All posts by Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and owner of TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.

Hudson & Rex’s Sherri Davis fetches some info on the show’s canine co-star

Diesel vom Burgimwald is No. 1 on the Hudson & Rex call sheet. That’s because he’s in almost every scene being filmed. And, unlike his human co-stars, Diesel—who is one of three German Shepherds who portray Rex on Citytv’s canine-and-cops drama—has someone helping train him.

Meet Sherri Davis, who has trained and supplied a menagerie of animals to the film and television industry for 25 years. We spoke to Davis about Diesel vom Burgimwald, and the work that goes into prepping him—and his nephews—for primetime TV.

Give me a little bit of background Sherri. How did you get involved in Hudson and Rex in the first place?
Sherri Davis: I’ve been in film for over 25 years and about seven years ago they came to me with the script for Hudson & Rex. They thought it might take off and it didn’t come to head. So, seven years later I got a call and they’re like, ‘You still got your shepherds?’ I was like, ‘Yep.’

They came out and we looked at the shepherds. My shepherds at the time were very black. I had just gotten Diesel a week prior to them coming out. He knew absolutely nothing. One of my staff brought Diesel up because I was going to start training him. Originally on the show, it was a very different looking shepherd.

I’ve heard that there’s more than one shepherd being used during production.
SD: Yes, there’s Diesel and Izzy and Iko. Izzy and Iko are Diesel’s nephews. This bloodline is a bloodline from Germany. The dogs are extremely consistent in looks. In fact, these go back 15 generations to the original Rex, which was a pure fluke. I did not know that. The breeder figured that one out.

What kind of a journey has it been from taking Diesel from not being trained to being trained? Is that a month journey? Is it a year journey? Is it still going on?
SD: It’s still going on. We were training every day for 10 hours a day. Even to this day, I’m teaching him to sneeze. So he’s learning new things every day and it’s been over a year now.

When you’re teaching Diesel how to sneeze, is that so that you’ve got something that you can say to showrunner Derek Schreyer? Or are you doing it because it’s in an upcoming script? 
SD: It’s in a script and I’m like, ‘You want him to sneeze? Are you kidding me?’ I get the script and I break them down and then we work five days a week on set and they’re usually 12 to 14 hour days that we’re on set for. And then, on the weekends, we do about eight hours of prep for the upcoming script.

This is the first time the writers have written for a dog. Nobody really knew how far we could push Diesel. We’ve really worked on his training, so now it’s jumping out of the car windows and it’s traversing along a two by four and climbing a ladder.  In any of the shows in the past, the dog has not been your key cast.

When did you find out that you had a relationship with animals?
SD:  My grandparents, my great-grandparents, they always had animals and we’d go out to the farm and everybody would be in the house and I will be out with the dogs or the horses or the cows. I got my first dog when I was five and I’ve had dogs ever since. I work with dogs, cats, rats, mice, rabbits, skunks, raccoons horses, sheep. Maybe I’m part animal.

It just comes very natural and, and somewhat easy for me to relate to the animals and, and train them. And you know, I think it’s a respect thing. You respect me and I respect you.

Hudson & Rex airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Image courtesy of Rogers Media.

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Preview: Frankie Drake Mysteries, “Things Better Left Dead”

On this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for many things. Among them the CBC for providing new episodes of their Monday night mysteries. Frankie Drake Mysteries features one of the most shocking first few minutes I’ve seen on the show, so be warned.

Here’s the official storyline for “Things Better Left Dead,” written by Cal Coons and directed by Ruba Nadda.

The apparent death of one of Frankie’s crew is part of an elaborate ruse to nab a phony medium preying on the grieving.

And, as always, some information from me after watching a screener.

It’s getting hot in here
When we meet up with Frankie, she’s canoodling with a man named Kardec. Where does Moses stand with our favourite private investigator? What happens next shakes Frankie to her core.

Noam Jenkins guest stars
The Rookie Blue alum portrays the mysteries Kardec, who bridges the gab between the living and the dead. Also? Mrs. Clarke pops in for a memorable appearance.

Things get spooky
I’m used to Murdoch Mysteries—Frankie’s fellow Monday night drama—treading into supernatural territory, but this is a first for Frankie Drake Mysteries as far as I know. And it’s wonderful, a nice mix of humour and hair-raising.

Frankie Drake Mysteries airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Preview: Murdoch Mysteries, “Prodigal Father,” features Colm Feore

It’s hard to believe that Colm Feore hasn’t appeared on Murdoch Mysteries before. According to the veteran actor of both stage and screen, he’d been ready and willing. Check out Melissa Hank’s great story on how Feore ended up on Murdoch Mysteries, as well as some additional story information.

Here’s what the CBC says about Monday’s episode, “Prodigal Father,” written by Simon McNabb and directed by Yannick Bisson.

A death at an investment event leads Crabtree to the father he never knew.

And here are more tidbits from me after watching the episode.

Colm Feore is fantastic
After wondering what George’s father looked like and what kind of man he was for 13 seasons, we finally find out. He’s dashing, well-spoken, charming and loves a good scotch. He’s also a big thinker, something his son has obviously inherited—and has big plans for Toronto. And how George finds out who his father is, well, it’s classic Simon McNabb fun. As for Feore, the actor? He commands every scene he is in.

Crabtree is puzzled
But is George ready for a relationship with his dad? He seeks Murdoch’s advice, but William has had his own complicated relationship with his father. Of course, Higgins has opinions on what George should do too.

Guest stars galore
In addition to Mr. Feore are appearances by Nabeel El Khafif (Ransom, Private Eyes) and Janine Theriault (Bellevue) in great little roles.

Murdoch’s crime scene mental walkthrough … with a twist
I won’t spoil it; I will say I laughed out loud.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Sinking Ship Entertainment in production on Season 2 of Endlings

From a media release:

Sinking Ship Entertainment announced today that it has launched production on season two of the highly anticipated sci-fi adventure series Endlings.  Season two will consist of 12 all-new episodes, with creator J.J. Johnson returning as director, writer and executive producer, alongside writer and executive producer Christin Simms.

The second season of the action-packed, intergalactic show for families is currently filming on location in Guelph, Ontario.  Set to return are stars Cale Thomas Ferrin, Edison Grant, Kamaia Fairburn, Michela Luci, Lisa Ryder, Neil Crone and Oyin Oladejo.

In Endlings season two, Johnny (Edison Grant), Julia (Kamaia Fairburn), Tabby (Michela Luci) and Finn (Cale Thomas Ferrin) face the fact that while their past cannot be changed, their future is still within their grasp. They learn to face their fears, and together they fight to change the future. It’s a fight that if they win, will save their lives and the planet as well.

About Endlings Season One
Set 20 years in the future, Endlings is the empowering story of four kids in foster care who discover they’re not alone in the universe, even though sometimes it can feel like they are.

Halfway across the world, following the death of her mate, Tuko becomes the last elephant in existence – what biologists call an Endling. Her endling status summons to Earth a mysterious Alien who is on an intergalactic quest to save the last member of near-extinct species. After Tuko is collected, the Alien’s ship malfunctions and sends it on a crash course with the farm where Julia (Kamaia Fairburn), Johnny (Edison Grant), Tabby (Michela Luci) and Finn (Cale Thomas Ferrin) live with their foster dad, Mr. Leopold (Neil Crone). Before crashing, the Alien releases all of its cosmic collection into the fields and wilderness surrounding the property. This kicks off a high-action life-altering mission to retrieve these fantastical creatures before the local police, Tuko’s caretaker (Oyin Oladejo) or a secretive industrialist (Lisa Ryder) can. Along the way, four discarded kids discover that “endling” doesn’t have to mean the end. It can also mean a new beginning.

The first season of Endlings will launch with nine international broadcast partners including Hulu and Universal Kids in the US, CBC and SRC in Canada, CBBC in the UK, NDR in Germany, ABC in Australia, SVT in Sweden, NRK in Norway, and Gloob in Brazil. The first season of 12 X 22’ will be available for international broadcasters in 2020.

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Anne with an E’s Helen Johns explains Eliza Barry’s world

It would be easy to dismiss Eliza Barry as a stodgy mother who is holding her daughters back—Diana in particular—from their true potential. But actress Helen Johns, who portrays Eliza every Sunday on CBC’s Anne with an E, made me see the light. Eliza is the product of another generation, one of acting just so. She’s caught in two worlds, and is just trying to do her best.

We spoke to Johns about Eliza, and more, ahead of Sunday’s new episode of Anne with an E.

Did you audition for the role?
Helen Johns: I did. I was living in London at the time. I lived and worked in Canada for many years, but I was living in London at the time that the casting breakdown came out. I have a fantastic agent in Toronto and she sent me the details. I did what they call a self-tape in my spare bedroom. It was about 90 seconds long or something. It was very short and I thought, ‘I don’t know.’ It was a scene in which Mrs. Barry, my character, is trying to have a conversation with her husband and her daughter, Minnie May, is misbehaving. And the maid comes in and it’s all a bit frantic and that’s kind of a very similar feel to a lot of what I do in the show in general.

They were able to kind of encapsulate in that 90 seconds the way that they saw the character going. And so that tape then went to the casting director and then the casting director sent it to the head of our show, Moira Walley-Beckett. And she told me that she liked that there was a kind of undertone of something frantic about the way that I did the tape. So, there we go. That’s how it all panned out. I didn’t actually get to meet her until the first day of shooting, but it worked out for the best, thank goodness.

It’s been fascinating to see the way that Moira has taken L.M. Montgomery’s characters and really given a modern spin on them and kind of brought them up to date with some of the story angles.
HJ: After I was cast and before I saw the script, I read the novel. And she doesn’t encourage everyone to read the novels, but I picked it up because I was excited to be joining the show and I wanted to kind of know everything I could. And I was so struck when I picked up the novel at how contemporary it felt and how contemporary Anne felt. I’m still struck by that. I think that Moira has remained really true to the essence of the character and the situations that she keeps finding herself in. And then I love that we’re talking about things that are… I mean, in many cases they’re issues that people had to tackle in the actual period of the novels, but just would not discuss.

For instance, we talk about periods. And I’ve never in my life as a woman, certainly never in my life as a teenager, never did I see any kind of film or TV that talked about it. It’s like this secret and yet 50 per cent of the population experiences it for probably half their lifetime or there about. So, for me it just feels really obvious that people should talk about it. It doesn’t necessarily feel obvious to talk about it in a period show. But for me I think there’s something glorious about the fact that she has taken the story as the starting point and then applied the essence of the characters, choose the kinds of situations that young women and young people face today.

In Season 3, we have this really moving and I think very impressive First Nations story. And we know that the Mi’kmaq community existed in PEI at this time, but again, you don’t often read stories or see film and television that have the lives of a Caucasian community and the lives of a First Nations community given equal weight. You’re usually seeing goodies and baddies and The Last of the Mohicans and all those kind of things. Which is just not representative of what was really going on for teenagers, for instance. I think it’s really powerful. I really admire what she’s doing and I love being a part of it. My character, Eliza, isn’t one of the more modern-seeming characters. She represents the old ways.

In the first season we took a storyline straight out of the novel, which is me catching Diana and Anne having drunk the currant wine. But that exists now, that’s a contemporary issue, it just was ahead of its time in the sense that they weren’t 14-year-old girls getting drunk around the place. But I think that Moira’s doing an amazing job, so I’m all for it.

Mrs. Barry could be easily seen as a villain and is in a lot of ways a villain in the show, because Diana wants to grow and be take advantage of the things that this new world is offering to her. 
HJ: I think it’s just lovely to be part of the show and I think it’s nice to be somebody that brings a bit of push and pull to it. Because there is push and pull in a lot of places. There’s push and pull with Matthew and Marilla. And Mr. Phillips and even with Gilbert, but I think it’s nice to be bringing that kind of tension to things. I think one of the things that I find amusing about a British actor in North America is that you typically are tasked with playing a villain type. Or the stereotypes of being British is that we all are all the expressions, stiff upper lip, uptight. And so we’re often seen as either the professor, the high intellectual or someone who’s very difficult.

I try and take the moments that I can to bring some warmth to her as well. Moira’s been really good about writing for this character to show that actually the reason that she’s a little afraid of Anne’s influence on Diana is that there’s this broader context of the limitations on what life looks like for a young woman at the time. And she expresses in Season 2 some of the longing to have a voice for herself. She wants to be able to contribute to discussions about their family’s financial affairs and their family’s future. She has a vision of her daughter going to Paris to finishing school.

It’s just she’s very protective and she hasn’t had the Anne model laid out before her. There is no one that has gone before her in her life to say there is this alternative path. And I’ve been thinking so much about how Lucy Maud Montgomery was one of the women that set that path out in people’s imagination, way before most people were thinking about that for themself. So, yes, I think that Moira’s been good to me particularly in Season 2 about saying this is the wider context of why Mrs. Barry is behaving as she is. And I think in some ways, certainly season two with Mrs. Barry saying to her husband, ‘I just want us to communicate. I want us to be in this together.’ It’s the same thing that Anne is saying in a lot of ways about Anne’s life and Anne’s future. Wanting just to talk about things and to be involved, to be treated as an adult and to be able to stand up for what is right. So, I’ve been really kind of happy with the development of the character in that respect.

There are also moments of humour. 
HJ: It’s a lovely thing to be able to do, to bring levity to things. And we work with Ryan Kiera Armstrong who plays Minnie May. She’s such a gem to work with and she shows up on set with this fire and you know where she is all the time. And she gets these scripts that are like, ‘Minnie May is misbehaving in the carriage.’ And we have her leaning against the window pushing her tongue out against the glass. It’s just, it’s so fun to work with her and it is so fun to work with Jonathan Holmes who really I think is so smart with comedy.

I’ve done a lot of comedy in my career as well. When you give us an inch we take a mile every single time.

Now that Anne has wrapped, are you working on anything that you can talk about?
HJ: I’ve got a couple of projects that I was able to shoot at the same time, so I wasn’t able to do very much on them. But I was part of a new series called Mrs. America, which stars Cate Blanchett and Rose Byrne, which is about the ratification of the equal rights amendment. And the struggle between the kind of the feminist support for the equal rights amendment versus the backlash of Phyllis Schlafly and the kind of anti-feminist movement. So, I think that’s a really interesting project. And I was directed on that by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck who directed Captain Marvel, so that was a really lovely experience.

I also worked on a movie called Charlotte, which is a Canadian produced, animated feature film about Charlotte Salomon, who was a German-Jewish woman painter in the period immediately preceeding the Second World War and then during the Second World War.

The pace of her work was very fast and so she was prolific in that moment. And I mean, you only need to look on Google to see that it didn’t end well. It’s a very moving story and I think it will be really interesting to see how the animation comes together with the fact that she was a painter herself. And I think there’s been a few movies of that kind recently. We’ve seen animated movies about Vincent van Gogh. So, I think it will be really interesting the art within the art as it were.

Anne with an E airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

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