[Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched “Rough and Tumble.”]
Well that was certainly a change of pace, wasn’t it? Whereas Murdoch Mysteries‘ Season 14 debut was more lighthearted, Monday’s latest was a truly rough and tumble affair. Written by Murdoch Mysteries and Frankie Drake Mysteries showrunner Peter Mitchell, Bobby Brackenreid was reunited with his family in the most stressful of ways: accused of murder. That meant Thomas had to walk a tightrope between being a copper and bringing Bobby in for questioning or keeping Bobby hidden while investigating the case himself.
By the episode’s end, Bobby had been cleared of the murder charge, but his future is uncertain. In our latest post-episode interview, we spoke to Peter Mitchell about the instalment.
Congratulations on Season 14 of Murdoch Mysteries and Season 4 of Frankie Drake Mysteries! How challenging was it to run both shows while addressing COVID-19 safety measures?
Peter Mitchell: Probably not as challenging as working in a grocery store. Shaftesbury, the production company, placed an extremely high value on crew safety. We also worked with people who were all following the same protocols and were very serious about making sure both themselves and the people they were working with, stayed safe. That said, Iâ€™m a bit of a water-bug on set, moving from prep in the office with writers, pre-production with staff, shooting with the crew, and post-production with sound, music, and film editors. Multiply that by two shows and that is eight separate pods. My freedom of movement was very restricted and sometimes that was a pain. That said, meetings and the like conducted over Zoom went much quicker as people were much more focused. I also have a wonderful Associate Producer, Elsbeth McCall, who could handle things when I could be two places at once.
How did you adapt both seriesâ€™ writing rooms so that scripts could continue?
PM: Less is hopefully more. We had fewer scenes per episode, fewer characters in the scenes, and fewer background performers. Physical distancing was often a bit of a problem and we had to carefully plan out stunts and degrees of closeness between performers. Fortunately, the directors and assistant directors on both shows were able to block and choreograph the background actors so, I think, this will not really be all that noticeable to the audience. Both shows did fewer ‘days on the road’ than we have in the past. In the writing rooms, we didnâ€™t spend as much physical time together as we have in the past and we often met in smaller groups than we have in the past. The demands of quarantine and distancing meant we had to show up focused and ready to work when we all got together (either virtually or in-person). It wasnâ€™t as much fun as it usually is.
Was there an added benefit to writing from home, or was it largely a pain?
PM: Once one got used to handling the tech, there was hardly a difference. Iâ€™ve spent most of my career writing everywhere, at home, in a crowded writing room, on-set and, very, very occasionally in a bar, so it was no different for me.
â€œRough and Tumbleâ€ marked the return of Bobby Brackenreid, who was accused of murder. Itâ€™s been a while since weâ€™ve seen Bobby. How did this storyline come together so that he would be the accused?
PM: Weâ€™d always joked about turning Bobby into a serial killer. And while he isnâ€™t that in the episode in question, we wanted to have a bit of a bang when he was reintroduced into the Brackenreid orbit. I think on some level seeing all the videos this summer of how demonstrations and the like could turn into random violence also tweaked the idea. And the release of Bob Dylanâ€™s album Rough and Rowdy Ways kind of lit the flame.
Itâ€™s always interesting to see the Brackenreid family interact, especially now that Nomi is in the picture. Will the results of the case, Bobby guilty of a lesser charge, affect the Brackenreidâ€™s again this season?
PM: Well, that would be giving away a bit too much now, wouldnâ€™t it? Safe to say, both the fates of Bobby and Nomi impact the Brackenreidâ€™s this year.
It was wonderful to see Goldie Huckabee return and impact on William and Julia the way she did. Has the decision to have William and Julia appear in more light-hearted scenes been a conscious decision, or has it happened organically?
PM: Jonelle Gunderson, who plays Goldie, has a delightful comic touch. It would have been a real shame not to utilize it. I have also been a fan of the â€œannoying neighbour trope.â€ The decision to have more light-hearted scenes with William and Julia came about because, well have you looked at the world out there, we felt we could use a little of it right now. Also, because it was difficult to film physical intimacy, we wanted to show that the two do love each other and if one way to do that was to see them laugh together more.
Who did you have in the Murdoch Mysteries writing room this season? Any new faces?
PM: Murdoch has most of the same group it has had for the last couple of years, Paul Aitken, Simon McNabb, and Noelle Girard but this year we added Christina Ray and Caleigh Bacchus both of whom were wonderful additions who wrote very strong scripts for us.
Who did you have in the Frankie Drake Mysteries writing room this season?
PM: The writing room at Frankie Drake was composed of Mary Pedersen (who I stole from Murdoch), Jennifer Kassabian (who was on the show last year) Keri Ferenz, and Robina Lord Stafford.
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.