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The Sounds: Rachelle Lefevre and Peter Stebbings preview CBC’s thriller

The Sounds serves as a reunion between Rachelle Lefevre and Shaftesbury. The Canadian production company—perhaps most well-known for Murdoch Mysteries, Frankie Drake Mysteries and Hudson & Rex—last worked with Lefevre on the 2008 miniseries The Summit. After back-and-forth on several projects that didn’t happen, The Sounds came along.

Debuting Monday at 8 p.m. on CBC, Lefevre stars as Maggie, a Canadian woman who flies to New Zealand to meet up with her husband, Tom (Matt Whelan), who is about to close an important business deal. After a romantic night spent on a sailboat in a quiet cove, Tom paddles off in a kayak … and disappears.

Penned by Sarah-Kate Lynch and directed by Peter Stebbings, the eight episodes explore secrets, lies and the extent people will go to get what they want.

We spoke to Rachelle Lefevre and Peter Stebbings ahead of The Sounds debut.

Matt Whelan and Rachelle Lefevre

Rachelle, how did you get involved in The Sounds?
Rachelle Lefevre: I had worked for Shaftsbury many years ago in a miniseries called The Summit, and we had a great time. We’d been looking for something to do together for a number of years and there were a couple of almost, but the timing was never quite right or the project didn’t get off the ground. So I’d been in contact with them and then they sent me this. I read it and I thought it was really interesting, and I was into it from the get-go. I had a couple of reservations about the schedule and how we were going to pull this off.

And so, they sent me to dinner with Peter. They said, ‘Why don’t you go with Peter because we’re doing something really unusual. We’re having the same director for all eight episodes, more like a film than a TV series.’ He also has a daughter who’s my son’s age. So both of us with kids at home were like, ‘Oh, we’ll have an early dinner. My kids wake up early. OK, great.’ We went to dinner at 6, and we didn’t leave the restaurant till 11.

And over the course of that dinner, two things happened. One, I saw how involved Peter was in helping see the storyline through. So I felt confident that it was going to come together in a way that I would have liked. And No. 2, I immediately felt like this is someone I have to work with, and I can go and do anything with this guy. There was a bond right from the get-go. He was the last step in my signing on.

Peter, how did you end up directing all these episodes?
Peter Stebbings: I did another miniseries called The Disappearance. And I think that based on the success, at least the commercial success of that, I made a name for myself as someone who might be able to do this type of thing. Then, Christina Jennings came to me and floated the question out there. ‘Maybe you want to do all eight?’ And I was like, ‘Maybe I do.’

Rachelle Lefevre and Matt Whelan

I think the advantage of doing a miniseries or doing all the episodes, is you get to put your stamp on something. There’s something about living on that razor’s edge that I like. This project in particular had challenges that were unique, and partly a very aggressive shooting schedule. I had some question marks about character motivation and this sort of thing; things that the actors helped me out with. But yeah, I was honoured to be asked that.

I love shows like The Sounds, where there’s a backstory with the person, and they aren’t who they thought it was going to be. Do you?
RL: I do. I do. And I hope people who like our show and read maybe a more than one interview about it, will forgive me that I keep bringing up Broadchurch. I remember finding Broadchurch and just being like, ‘Oh god, that would be so great to do one day, one of these long-form mysteries, where you spend multiple episodes trying to figure out who everybody is and what’s the plot.’

It must’ve excited you to see that Maggie wasn’t happy to just sit back, that she was actually going to take matters into her own hands to a certain extent.
RL: Yeah, definitely. I thought a lot about it, not to make it too dark, although some of our show is pretty dark, I thought a lot about grief and what that looks like. And one of the things that I am least comfortable with in life, as I think a lot of us are, is that feeling of helplessness. Part of what I find really challenging about grief is the finality. It’s the finite element of it. There aren’t a lot of things in life where once the door closes, there really aren’t any other options.

It was interesting to have a character who moved around in that. There were times when she really does seem like she’s given up, and she really just wants to say goodbye to a body. And there are other times where she can’t sit still and she’s like, ‘No, he’s out there and I’m going to find him, and what can I do?’ Fighting against that helplessness and constantly playing with when she feels like she can just give in and resign and there’s nothing to be done, and when she won’t stop fighting.

What was it like filming in New Zealand? 
RL: The bumper sticker version is that I’ve said to people, ‘If New Zealand isn’t on your list, put it on the list. And if it’s on the list, move it to the top of the list.’ It’s an extraordinary place.

One of the things that I found that really impacted me while we were filming, is that at the beginning of the series because it is a character. Our landscape is very much a character. In the beginning, it’s so beautiful and it’s expansive and it’s vast. And it’s gorgeous and welcoming, and you just want to go and get lost in it in a way that feels really inviting. And then after Tom goes missing and the more the pieces of their past catching up with them and Maggie making all these discoveries and people aren’t who they say they are, the more it starts to unravel, the more all of those same qualities, vastness, the openness of it all, the idea that you could get lost in it, it goes from being inviting to being ominous.

Peter Stebbings

Peter, what were some of those things that as a director, you had to worry about? Is sunlight coming off the water one of them? What are the types of challenges you had to face?
PS: Well, the first thing that comes to mind when you think about water is you think about the overrun from budget on Waterworld, right? The biggest thing I learned about shooting on the water is—this is going to sound corny—you literally have to go with the flow. We did not have the luxury of resetting up certain shots; that setting up a shot to go again, that’s 45 minutes out of your day.

‘Yes, the shot is unfolding in such a way that you didn’t quite imagine in your mind’s eye. But nobody knows that except for you, Peter.’ The audience won’t know that. There’s still a working shot here, so let’s just go with the flow. There was a lot of that. The weather in New Zealand is crazy. There was one day when I think I changed Rachelle three, four times because it was raining for as far as the eye could see. Five minutes later, we were in bright sunshine. Five minutes after that, there was a storm brewing. And it was gray skies again for as far as the eye could see. It was just nuts.

And poor Rachelle, I kept putting her through the wardrobe changes. ‘We’re not doing that scene. We’re going to do this scene. No, we’re not doing that scene. We’re going to do that scene.’ That was one of the things I learned about shooting in New Zealand in general, is just how quickly the weather conditions can change. But in particular, when we were on the water, how quickly things get changed as well.

How much of a learning curve was it for you, and maybe for the crew, to work together? 
PS: The crew in some ways, had a can-do spirit. I mean, look, it’s not like this was bare-bones, but there was resourcefulness there in terms of equipment that we used, in terms of the time we had. It felt like we were doing this with a certain sense of light infantry. If the apparatus was any bigger, if our crew was any bigger, if our circus was any bigger, we wouldn’t have been as nimble as we were.

Matt Whelan

Was filming on the water a challenge for you Rachelle?
RL: I had two challenges. One, I don’t do well with the cold, so I suck it up. I’m from Montreal. But that was a challenge because there was a lot of swimming. There was swimming, and being in the water in freezing, freezing, freezing cold conditions, where they have medics on set holding stopwatches for how long you can be in the water.

And then the other challenge was I get terribly seasick. So there were a lot of scenes on the boat. Maybe a little tidbit for the audience—a little bit of trivia for them—is there are a lot of scenes on the boat if you’re watching a scene on the boat, I’m probably drugged up. I’m probably slightly high on Dramamine or they would have this stuff in New Zealand called Sea Legs, which works, by the way. Sea Legs worked so well I feel like I want to do commercials for them. But yeah, just a tiny bit high on the anti-nausea meds.

Peter, I have to ask this for all the Murdoch Mysteries fans out there. Are you too busy to appear as James Pendrick?
PS: Two things. One, those jerks found me in New Zealand. I put myself on a green screen last year in the middle of shooting 72 days of The Sounds. I turned in a Murdoch Mysteries performance from New Zealand, I’ll have you know. The performance was against the green screen, but I was actually there. And I was cursing Murdoch Mysteries up and down that day for taking me on my one day off in 72 days to do this.

I’ve also just completed a turn as James Pendrick a couple of weeks ago. There is at least one more turn coming. Murdoch Mysteries is the gift that keeps on coming. It is a wonderful, warm and fuzzy place to be. We have a lot of fun on that show, and I always marvel at the invention of the writers to come up with yet another crazy storyline for James Pendrick.

The Sounds airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Comments and queries for the week of October 2

Battle of the Blades is excellent family entertainment. If you’re a skating fan this is a show not to miss. So glad Kurt is back, his skating is what we all hope to see. —Cora


I am so glad my TV family is coming back. I have not seen my real family in five years now and was so looking forward to going home to England this year to see them until COVID-19 reared its ugly head. So waiting for another year to see my TV family doesn’t seem such a long time to wait. At least it is coming back. WooHoo!!! —Beth

I’m happy to settle for 11 episodes. Hope we are all here to watch the new season. Safe travels, everyone! —Mary


We are from North Dakota and we watched all 13 seasons and can’t wait for Season 14! the lives of the families in Heartland got us through the COVID-19 and our world situation but we still need more of them! Please, please, please keep Amy and Ty and Lyndy on the show! —Jerilyn

I’m from France. Love this show, Chris Potter and Tim’s character! Hope to see Season 13 on Netflix soon. —Caroline

My husband and I are from England and we love Heartland. We’ve watched all episodes via Netflix. Can’t wait for Season 14. We absolute love it, and we love the scenery too. All the actors and actresses are superb. We also think that Caleb is very funny. The whole program is superb, keep it up guys. —Judith

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

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Season 2 of Detention Adventure a slam-dunk with new mystery and characters

At the end of its first season, Detention Adventure teased a new quest to be tackled by our heroic foursome: a map hinting at the lost treasure of Ignatius Cockshutt.

The time for that quest is nigh, as Season 2 of Detention Adventure returns to CBC Gem on Friday.

But Raign (Simone Miller), Brett (Tomaso Sanelli), Joy (Alina Prijono), and Hulk (Jack Fulton) aren’t alone this time around; quick and quirky Kelly (Lilly Bartlam) joins the fray and adds a new dimension to the web series.

“We wanted to have a history expert this season,” says co-creator, co-executive producer, co-writer and director Joe Kicak. “Having Kelly in there really became the catalyst for this season. And, as you’ll see, she very much becomes part of the story arc.”

A big part of what makes the second season of Detention Adventure so enjoyable—aside from the nods to Brantford, Ont. (my hometown) and the addition of Workin’ Moms’ Sarah McVie—is the personal stories attached to the four main characters. From dealing with divorce or the death of a parent to feeling like the odd one out or an underachiever, Raign, Brett, Joy and Hulk face reality when they aren’t hunting for Cockshutt’s treasure.

“We wanted them to feel very real,” says co-creator, co-executive producer and co-writer Carmen Albano. “The emotional arc of our characters is important, so it had to be genuine.”

Detention Adventure serves up genuine scares too. Several scenes shot in a darkened church result in very creepy moments, making this adult wonder if it was a little too scary for kids.

“CBC told us to just go for it,” Kicak says with a laugh. “We shot one scene and they said, ‘We didn’t really get a jump scare,’ so we made it even worse. Then they said, ‘OK, maybe you went a little too far.’ It might scare some kids but, at the same time, you might have other kids who really enjoy the ride.”

Climb on board the ride this Friday.

Season 2 of Detention Adventure is available on CBC Gem this Friday.

Image courtesy of CBC.

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Preview: CBC’s Rare Bird Alert spies the birders in our midst

I recently moved from Toronto to a small town just outside of Gatineau, QC. Surrounded by forest, the big-city robins and cardinals I spotted in Southern Ontario have been swapped for blue jays, woodpeckers, chickadees, warblers and wild turkeys. I’ve downloaded the Merlin Bird ID app from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology onto my iPhone and am constantly searching for and documenting my findings. Needless to say, I was intrigued to watch a screener of Paul Riss’ documentary.

“Rare Bird Alert,” broadcast as part of CBC Docs POV this Saturday at 8 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem, embarks on a one-man odyssey to meet other enthusiasts and take the pulse of birdwatching in North America. Turns out I’m not the only one on the birding bandwagon; birdwatching has become one of the fastest-growing pastimes on the continent. With the Latin names of 234 birds tattooed on his body, Hamilton-based Riss heads out to meet a few folks amid the growing flock.

In Canada, one in five people is an active birder who spends more than a quarter of the year watching birds. According to the Canadian Nature Survey, more than half of these are women; birdwatching has now become more popular than gardening.

Among those Riss meets are biologist Melissa Hafting, teenage birding phenomenon Toby Theriault, LBGTQ visual artist Christina Baal, and Philadelphia rocker and naturalist Tony Croasdale. All have their own reasons for birding, from passion to environmental activism.

There are also some sobering stats. The bird population is dropping worldwide, sounding the alarm on climate change.

“Rare Bird Alert” is fun and funky, with an engaging soundtrack and great graphics to accompany stunning shots of birds in varying backdrops. From a cattle egret in Hamilton’s Royal Botanical Gardens, a least bittern in Long Point and Anna’s hummingbird in Vancouver, the must-don’ts of birding (always confirm your sighting) and the definition behind “lifer” and “face-melter,” Riss’ project is for anyone interested in birding or the people who do it.

“Rare Bird Alert” airs as part of CBC Docs POV, Saturday at 8 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of Dream Street Pictures.

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Preview: The World’s Biggest Family explores the impact of sperm donation

I have two younger sisters, and they were/are enough of a handful. I can’t even imagine having over 600 siblings. And yet, that’s exactly what award-winning director Barry Stevens found out, and is documented in an upcoming CBC Docs POV episode.

“The World’s Biggest Family,” bowing Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBC, follows the documentary filmmaker and screenwriter as he tracks down several of his half-siblings. But as much as it is learning more about those who are related to him, Stevens’ project is a critical look at the practice of anonymous sperm donation, including doctors who have used their own sperm and lied about it, anonymous donors with mental or physical genetic illnesses that are passed on unknowingly to several of their kids, and donors who discover they may have hundreds of kids, despite being told by sperm banks that there were strict limits.

“The World’s Biggest Family” kicks off in 1884 Philadelphia to explain how sperm donors were first conceived, before switching tacts to his own tale. Stevens’ parents wanted children, but his father was unable. Enter an anonymous sperm donor who was used to conceive Stevens and his sister. A secret kept for decades, they didn’t learn the truth until their father died. The advent of DNA testing popularized by Ancestry.com and 23andMe led Stevens on a journey of discovery, not only to uncover more siblings but who his biological father was.

Through interviews with his half-siblings, Stevens delves into the feelings of people who always felt like something was missing in their lives, felt like they didn’t fit in, and struggled with emotions like anger, sadness or happiness upon learning the truth.

But the project doesn’t just deal with Stevens’ family. He meets Rebecca, who learned she is just one of possibly more than 19 children who was fathered by the same Ottawa fertility doctor; and Angie, who discovered the sperm she and her partner had received was donated by a man who failed to disclose his mental and physical health issues.

“The sort of idea that it can be done with a few shakes of this wrist and nothing else, there should be a bit more to it than that, I believe,” Stevens’ sibling, Graham, says during the documentary.

I agree.

“The World’s Biggest Family” airs as part of CBC Docs POV, Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.

Image courtesy of Bizable Media.

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