Ira Parker’s “magical realism” comes to CBC’s Four in the Morning

Ira Parker’s budding writing career couldn’t be more different. Last year saw him writing and co-producing the DirecTV drama Rogue. This year? He’s not only part of the writing and producing team of The Last Ship, Michael Bay’s explosive end-of-the-world adventure headed into a fourth season, but his own project, Four in the Morning.

But where the characters on The Last Ship are larger than life, those in Four in the Morning are totally relatable. Debuting Friday at 9 p.m. on CBC, the eight half-hour instalments catch up with a quartet of twentysomething friends who discuss life through the alcoholic haze of early-morning, where answers are simple, succinct and brilliant. Because alcohol. Starring Michelle Mylett as Jamie, Daniel Maslany as Bondurant, Lola Tash as Mitzi and Mazin Elsadig as William, Four in the Morning fits perfectly in CBC’s primetime lineup, an unconventional comedy with twists of the absurd, something Parker calls “magical realism.”

Four in the Morning couldn’t be any more different from The Last Ship.
Ira Parker: It’s true. I always thought that my first show coming out of grad school would be a comedy. And then I got on to Rogue, which is maybe the least comedic series in the history of the world. All of a sudden, this drama thing started taking off. Then I got a call from Serendipity Point Films, saying CBC loved the show and we were going to make a first season. I was like, ‘Cool, I guess we’re going back to this.’ I wrote the pilot script for Four in the Morning, like, four or five years ago. I wrote that in grad school and it was great to sit down and dig back into that world.

It must have been interesting to go back and revisit those days, days when your mindset was in a very different place.
It was different. I think, certainly, having some space away from it gave me some perspective and informed the writing going forward. But I had a season mapped out in my mind a long time ago. I knew I was in good hands with the producers, who were on board with this odd little feature. Writing on The Last Ship is very navy intensive and requires a lot of reading and research; with Four in the Morning I get to just sit down and write what naturally comes out of me.

I’ve watched the first two episodes of the series and I really liked it. A friend of mine described it as Woody Allen-esque whereas I thought it presented very much like a play. Was that what you were going for?
It’s funny that you say that the first episode was like a play, because that was the goal of the pilot episode, to make it feel like a play. We started with 15 pages in the diner, and then a long walk and talk. Episode 2, to me at least, feels almost like our most standard episode, but we do have a long intro that is heavy on dialogue in the diner.

(l-r) Michelle Mylett, Mazin Elsadig, Daniel Maslany, Lola Tash

Were you in your 20s when you wrote the initial pilot?
I wrote this when I was in my mid-20s. In Episode 2, we talk about life and death, the existential crises that we all get into arguments about at that time of the morning. In Episode 1, we talk about jealousy and letting that fester until it comes out later on. Each episode is really about that rather than specific moments and things that happened to me over many, many long nights at four o’clock in the morning.

Let’s talk about the writing process. Did you do it all on your own and what were the challenges of bringing to life four very different voices?
Yes, I penned all the episodes on my own, but I also had Daniel Goldfarb—who is a playwright in New York City, worked on Rogue and is a dear friend of mine—who came in and we spent a week together. Once we got picked up, we were on this incredible timeline, so we spent a week together breaking the stories for the whole season. That was very, very helpful to me.

Delving into the characters … each one of them is based a little bit on me or friends I have. Putting it all together came out of moments and situations that we put them in.

What do you want viewers to come away with when they tune in to Four in the Morning?
Twenty-two minutes of entertainment. There’s nothing else that I’m going for here. Everything that needs to be said about people in the 20s has been said very well by a lot of TV shows. Creating something that is entertaining to people is the ultimate goal of this.

Four in the Morning airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on CBC.