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Pure’s Alex Paxton-Beesley: “It feels so special”

You can hear the enthusiasm in Alex Paxton-Beesley’s voice when she talks about Pure. She was crushed when CBC pulled the plug on the show after one season and thrilled when it was resurrected on Super Channel Fuse. Paxton-Beesley uses one word to describe Michael Amo’s creation: special.

With Episode 3 headed our way on Tuesday night at 10 p.m. ET on Super Channel Fuse, we spoke to her about hers and Anna Funk’s journey.

What were your initial thoughts after Pure was cancelled after Season 1?
Alex Paxton-Beesley: I was devastated because I felt like it was such a great world. I knew from talking to Michael Amo about it that there was a ton of story left to tell. I was excited for the story arc that he had planned for Season 2. And then the rumours started. There was rumbling around in the fall a year later. ‘What do you mean, stand by? What does that mean?’ It felt really surreal, even into shooting Season 2. We would look around and say, ‘Are we actually here? The dream came true?’ It’s one of those projects that feels so special.

What did Michael Amo tell you about Season 2 that got you excited?
APB: How different life was going to be at the beginning of Season 2. The Funks have been cast out of everything that they were fighting for, really, the first time around. I thought that was a very interesting place to start from because they’re sort of in purgatory. Anna has one foot in the Auslander world and she doesn’t to be there. She’s desperately trying to keep a foot in the Mennonite world but they don’t want her there. And she’s also trying to protect her kids and give them some semblance of a life. Dylan Everett, Jessica Clement and I had some conversations about what we thought had happened in that year or so since the end of Season 1 because Noah walks away and all of a sudden it’s the three of us.

That was a very satisfying and fun conversation because we went all over the place with our imagining.

How has the tone changed for Season 2?
APB: I think it’s gotten much, much darker. Part of that is afforded by the plot. We’re not so much within the Mennonite colony. There is so much more going on in the outsider world. It’s been a very satisfying element, to push the envelope story-wise.

Christopher Heyerdahl is a new addition to the cast and plays Augustus Nickel. What can you say about Augustus?
APB: I think people are going to be pretty darn surprised at the kind of man Augustus Nickel is going to turn out to be. [Laughs.] He is the most incredible human being and actor and at times made my life very difficult because he is so delightful as Augustus and in character, Anna is not always delighted. He made it really, really hard to stay in character.

The shock for me was Gord Rand returning as the not-so-dead Abel.
APB: Gord Rand is one of the most amazing actors we have in Canada. He is the most inspirational person I’ve ever seen and I want to eat his brain and absorb his knowledge. When he was killed, we all knew he wasn’t really dead because he’s too good of a character and his journey is really rich, especially now. The conversation he has with Noah in the first episode about seeing God and maybe God just wants us to be happy. I think that’s going to be a very powerful perspective for Noah to have to contend with.

Alyson Hannigan was announced as a cast member but nothing else has been revealed. Can you say anything?
APB: I’m not allowed to say much. She is going to be appearing later on in the season. She’s playing a very fun character. The day I was on set watching her, I was just losing my mind laughing. She is so funny. The character she plays is super-feisty, mouthy and integral to the plot.

Pure airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Super Channel Fuse.

Images courtesy of Super Channel.

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Comments and queries for the week of June 7

Canadian TV, especially the shows produced and distributed by non-network owned companies, live and die off their ability to be sold internationally. The East Coast accent [on Hudson & Rex] is probably seen as too alienating to foreign viewers. Since Hudson & Rex has been a hit here, hopefully, that’ll encourage them to be a bit more open about where the show is set in the future. —Jonathan

I disagree completely. People actually like shows that stand out culturally and visually yet, for some reason, certain Canadian shows try to make their shows too generic which IMO makes them inferior. I’ve long had a problem with shows trying to disguise their settings to try to appear as American. Currently that’s my biggest peeve with Northern Rescue. I’ve noticed they’ve tried to be subtle about the setting to pass themselves off as American. Little things like Scout going home to Boston. Would he have actually had his passport with him and would border services let a 15-year-old by himself that easily through? Not once have the characters said they were in Canada. It pisses me off, especially from a CBC show. —Alicia

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

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Jennifer Podemski tells stories of Indigenous communities in APTN’s Future History

I can’t get enough of history, especially when it comes to Canada. What I dismissed as boring when I was in high school has become a fascination. And, thanks to APTN, I’ve learned a lot about Indigenous peoples and their stories.

A plethora of tales is told in Season 2 of Jennifer Podemski’s excellent Future History. Airing Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET, the program has really hit its stride in the sophomore go-round as producer-director Podemski follows Indigenous activist and artist Sarain Fox and archaeologist Kris Nahrgang through 13 half-hour episodes. For Nahrgang, this journey is deeply personal. He was raised not knowing anything about his First Nations roots and continues to gain knowledge this year. In the show’s May 14 debut, viewers learned how Nahrgang’s grandmother covered her skin with makeup to look white and joined what Nahrgang’s mother called “white clubs.”

“It’s not a story you often hear,” Podemski says. “Especially in this journey of reclamation, I think that many Canadians who see themselves as white, or non-Native, might never have considered they too might be a Kris.” The idea for Future History came about because of a meeting Podemski had with a production company working with Nahrgang on a possible archaeology project. The actress, writer, producer and director was intrigued at the idea of something historical, but with a future slant. Adding a younger co-host, Podemski reasoned, would polarize not just Nahrgang’s distance from his culture but his age and on-camera experience.

“That also helps people really understand that he is on a very uncomfortable journey,” she says. The uncomfortable feeling really comes through, especially when Nahrgang gamely agrees to attend an Ojibway immersion camp where no English is spoken for days. Fox and Nahrgang visit different areas of the country in their journeys, visiting Southern Ontario locales like Orillia, Peterborough, Kitchener and Manitoulin Island. Their segments are broken up by the Talking Stick, where Indigenous members of the community look straight into the camera to vent frustrations, give advice or voice concerns.

“We were only looking for a minute, but it started a lot of great conversations and I really wanted it to feel not necessarily thematically tied to the episode,” Podemski says. “I wanted it to be a voice from the community, another texture that may be totally unrelated to what we are talking about.

“When we’re telling stories through an Indigenous lens it’s so important to me that we don’t paint them with one brush.”

Future History airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on APTN. You can watch past episodes on APTN.ca.

Image courtesy of APTN.

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Ian Carpenter lives his dream showrunning Netflix’s Slasher: Solstice

Ian Carpenter was convinced Aaron Martin didn’t like his writing style. Yes, Martin—the showrunner behind series like Degrassi: The Next Generation, The Best Years and Saving Hope—had hired Carpenter to work on Being Erica, but since then … nothing.

“He and I would meet for a work day in a café and I would ask him what he was working on, and he would tell me about this great thing and all of the great writers he had in the room with him,” Carpenter says with a laugh. “I hit a point when I said to myself, ‘Well, maybe he doesn’t like my writing.'” It turns out the right project hadn’t come along. Until now.

Slasher: Solstice is the third season of the franchise created by Martin—it’s available on Netflix now—and Carpenter is on board not just as a writer but showrunner too. Martin’s latest creation, Another Life starring Katee Sackhoff, had been greenlit by Netflix meaning he wasn’t available to handle Solstice. Enter Carpenter, horror fanboy.

“Every meeting that I was having with anyone, when they asked me what I wanted to work on it was horror,” he says. “That’s all I want to do for the next many years.”

Slasher: Solstice keeps the franchise’s cast intact by reuniting several actors from past seasons in Dean McDermott, Joanna Vannicola, Paula Brancati, Erin Karpluk, Jim Watson, Jefferson Brown and Paulino Nunes with new faces in Baraka Rahmani, Lisa Berry, Mercedes Morris and Salvatore Antonio. And, like the franchise, Solstice meets up with these characters as awful things happen in present-day to match a truly terrible occurrence in the past.

We spoke to Ian Carpenter about his dream gig.

How did the writing for this season come about?
Ian Carpenter: Aaron had pitched the season, it had been approved and he had written an amazing pilot that is, for the most part, entirely there. If I changed anything, it was maybe five per cent. Thirteen out of the 15 characters were there and he knew who [was behind the crimes] and the whole arc down the line. He had the tent poles worked out and then we sat down and broke the next four episodes. And then, once he became unavailable, I broke the remaining four with a writer named Matt MacLennan. At all times I was, of course, running things by Aaron. There were a couple of massive twists that I sent to him and got super-excited responses back. It was so much fun to freak out the creator.

Can an eagle-eyed viewer spot the person or people behind this during the season?
IC: I didn’t encounter anyone that had picked it out and wasn’t floored by the story. But, as a guy who has spent a lot of time with the episodes, I’m pleased with how much it is seeded in there. Like, ‘Oh my god, when this person is saying this, really this is going on.’

A woman screams while crouching over a dead body.A big part of Slasher’s storytelling is through flashback. I noticed this goes back as far as 20 years. It that the furthest?
IC: I think so. I’m obsessed with the emotional weight of everything and I want us to mourn the characters who die. As I’ve been working on this I’ve come to realize how much I want there to be hope, positivity or light in the show. In this season, as it is in past seasons, is that the deaths mean something. It’s not a nihilistic lopping off of people’s heads all over the place for no reason. For sure, there are a couple of characters people want to see die and probably celebrate their end, but at all times I want to feel the weight of what’s happening.

Adam MacDonald directed all of Solstice’s episodes. What was it like working with him?
IC: We’ve been friends for, I think, something like 20 years. I was hired maybe two weeks before Adam was and they were pursuing him ahead of time so it was just bizarre, amazing luck that we were on it together. We were close then and we are way more close now. I would put his work up against anyone’s. It’s so incredible. I have never worked with a director who has a more visceral connection to the camera. I love the expressiveness of the camera and he has done something that really stands out in the genre and on TV.

The apartment building serves as the main focal point for much of the action and story. Was it always the intention to have that claustrophobic feel?
IC: Aaron was riffing off the case in New York City where the woman was murdered in front of her apartment building and people watched but did nothing. We wanted to spin around that and I loved the claustrophobia of it, and of people brushing up against each other, getting in each other’s business and driving each other crazy. And it makes those moments where you leave the building extra special.

You not only have a diverse cast but you don’t shy away from storylines containing xenophobia, hatred, inclusion or acceptance.
IC: It’s a huge part of everything Aaron has ever done and I’m the same way. I wanted to make it carte blanche across the board and I feel like it led us to discover some really exciting talent. And, it’s a big part of some of the themes this season. Netflix was totally into that and was a big part of this season’s pitch. It’s fun to tell those stories right now because it’s so important. A lot of hard work went into not making it simplistic.

Slasher: Solstice is streaming on Netflix now.

Images courtesy of Shaftesbury.

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Pure: Creator Michael Amo on the return of Season 2 and a favourite character

Spoiler alert: Do not continue reading unless you have watched the first episode of Pure, Season 2.

Pure‘s second season premiere was notable for a few reasons. It introduced Hector Estrada (Victor Gomez), the drug dealer who demanded Anna Funk re-start the Mennonite cocaine pipeline. And, just to give her the little push Anna needed to do that, took Isaak (Dylan Everett) as collateral. When we last saw Isaak, he was naked, caged and (rightfully) screaming for his mother. Last Tuesday’s return also brought a favourite character back from the grave. It turns out Noah’s (Ryan Robbins) brother, Abel (Gord Rand), suffered merely a flesh wound when Eli Voss shot him; the siblings shared an emotional reunion.

With so much going on not just with the characters but the show itself, we got Michael Amo on the phone to discuss it.

What were your thoughts when you were told by CBC that the second season of Pure wasn’t going to be happening with them?
Michael Amo: [Laughs.] I remember being surprised because I think we averaged over 700,000 viewers per episode which, for a freshman drama on CBC, is pretty good. But, I guess it wasn’t on brand for them. I did move on to other things and developed some other shows. It was really Cineflix. It was Brett Burlock and Peter Emerson, who are our Ontario production partners, were the ones who said, ‘You know what? It’s not going to die so easily.’ They’re the ones who engineered the deal between WGN America and Super Channel and put their own kind of equity into it as well.

Three people, dressed in black, stand next to each other.Was there a phone call to you to say it had been greenlit?
MA: For me, it was me talking to Brett about some things I was working on and him saying, ‘Not so fast, Pure isn’t dead yet.’ But I’ve got a family to feed and said, ‘I welcome the opportunity to do more of Pure.’ I hung up the phone and went about my business. Months went by and, behind the scenes, Brett and Peter were working feverishly to make it happen. So, when you get the call and are told your baby has been brought back to life, it’s a happy day indeed.

You’ve spent at least one full episode keeping Noah away from his family. What was the thinking behind that?
MA: Actually, we keep Noah away from Anna until Episode 3 because I don’t want to make it easy. [Laughs.] The audience should be rooting for this family to get back together and they can’t do that if they’re together from the get-go. It was challenging to keep them apart for so long, but I did put them on a collision course to tie in with the law enforcement angle of the show. It was a challenge to do that. Season 1 was all about their fall from grace and expulsion from paradise and Season 2 is about them, all in their own way, trying to get back to paradise and the innocence they lose along the way.

How has being on Super Channel Fuse changed the tone of the show? What have you been able to do that you couldn’t on CBC?
MA: There were fans of the show, to begin with, so when they took it on, they said, ‘We’re a premium cable network, so feel free to play in that space.’ I didn’t go too crazy because I, personally, am not a huge fan of vulgarity and the show really never had the creative bandwidth for sex. But we could push the elements that were already in the show a little harder.

Hector Estrada is, literally, taking no prisoners. What’s it been like to create this guy?
MA: In Season 1 we had Eli Voss, who had very specific spiritual views that were in opposition to Noah’s. In Season 2, I really wanted to do something different, from a character point of view for the villain, so Hector is all about the here and now. He does not believe in an afterlife, he does not believe there are any consequences for his actions in this world whatsoever. He is all about the material pleasures, but he’s sort of lonely too. So, he bonds with Isaak and that’s his Achilles heel in a way. [Actor] Victor Gomez is both extremely charming and when he wants to be, ice cold.

I was surprised to see Gord Rand returned to Pure. In Season 1, Abel was shot by Eli and left for dead. Were you always intending to bring the character of Abel back?
MA: [Laughs.] I’m going to be honest and say perhaps not. What happens is, you fall in love with these characters, and the actors who play them, and you say, ‘Oh my goodness, I have to find a way to keep Gord in the picture.’ I’m glad I did.

Pure airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Super Channel Fuse.

Images courtesy of Super Channel.

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