross in Los Angeles to learn what this change of attitude might mean for McAvoy going forward and to find out what’s coming up for him in Monday’s new episode, “The Suburbs,” and beyond.

First of all, it looks like Coroner is doing very well in Canada and the UK. How does it feel to be involved in another hit?
Roger Cross: It feels great. You know, you do these things in a bubble, and you do your best and you hope for the best. And the only thing you can control is your intent and what you do on the day, and then you put it out to the people and you see how they respond. All and all, the executives on down, everyone kept watching the dailies as it came along, and they all kept saying great things, and you’re like, ‘OK, that’s good, but let’s see when it gets out there what people really think.’ And it’s lived up to it. It’s a bona fide hit, so it’s great. It’s very fulfilling.

Episode 6 was very timely as well as being politically and emotionally charged. How did you feel about it?
RC: It was a very touching story because it delved into a child getting killed. And wrong or right, good or bad, a child is dead, and how do we prevent these sorts of things from happening again in the future? 

I think it’s a story that needs to be told. It’s like the old cliché, if you bury your head in the sand, it’s not going to make the world go away. So pretending that there aren’t these bad cops out there is not going to make things go away. Yes, people have this ideal where they’d like to think that our cops are here as protectors and that they’re here to take care of us and they’re here to enforce the law, it’s for the people and all that sort of thing. But the reality is there are some bad cops out there and some people who should not have badges. Just like with anything, there are some people who, when they have power, whether it be at work or as cops and things like that, they abuse it. And those are the people we need to get rid of and allow the good people to do their job. Because the good cops don’t want these people in there. They would rather these cops be gone as well. They make them all look bad, and then people start painting them with the same brush.

A funny story, I did a police ride-along when I was in Calgary doing a movie. And this cop and I went out on this ride-along, and they were selling t-shirts to raise money to buy a helicopter. I wanted to buy one of the t-shirts, but I only had large bills on me, and he was like, ‘Oh, let’s just stop somewhere and grab some change.’ We go to this hotel, and I won’t say the name of the hotel, but it was a very fancy hotel. We pull up in front of the lobby, and this cop and I get out of the car, talking and laughing, and we walk into the lobby—and the whole place went quiet. It was silent. We walked to the counter and I asked them to break down a $100 bill for me, and they did. But when we left, the cop was like, ‘That was really weird.’ And I was like, ‘Yes, but sometimes there are people who think it’s weird to see a black guy and a police officer getting along and talking.’ It shocked everyone. It was literally like out of a movie how quiet this big, busy hotel lobby went.

And this [police officer] was honestly a great guy. We talked about family, we talked about everything and we were getting along, and he said, ‘You know, now when some of these guys give me the side-eye and a dirty look as I drive by, I’ll understand it a little more. But it doesn’t make it right.’ And it’s true. Both sides are angry at each other, both sides have those misconceptions of each other, and mistrust is the biggest thing. But we both have to come together and say, OK we both have faults, but it doesn’t make doing the wrong thing right. So I think the episode was very timely, and it could be a conversation starter.

The other thing McAvoy has been dealing with is Jenny’s decision to re-open all those old coroner cases. Why isn’t he onboard with that decision?
RC: Because, for him, there might have been one or two things that were messed up, there may have been one or two cases where they didn’t handle it properly, but by and large, it was handled very well. And so what’s she’s done now, as we see in Episode 5, is people like this murderer [Gerald Henry Jones], he’s got money and now his lawyer is like, ‘Well, now you’ve called everything into question. I want all these things thrown out.’ Without this forensic evidence, criminals are going to walk free, and she’s allowing this to happen without even knowing what she’s doing. He’s like, ‘OK, we missed a few things.’ Because these cops handle a lot of cases, so yes, one or two will fall by the wayside. But what’s she’s done is just open a can of worms. The genie is out of the bottle and it will not go back in.

Why is the thought of Gerald Henry Jones getting out of prison so scary?
RC: Because he’s a sociopath and feels he has a right to kill these people who he thinks are less than human, less desirable to be around. And a guy like that, who is very smart and was almost impossible to put away—we barely found enough evidence to get him convicted on this one murder, much less this other series of murders which we know he did but cannot prove—if the evidence gets thrown out, this man is going to walk the streets. And you know he’s going to do this again. He’s going to find a way to quell his desires if you will.

What can we look forward to seeing from McAvoy over the last two episodes of the season? 
RC: I think you’ll see a rekindling of that younger detective that, when he came there, wanted to set things right. His fire gets rekindled, the passion that he had. Because he was calling it in a little sometimes. Just like with anything else you do for a while, you look at a [crime] scene and go, ‘Oh, that was a murder,’ or ‘That was a hanging.’ You make judgments based on your experience, and you dig past the surface if something doesn’t look right, but you’re not looking too hard for that. Whereas, when you first [get on the job], you’re like, ‘Oh, we gotta do this, and we gotta break it down, and we have to go through everything in detail, and then we’ll find out what happened.’ And he’ll get a rekindling of that—but his personal life won’t get better yet.

What would you like to see happen with McAvoy if there is a Season 2?
RC: Maybe straighten out his personal life a little bit. 

You’ve been in so many good TV series over the years. If you could bring one show back and continue the story, which one would you choose?
RC: Oh, that’s a tough one. But, you know, I loved Continuum. From top to bottom, everyone we worked with, it was like a family atmosphere there. And the Travis Verta character, he had so much more to do. He was a character who could just continue to grow and find his humanity. At a point, we saw that he’d lost a lot of his life and he’s learned things, and that story had a lot more to tell. And even 24 would be a blast to do again. That show was great and had so much potential. But if I had to choose only one, I’d probably say Continuum.

Coroner airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Comments and queries for the week of February 15

Great episode! An interesting story about the role of journalism in society. The show is pleased with the variety of storylines and versatile presentation of the characters of the characters. George Crabtree here is not quite good—he is envious and vindictive. George should not have told Miss Cherry about the book and his hurt feelings, but he did it. Julia and William are represented by excellent professionals, but not enterprising people. And this is good. Talented people are rarely successful in business. It is the realism of the characters I really like, no one is perfect, everyone can be wrong! Very interesting interview with Maureen Jennings. Thank you for your talent, for the opportunity to enjoy Murdoch Mysteries for many. —Lilia

Great episode!! Loved the ambivalence created around Louise Cherry, who I have a very hard time warming up to even when she wasn’t quite so obnoxious. In this era of jaded over entertained consumers it was amazing and humorous to realize how intrigued the public was over every little twist and turn of technology. And poor George once again suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune kudos to Johnny Harris he is an amazingly funny guy. —David

I finished the episode with the feeling that Miss Cherry is going to do a hatchet job on William and Julia’s book—the revenge she was suggesting George seek for the “slight” when he thought he was not being given any credit for his help. —Byron


“…What was it like working with Billy and Karine? … Their scenes together have all this tension, but it’s not tension borne out of traditional conflict. It’s a deeper thing, I think. They’re both a little afraid of each other, or of what they mean to each other.” I really like that Cardinal and Delorme are just work colleagues and do not seem to have any romantic feelings for each other. In so, so many shows, if there are two single people, writers always seem compelled to hook them up which always leads to VERY boring storylines. Delorme and Cardinal have developed a strong friendship which seems so complicated at times. Because they are just friends, as a viewer, one doesn’t know if the friendship may break down because of their behaviour. We certainly know a lot about Cardinal’s personal life and in Season 4 I would love to find out more about Delorme’s life outside of being under threat from the high crime rate in Algonquin Bay! —John

Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? Email greg.david@tv-eh.com or via Twitter @tv_eh.

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Cardinal: Writer Shannon Masters breaks down “Lemur”

Alas, poor Lemur. Perhaps the strongest all-around survivalist aside from Mama (Rya Kihlstedt) herself, Lemur (Nick Serino) met and untimely, and messy, end at the hands of Jack (Alex Ozerov). Jack took advantage of Lemur being on the run from the police during a botched ATM robbery and killed his “brother.”

Thursday’s newest instalment of Cardinal, “Lemur,” also opened the door on what horrors Jack endured when he was younger and shaped who he is today. Finally, after very much looking to Cardinal (Billy Campbell) for guidance during the past two cycles of Cardinal, Lise (Karine Vanasse) has officially read her partner the riot act. We spoke to the episode’s writer, Shannon Masters—who has written for Burden of Truth, Mohawk Girls and penned her feature film Empire of Dirt—about Jack, Lise and killing off Lemur.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions and congratulations on being part of Cardinal. I love the franchise and am enjoying Season 3 immensely.
Shannon Masters: I’m glad you’re loving watching it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Before we get into specifics about the series and your episode, how did you get into the Cardinal writer’s room in the first place?
SM: Two words: Patrick Tarr. We’ve been friends for well over a decade and I think he got tired of watching me bang my head against the wall trying to break into television so took a chance and gave me a shot in the room. Plus, I’m cheap so didn’t break the budget. Ha ha.

This past week has been all about your work. I watched Empire of Dirt the other day on Super Channel and your latest episode of Burden of Truth was on CBC. You’ve taken over Canadian TV over the last 10 days!
SM: Finally. Seriously though, someone has to pinch me because I still can’t believe I get to do this job.

I imagine working on Cardinal has been very different from Burden of Truth and Mohawk Girls. How have you grown as a writer through the Cardinal experience?
SM: Every writing experience is unique, just as each show and showrunner are unique and all provide the opportunity to evolve in different ways. But my growth as a writer on this show specifically was exponential because Patrick trusted (and expected) me to do the job well. That gave me a new confidence in both my ability and my voice. Plus, there is something to be said for having a showrunner who comes in with a rock-solid vision. Lesson: being prepared and having a plan gives you freedom.

It’s been hard to feel anything but anger at Jack and the way he’s been acting. But in the opening moments of ‘Lemur,’ we discover he’s endured something horrifying in his past, including his relationship with this father, and how that connects him to Mama. How do you tackle writing a character like him?
SM: I believe the key to writing bad guys, whether they have a difficult past or not, is to write them as though they believe in what they’re doing, that they don’t think their actions are wrong or bad. In general, people have no idea what they are truly capable of until they find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and are faced with hard choices. That holds true for fictional characters as well. So trying to get into their heads and seeing things through their eyes often lends those characters an intriguing level of depth.

I’m not sure if you’ve seen the rough cut for ‘Lemur’ yet, but there is a moment before Cardinal goes into the apartment to talk to Roger, the ex-con-turned-accountant. John pauses at the top of the stairs, loosens his neck and takes a deep breath. He wants to keep it together and not wring Roger’s neck. Do you remember if that pause was written in the script, or something Billy ad-libbed?
SM: It’s been such a long time since I wrote the episode so it could have been on the page, an acting choice or something that came from our director. What I do remember is going into Cardinal’s story this episode with the feeling that he knows he’s skidding down the rabbit hole but just cannot stop himself. His cop instincts are too strong and his GUT is telling him that his wife did not kill herself. So while he knows that every moment he pursues these men he’s put away, Roger Felt included, his grip on the situation slips a bit more, but he’s gonna do it all the same. So he’s kind of stealing his nerves here before he dives in yet again.

You killed Lemur! Now there is nothing stopping Jack from taking advantage of Nikki. How could you?!
SM: Lol. Nikki is tougher than she looks.

Lise has taken a fierce stand against Cardinal. It’s been fascinating to watch her gaining confidence and taking command. Has it been fun, as a writer, to explore their relationship in Season 3?
SM: Their relationship is fantastic and it’s been incredibly rewarding to get to flesh it out even further this season. In this episode specifically, Delorme’s ferocity is born from her desire to help Cardinal. She and Cardinal have morphed from colleagues into friends with a mutual deep respect, so she doesn’t want to see him torture himself or torch his career. And she’s also got a job to do. She’s been given a lot more responsibility this season and she takes it very seriously.

Cardinal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Workin’ Moms: Tennille Read reflects on being the new kid (and mom) on the block

In Season 1 of Workin’ Moms, viewers were immediately plunged into the lives of four women juggling motherhood with jobs and responsibilities. What is was like getting and being pregnant was discussed, but not a focal point of the show. It was about life after baby (or babies) had arrived.

That’s changed in Season 3 with the arrival of Bianca. Played by Tennille Read, we’re getting a crash-course in the emotions and doubts that go along with deciding to get pregnant. And, of course, we’re shown the support system Frankie (Juno Rinaldi) can supply.

“It’s a great take on motherhood and starting from the very beginning,” Read says during a recent phone chat. “The fears, the anxiety, the uncertainties, especially showing it through the eyes of a single woman. Bianca is flying solo; she isn’t partnered with anyone and she’s deciding to start a family. I think that is unique to the show and hasn’t really been explored before.” Read teases viewers will see a new side to Frankie as well, because she’s in a place of more stability and can help. (Though, it must be said, Juniper did throw a curve ball at Frankie last week.)

Read, a graduate of the George Brown Theatre School, never expected a lone Season 2 appearance would be expanded. When it was hinted Bianca might become a recurring character, she assumed that meant two more episodes. Instead, it became eight, and the opportunity not just to show growth for Frankie, but all of the main characters.

“The ‘typical sitcom’ highlights those characteristics in the character that makes them unique but doesn’t necessarily develop them and allow them to grow and become something bigger and better,” Read says. “Workin’ Moms does allow for the characters to grow.” She’s right. We’ve seen that for everyone, from Anne (Dani Kind) being over-protective of Alice (Sadie Munroe) to Kate’s (Catherine Reitman) getting into bed figuratively with a men’s group and literally with Nathan (Philip Sternberg).

And though she was a new face to the cast—Read worked with many of the crew on prior projects—she felt welcome right from the start.

“I met Dani Kind in the makeup trailer and we had a 10- to 15-minute conversation because she’s so open and lovely,” Read says. “She wanted to know more about me because we haven’t had that interaction before. It made for an easier transition for me to go from being the new kid on the block to having more investment in the show.”

Workin’ Moms airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.

Head shot image courtesy of Dane Clark. Workin’ Moms image courtesy of CBC.

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