[Spoiler alert: Do not continue reading until you have watched “The .38 Murdoch Special.]
Named on of Playback magazine’s 10 to Watch in 2020, Caleigh Bacchus is a new member to the Murdoch Mysteries‘ writer’s room. She, along with Simon McNabb, penned Monday’s instalment, which investigated murder, racism and more.
We spoke to Caleigh Bacchus via email about the key storylines and what fans can expect as Season 14 closes out.
Welcome to the Murdoch Mysteries team! You’re a former track and field athlete. How did you end up working in Canadian television?
Caleigh Bacchus: I’d always been interested in storytelling, but it took me a while to figure out the best medium to do so. It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto that I saw film crews all around the city and I considered screenwriting. So I decided to go back to school for film and it was the best decision that I ever made.
And how did you end up in the Murdoch Mysteries writing room?
CB: I interviewed for MM in 2019, but I didn’t get the job that year. They remembered me the next year (2020) and offered me the script coordinator position.
You previously worked on Diggstown with Floyd Kane. What did you learn from him – about storytelling, the craft of TV or anything else – while working with him?
CB: Diggstown was a great experience and it was where I first learned how to break story and really break down a script. After that I was able to go back and apply what I’d learned to my own work. I also learned from Floyd that it’s important to have some ownership over your projects. To take the risk and invest in your work so that you truly have a stake in it.
How did the idea for the main storyline come about, regarding the opium den? Was it discussed in the room first and then fleshed out? What was the inspiration for it?
CB: We started breaking this story during the summer of 2020 while the BLM protests were happening worldwide and we thought that it was important to join in on that conversation of racial injustice. Upon researching the topic, we discovered the Vancouver anti-Asian race rots of 1907 and the Opium Act of 1908 which was also seen as an anti-Asian law. It was a great opportunity to highlight this bit of history so we decided to focus the story there.
It was interesting to get a little history on opium via Brackenreid, Murdoch and Watts. What was it like researching it?
CB: I didn’t personally know all of the history around the opium laws and anti-Asian sentiments in Canada so the research was both informative and heartbreaking.
What about the history of mayonnaise? I didn’t expect that little tidbit.
CB: While mayonnaise had been around since the 1700s, it wasn’t jarred and sold until 1907. So we thought it would be fun if Murdoch and Ogden tried it for the first time on the show.
How did the writing process work between yourself and Simon McNabb? Did you write first, and then pass it to him?
CB: Writing with Simon was a very smooth process. We would split the writing work 50/50 then put our halves together and then we would each do a round of edits to the entire document.
What was the idea behind not showing Miss Hart’s wedding? Was it just due to the shortened episode order?
CB: We thought it would be in character for Miss Hart to have her wedding without inviting any of her colleagues.
The addition of composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor as a historical reference was neat.
CB: Yes. A wonderful black historical figure.
Watts going to Ogden, seeking hypnosis as a “cure” was so heartbreaking. What has it been like to follow Watts’ journey this season?
CB: It’s been quite an emotional journey watching Watts’ plight. It’s good to see how far we’ve come as a society but also a reminder that there is work still to be done because, unfortunately, we can still draw too many similarities from Watts’ story and apply them to the issues facing the LGBTQIA today.
Racism has always been a part of Murdoch Mysteries’ storylines, in particular against the Black community. What has it been like telling Black stories like Momo and Nomi’s on Murdoch this season?
CB: I was really glad to be a part of telling this story and portraying some of the issues that the Black community faced and still face to this day through the characters of the world.
I feel like Brackenreid has put himself in danger with his revealing Nomi is his daughter. Should I be concerned?
CB: You’ll have to wait and see :)
There are just two episodes of Murdoch Mysteries left this season. What can you say about them without giving any secrets away?
CB: They’re a whirlwind. Prepare yourself for a lot of jeopardy and some heart wrenching twists.
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.