Spoiler Alert! Do not read this interview until you have watched the Season 11 episode entitled “Biffers and Blockers.”
So many fans have told me how much they’ve enjoyed Season 11 of Murdoch Mysteries. I agree. The writer’s room has hit a grand slam with regard to storylines, taking our favourite characters in bold new directions while keeping the core intact. That’s difficult to do, and yet showrunner Peter Mitchell and his crew make it seem easy.
Monday’s newest instalment, “Biffers and Blockers,” was memorable for several reasons. At long last, Julia said the words William and Murdoch Mysteries fans have been waiting for: she is pregnant. Secondly, the series was able to bring a beloved character back from the dead (sort of) by introducing us to Dr. Rupert Newsome (Cyrus Lane), identical twin brother of the late Roger Newsome. And third, with Constable Crabtree off in Paris, Higgins stepped forward and got some major airtime not only with regard to the murder of a cricket player but his social life with Ruth Newsome as well.
We spoke to the episode’s writer, Dan Trotta, about everything that went down.
I was thrilled to see Cyrus Lane return to the show as Dr. Rupert Newsome. How did the idea to have Cyrus come back as a twin come about?
Dan Trotta: Everyone in the room loved the character and everyone loved working with the actor. I didn’t have a whole lot to do with that decision. The character of Roger was just so fun to write for. There were a couple of pictures of him in the writer’s room. I know Jordan Christianson was a big fan. So, the class system was a big part of the episode and it made sense to have him as part of it. And the trick then was how to distinguish the brothers, and that was a fun part of it.
Cyrus Lane brings a lot to the role and has really created something special.
That guy is a fantastic actor. It’s the first time that I’ve worked with him. Comedy, I find in my limited experience, can be tricky especially when you really try to bring the funny. First, it’s on the page in the script. But, there is a security and a confidence that he has in his ability that makes him hilarious. What I noticed in the read-through is that his timing is fantastic. And he does seem to give the other actors a lot of space. He has a ton of charisma but doesn’t take over a scene, although I totally think he could easily if he wanted to. I was really looking forward to those scenes and seeing how they’d pop with him in them.
The return of a Newsome wasn’t even the biggest news of the episode. That was reserved for Julia revealing she is pregnant. How did it feel to have your name on this script and include this huge moment?
I was totally surprised that I was allowed to do this. It was an honour and a real responsibility. And I felt a responsibility to get it right because I know just how important it is to people. We’re seeing these characters in a situation we’ve never seen them before, really. So there was kind of a freedom in that. The old rules didn’t really apply, in a way, but you also want to honour the truth of these characters. I was kind of floored and it wasn’t even a really huge discussion. It was just kind of like, ‘Dan, this [episode] is yours.’ The way it all unfolded was certainly something we talked about but I’ve been consistently flattered by how much trust that Pete and the room have had in me.
A pivotal moment like this is usually saved for a season finale. Any comment? We’re only on Episode 11, so something big must happen in the season finale.
Now, just because she’s pregnant doesn’t mean she’ll carry the baby to term, right?
I suppose that’s a possibility, Greg.
You mentioned that class is a big part of this storyline. We got to see Higgins outside of the office, with Ruth, and you fleshed out more of that character. It must have been fun to do that with Lachlan Murdoch.
Honestly, he is such a blast to write for. To me, he is one of the funniest characters on the show and I thought that before I even started. And I thought it was hilarious to have this clash that he was going through. He slipped into that world so naturally. There is an element of British humour to it and an obliviousness to this character that I have always found fall-over funny. That, to me, was really what was so fun about it. Writing for clueless characters is just a blast. It’s the best.
It was neat to see him clearly besotted with Ruth and, at this point anyway, keep the worlds apart and not speak down to the lads in Station House No. 4.
So far, yes. [Laughs.] I think that’s in its infancy.
Did you know anything about cricket before writing this episode?
Dude, nothing. Nothing at all. That was a tricky part. The thing that lends itself to cricket is the clash and class distinction. I was writing and I would leave something like a strikeout blank and then go back and research the actual word. Instead of batter it’s batsmen. [Laughs.] It was a bit of a process. And, to be quite honest, I’m still not sure I know exactly how it works. I read your preview and I had the same questions you did. I still not sure what a match can last more than a day. I still don’t get that.
Where were the cricket scenes filmed?
Oh man, that was Shanty Bay. It was stunning. [Attention history buffs: the cricket scenes were, according to this website, the summer estate of Titanic survivor Lt. Col. Arthur Peuchen.] We got these two perfectly clear, gorgeous days to film. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of real estate I’ve ever seen.
What did you think of the episode? Are you happy for Julia? Let me know in the comments below!
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.