The old adage “write what you know,” certainly applies to Susin Nielsen’s latest creation, Family Law. She admits that she didn’t know anything about the law, but knew plenty about family. In fact, what happens to her lead character happened to Nielsen.
Debuting Friday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Global (with a special preview of the premiere episode on Thursday at 10 p.m. ET/PT), Family Law stars Jewel Staite as Vancouver lawyer—and recovering alcoholic—Abigail “Abby” Bianchi. As a condition of her probation to return to her legal duties, Abby must work at the firm owned by her estranged father, Harry (Victor Garber), alongside her half-brother Daniel (Zach Smadu) and half-sister Lucy (Genelle Williams). Throw in Abby’s husband Frank (Luke Camilleri), mother Joanne (Lauren Holly), daughter Sofia (Eden Summer Gilmore) and son Nico (Brenden Sunderland), and there is plenty to mine for drama and laughs.
With legal dramas a popular genre, what truly sets Family Law apart is sharp writing and stunning performances by the cast, led by Staite.
We spoke to Susin Nielsen about about the road to making Family Law, which has already shot its second season.
How did Family Law come to be? Susin Nielsen: I actually first came up with this idea about a decade ago, and brought it to SEVEN24—they’ve always been my partners with it— and we got it into development at another network, but they didn’t move forward with it. And then flash forward I guess about, five years and Jordy Randall at SEVEN24 called and he said, ‘We’ve never stopped thinking about Family Law and we see another opportunity to pitch it.’
So I went to [the] Banff [World Media Festival] and I pitched it to Susan Alexander and Rachel Nelson at Corus in 2018, and I think it was a lot of serendipity, it was right time, right place. I think I had made the idea stronger and better as well, and they put us into development and then they gave us more development, and then eventually they green-lit us.
In terms of the creative origins, when I first came up with the idea, there was a part of me that was trying to be shrewd. I’m not usually very shrewd when it comes to my writing, but it seemed like what was selling were procedurals, and I knew that for me and my sensibilities, I was probably never going to do a cop show. A hospital show just felt so out of my area of expertise. And certainly, I also really know nothing about law, but I knew a lot about family. I know a lot about family function and dysfunction, and my own family background somewhat mirrors Abby’s in that I didn’t meet my father until I was a teenager. At which point, I also met my half-brother and my half-sister.
I think that’s kind of always informed, probably, a lot of my writing. It just felt like a premise that I got really excited about. What if there was this woman who had been estranged from her father for all of these years, carried a huge chip on her shoulder, is almost disbarred because of her alcoholism and the only lawyer in town who will take her on is her dad? What I really loved about it was that I could explore family on three levels. I could explore the cases. I could explore Abby having to work with these people who she’s really just getting to know, and at the same time she’s trying to salvage her marriage and her relationship with her children.
The cast that you’ve got is incredible. Victor Garber, Jewel Staite, Zach Smadu, Genelle Williams, Lauren Holly. You must be pinching yourself every day that you got to work with these folks. SN: Thank you for bringing all of them up. I do pinch myself. What’s interesting is that not only are they obviously exceptional actors, they’re also incredibly lovely people and Jewel really sets the tone on set for all of our actors coming in. They all hang out all the time during the season, like every single weekend they were doing things together, doing dinners, it was hilarious. They don’t have to do that, they could just say, nice to see you, see you on Monday.
What was so interesting about Jewel was that she could just elevate whatever was in a scene. She could take a comedic scene and just—with a look—make it that much funnier. And a heartfelt scene, again, just with a look, and make you tear up even more. The three siblings, they got their rhythm together so fast and the looks that passed between Abby and Daniel all the time, they all just add all sorts of layers that are obviously not there on the page.
And then Victor. I, in a million years, never ever thought we’d get Victor Garber. Like he was like my dream Harry, but I just thought, ‘Well, that’s fantasy, but you’re never going to get Victor Garber.’ And it’s just been such a pleasure working with him, he’s just a consummate professional. I think he’s had two questions for me about script. He just comes in and he delivers.
Let’s switch over to the writer’s room. In addition to you, we’ve got Corey Liu, Damon Vignale, Sarah Dodd, Ken Craw and Sonja Bennett. What’s your writing process with the team? SN: I knew I wanted, if I could, a 100 per cent a Vancouver-based room because we have a lot of really talented writers here. Everybody in that room had a story of their own, and certainly when we were developing Season 1, there was no such thing as a worldwide pandemic yet, so we were able to do all of it in person.
We would meet at Lark Productions, which is our producer here on the ground in Vancouver. We would just meet in this big, open boardroom and start hammering out ideas. First, we would talk about character arcs for the season and I had initial documents with things that I had been thinking about and case ideas that I had had since 2011, and the writers brought their own ideas to the room. Then we just started talking about case ideas and what excited us, and how could a case relate back to the family?
What do you look for in a writer? SN: You’re looking for a group that are going to compliment each other for sure, and different people bringing different strengths to the table. The one commonality I was looking for were people who could write believable, compelling dialogue, people who could do both drama and comedy, comedy coming out of character. I felt very blessed to get Sarah Dodd because Sarah has, frankly, a lot more experience than I do, particularly with procedural. She’s done a lot of procedural. So it was fabulous to have her there just to make sure that we were structurally sound as well. Sarah is all those other things as well, but she brought oodles of procedural experience.
Sonja Bennett is so funny and she can make it look effortless with her lightness of touch with her dialogue; her dialogue’s fabulous. And then Cory Liu … I have a real soft spot for Corey. Seeing him grow over the last two seasons has just been exceptional. He is so talented and he will rule the world one day, I am sure. It’s been such a pleasure to watch him grow into his own confidence, because I don’t think he understood just quite how talented he was.
Family Law airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Global.
Today, Global announced premiere dates for a fall 2021-22 primetime season that will take viewers on an incredible, emotional TV journey around the world. All from the comfort of home, Global audiences will travel from Vancouver ( Family Law Sept. 16/17) to Europe ( FBI: International Sept. 21), Fiji ( Survivor Sept. 22), Hawai’i ( NCIS: Hawai’i Sept. 26/27), Las Vegas ( CSI: Las Vegas Oct. 6) and beyond ( Ghosts Oct. 7). Featuring 17.5 hours of simulcast with four out of seven days entirely simulcast in primetime, viewers will laugh with Global’s comedies, feel the heart-wrenching moments and thrills of its scripted dramas, and experience the high stakes of its reality competition TV action.
Continue reading below for more about Global’s fall 2021 primetime lineup.
SCRIPTED DRAMAS As previously announced, this fall Global adds four new scripted dramas to its schedule. First up, the much-anticipated new Global Original series Family Law starring Jewel Staite, Victor Garber, Zach Smadu and Genelle Williams, a 10-episode, one hour legal drama premiering Friday, Sept. 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Viewers will get a special preview of the premiere episode on Thursday, Sept. 16 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Then on Tuesday, Sept. 21, Emmy® Award-winning executive producer Dick Wolf brings viewers a three-hour FBI franchise event capping off the night with the series premiere of FBI: International at 10 p.m. ET/PT (moves to 9 p.m. ET/PT Sept. 28). Then, in a two-night premiere event, NCIS: Hawai’i starring Vanessa Lachey, as the first female lead in the long-running franchise, premieres Sunday, Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT with episode two airing Monday, Sept. 27 at 10 p.m. ET/PT in the show’s regular timeslot as part of Global’s Monday night lineup. Lastly, the sequel to the international hit CSI: Crime Scene Investigation begins a brand-new chapter with CSI: Vegas premiering Wednesday, Oct. 6 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Global’s returning scripted dramas premiering this fall include: this past spring’s #1 drama 9-1-1 starring Angela Bassett (Monday, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. ET); the landmark 19th season of NCIS (Monday, Sept. 20 at 9 p.m. ET); fan favourite New Amsterdam (Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. ET/PT then moves to 10 p.m. ET/PT Sept. 28); top 20 hits FBI (Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT) and FBI: Most Wanted (Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 9 p.m. ET/PT then moves to 7 p.m. ET/PT Sept. 28); S.W.A.T. starring Shemar Moore (Friday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT); hit series Bull (Thursday, Oct. 7 at 10 p.m. ET/PT); the #1 new broadcast drama last spring The Equalizer starring Queen Latifah (Sunday, Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. ET/PT); NCIS: Los Angeles starring Chris O’Donnell and LL COOL J (Sunday, Oct. 10 at 9 p.m. ET/PT); SEAL Team starring David Boreanaz (Sunday, Oct. 10 at 10 p.m. ET/PT); and The Blacklist on a new day and time (Thursday, Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT).
COMEDY For Global’s comedy slate, the network welcomes the previously announced Ghosts, a new single-camera comedy based on the breakthrough British comedy of the same name, premiering Thursday, Oct. 7 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, followed by the sophomore season of Chuck Lorre comedy United States of Al also on Thursday, Oct. 7 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT. Also, The Neighborhood starring Cedric the Entertainer returns on Monday, Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
COMPETITION REALITY SERIES Castaways rejoice! It’s once again time to don your buffs and head back to tribal council with the return of Survivor, back for an epic 41st season premiering with a special two-hour episode Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Then, a new season of fan-favourite reality series Tough As Nails premieres Wednesday, Oct. 6 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
ENTERTAINMENT NEWS Beginning its 17th season Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT, ET Canada returns this fall to deliver the latest in entertainment news and bring viewers exclusive interviews and specials with the biggest celebrities in Hollywood. Plus, ET Canada’s Fall TV Preview airs Wednesday, Sept. 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT and offers viewers an exclusive look into some of the most highly anticipated new shows premiering this fall. Then, premiering on Saturday, Sept. 18, ET Canada is expanding with the newly greenlit hour-long weekend edition of the show, ET Canada Weekend . Hosted by Sangita Patel, ET Canada Weekend will air Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. ET/ PT on Global.
FACTUAL AND TRUE CRIME Global’s news and true crime content kicks off with Emmy® Award-winning newsmagazine 60 Minutes beginning its 54th season Sunday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT (regular timeslot is 7:00 p.m. ET/PT following the premiere) with a poignant hour from Scott Pelley commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The New York Fire Department’s top officers relive their personal experiences at Ground Zero when they lost 343 of New York’s Bravest. Then, a new season of 48 Hours premieres Saturday, Sept. 18 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Lastly, Global’s Canadian true crime series Crime Beat begins a new season Friday, Oct. 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
The Banff World Media Festival (BANFF) is proud to announce highly anticipated Master Classes featuring talent and creatives from hit series It’s a Sin, David Makes Man, Transplant, Moominvalley and Sort Of as well as exclusive screenings for Family Law and Blindspotting. The virtual Festival will take place June 14 – July 16, 2021, via an all-new bespoke online platform that will connect the global media industry to ignite new projects and support business development.
“This year’s Master Classes and Screenings represent some of the world’s most original, impactful and exciting series,” said Jenn Kuzmyk, Executive Director of the Banff World Media Festival. “It is a privilege to host such accomplished talent and executives as they take us through the business and creative story behind the making of each project.”
It’s a Sin: A coming-of-age chronicle of four friends during the rise of the AIDS crisis from 1981 to 1991, the critically acclaimed mini-series drama It’s a Sin has been lauded by critics and audiences globally. Featuring an intimate conversation with the show’s Creator, Executive Producer and Showrunner Russell T. Davies, Director Peter Hoar and actor Nathaniel Curtis as they discuss the journey to bringing this change-making landmark show to the screen and its impact to date. Featuring: • Russell T. Davies, Creator • Peter Hoar, Director • Nathaniel Curtis, Actor
David Makes Man: The Peabody Award-winning series produced by Warner Bros. Television also received a Critics’ Choice Award nomination for Best Drama, a prestigious Gotham Award nomination, and has been named to several critics’ 2019 year-end best-of-television lists. David Makes Man premiered to overwhelming critical acclaim in August 2019. The New York Times called the show “deeply beautiful and distinctive” while The Washington Post called it “one of the most original and riveting TV shows this year.” During its first season run, the series ranked No. 2 in its time period across all cable with African-American women and reached over 4.1 million unique viewers on OWN. Season two fast-forwards and finds David in his 30s, a rising businessman facing an opportunity that will change him and his community forever; the mounting pressure forces David to choose between the instincts that helped him survive or finding a new way to truly live. Featuring: • Tarell Alvin McCraney, Creator • Tina Perry, President, OWN • Dee Harris-Lawrence, Executive Producer • Kiel Adrian Scott, Director • Kwame Patterson, Actor • Akili McDowell, Actor
Transplant: An in-depth conversation with the creative team behind the hit CTV Original drama series Transplant. The first season of the critically-acclaimed series, which is the 2021 Canadian Screen Award-winner for Best Drama Series, follows a Syrian doctor who tries to build a new life for himself and his sister. A ratings hit on CTV, Transplant became the most-watched Canadian series, and on NBC in the U.S. Featuring: • Joseph Kay, Creator and Showrunner • Tara Woodbury, VP of Development, Sphère Média • Carlyn Klebuc, General Manager, Original Programming, Bell Media • Hamza Haq, Actor • Ahmed Meree, Cultural Consultant and Actor
Moominvalley: A deep dive journey into the magic behind the internationally celebrated and positivity-themed animated series Moominvalley, based on the stories of beloved Finnish-Swedish author Tove Jansson. Produced by Gutsy Animations from the series Creator Marika Makaroff, Executive Producer Marion Edwards, Director Jay Grace and Actor Jack Rowan (Noughts + Crosses, Peaky Blinders) who voices “Moomintroll”, as well as Jarmo Lampela, Head of Drama, at the Finnish public broadcaster YLE who was first to board the series which has been sold to more than 50 countries. Featuring: • Marika Makaroff, Creative Director Moominvalley / Chief Creative Officer Gutsy Animations • Marion Edwards, Executive Producer • Jay Grace, Director • Jarmo Lampela, Head of Drama, YLE • Jack Rowan, Actor
Sort Of: A conversation with the creative team behind CBC’s new dramatic comedy, Sort Of, premiering this fall. Creators and Showrunners Bilal Baig (Acha Bacha) and Fab Filippo (Save Me) and Sienna Films’ Jennifer Kawaja will take BANFF delegates behind the scenes of this big-hearted, coming-of-age story about Sabi Mehboob (Baig), a gender-fluid millennial in transition in every aspect of their life, from gender to love to sexuality to family to career. Featuring: • Bilal Baig, Executive Producer, Writer, Lead Performer, Co-Creator • Fab Filippo, Executive Producer, Director, Co-Creator • Jennifer Kawaja, Executive Producer
As previously announced, the creative team and cast from FX’s new half-hour series Reservation Dogs will also be featured in the Master Class lineup.
Exclusive screenings featured during the Festival will include the hot new comedy-drama series Blindspotting followed by a Q&A with the cast, as well as the highly-anticipated upcoming legal drama Family Law. Presented in partnership with Lionsgate Entertainment and STARZ, Blindspotting comes from co-creators and executive producers Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs which follows Ashley (Jasmine Cephas Jones), who is enjoying a peaceful life in Oakland until her partner of 12 years and father of their son is suddenly incarcerated, leaving her to navigate a chaotic and comedic existential crisis as she is forced to move in with his family. Presented in partnership with Corus Entertainment, Family Law stars Jewel Staite (Firefly) and Victor Garber (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) in this one-hour drama that follows lawyer and recovering alcoholic Abigail ‘Abby’ Bianchi struggling to put her career and family back together after hitting rock bottom.
In continuing with creative discussions on more hit series, BANFF’s Rockie Awards Roundtables will feature creators, executive producers and producers behind this year’s nominees including Alone, Love on the Spectrum, Filthy Rich and Homeless, The Last Ice, Noughts + Crosses, I May Destroy You, About Sex, El Presidente and more.
The full 2021 Banff World Media Festival agenda is available HERE.
Following Corus Entertainment’s specialty network greenlights and renewals, today, Global announced new season greenlights for its original scripted series Family Law (Season 2) and Departure (Season 3). With production on Season 2 now underway in Vancouver, the renewal of new legal drama Family Law comes ahead of its premiere, which is set to debut on Global later this year. Similarly, Season 2 of the critically acclaimed ratings juggernaut Departure will also air later this year, with Season 3 set to begin production this fall.
Produced by SEVEN24 Films and Lark Productions, and created by Canadian award-winning author Susin Nielsen, Family Law is a one-hour legal drama that follows Abigail ‘Abby’ Bianchi (Jewel Staite) navigating her new life with her family including Abby’s father Harry Svensson (Victor Garber), her half- brother Daniel Svensson (Zach Smadu), and half-sister Lucy Svensson (Genelle Williams). The second season sees each character develop as they face new personal challenges, as well as take on an incredible lineup of cases. Season 2 will also feature many exciting guest stars including Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (Kim’s Convenience) and Catherine Fitch (Murdoch Mysteries).
Award-winning event series Departure also receives a greenlight for a third season with production set to begin this fall. Season 3 will follow the aftermath of a deadly ferry accident with additional details including filming location and casting for Season 3 to be announced at a later date.