Cardinal: New showrunner Patrick Tarr previews Season 3 of CTV’s miniseries

For Season 3 of Cardinal, Patrick Tarr had a, perhaps, unenviable task ahead of him. After Aubrey Nealon created the world of John Cardinal for TV from that made by author Giles Blunt, Sarah Dodd followed up with the second season. Now Tarr unveils his interpretation of the source material—and Algonquin Bay—in Cardinal.

Returning Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on CTV, Tarr has done a magnificent job of furthering Blunt’s vision while picking up the ball from Nealon and Dodd and running with it. Combining the novels By the Time You Read This and Crime Machine, viewers rejoin John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) and Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse) moments after the Season 2 finale, when Cardinal arrived at the scene of a suicide to discover it was his wife, Catherine (Deborah Hay), who was dead. Reeling from her death, Cardinal nonetheless plunges back into work when a double murder occurs, shattering the quiet of Algonquin Bay in autumn.

We spoke to Tarr, who most recently served as a writer and executive producer on Saving Hope, during a set visit to Cardinal in North Bay, Ont., last year.

How did you come on board? Did the fact that you’re already in the Bell Media family and your relationship with them via Saving Hope have anything to do with it? 
Patrick Tarr: I think that helps a lot, yeah, that they knew my work from three seasons of Saving Hope. I’m someone who hasn’t done this job before. I think they were looking for some fresh eyes. Sarah [Dodd] was in the same situation, someone who worked on Motive and is about at the level where she would do this.

So, I think they were looking at both of us, and then there was the realization, well rather than have one person do two seasons, we could two different people do a season. I think it gives it its own real flavour. Because they are technically miniseries, they have different writing styles, where each marry to the season that we’re in. So Cycle 1 is very much about the winter, and that frosty inhospitable landscape. Two is about summer, and about the bugs, and it’s beautiful, but there’s decay and there’s things behind it. And then fall, I have. It’s really woven into what the season’s about and the theme of the season.

I was finishing up Saving Hope. Sarah and I got together before we started down this road, and we had both read all of the books, and just talked about what her season was going to be, and what my season was going to be. So from very early on, we were collaborating on what these two seasons would be and she read everything of mine, and I read everything of hers. I was thrilled that they thought of me, and took a chance on me. This is great.

Did you look at Season 1, and what director Podz and Aubrey had done, and then say, ‘I want to keep the flavour of what they did?’ Or do you try and make it your own, within the confines of the books?
PT: Both. I mean, I’ve watched those Season 1 episodes probably five or six times each. And sometimes when I’m writing, I like to have just images in the … so I’ll just put it on with the volume down and you see these people in this town … it inspires a little bit. But at the same time, I’m adapting different material, and it takes place at a different time. Who your villains are really define the flavour of your season so much too. So there’s a big element of that. It’s taking I think, largely just the great character work, and the great relationship between Cardinal and Delorme. I think that’s the spine really. And to a certain extent, the character of the town, and Dyson, and all of these people that you keep. But then you bring in all of these other elements, and it’s like chemistry. Well, how does it react with that?

One of the things that’s been really interesting about the first season, and going back to the books again, is that so much of the story is in Cardinal’s head.
PT: You let the images tell the story.

Has that been a bit of a change for you? Saving Hope, where there’s so much dialogue.
PT: It’s night and day. It’s a wonderful change. You’re about to write a line and then you’re like, ‘No, I don’t need that line. I don’t need that line either.’ It’s a show where it’s like the writing is the tip of the iceberg, and there’s so much underneath in both of those actors. And in the way that the stylistic template for the show that [director] Daniel [Grou] set up, that you can feel things, and you don’t need to spell them out. Because Saving Hope is more of a soap, and so people talk, and they say what they’re thinking, and that’s a really fun way. There’s a lot of humour in that show. It’s a fun one to write. But it’s about doing the opposite thing. It’s about less, less, less, less, all the time less.

Who did you have in the writer’s room beside yourself?
PT: Noelle Carbone from Saving Hope. A writer named Shannon Masters, who is an old, old friend of mine from the Canadian Film Centre who wrote was on Mohawk Girls, and she wrote a movie called Empire of Dirt. And Aaron Bala, who also came over from Saving Hope. We wrote an episode of that together. And then Matt Doyle is helping me with some of the revisions.

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

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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