Everything about Bad Blood, eh?

Bad Blood: Ryan McDonald on “pure” Reggie and his return to acting

Actor Ryan McDonald has a major role in one of Canada’s best television dramas. He plays Reggie, the sweet-natured but troubled nephew of Montreal mafia boss Declan Gardiner (Kim Coates), in Citytv mob series Bad Blood.

McDonald’s performance is compelling and deeply sympathetic, weaving an important thread of kindness and decency into a fairly dark show. But it almost didn’t happen. After the cancellation of his last TV series, the delightfully irreverent comedy What Would Sal Do?, the British Columbia native was ready to give up acting and pursue a very different career.

“I was just fed up and feeling uninspired,” he explains.

We phoned McDonald, whose other TV credits include Rookie Blue, Saving Hope and Fringe, to find out how Bad Blood helped him get his acting groove back and get a preview of this Thursday’s Reggie-heavy new episode, “Una Vita Per Una Vita,” written by Patrick Moss and directed by Jeff Renfroe.

How did you become involved in Bad Blood?
Ryan McDonald: It’s kind of a strange story. I’d actually stopped acting at the beginning of this year. I was just fed up and feeling uninspired. I’d broken my lease in Toronto and come back home to Vancouver in anticipation that the previous show I did for New Metric Media, What Would Sal Do?, was going to get a second season. And, of course, it didn’t, so I ended up sort of stranded here. And in that time period, I kind of wanted to get away. I stopped auditioning, and my agent just put me on the shelf and respected my space. I started studying counselling here in Vancouver, and I was fairly certain I was going to go down that road.

I hadn’t spoken to my agent in about four or five months, and he called me because he just wanted to catch up. In the few days it took me to get back to him, that little tiny window, [New Metric president] Mark Montefiore contacted him about a role in Bad Blood, and it was perfect timing because I was just then open to doing something. If it had happened maybe a month before that, I don’t know that I would have been interested. My mind was in a completely different place.

I didn’t read for the role of Reggie, initially. I read for [Detective Tucker, played by Eric Hicks], and I thought that that was a cool part, and it wasn’t in as many episodes. I thought, ‘Great, I’ll just do that and then come back to Vancouver and go back to school with all my acting money.’ And then they had me read for Reggie, and I thought, ‘Oh man, this is really somebody that I want to play, and actually the kind of story I want to tell.’ I got it and it went from there. And there’s no better role to kind of get me back into the business.

What is it about Reggie that made him your perfect comeback role?
RM: It was really compelling to me the idea of playing somebody who was having to start over, who didn’t really have a place in the world, a thing that he could do, a group that he fit in with. And somebody who was an adult and had grown up hard and been in prison for so long, but was really sensitive and playful and kind of the opposite of what you’d expect somebody who’d been there to be. I think the idea that Reggie is a guy who knows darkness very intimately but chooses to smile was a really beautiful thing. I love characters in general that have either conditions like Reggie’s anxiety and depression or just feelings that they’re struggling to live with. I like people that are kind of carrying around baggage. And he’s very loyal, too. Reggie is kind of a beacon of light in this season. He’s a very pure guy in a lot of ways.

Reggie and Declan haven’t known each other long, but they’ve already developed a strong bond. 
RM: Reggie sought out some sort of family while he was inside and found Declan. And he’s all he could find. And Declan is not a guy who’s ever had much family attachment. He had a pseudo-family in terms of Vito, but in terms of real, blood relations, he’s been a lone wolf as long as we’ve known him. You’ve got two guys who are really trying to connect with somebody. Declan’s trying to learn how to take care of someone and what it means to be a father figure, and Reggie is trying to find out who he actually is through the only link he has left, his family.

Speaking of their bond, at the end of the last episode, Teresa [Anna Hopkins] and Christian [Gianni Falcone] abducted Reggie to force Declan into doing business with them. Can you give us any hints about what happens to Reggie in Episode 3?
RM: I don’t think Reggie ultimately blames Declan for anything that goes on. I think in Episode 3, he has pretty unwavering trust in his uncle and a belief that this person loves him and is going to take care of him. It’s also not the first time he’s been smacked around. He’s afraid for his life, but he’s kind of been shoved from spot to spot from the moment he was born. So I think there’s a fear and a fight to survive and a desire to get back into the light, but I think Reggie’s attitude is a little bit fatalistic about the whole thing.

You worked with Kim Coates a great deal in the series. What was that like?
RM: Oh, man. I worked with him every day all summer. It was incredible. He is, besides just being a total boss and funny as hell and a legend in this country, he’s just such an actor’s actor. He’s so generous. He’s so excited to collaborate. He’s so enthusiastic about the people who came together to make this season. Right from Day 1, when I got up to Sudbury, where we started shooting, he was down to hang out and go through the script and talk about the scenes and work on things and improvise. And he wanted to improvise on that. It was just so comfortable, and it’s the way I love to work. He’s very intuitive and very relaxed.

After Bad Blood, I had a few weeks of downtime and then I went and shot the lead in a film [Canadian director Nicole Dorsey’s Black Conflux] out in Newfoundland, and it was my first time being the lead of a movie. I learned so much from him. Like how to show up to the set every day and not disappear into your own head. Stay open. Keep talking to people. Crack some jokes. Keep it light, no matter what you’re doing. And be generous; talk to the actor you’re working with. I think when I was coming up, there was always this idea that it had to be hard, like there had to be angst for it to be good. And now I’m just all about being chill and friendly, no matter what.

Bad Blood is quite a change of pace from What Would Sal Do? Do you enjoy working on dramas or comedies more?
RM: I feel a lot more at home in a story where everybody is weeping and dying, and there are moments of absurdity that you have to find funny. I find that is closer to the reality that I understand. I like drama and darkness with humour. That just seems like real life to me.

Sal was an interesting case because even though on the surface it’s a comedy and every scene is sort of built for laughs, we tried to play it like an indie film, we tried to play it as real and honest. I was disappointed in it not happening again because I thought its potential was so great. There was such an opportunity to find a different kind of energy with that show. It’s a real bummer, but it could pop up again, who knows? There’s always talk.

So far this year, you’ve done Bad Blood and shot your first lead role in a film. Does that mean you’re all in with acting, or are you still going to study counselling? 
RM: I’m pretty much back into acting right now, but I love studying counselling because it really teaches you the value of how to listen and be with the person and truly see them. And I think that’s beneficial for everybody, but as an actor especially. So I would like to go back to it, but it’s going to be some time. I’m moving back to Toronto in the new year, and we’ll see what happens then.

Bad Blood airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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Bad Blood: Anna Hopkins on “power-hungry” Teresa and the art of playing a great villain

Bad Blood‘s Season 2 premiere wasted no time in shaking up Declan Gardiner’s (Kim Coates) carefully laid plans. While the lone wolf mob boss’ grip on Montreal had been left happily uncontested by Ontario’s Cosoleto family for years, the arrival of fraternal twins Teresa and Christian (Gianni Falcone) Langana—the children of a bigtime ‘Ndrangheta boss in Italy—quickly threw a spanner in the works. After Declan declined their offer to become partners in the drug trade, the pair retaliated, intercepting his $5 million narcotics shipment from a Mexican cartel.

Playing the part of driven and calculating Teresa is Montreal-born actress Anna Hopkins, who stepped into the role just days before shooting began.

“I think it was a long casting process, and they weren’t finding anybody,” she says. “At the last possible second, [showrunner] Michael [Konyves] suggested me.”

Konyves was familiar with Hopkins’ work because he wrote the screenplay for Barney’s Version, her 2010 feature film debut. However, if he had been binge-watching Netflix series Shadowhunters earlier this year, he also would have been compelled to hire her on the spot. Her chilling turn as Season 3’s big bad Lilith demonstrated she has the onscreen presence and sophistication to believably portray a top-shelf Mafiosa on a series that echoes The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and The Sons of Anarchy. 

We caught up with Hopkins before this Thursday’s new episode, “A Grapefruit Worth 20 Million,” written by Konyves and directed by Jeff Renfroe, to learn more about Teresa, find out what it was like squaring off with Kim Coates, and get some hints about what’s coming up next on the series.

Teresa cuts an elegant but imposing figure in the season premiere, and I suspect that’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as what’s she’s capable of. 
Anna Hopkins: Oh, yeah. She definitely keeps her cards pretty close to her chest. She’s one of those characters who is really powerful but doesn’t really need exert or show that power very often. So in the first episode, you get a sense of maybe what she can do, but her first goal is just to let the business expand. So she’s just sort of trying to be as nice and cooperative as possible, but when things don’t go her way, I think the extremes she can go to are a little further than most of us.

I love that Teresa is near the top of a traditionally male-dominated business—even if that business is organized crime. Did it excite you to get to play a mobster?
AH: I hadn’t really seen any female mobsters until I got the role, and then I was sort of researching and found a few characters that show up in film and television. But there really isn’t a lot, and so I was really excited to play the role. Sometimes with roles like this, it can be written like a male and then at the last minute, they just switch it to female. That happens a lot lately. But there’s feminity and it’s used a strength and it’s part of her unique mobster characteristics, so she’s a really strange and interesting character. Especially with her brother, with them as a duo, they’re kind of a very new, interesting type of antagonist—although, I think every character in this is an antagonist at some point.

Teresa and Christian seem to be unusually close, even for twins. What can you tell me about their dynamic?
AH: The backstory is that their father is the head of the ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria, and at this point in time, even saying that word is essentially illegal in Italy. So the leaders of these factions are in hiding. The idea was that, when we were very small, our father sent us away together at various boarding schools, always with the intention of us eventually running things. We were pretty isolated in the fact that we weren’t necessarily making any friends in college, and we were really the only people that we had. So that’s how Michael [Konyves] built that relationship. Even from our father, we were always very distant from him. We’re very loyal to him, but really the only people we have in the world are each other. So there’s a closeness there that’s not very common, I think.

They’re a very intriguing pair to watch.
AH: They’re almost monarch-like, Game-of-Thrones-like power-hungry siblings, and there’s a closeness that is born out of that, in trying to gain a goal. Hopefully, they don’t get separated or turn on each other. So we’ll see what happens.

Episode 1 ended with Teresa and Christian nabbing Declan’s massive drug shipment. Can you preview how this will shake out in Episode 2?
AH: It’s one of those things like at the end of Season 1, where that little string is the beginning of the unravelling. It’s not going to be tied up by Episode 2. It’s just going to get more and more complicated, and the stakes are going to get higher and higher. So this is totally, just as you said, the tip of the iceberg of how these characters are intertwining and trying to gain power. It’s an intricate unravelling, and it’s just getting started.

The meeting between Declan and the twins was pretty intense. Will we see more face-to-face encounters between them, and what was it like squaring off with Kim Coates?
AH: Actually, it’s funny, it doesn’t happen a ton because we’re constantly in different cities in the show, so that is really one of only a couple of scenes where we get to speak face to face. And the way we shot the show, we were block shooting, so that was actually the last scene we shot of the whole series. So by that time, I had worked with Kim for three months. And to be honest, it was very intimidating coming onto the show and being, in a sense, his enemy, because he’s Kim Coates, and he plays the ultimate villains. But by the time we did that scene, we were just so relaxed, and we played a lot, and it was just really fun. I think it was one of our favourite scenes to do.

Speaking of villains, you just ended your run as Lilith on Shadowhunters, so you also know a thing or two about playing baddies. What do you think the secret is to playing a great villain? 
AH: I think the biggest thing is always having a character who has something to do and is doing it for reasons they believe are just and right. With Shadowhunters, even though it was fantastical, Lilith was trying to bring her son back. And if you believe in that, and you’re being told whatever you need to do, you do it. And I think it’s similar with Teresa. I think her father trusts her, and she wants to make him proud and she wants to get to the top of her career, even though that’s organized crime, and she’ll do anything that she needs to do. I think if the writing allows for the character to have a justified reason for doing what they do, then you can start to believe it and do some crazy things.

What did you enjoy most about working on Bad Blood?
AH: I think one of the biggest things is I love the writing. Michael did such a fabulous job, and having a shorter series of eight episodes really allowed us to develop our characters and the storylines. And, obviously, the ensemble of actors is really incredible. So we all really got to sink our teeth into something, and we all gave it our all. The environment on set was really creative and collaborative.

You also recently wrote and directed a short film, The Give and Take. Where can people catch that?
AH: It’s doing the festival circuit. The next stop is at the Austin Film Festival on Oct. 26.

Bad Blood airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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Kim Coates on Season 2 of Citytv’s Bad Blood: “It’s epic”

When we last left Declan Gardiner, he was alone. Everyone associated with him in Season 1—Vito Rizzuto, Bruno Bonsignori, Gio, Nicolo Rizzuto Sr. and Gio—were dead and someone was, literally, gunning for Declan. In the season finale’s final moments, a gunshot rang out. Was Declan dead?

Nope. Declan is alive and well. And, when viewers meet up with him in Season 2 of Bad Blood—returning Thursday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv—he is still on his own. A lone wolf. Just the way he likes it.

Season 1 of Bad Blood was based on real life, the story on Montreal mob boss Vito Rizzuto (played by Anthony LaPaglia). It was adapted by Simon Barry (Continuum) and Michael Konyves from Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto’s Last War by Antonio Nicaso and Peter Edwards. But the sophomore eight instalments, written by Konyves, Alison Lea Bingeman and Patrick Moss, go off in a brand-new direction, following Declan’s adventures.

“There’s no book anymore,” Coates says during an interview earlier this year. “It’s our own highway. It was [Michael Konyves] who said, ‘I think we need to start present-day.’ The last thing we saw was Declan sitting at his cottage, finishing off his book. Bang! Bullet hole. Slow turn. ‘What the fuck is happening?’ You don’t know. So we start five years later. It’s epic.” (Coates has had an epic year or so himself. In addition to a Canadian Screen Award for his role as Declan Gardiner, he won rave reviews and the best actor trophy at the Dora Mavor Moore Awards for his role in Jerusalem.)

Half a decade later, Declan is running his own squad. That, of course, attracts some unwanted attention. Cue a new group of mafiosos from Calabria, Italy, to Canada in the form of twins Teresa (Anna Hopkins) and Christian Langana (Gianni Falcone). Once they arrive, the Langanas present themselves to Hamilton, Ont., brothers Domenic (Louis Ferreira) and Enzo Cosoleto (Daniel Kash) and their sons, Luca (Franco Lo Presti) and Nats (Dylan Taylor). Together, the sextet takes aim at Declan. Meanwhile, the Organized Crime Task Force gets ready to take everyone down with the help of a confidential informant. Although he prefers to work alone, Declan realizes that, in order to remain on top, he’ll need to enlist some help. To do that, he partners with Rose Sunwind (Sharon Taylor).

“My world meets their world and it comes together,” Coates says. “This is going to be bigger than the first season.”

Like Season 1, the second of Bad Blood was filmed in and around Sudbury, Ont., and Montreal. That meant a return to the cold Coates dealt the first time around. And while he hails from Saskatoon, Coates admits the years in Hollywood have had a dampening effect on his endurance with dropping mercury.

“We were in Sudbury and Montreal in November, December, a bit of October,” Coates says with a smile. “We got all kinds of different patterns. We’re all Canadian, but I’m a baby now. I don’t like the cold. I’ve become soft. Don’t tell my buddies.”

Bad Blood airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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Links: Bad Blood, Season 2

From Bill Brownstein of the Montreal Gazette:

Link: Montreal plays principal role in aptly titled crime thriller Bad Blood
It might not have the chests of all locals swelling with civic pride, but for those who have long bemoaned the fact that our city has played everything from Moscow to the moon, they will certainly concur that Montreal takes centre-stage in the aptly titled Bad Blood. Continue reading.

From Tony Wong of the Toronto Star:

Link: “I’m friggin’ in charge now”: Kim Coates talks about Citytv’s Bad Blood Season 2
Few actors can summon that kind of menace, levied with a sense of grace that emanates from the craggy-faced Saskatoon native. It also pretty much sums of the theme of Season 2 of Bad Blood, the City TV Montreal Mafia series that he stars in as mobster Declan Gardiner. Continue reading.

From Charles Trapunski of Brief Take:

Link: Interview: Bad Blood’s Kim Coates
At times an interview can be something of a challenge. At other times, the challenge is simply sitting and listening while a pro takes over (which is to say, it’s no challenge at all but a pure delight). Continue reading.

From John Doyle of The Globe and Mail:

Link: Bad Blood’s second season is a deftly made, superior crime drama
Better and more textured, it’s about a lone-wolf criminal keeping a tight grip on his crime empire and obliged to recognize the limits of his power. The events of the book, based on the true story, are over. This narrative is new, inspired by and extrapolated from the original, but allowed to soar without sticking to the prosaic, albeit homicidal, truth. Continue reading. 

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Bad Blood welcomes new blood for Season 2 of the City original series

From a media release:

With cameras now rolling on eight all-new 60-minute episodes of the critically acclaimed original drama Bad Blood, City announced today Season 2 casting for the series’ highly anticipated return this fall. Star Kim Coates reprises his role as Canada’s favourite multifaceted mobster, Declan Gardiner, helming a dynamic new ensemble cast, featuring Louis Ferreira (Breaking Bad, S.W.A.T), Anna Hopkins (Shadow Hunters), and Melanie Scrofano (Wynonna Earp).

Season 2 picks up five years after Rizzuto’s death and his former right-hand man, Declan Gardiner (Coates), is the reigning king of the Montreal drug trade – that is, until a new breed of mafiosos arrive from Europe to wage war in an attempt to wrestle the city from his grasp. Declan comes up against rivals, both old and new, who want to start dealing more dangerous substances; meanwhile, the Organized Crime Task Force gets ready to take everyone down with the help of a confidential informant. Although he prefers to work alone, Declan soon realizes that, in order to remain on top, he’ll need to enlist some help.

Ready to go to war with Declan are his enemies, Hamilton’s Cosoleto brothers, Domenic (Ferreira) and Enzo (Daniel Kash,In Contempt, The Strain), and their sons, Luca (Franco Lo Presti, Letterkenny, Schitt’s Creek) and Nats (Dylan Taylor, Rogue, Covert Affairs).

On the opposite side of the law is a Senior Agent in the Organized Crime Task Force, Nellie Bullock (Lisa Berry, 19-2, Supernatural), who is working her confidential informant, Nats’s wife, Valentina Cosoleto (Scrofano). But things turn explosive when Declan refuses an offer to partner with the imported power duo and sultry Langana twin siblings, Teresa (Hopkins) and Christian (newcomer Gianni Falcone). Left with no other choice, Declan looks to partner with an unlikely ally, Rose Sunwind (Sharon Taylor, Bellevue, Ghost Wars), and feels obliged to take a friend from his past, Reggie Ross (Ryan McDonald, Fringe), under his wing.

Bad Blood is produced in partnership with New Metric Media and Sphère Média Plus, in association with distributors DHX Media and Skyvision, and with the financial participation of confirmed partners, Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, the Independent Production Fund, and the Canada Media Fund. Executive producers are Mark Montefiore (Letterkenny, What Would Sal Do) for New Metric Media and Josée Vallée (19-2, This Life) for Sphère Média Plus. Michael Konyves (Barney’s Version, Last Knights), who received a CSA nomination for Best Writing, Drama or Limited Series, returns as showrunner. Kim Coates also serves as producer and received a CSA nomination for Best Lead Actor, Drama or Limited Series, for his role in Season 1. Paula J. Smith (Blood and Water, The Beaverton) is Supervising Producer. Directors include Jeff Renfroe (Cardinal, Rogue) and Molly McGlynn (Mary Goes Round, Working Moms).

Filming is taking place in both Sudbury and Montreal, and surrounding areas. Additional broadcast details will be announced at a later date.

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