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The Wedding Planners’ Michael Seater: “It speaks to themes I think everybody can get”

Frequent visitors to this site know I cover Murdoch Mysteries extensively. That means fans of the show know the name Michael Seater intimately. The veteran Canadian writer, director, producer and actor may very well be best-known for his portrayal of serial killer James Gillies on the period drama. But Murdoch isn’t his only acting gig.

Aside from Life with Derek, 18 to Life and Bomb Girls, Seater can be seen every Friday night on The Wedding Planners. There, he co-stars as James Clarkson—alongside Paige (Kimberly-Sue Murray) and Hannah (Madeline Leon), who take over their mother’s wedding planning business after she passes away suddenly.

We spoke to Michael Seater about The Wedding Planners, being an independent producer and … yes … playing James Gillies.

You’ve got a production company going. I know you’re making feature films. How did you end up playing James on The Wedding Planners?
Michael Seater: Beth Stevenson, who runs the show, was at Decode Entertainment, which did my first series back when I was a kid. She and I had a meeting earlier this year to talk about different things, sort of a general meeting and different things out there, from directing to acting. The Wedding Planners came along a couple of months later, which seems like good timing. It’s a really fun show. It speaks to themes I think everybody can get, which are loss and family and love.

James has a really interesting story. What’s the journey for him this season?
MS: Well, I think it’s interesting in that he’s left and there’s the appearance that he has figured it all out and doesn’t need this small-town life anymore, and I think the big city is more his speed. But bright lights, big city, things aren’t always as they seem. What happens to a lot of people in a big, giant metropolis like that, you quickly are living beyond your means. In how we operate today in an Instagram culture, we have this pressure, which I think has always existed but never more than now, to present like you are living a certain way that maybe you can’t afford.

I don’t think he plans on staying for long, but that might change because circumstances change. I think when you suffer such a great loss, you realize how important and valuable family is. Even if on the surface James plays sarcastic often, that he doesn’t really care that much about being there, I think that’s all a deflective veneer that he uses so people don’t see that he’s lost his mom and he’s hurting and he needs to be around his sisters right now.

Can you speak to any of the input you had into this character?
MS: There is a lot of dialogue in finding the voice, and a lot of figuring out the nuanced nature of, especially, a queer character. Making it feel that it’s honest and not put-on. I’m a queer person myself. I watch a lot of Drag Race. I want the language to be authentic. Then, there’s the story aspect of making sure that when we promise something in a story that we deliver on it.

You have a production company with Paula Brancati. Is working in somebody else’s sandbox, in your view, an exercise in not flexing producer’s muscles and getting back into the acting? 
MS: Yes and no. I give myself a talk sort of before I do a project where I am hired solely as actor. I am not shy with my opinions, and so I need to make sure that I’m not stepping on too many toes.

The three siblings are sort of the head of the department, and we are very inherently involved in stories. So, I think, from actors I’ve known throughout the years who when I was young, I kind of looked at as examples. Peter Outerbridge on ReGenesis is somebody who was a really magnificent lead on a show and how he works on how he pushed for the script to always be the best it could be. He looked out for younger or guest actors who don’t have a voice the way that he did.

But then, on the other hand, I tell myself, ‘OK, you’re not the director of this. Don’t try and get involved and say, ‘Well, what are you doing with the cameras?’ You’ve got to let somebody else do their job.’ And I hope I do that. Making a TV show, making a film is always such a collaborative endeavour anyways. Lots of people wear different hats, but even if you only ever wear one hat, your department affects another department. So, it’s always about communicating with one another and the best idea wins. That’s how I try and operate.

Murdoch Mysteries fans know you play James Gillies, perhaps the ultimate villain on that show. What was that like playing that character?
MS: I have the best time going to play on that show. I mean, a bunch of crew on that show was from shows I had done previously. I knew a lot of the cast, especially the longer I did the show. So, I would go back every summer and it was like visiting your favourite aunt and uncle for a week in the summer. It was family. We had such a good time and just got to play.

Gillies is so much fun because he’s one of those wonderfully truly classically evil characters. And by the later episodes, everyone knows he’s evil. So, it’s not like, ‘Oh, I need to hide this and play nice till the very end and we get the reveal at the end.’ I get to come in guns blazing and hold needles to babies’ necks and hairpins to women’s throats and all this fun stuff and get my face mangled. It was so good.

Also, I wouldn’t ever say that we’ve seen the last of Gillies. I’ve always said that was just his good twin and see, the evil twin used that weird brain thing that made the guy do the talking, use that on his good twin and the evil twin’s still alive and kicking. That’s just my opinion.

The Wedding Planners airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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The Wedding Planners brings much-needed nostalgia to primetime TV

In a world full of turmoil and seeking comfort, Beth Stevenson’s creations couldn’t be more timely.

If you’ve tuned in to a Harlequin or Hallmark holiday movie, you’ve likely seen her stuff. Stevenson’s IMDB page is chockfull of such seasonal fare as Snowbound for Christmas, A Christmas Recipe for Romance, Twinkle all the Way or Christmas with a Prince. They’ve quickly become holiday classics. Now Stevenson, Brain Power Studio founder and executive producer, jumps into primetime TV with a new series.

The Wedding Planners, debuting Friday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv, introduces us to the Clarkson Wedding Essentials, a family-run business that is a one-stop spot for wedding planning. The business is headed up by Marguerite (Michelle Nolden), who hopes her children—Paige (Kimberly-Sue Murray), James (Michael Seater) and Hannah (Madeline Leon)—will one day carry on the business. When that day comes suddenly, the siblings are forced to work together to pull off the perfect wedding.

We spoke to Beth Stevenson about The Wedding Planners, and why shows like it are the perfect salve for uncertain times.

How did The Wedding Planners come about?
Beth Stevenson: Some of Marguerite is actually a lot to do with my mom was such a big part of my life. The reason I’m in the film and television business is because she was actually studying to go into the film and television business after she had raised all of us. I come from a family with siblings and Brain Power is actually a family company and a lot of my siblings do work in the company. My stepsons work in the company. We have that familial connection together with the fact that we’re building something and we’re working on something together. There’s a lot of comparison to how Marguerite has grown the business and expropriated bedrooms. We thought, ‘This will be a really nice location to base a series out of.’

What about the partnership with Rogers?
BS: Nataline Rodrigues, who’s the director of original programming, has this beautiful timeslot that’s called Fall In Love Fridays. We were doing many Harlequin films and most were Canadian content productions that we were doing for various Canadian networks. But predominantly, we were exporting them. She found me and said, ‘Hey, I see you’re doing romcoms and things that would work really well for our network.’ And we said to her, ‘We’re working on this nice limited series that is going to be about a family of wedding planners.’ We continued to talk and then we started to quickly move it through development and she believed in the concept and we went into production.

When it comes to putting together a project like this, a limited series as opposed to a two hour TV movie, it would seem there would be more space to play around. 
BS: It’s definitely nice to build worlds and to look at maybe a dynasty of characters that are together that can continue on. It’s good to do that two-hour movie to make sure you get the chemistry right in the casting, that you’re bringing these worlds together. With The Wedding Planners, we get the best of both worlds because we have this definitive storyline which is the bride and groom that we’re following that episode. And then you have this beautiful enriching family drama that’s flowing underneath it.

The TV-movies you have made have quickly become kind of go-to programming during the holidays. What is it that we love about these so much? Is it escapism?
BS: I go towards more of the word nostalgia. The holiday season has grown to a place of we want this comfort, we want this nostalgia, we want to have these moments where it’s that Christmas tingle people get. The nice thing from our adaptations is they’re coming from Christmas novels in many instances.

A lot of our movies are on Amazon Prime where we get the analytics every week. And it is phenomenal. It doesn’t stop in January I will tell you. Because I think again, people need that in these times. I think the barrage and the digital world can be very exhausting. So if you can get that comfort to come back and to follow a family or to follow a couple and to root for them and to have a little bit of a break, that’s, I think, making a big difference right now in the world.

The Wedding Planners airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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Tribal’s Brian Markinson: “Everywhere you see, this is Indigenous peoples’ lands”

I’ve been a fan of Brian Markinson’s for years. I first saw him on Da Vinci’s Inquest (Seasons 1 and 2 are on CBC Gem) and Da Vinci’s City Hall as Police Chief Bill Jacobs. Since then, he’s appeared on countless TV shows I’ve watched, from Shattered to Sanctuary, Arctic Air to Continuum, The Romeo Section and more.

So when I saw he was co-starring with Jessica Matten on Tribal, I had to reach out and book some time to talk. Ron E. Scott’s newest series—airing Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on APTN and recently renewed for Season 2—puts Matten’s interim Tribal police chief Sam Woodburn alongside veteran, white city cop Chuck “Buke” Bukansky, played by Markinson, to solve crimes on and off the reservation. Season 1 storylines include pipeline protects, healing lodge justice and murdered and missing Indigenous women.

How did you come to be on Tribal in the first place?
Brian Markinson: I first heard of Ron through Blackstone. Friends and some other folks that I know, that I respect, had gone and done arcs on the show. I’ve always heard that he’s just one of the nicest guys, a fantastic producer. And so, when I was sent Tribal, I was really only sent three scenes. I read these three scenes from the first episode, and I really had a sense of who [Buke] is. The prototype was maybe a little bit different for me. He was sort of maybe an older, bigger, a big, heavy old school cop.

But I loved those three scenes so much that I called my agent, and I said, ‘I have a handle on it.’ I thought I did a good job at the audition. I said, ‘If there’s any interest, let’s please pursue this one,’ because it’s very rare that you see writing, and characters that are sketched for me. This guy, for me, I just understood where he was coming from, and his pain, and all that fun stuff. And then Ron and I met because there was interest, and we sat down, and we thought we would talk for an hour. We talked for three. And then it was sort of sealed at that point.

When we first meet up with Buke, he’s sitting in a bar, these young guys are asking about old war stories, and he goes to the washroom and pops some pills. There’s some pain there in his life.
BM: You find out a little bit about where that comes from. And then, there’s an event that happens. I think he was a very good cop, and I think he had a run-in, that sort of feeds into where his prejudices lie when it comes to Indigenous peoples. After that, I think he’s not the same person. He’s in physical pain, and I also think he’s in immense emotional pain. He’s a guy who is not, as you said, he’s not a part of these young studs on the force, and he doesn’t really have a foot in Tribal, so he’s in limbo a lot of the time.

Ironic, because Sam’s going through the same thing. She’s told by members of the Indigenous peoples that she’s a sellout. But yet she doesn’t fit with the city cops either.
BM: Exactly. So you have these two people who float, and the whole intention of the justice department is to create this new sort of thing, and, unbeknownst to them, they do. And then, these two seemingly parallel lines, that we never think are going to meet, are skewed enough towards each other, that through the course of this season, they become closer, and they find a way to trust each other, and things that spin outside of their relationship sort of force them together as well. There’s a lot of room to plumb some great stuff, and he’s created this relationship that we can really hang our hats on. We have the crime of the week that you can hook into, but I think at the core of this, as Ron likes to call it, it’s a serialized procedural.

What’s it like for you, acting on this show, in these storylines, that is very true to life and involves colonialism?
BM: My politics are very progressive. I live in Vancouver. Whenever you go to any sort of public event, whether it’s the theatre or whatever, they start by saying, ‘We’re honoured to be performing on the unceded lands.’ But as Ron said to me, ‘It’s all ours.’ It really hit home when he said that, that everywhere you see, this is Indigenous peoples’ lands. Wherever you travel. I don’t, in any way, pretend to be anything else except a student of this history.

Tribal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on APTN.

Images courtesy of Prairie Dog Film + Television.

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Comments and queries for the week of March 6

Absolutely love Making It Home and Dave and Kortney!!! Would love them to come and renovate my main living space. —Lisa

This show is not nearly as good as Masters of Flip. Perhaps it is because Kortney and Dave cannot boost the sale price if they go over budget but must stick to what the homeowners have decided to spend. I find the opening of the show annoying – the constant joking and laughing detracts from people who are supposed to be professionals. Next, having the owners come in with their eyes closed is kid’s birthday party stuff. Let them come in without all that. Lastly, Dave seems like a level-headed guy. Is it really necessary for Kortney to put him down, pick up on tiny mistakes and generally demonstrate that he is necessary but not really appreciated? —S


I agree that some of the contestants [on Family Feud Canada] aren’t very bright, but what surprises me is the answers given by the 100 surveyed Canadians! Some of their answers are not what an average person would say. Do they give dumb answers in order to hinder the contestants? So many reasonable answers get X’d. Also, how could the Popeye question be a reasonable one as there could be only one correct answer. I think it was a promo stunt. —Kit

Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? Email greg.david@tv-eh.com or via Twitter @tv_eh.

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Diggstown creator Floyd Kane breaks down Season 2’s shocking opening scene

The first minutes of Diggstown‘s second season debut will leave you on the edge of your seat. As “Amazing Race” swells, a woman’s body is thrown through the air in a slow-motion dance that ends in tragedy. It’s a shocking return for the CBC legal drama.

Returning Wednesday at 8 p.m., Diggstown follows lawyer Marcie Diggs (Vinessa Antoine) and the team at Halifax Legal Aid, lead by Colleen MacDonnell (Natasha Henstridge). Fellow lawyers include Pam MacLean (Stacey Farber), Reggie Thompson (C. David Johnson), Doug Paul (Brandon Oakes) and Iris Beals (Shailene Garnett).

We spoke to creator Floyd Kane about those emotionally draining opening moments.

One of the things that have set Diggstown apart for me is the dialogue. I’ve listened to so many shows where the dialogue between characters seems really forced and Diggstown doesn’t feel like that. Another CBC series, Coroner, feels natural as well. Is that hard to write dialogue to make it sound natural?
Floyd Kane: It’s very hard, but I give a lot of credit to our actors, they kind of put a little bit of their own dust on it. But for me, it’s always interesting because when I’m trying to write, especially for communities that I don’t know, you’re always trying to get the voice in your head. That’s the thing that it’s the most challenging part is just making sure that you’ve got that voice in your head properly.

Before we talk about Season 2, let’s go back a bit into Season 1. Were there some takeaways for you, things that worked in Season 1, things that maybe you thought you could have done a little bit better moving into Season 2?
FK: Definitely. I think that every season of the show you’re learning something more. I think in the first season you’re learning certain things like what actors could handle what. Who can you give more to? These are all things that come up.  Our show is a procedural and in the first season, there were very few continuing elements. And so this season what we did is we incorporated some continuing storylines. Viewers want a contained story, but they also want to be able to get some bits of character that they can pull on too.

It would appear that in the very first episode you hint at what may be a season-long story with Avery being handled the case and taking out the photo of Marcie in there. I’m assuming that’s going to last more than a couple of episodes. 
FK: For sure. Episode 4 of Season 2 is actually a big episode for Marcie and Avery and Pam in terms of their relationship to one another.

You start out the season in slow motion, with an accident and ‘Amazing Grace’ being played. It’s very effective. Why did you decide to start off like that?
FK: We had written … I think there was a full-blown sequence involving cars and kids crossing the street, a high-speed chase. We are not a $4 million show. I sat with the director and we started noodling, ‘Well how do we do this?’ And he had an idea and then I kind of said, ‘Well something I would really want us to try to do, and see if it works, is play that from the point of view of the person who’s been hit by the car and have them falling through the air, and we’re seeing what they’re seeing. That’s where that came from. It just was really trying to figure out, ‘What’s the cool visual way to stage that?’

It’s interesting to have the police officer be Asian and being defended by Marci because you were able to have her community turn against her. Was that always the way that you wanted to go for that main storyline?
FK: Here’s where that all came from. We wanted to do a cop killing involving a black person this season. We had written on the board, it was going to be a white woman shooting an unarmed black person. And we knew that we wanted it to be a single mom who was killed. I watch a lot of television and I’m like, every show is doing the black person being killed by a white cop.

I don’t want to do this. There has to be a different way. And that’s when we sat in the writing room and it was like, ‘OK, it’s not going to be a shooting, it’s going to be a high-speed chase and they’re going to kill this black woman. That was where that came from. And then, I wanted the cop to the Asian because I just wanted to have that conversation. I want people, when they watch the episode, to think about the relationship that exists between the black communities in this country and the Asian communities in this country. I think these are communities that don’t necessarily talk as much as they should.

What type of writer are you? Are you the type of writer that likes to be in a room quiet and quietly when you’re writing? Do you prefer a coffee shop with a lot of noise around you? 
FK: I love the coffee shop. My wife says I have undiagnosed ADHD so I have a hard time when I’m alone, getting down to brass tacks with the writing. But if I’m in a coffee shop … because I have all of this noise around me, and I have my headphones in so I’m listening to a podcast or something. I can just like blaze through. That’s how I work.

Diggstown airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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