Everything about Cardinal, eh?

Cardinal’s Billy Campbell: “The best role I’ve had in my career”

When asked what his experience has been like playing John Cardinal for four seasons, Billy Campbell hesitates and then states the following:

“This really has been maybe the best job I’ve had in my career, and the best role I’ve had in my career.”

Pretty lofty words for a guy whose career has included roles in such series as The Killing, Once and Again and The 4400. Still, Cardinal really is a series like no other. Based on the books by Giles Blunt, the past three seasons of Cardinal have proved Canada can do Nordic Noir too. And do it darned well.

Returning Monday at 10 p.m. ET on CTV, the final season of Cardinal—tagged Until the Night after Blunt’s sixth and final John Cardinal novel—follows Detective John Cardinal (Campbell) and Detective Lise Delorme (played by Karine Vanasse) as they investigate the deaths of several townsfolk in the sleepy fictional town of Algonquin Bay. Monday’s debut catches up with the pair in the dead of winter as they investigate the disappearance of a legal prosecutor. Cold and snow have been a hallmark of Cardinal—the first season was set in winter, followed by jaunts in the spring and fall—and adds to the feeling of isolation and, perhaps, being unable to escape.

“You’re right about the isolation,” Vanasse says. “The whole environment is supporting that isolation and feeling that you have to be quick when you’re outside. If someone is left outside, yes, he’s going to freeze the death.” Isolation and drawing inward have been a staple of Cardinal and Delorme’s relationship too. Yes, they’re work partners, but that doesn’t mean they’re doing karaoke after shifts. In Season 1, Delorme joined the force to investigate supposed dirty dealings by Cardinal; it can be hard to truly trust someone whose been keeping tabs on you. Add to the fact that, in Monday’s Episode 1, Delorme drops a career bombshell on him … Cardinal even at the best of times can be frustratingly distant.

“That’s Cardinal,” Campbell says simply. “That’s who he is, and he’s a prototypical human male in that respect. He has a very difficult time expressing his feelings and these, I imagine, are such powerful feelings. He just has no framework for even dealing with these feelings inside of himself.”

Veteran actor Currie Graham—most recently seen on The Rookie—plays Neil Cuthbert, the villain stalking Algonquin Bay. According to Bell Media’s press notes, there is a final showdown where Cardinal and Delorme put everything on the line to save an innocent life. (Look for more about that showdown next week in my interview with co-showrunner/director Nathan Morlando.)

With the final six episodes scheduled, and interviews in support of it underway, Cardinal‘s conclusion is sinking in for its co-stars. Vanasse and Campbell admit to claiming key wardrobe as physical souvenirs of their time filming in Sudbury and North Bay, Ontario—she Delorme’s winter gear, he Cardinal’s winter boots—and memories of their time filming.

“The biggest thing that I keep from the show is just the profound happiness of working with this crew,” Vanasse says. “That’s what I’m leaving with. It’s been just wonderful from Day 1 to the end.”

“I get misty thinking about the fact that I won’t be going back to North Bay to do another season of Cardinal with people that I love, and with the characters that I love,” Campbell admits.

Cardinal: Until the Night airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Link: Quebec’s Datsit Sphere buys Kew Media’s ‘Cardinal’ producer Sienna Films

From Manori Ravindran of Variety:

Link: Quebec’s Datsit Sphere buys Kew Media’s ‘Cardinal’ producer Sienna Films
French Canadian producer-distributor Datsit Sphere has made its second acquisition of a Kew Media Group business, swooping in to buy “Cardinal” producer Sienna Films from the embattled production group. Continue reading.

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Cardinal: Writer Aaron Bala dissects “Mama”

Aaron Bala’s journey into writing television is an interesting one. His first gig after attending Humber College for writing and production was managing the social media account for CTV’s sitcom, Satisfaction.

“It was really awesome,” Bala recalls. “I got to be on set all the time and I got to help them shoot some videos and edit some stuff for all of their web content.” Attending the Bell Media Diverse Screenwriter Program was followed by internships at 19-2 and Saving Hope. The latter put him under the mentorship of Patrick Tarr. So, when Cardinal was greenlit for a third season, Tarr called on Bala to join him. And what an episode for Bala to be credited with. In addition to giving us some background on Mama, it propelled the story towards its conclusion next week.

Here’s what Aaron Bala had to say about “Mama.”

Congratulations on joining the Cardinal team and being a part of the franchise. With it airing not only here in Canada but sold around the world, you must be pretty excited to be a part of it.
Aaron Bala: Oh for sure. I saw the first season and I fell in love with it. And getting to be a part of it is probably one of, if not the greatest writing experience I have ever had in my career so far.

A quick question about the writing credit on ‘Mama.’ The story idea came from Noelle Carbone. And then it says teleplay from yourself and Patrick Tarr. Can you explain how that all worked out?
AB: When I got hired it wasn’t a given that I was going to get to write anything. But, Patrick was outfitting for me to get something and Noelle Carbone was originally supposed to write this episode, which was the preface to the finale. And then what happened was she wrote the outline for it. Hence the story by credit, and then she had to go. And so, it kind of fell into our laps and Patrick was like, ‘Here, you’re up on deck. Let’s go do this.’ It was great to have these two great writers that I got to work off of, Noelle who had the outline. To look at and build off that, then hand off to Patrick to finalize it. And, then hit it out of the park.

This was a big episode. We were getting a little bit more background into Mama and her affect on this family that she has. Was this daunting at all for you? A bit of jitters? 
AB: Oh, for sure. Always. Writing is always daunting. It is never not daunting. But you know, I think the great thing about the show is, it’s six episodes in and we can really build it so that you are left with mysteries with characters that we can start closing those mysteries sooner rather than later. And, as much as it can be terrifying, it’s also really gratifying when you get to write those scenes that explain what the audiences have been wondering for so long. And, especially, when you can write some scenes that are explaining things that audience doesn’t realize it yet that’s going to get explained in the finale, and some of that stuff is super cool too.

One of the scenes that struck me in this episode was the ghost of Catherine, and Cardinal saying, ‘I don’t want to see you anymore.’ I thought that was a beautifully shot scene. 
AB: That is certainly the brilliance of this show, is saying as little as possible and yet saying so much. I remember that scene. That is something Patrick really, really pushed for and just this moment where [Cardinal] has been pushing this case for so long and you know, he finally finds the guy who has been sending the letters. And it is over. But she’s still here. And, I think it is a meditation on what grief is like for all of us and still stuck with seeing people that have passed on and moved on from us. I think it is also potentially in the back of his mind like maybe this case isn’t over yet.

Maybe there is a little more to this. But he is still broken and he doesn’t want to push anymore. You see him get so angry and I think it is great because you have that scene with his daughter just before and see how their grief is manifesting in different ways.

We also got more insight into what Dr. Bell is like and the control he has had over his patients over the years. That verbal chess match back and forth at Dr. Bell’s house … Cardinal walking forward and then he’s walking back. Man, just so well done. 
AB: I think that is probably my favourite scene in the entire episode. I just love it, love it, love it so much. In the books, Dr. Bell was always my favourite character.

I just thought he was so different than the other books had and he was a real cerebral character and I really liked that. It was funny because we left the room one day and were talking about our favourite characters and we all had someone different we really liked. And I thought that was so emblematic of what you want in a writer’s room. So for me, that scene is just so beautifully acted and written. You said, ‘chess match’ and I think that is the perfect word because you come off that scene with the woman that has been talking to Catherine on her computer. You walk out of that scene and you say, ‘Dr Bell did this, he is responsible.’ Then you walk into this Dr. Bell scene and Cardinal is coming with fire and fury. But, Dr. Bell, he almost prepared in a way.

But not in a, ‘I know I am guilty’ but, in a way that he knows that anyone commits suicide that he knows someone is going to come and believe it is him in the end no matter what. He just diffuses all of Cardinal’s beliefs that Dr. Bell is the guilty party and Cardinal leaves that scene and I’m like, ‘Yeah no, Cardinal is chasing ghosts. Dr. Bell didn’t do this, he needs to move on.’ Then you have the whole tag scene with his wife at the end and we kind of just pulled the rug just a little bit out.

I would agree with you about being a favourite character because nothing scarier than a guy who is in your mind and messing around. 
AB: And yeah, we’ve seen a lot of the characters who have guns and we happen to this season as well. I also just like the appeal of this character who may be just as menacing as those other characters but from a totally different way. You know, bullet wounds can heal sometimes, but some of the mental scars don’t.

What have you learned about yourself as a writer? Again, you from Saving Hope to Cardinal now, what have you learned about the whole writing thing and yourself? Have you figured out what your strengths are?
AB: I think I am starting to learn where some of my strengths are, and I am leaning towards structure and themes. I think as the more shows I work on the more that is revealed, and the more you see others do it as well as you, you learn from them. I think what Saving Hope and Cardinal have really pushed me towards is finding the emotional cords of the characters and pushing them emotionally in ways. It is easy for me to say, ‘and then they do this crazy thing at the end.’ But, it is harder for me to say, ‘and then this thing effects them so deeply to their core.’ But, that is what television is. We don’t watch television for what happens. We watch for how it happens to our characters.

Anything you are working on that you can tell me about?
AB: I am on Private Eyes, which I think is on my resumé. Which, you know, has been a great fabulous show. I like staying in the crime space.

Cardinal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Cardinal: Writer Shannon Masters breaks down “Lemur”

Alas, poor Lemur. Perhaps the strongest all-around survivalist aside from Mama (Rya Kihlstedt) herself, Lemur (Nick Serino) met and untimely, and messy, end at the hands of Jack (Alex Ozerov). Jack took advantage of Lemur being on the run from the police during a botched ATM robbery and killed his “brother.”

Thursday’s newest instalment of Cardinal, “Lemur,” also opened the door on what horrors Jack endured when he was younger and shaped who he is today. Finally, after very much looking to Cardinal (Billy Campbell) for guidance during the past two cycles of Cardinal, Lise (Karine Vanasse) has officially read her partner the riot act. We spoke to the episode’s writer, Shannon Masters—who has written for Burden of Truth, Mohawk Girls and penned her feature film Empire of Dirt—about Jack, Lise and killing off Lemur.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions and congratulations on being part of Cardinal. I love the franchise and am enjoying Season 3 immensely.
Shannon Masters: I’m glad you’re loving watching it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Before we get into specifics about the series and your episode, how did you get into the Cardinal writer’s room in the first place?
SM: Two words: Patrick Tarr. We’ve been friends for well over a decade and I think he got tired of watching me bang my head against the wall trying to break into television so took a chance and gave me a shot in the room. Plus, I’m cheap so didn’t break the budget. Ha ha.

This past week has been all about your work. I watched Empire of Dirt the other day on Super Channel and your latest episode of Burden of Truth was on CBC. You’ve taken over Canadian TV over the last 10 days!
SM: Finally. Seriously though, someone has to pinch me because I still can’t believe I get to do this job.

I imagine working on Cardinal has been very different from Burden of Truth and Mohawk Girls. How have you grown as a writer through the Cardinal experience?
SM: Every writing experience is unique, just as each show and showrunner are unique and all provide the opportunity to evolve in different ways. But my growth as a writer on this show specifically was exponential because Patrick trusted (and expected) me to do the job well. That gave me a new confidence in both my ability and my voice. Plus, there is something to be said for having a showrunner who comes in with a rock-solid vision. Lesson: being prepared and having a plan gives you freedom.

It’s been hard to feel anything but anger at Jack and the way he’s been acting. But in the opening moments of ‘Lemur,’ we discover he’s endured something horrifying in his past, including his relationship with this father, and how that connects him to Mama. How do you tackle writing a character like him?
SM: I believe the key to writing bad guys, whether they have a difficult past or not, is to write them as though they believe in what they’re doing, that they don’t think their actions are wrong or bad. In general, people have no idea what they are truly capable of until they find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and are faced with hard choices. That holds true for fictional characters as well. So trying to get into their heads and seeing things through their eyes often lends those characters an intriguing level of depth.

I’m not sure if you’ve seen the rough cut for ‘Lemur’ yet, but there is a moment before Cardinal goes into the apartment to talk to Roger, the ex-con-turned-accountant. John pauses at the top of the stairs, loosens his neck and takes a deep breath. He wants to keep it together and not wring Roger’s neck. Do you remember if that pause was written in the script, or something Billy ad-libbed?
SM: It’s been such a long time since I wrote the episode so it could have been on the page, an acting choice or something that came from our director. What I do remember is going into Cardinal’s story this episode with the feeling that he knows he’s skidding down the rabbit hole but just cannot stop himself. His cop instincts are too strong and his GUT is telling him that his wife did not kill herself. So while he knows that every moment he pursues these men he’s put away, Roger Felt included, his grip on the situation slips a bit more, but he’s gonna do it all the same. So he’s kind of stealing his nerves here before he dives in yet again.

You killed Lemur! Now there is nothing stopping Jack from taking advantage of Nikki. How could you?!
SM: Lol. Nikki is tougher than she looks.

Lise has taken a fierce stand against Cardinal. It’s been fascinating to watch her gaining confidence and taking command. Has it been fun, as a writer, to explore their relationship in Season 3?
SM: Their relationship is fantastic and it’s been incredibly rewarding to get to flesh it out even further this season. In this episode specifically, Delorme’s ferocity is born from her desire to help Cardinal. She and Cardinal have morphed from colleagues into friends with a mutual deep respect, so she doesn’t want to see him torture himself or torch his career. And she’s also got a job to do. She’s been given a lot more responsibility this season and she takes it very seriously.

Cardinal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Links: Cardinal, “Jack”

From Heather M. of The Televixen:

Link: Cardinal “Jack” preview + Daniel Grou interview
“We block shoot the whole thing like a movie. It’s one piece with six chapters. You’re constantly keeping the arc in your mind. That’s one of the challenges of shooting. [The tone changes] so you’re keeping the actors aware of where they’re coming from psychologically and where they’re going.” Continue reading.

From Charles Trapunski of Brief Take:

Link: Interview: Cardinal’s Karine Vanasse
“You see how he is fragile and how he is hurt and how he is broken. In Season 3, there’s that line that has been said about him: “a broken man with power”. I like that line, although I don’t see him knowing the power that he has. I love all the nuances that he brings to the character.” Continue reading.

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: Cardinal: Why Aaron Ashmore had a great experience joining the CTV drama
“On the page, he definitely had his own self-interests, but I don’t think he’s a terrible person. As the season goes on, we see a little bit more of where he’s coming from.” Continue reading. 

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