TV, eh? interview with Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern: Flashpoint Tests Family Bonds

By Diane Wild

Article first published as Flashpoint Tests Family Bonds on Blogcritics.

fp-gallery 0744(1)When Flashpoint returns to CTV for season three on August 6 (and continues on CBS, who blithely ignore production seasons), the co-creators promise even more of a glimpse into the personal lives of the core characters. “What’s holding this season together is a family theme,” said Stephanie Morgenstern.

The long-estranged, long-referenced son of Greg Parker (Enrico Colantoni) will make an appearance this year. In addition, the episode that aired out of order on CBS on July 16 and was intended to be the season three premiere – it was presented as a “sneak peek” on CTV — brought the first look at the difficult relationship between Ed Lane (Hugh Dillon) and his brother, and revealed his wife’s surprise pregnancy.

“It reaches a point of such strain that she leaves him, even though she’s pregnant. That’s resolved in the finale,” Morgenstern revealed.

“The theme of the whole series is the human cost of heroism,” explained Morgenstern’s writing partner and husband Mark Ellis. “How can you be a cop who puts his life on the line every day, and then come home and be the guy who cuts the grass and is there for your family?”

Season three will focus on family bonds that go beyond blood relationships, “whether it’s a group of white supremacists who are on a mission to help the world become whiter, or a group of young basketball stars who are bound together in an oath of secrecy,” Morgenstern said. ‘Any strong connections between people they’ll make extreme sacrifices for, whether they’re blood families or families of choice — we’re testing all that.”

Those tests will come with the help of some impressive guest stars, including, in Friday’s episode, Kelly Rowan (The OC), plus Lauren Holly (NCIS), Victor Garber (Alias), Erin Karpluk (Being Erica), Ian Tracey (Intelligence), and Douglas Smith (Big Love).

Canadian audiences have waited over eight months for the new season of Flashpoint, though CBS just finished airing season two (while calling part of it season three). The show has generally been scheduled with long breaks within and between seasons, causing fan consternation and confusion along the way.

“From our perspective, there’s never really a long gap,” an exhausted Ellis pointed out in our interview, conducted just as they were heading away for the weekend after writing the season three finale, before continuing with the grueling production schedule.

“What makes it tricky is we’ll structure a production season with an arc for some of our characters, and then when it comes to broadcasting, the episodes may be aired without the same continuity,” he said. “But we knew we were working with big network television and that possibility existed. So we construct arcs to reward the faithful viewer, but each episode has to stand on its own.”

They are watching the ratings on both sides of the border, but “on a personal level, what’s most important to us is that Canadians have taken to the show so strongly,” said Ellis. “That was the big brass ring for us, to become watercooler conversation, something my mom’s hairdresser would have seen. That’s happened and we’re grateful. We try to root our stories in the Canadian sensibility — that’s really important to us.”

When I’d asked Colantoni if he had any dirt on Ellis and Morgenstern before our interview, he replied, deadpan: “Yeah, how do they manage a successful marriage in the midst of this chaos? It’s the craziest thing. How do you f***ing do that? You live together, you work together, and you’re still happy being married. Explain that to me.”

They laughed when I dutifully relayed the question, but had a contemplative answer. “We draw on that, actually,” Morgenstern said. “I think the strongest relationships are the ones that survive the test of adversity. It’s a very high-stress path to work on a show like this with its relentless pace. It’s great when we can come out of it, side by side, ready to go on a holiday together.”

“I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather go on this adventure with,” she added.

“Good to know,” Ellis interjected, before continuing seriously. “I don’t think either of us would say it’s easy. It’s extremely intense.”

As cowriters, they think of themselves as “our own little writing room inside the writing room,” as Ellis put it, offering brutal honesty to each other before facing the brutal honesty of the other writers.

According to Colantoni, their partnership pays off onscreen. “They’re the ones who, from the inception, understand the heart and soul of these characters. We know what they bring. We feel their heart and soul on the page every time they write an episode,” he said.

That heart shows even in an interview. Referring to the possibility of Olunike Adeliyi coming back in the future, Ellis said “we like to stay loyal to people we’ve had on the show. Unless we’ve killed them.”

“And we’re loyal to them in our hearts,” Morgenstern interjected.

They’re referencing the death of Lewis Young (Mark Taylor) in season two, an event that will be revisited this season. “It felt like something we had to do,” Ellis said about killing off the character. “We talk about it being a life and death job. It felt like we had to show that’s the case. You can’t take it for granted that we’ll come out of the episode with the same people who came into it.”

“We come back to that in the finale, where people’s toughest experiences are re-explored under the stern gaze of an external psychologist,” offered Morgenstern. “This death comes to the surface again because no one’s been able to shake it.”

“The team is family and we take that seriously,” said Ellis, who admits to crying during the table read for the death episode. “If a member of your family dies you don’t just forget that. We want to do it justice.”

Ellis and Morgenstern’s confidence that Flashpoint would live to see another season was justified when CTV announced a season four pickup after our conversation. However, CBS has yet to make a decision.

“We left it wide open instead of wrapping it up,” said Morgenstern about the finale. “But we also constructed the episode in such a way that it returns to themes and stories for our characters that have been present since the first episode. So it also comes full circle.”

That said, it will be a while before audiences will see that finale. The first part of season three will air until mid-September, with the second half airing sometime in 2011 … when CBS will likely call it season four.


4 thoughts on “TV, eh? interview with Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern: Flashpoint Tests Family Bonds”

  1. Great interview, I hope CBS picks it up! then again, there are always dvds to console myself with!

  2. In 2011? With CTV? What finale are we talking about? One in september or one in 2011?

  3. The season just seems short to me, from august to september and then to be continued in 2011. It doesn’t really follow any kind of regular schedule (but then there’s the confusion and consternation that’s mentioned). Rather every season – although it’s renewed – noone on a managerial level, seems interested in managing to provide a airdate schedule that has some semblance of what you expect from another show’s airdates. This said, I will certainly continue to follow it regardless of how and when it is aired. It would just simplify if it was known that it’ll air again in january (or whatever month). The episodes shown now were produced early 2010, more than 6 months ago.

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