Murdoch Mysteries: Charles Vandervaart discusses the Season 12 finale

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched the Murdoch Mysteries Season 12 finale, “Darkness Before Dawn, Part 2.”

Wow, what a season finale! After worrying John Brackenreid would never walk again, his second surgery was a success and, it appears, Margaret and Thomas Brackenreid’s marriage may be on the mend. But there are still a few niggling questions left remaining. William knows Miss Hart planted evidence in the murder case and in doing that scored the coroner’s job. Meanwhile, Dr. Dixon has made it VERY clear he’s interested in Julia. Here’s hoping we get answers when Murdoch Mysteries is renewed for Season 13.

To close out my season-long Murdoch Mysteries interviews, I spoke to Charles Vandervaart, who has been playing John Brackenreid for a handful of seasons now, about how he got on the show in the first place and the evolution of John over the years.

Let’s get your origin story. How did you end up on Murdoch Mysteries in the first place? Did you go through the traditional means, an audition? 
Charles Vandervaart: Yeah, I auditioned. I actually originally auditioned for the role of Bobby Brackenreid, funny enough, way back when. I did the scene where he’s playing in the sandbox and he gets abducted. But that didn’t work out. So about two years later, I auditioned for the role of John. You know, I didn’t think it would last this long, this many seasons. But I’ve been very fortunate that they keep writing me in and developing my character. I’m a happy camper.

You have literally grown up onscreen, on Murdoch Mysteries. That must be a little bit mind-blowing to think about.
CV: Yeah. It’s hilarious. And I love watching reruns. It’s like watching old home movies. I’ve been really lucky. This and The Stanley Dynamic was the other show that I was on when I was younger … both of these shows have really helped me get comfortable in front of the camera. I’m definitely a believer that the best of kind of acting lesson is just being on set and being with all these other actors and getting directions from all these directors. I’ve been so fortunate to get all of these acting lessons and to help improve my craft over the years. So it’s been such a blessing at the end of the show.

What made you decide to get into acting in the first place? Is it something you always wanted to do? 
CV: The thing that I said when I was a little kid was, I wanted to be a theoretical astrophysicist in the area of nanotechnology because it was just the longest thing I could think of. I didn’t actually know what it meant at the time. I was just like, ‘This will impress the old people.’ I grew up in a small town about an hour and a half away from Toronto and I went to go see a play there. I was so immersed in it and I thought it was such a magical experience. And I asked my parents if I could try it out and act at the local theatre.

My first role ever as an actor was Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol. It just kind of grew from there. I did a couple of plays here in Toronto, and then I got an agent and auditioned. And I couldn’t have done anything without my mom because we live so far away from Toronto. She drove me back and forth to auditions together. She’s just as much a part of it as I am. But I think, maybe at 14, I actually started really committing to it and saying, ‘This is what I love. This is my passion. I want to do this for the rest of my life.’

You mentioned about learning your craft over the years. What have you learned? 
CV: What’s really helped me at being on sets all the time is just getting myself out there. It can be quite a nerve-wracking thing, being in front of a camera and being in front of a camera crew. So, I’m still working on getting those nerves down. But I think it’s also a good thing to have nerves because it means that you care about what you’re doing, you love what you’re doing. I also think that a lot of the times I obsess about the craft. When you’re doing a season, you could be three, four, five months working all day, every day. And then on the weekends you’re obsessed with what you’re doing and you’re constantly memorizing the lines and things like that. And then the season ends and you have a lull because you’re waiting for the next season and you’re waiting for your next project. I’ve had some great talks with some fellow actors about this. It’s really important to keep living your life and to not obsess about what the next thing is. And actors, their whole profession is based on drawing from your experiences. And you do have those lulls. You’ve got to go out with your friends and you’ve got to read some books and go out and watch some movies. So I’m getting better at just kind of putting it aside and using my onset experience and then also my offset experience to draw from.

We’ve really seen this character of John Brackenreid grow up, especially in Season 12. Here’s a guy who is coming into his own as a constable. And now he goes through this season, before even getting shot, his parents divorcing. 
CV: John has always been kind of this character, I think, that’s been on the brink of adulthood. He’s almost there. And this season especially because, before we’ve always seen John as this quintessentially innocent character. And then, all of a sudden, he has all this baggage. His parents and he may not walk again, he’s been sleeping around. It’s a John that we’ve never seen before. It’s great because everyone makes mistakes and has crazy days when they’re just growing up and they’re on the brink of adulthood. And John is really going through some stuff right now. And it’s been a pleasure to play that because I love all the crazy, messy things as an actor.

What was your reaction to the fact that John was going to be shot and maybe not walk again? Did Peter Mitchell pull you aside and say, ‘It’s OK, by the end of the episode you’re going to walk? Did they make you wait? How did that work?’
CV: Apparently, for quite a while, the writer’s room knew that I was going to get shot. And, a few of the crew knew that I was going to get shot. One day I made a joke about me getting shot. And everyone was just kind of like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s funny.’ Even though all of them knew that that was actually going to happen in the season finale. So I think that was a pretty predetermined thing. But, yeah, Peter took me aside and he said, ‘This is what’s going to happen. You’re going to be fine, though, don’t worry about it.’ But I think he knew for a few seasons that he was going to do this.

It must be some of the easiest acting you’ve had to do. You got to lie down. You didn’t have to wear the uniform or anything.
CV: Yeah. For two episodes I had to sit down and lie down. [Laughs.]

A big part of John’s life this season has been the effect of seeing this family break up. How have you felt about seeing your onscreen parents split?
CV: I think it was a great little storyline from the writing perspective and from the perspective of the show. Because they’re both two characters that are very feisty and they’re very opinionated and I really hope that they pull this together. I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next season. As a watcher of the show, I’m really hoping that they just come out of this stronger than ever and as a couple, together. It was crazy and it kind of felt a little bit out of body because you have these two fake parents, these two parents that I’ve had for six years. And then they’re going through this divorce and sometimes you catch yourself, you’re like, ‘Oh, this isn’t real.’ I’m really eager to see what happens in the next season.

What have you thought of Season 12 of Murdoch Mysteries? What would you like to see happen in Season 13? Let me know in the comments below!

You can stream past episodes of Murdoch Mysteries on CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC.


48 thoughts on “Murdoch Mysteries: Charles Vandervaart discusses the Season 12 finale”

  1. Season 12 was absolutely brilliant. I’ve watched and loved this show for years, and even I was blown away by how good this season was. I’m really looking forward to season 13. I hope that this interview (and the lack of any mention about Charles’s role being shrunk in season 13) means that John’s still going to be sticking around for a while. Charles Vandervaart is excellent at what he does.

    I really hope Watts gets a love interest next season. I’m a sap, and I really want my favourite fictional character to end up with someone who makes him happy.

  2. S12 was fantastic. After 12 seasons it’s incredible that they still manage to blow the fans away with great, original stories. My favourite episodes have always been the off-the-wall episodes; episodes like “Sir, sir, sir!” Or the ones with a steampunk twist.

    I would love to see them do a mystery with a Columbo twist – one where we know who the killer is up front, but the adventure is watching Murdoch catch them. I think it would be an interesting twist.

    1. What a fabulous idea! Have you ever noticed how many foreign detective shows mention Columbo? It’s fascinating…

  3. Murdoch mysteries always leaves you wanting more. I hope Charles Vs character is drawn back to policing and remains on the show. He is an excellent Canadian talent. Keep up the great work and thanks.

  4. Season finally was great because it really went in to a lot of different details. Relieved Julia is still a surgeon and Miss Hart got a stern warning from Murdoch.
    Season 13? I would like to see William become Inspector and George become detective. I would like to see some of George’s past too. And more episodes dealing with the individual members of the team.


  5. I am watching this on Acorn TV. I am missing season 12 but I have seasons 13-15. Why am I missing season 12?

    1. There may be a difference in the numbering of the seasons between where you are and Canada. In Canada, only Seasons 1-12 have been filmed. S13 has not been announced yet. S12 just finished on Television last night.

    2. Acorn is counting the Christmas shows and behind-the-scenes interviews as separate seasons. Their Season 15 is the current season of the show. They also have a season 16 listed (at least on my subscription), which is cast interviews from the most recent season. It confused me too at first!

  6. Loved Season 12 as well as the whole series. Do hope that it continues for many years to come. Just wish that they would make more per season.

  7. Am I the only one who feels that season 12 has taken a dive? Several episodes don’t know if they want to be a goofy comedy or some silly science fiction. Very disappointing to a show that has been superior..

    1. Sorry that you have this kind of feedback…
      I never felt like that. Besides, if you watched through the whole season even with this weird feeling, there was something making you watch more, right? “Dive” or no “dive”…
      One can never get a complete satisfactory season for EVERY single fan.
      One should never stick to the same pattern without any development/changes. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” – hence the funny parts. If anyone prefers dry documentaries – by all means, those are abundant, watch & enjoy)) Murdoch Mysteries as a show was meant for fun + some elements of education. For me it keeps the top level also due to the experiments with the plot.

      This season was different, cause the writers played a bit. While the Halloween special left folks kind of scared and insecure (which it was supposed to do), the rest of the chapters made fans here rewatch them several times.
      For example, we learnt more about Llewellyn Watts – and that episode was GREAT (Kudos to Daniel Maslany!). The chance to peek into William’s childhood was also fit for the season canvas. Julia’s attempts to change her career, her insecurities and the way #Jilliam were “mending” plus the Brackenreids braving the rough seas made the episodes both tense and gripping. John went through the teenager-to-adult stage in a very realistic way.
      The villains – especially those who weren’t caught – were, IMO, quite colourful this season. Most of the episodes had us quessing who was the criminal right to the end (and failing to guess!).
      The moral dylemmas, the inner conflicts were written in a psychologically correct way, the acting was superb (as usual).
      The Murdoch Mysteries team works like a single unit and it shows in the smooth flow of the chapters. Mr Mitchell is still a sarcastic tease :)
      Hope we get not only #Season 13, but many, many more seasons to come. The potential of the show is still huge. It recently became popular in Europe with fans desperate to watch it somehow & repeating, “Why don’t we have a similar project here, look how COOL it is!”.

    2. No you’re not. I feel the same way. I keep going over the previous seasons in my mind and 12 does not stand out as a great season for me. Perhaps because of the detours or asides into some characters. I am not a fan of Watts, so I am not interested in his personal history and yet a few episodes spotlighted that. I am a fan of Brackenreid but not to the point of delving into a past indiscretion of his. I love Crabtree, but the episode about Annabella was pretty boring (to me). There were some really good episodes. The spy one, the Halloween one, although some people did not like it, but there were not that many great episodes. I am still concerned about the role of Julia. She was at her best when she worked in the morgue and especially when she worked as a team with Murdoch. In 12, they were pretty much doing their own things most of the episodes, not very dynamic. They did not even discuss cases. So not an outstanding season overall. A season 13? Well the ending of season 12 pretty much calls for a 13th because there seems to be some unfinished business.

  8. Season 12 is great, just like 11 previous ones! This season has pleased the audience with a variety of plots, expansion of the subject of episodes and an increase in the number of interesting characters. The season finale is generally terrific without the heavy dramatic upheavals of the heroes of the show, but there are questions to investigate next season (we hope so much!). It is very good that there were no problems in the relationship of a beautiful couple of William and Julia. But in some episodes of season 12, their roles were not prioritized. Of course, this made it possible to reveal other characters, but I believe that further detective Murdoch and Dr. Ogden should be in the center of the plot! It was the charisma and talent of Yannick Bisson and Helen Joy that ensured the super popularity of the show.
    I hope that season 13 will take place and there are many wishes. I’d love to see a Christmas or New Year special episode. It is a pity that in the 12th season there was no such episode. Perhaps Dr. Ogden will again become the coroner instead of Miss Hart. Maybe William and Julia will expand the geographical scope of the show and conduct an investigation in another country. It will be very interesting to meet again with James Pendrick and his new ideas, Terence Myers and even with Detective Fellows. Hopefully George will meet his love, maybe Dr. Grace will come back to the show again. Finally, a lot of fans of the show want to see the baby Julia and William, this couple deserves to be happy. In general, the romantic storyline is very important in this show.
    Murdoch Mysteries is a unique show, really the best crime drama, not only in Canada but also outside. Thanks to everyone who creates it!
    Sorry for bad english.

  9. Agree that the final episode for Murdoch Mysteries Darkness before Dawn Part Two March 4th Season 12 was ever slow and ploding episode, no story lines, no lose ends no historical locations, no costume,no design, no budget filmed only on a soundstage,

    Don’t believe there will be a season13 ? Do you ?

      1. That previous comment makes me wonder if Mr Ashby really watched the episode(s)… :)

        No loose ends? Sorry, what? What about Ms Hart becoming William’s suspect, the doc falling for Julia and the hotel detective escaping (but swearing to get his rewenge)?
        No plot lines? OMG, the events happening to every character are what actually constitutes the plot lines.
        Won’t bother to comment on the rest of the complaints, with all due respect, Mr Ashby’s comment is all weird.

        We here are eagerly waiting for Season 13. The show like “Murdoch Mysteries” deserves to be renewed.

  10. Please, please, let there be a Season 13. We can’t lose the best Canadian drama series. Monday evenings would never be the same without Murdoch Mysteries. It would be great too, if the writers made a bit more of the life with William & Julia. I miss the old “romance” and their “cheekiness” with each other. Looking forward to a new Season 13.

  11. Absolutely agree with SJ Hutchins. I would really like more warm relations with William and Julia next season! I believe that season 13 will take place!

  12. Wierd that the episode with more location days than any other this season looked like it was filmed on a soundstage- musta picked good locations and if there were no plot lines WTF was I juggling?

  13. have been a faithful fan right from the beginning. love the fact that Murdoch hinted to Ms. Hart that he knows something isn’t right with evidence she conveniently found. Also I would like to see William become Inspector and George become detective. would like to see some of George’s past as well. Also more episodes dealing with the individual members of the team. thank you for this show these characters have become like family in our house.

  14. I can’t believe the season is over already still waiting for more, can’t wait for the new season. This is the best show by far on television period.

  15. If there is a season 13, it would be great if one of the episodes includes David Kingsley/Sherlock Holmes.

  16. My family and I have enjoyed this series for years. It’s clever how the writers weave (past) real-life characters into the shows. In the next season, we’d like to see William and Julia realize their dream of having a child .. because of Julia’s inability to conceive, it could be through adoption. There could be a young woman who was widowed when her husband died in a farming accident. Tragedy strikes, she contracts a rare disease and dies suddenly. Unbeknownst to Julia and William, the mother had named them as guardians of her infant child, because she had no living relatives and she knew that Julia and William would make good parents for her child.
    And how about a permanent love interest for George? He’s had enough heartache and is looking for love. Thanks for a great show!

  17. Why do William and Julia have to adopt a baby? What if something happened to William’s brother, Jasper, and his wife, leaving their two daughters orphaned? There couldn’t be better adoptive parents than William and Julia. The girls certainly share Julia’s medical interest, and she was great with them in Home for the Holidays . Plus William and Julia have that new house. Julia would be such a strong role model, and William might just find the girls as scientifically minded as he is.

  18. I hope that next season Julia and William will have their own child! They love each other very much and their love is the most pleasant plot line of the show.

  19. I hope that the writers come up with another Halloween episode for season 13–perhaps a scavenger hunt that becomes murderous or paranormal.

  20. Not sure how this show can get any better, but it does, season after season. I see a maturity in it, not as many dark episodes, yet they all have extreme depth. I thought the goony Halloween episode was great….love how they throw the comedy in. I really hope this show lives on forever….I NEVER tire of the characters…..we know the characters so well…at least we think we do….and then you throw us some curve balls as a reminder to never take anything for granted. I say BRAVO, and can’t wait for news of Season 13 !!!!!!

  21. Great season not the best but engaging. Love the medical history as a health professional it’s fascinating. Definitely time for the Murdochs to welcome a child by hook or crook lol. And hope John B. hasn’t been written out of the show could use his new career as a setting for more theatrical murders!! Keep producing this program!!!

  22. Addicted to Murdoch Mysteries. We have enjoyed each season, but some more than others. Hated to see Dr. Grace depart in such a way never to return. Season 11 was least enjoyable, but a very good rebound with season 12. I certainly hope there is a season 13. I would like to see the final season being one of closure so as to bid these wonderful characters farewell. I too would like to see John remain a presence in the series. There can be no show without George, he is a delight and is as important as Murdoch for success of show. We live in USA and subscribe to Acorn TV and do so just to watch Murdoch Mysteries. I would like to see Julia return to the morgue, to join Murdoch in crime solving. She and Miss James were a good combination.

  23. I came across a website that has a history of the Toronto police from 1870-1920, which I find interesting because much of what is discussed has turned up in Murdoch episodes. One thing the site points out is that police stations at that time were built with space to house the homeless, and that the police were basically the only agency to deal with this issue. If this is true, perhaps homelessness could be the focus of an episode in season 13.

    1. A cool fact. Good suggestion as to a topic for next season. What is the website which you found this history of the Toronto police. Please reply with link to this website. I will checkit out as it appears to be an interesting one. Regards

    2. This was already done in season 10 the great fire the station housed homeless families for a time

      1. But homelessness was an ongoing problem and not just because of the great fire. The poverty depicted in Maureen Jennings’ novels hasn’t really been carried over to the television series. I understand that viewers wouldn’t want to watch this every week. I love the series, but I feel that it could have more realism. What year is Murdoch set in now–1905 or 1906? Slum-related problems would concern the police in coming years. This is an interesting blog by Chris Bateman that has photos from the Toronto Archives: Perhaps Dr. Charles Hastings could be introduced in a forthcoming episode.

  24. How about an episode in season 13 that features Bloomer Girls–a visiting women’s baseball team?

  25. I would like to see a number of additional seasons as well, of course … and a permanent love interest as well for George .. then you can start working on Watts!! LOL Enjoyed Season #13 except for the one re aliens taking over! Loved having episodes featuring different characters. With respect to Doctor Dixon’s evident interest in Julia, I hope this story line is not one that leads to some issue between Julia and William, but one that leads to an examination of the sexual harassment that women face in their careers, just as they do today. It would be a timely story line. I see that Buffy St. Marie is coming to Toronto soon. It would be wonderful to have her featured in an episode in relation to exploring indigenous issues, e.g. what happened with children taken from their families … it would be quite moving. How about Kiefer Sutherland as a guest or he and his father Donald! Also, I would like to see more development of George’s background; he is the only main character that was not featured on one of the episodes! I hope these comments are shared with MM’s writers!

  26. We’ve seen where the Murdochs, the Brackenreids, and George live, but not where Henry and Ruth are now living since she’s lost her fortune. It would be fun to see a reversal in their financial situation, perhaps related to monies earned from the publication of Adventures of a Young Woman Abroad–a book she doesn’t want Henry to know about.

    1. Excellent idea! After all based on the Christmas special the Newsomes are a resourceful lot and a little unscrupulous!!

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