Everything about Hudson & Rex, eh?

Hudson & Rex: Jessie Gabe on writing for a series where a dog is the star

Jessie Gabe took a bit of a circuitous route to writing for television. Initially interested in acting, she moved from Montreal to Toronto where she performed and wrote sketch comedy. But it was on a train where her professional writing career took off.

“I met a guy on a train and I very luckily wound up, through him, meeting his cousin, who is now my agent and who got me my first job as a writer on Being Erica,” Gabe says. A stint on Being Erica was followed by co-creating Agnes & Harold (which she also starred in), penning the film Cas & Dylan, and a writing and executive producer gig on Mr. D and Frankie Drake Mysteries.

She also was part of the writing staff and co-executive producer on Season 1 of Hudson & Rex. In this week’s episode, the team moves quickly when Donovan’s ex wakes up with blood on her hands and a dead roommate. We caught up with Gabe, who is freelance writing scripts for Season 2 of Hudson & Rex and co-writing a feature film on the life of Canadian Phil Hartman.

Had you ever considered writing before?
JG: I had written, but I actually had never considered being a professional screenwriter. I don’t think it had occurred to me. I was in my 20s, and I had written sketch and by a total fluke, I had written a couple of spec scripts quite a bit before that, just because a friend of mine was considering being a writer and it was an activity that I did with him. I had them on file, but it was like a game at the time. And I was working on a feature, that again, with really no knowledge of anything, no outline, just Page 1, fade in, because my roommate was a filmmaker and thought, ‘We don’t anything, and you’ll write it, and you’ll star in it, and I’ll film it.’ We were both struggling artists. Luckily, it didn’t get made, thank god. It turned into Cas & Dylan, and it got made with, thank god, not myself in the lead role.

A dog stands, looking into the camera.You were on Mr. D, then you were on Frankie Drake Mysteries. And once you were in the Shaftesbury door, I’m assuming that’s part of the reason you ended up on Hudson & Rex, is that true?
JG: Yeah, they just moved me over. I was winding down on Frankie, and they were like, ‘Hey, we need writers on Rex.’ Initially, I was hired to just do one script and four weeks on the show, and I really thought it was just a short little stint, because they initially had, what was it, 8, or 10 episodes?

And then I suddenly got a call saying, ‘They’ve just expanded it, can you do another script?’ And I was like, ‘Great!’ And then a few weeks later, they’re like, ‘We just found out now that the order is 16. Would you do another script?’ And it kept expanding, so I kept getting a few more weeks, and then another script, and a few more. And now, I’m freelancing on Season 2, writing another script.

What were your first thoughts when it came to writing Hudson & Rex?
JG: I think the initial challenge was what is the tone of the show? Probably everybody assumed going in that it was going to be extremely lighthearted and comedic. And that’s my wheelhouse anyway, so I figured that’s what I’m going to bring also. Comedy is more my thing really. And then I get into the room, and the storylines are pretty heavy and dark. And I thought, ‘What is happening here?’ But it’s interesting, it’s just not what I initially expected, and I think maybe I wasn’t alone to think that, so we started to adapt. Making the dog the star of the show and trying to tell a mystery that would be impossible to solve without the dog—the dog is supposedly Charlie’s superpower—that is the goal that we always strive for anyway. It can be challenging, but it’s interesting that the show itself is more like just a cop procedural. So it doesn’t have that childlike, or younger, tone that maybe we initially expected going on.

Even though the writers’ room is so collaborative, when it comes to writing, do you go off on your own, do you have a soundtrack that you listen to while you write, do you need to be in a Starbucks or something with some background noise, how does it work for you?
JG: I don’t like listening to music, because I’ll start singing along, or even humming to a tune. I’m not hearing the words and the dialogue, so I like being quiet. But at the same time, I’m happy to work in a coffee shop, so background noise doesn’t bother me. But I tend to work at home. I’m flexible. I don’t have only one way that I can do it. I have a four-year-old and sometimes it’s wherever.

Is there anything that you’re working on that you talk about at this point, or is it all just about focusing on Hudson & Rex?
JG: A feature that I’ve been working on, it’s a biopic about Phil Hartman. I have a co-writing credit with Jonas Chernick. He wrote the initial script that I was brought on to rewrite, but we’re co-writers on it. So yes, story biopic about Phil Hartman, and we’ll see where it goes. It’s being produced by Tyler Levine at Carousel Pictures. Phil Hartman’s daughter has been very supportive and got the creators of The Simpsons on board with us.

Hudson & Rex airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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Hudson & Rex: Tony Butt reveals the secrets to scouting locations

After a few weeks away, Hudson & Rex returned to Citytv last week on a new night. Now airing on Thursdays, Charlie, Rex, Sarah, Joe and Jesse are back at it, taking a bite out of crime (I know, I’m sorry) in and around St. John’s, Newfoundland.

This week’s new episode is “Fast Eddies,” and Rogers Media has this to say about the storyline:

After a reviled restaurateur’s food truck explodes, killing one of his employees, Charlie and Rex find themselves with a few too many suspects. Plus, a flirtation has Charlie torn between a possible new love interest and Rex, who makes no secret of his feelings on the matter.

The return of Hudson & Rex also marks the return of our behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew. This week we caught up with locations manager Tony Butt.

A man and a woman face each other, standing on a boat.How did you get into the industry in the first place?
Tony Butt: I had spent my 20s in the oil industry and I quit because I didn’t like what I was doing and didn’t know what I was doing. I went on a motorcycle trip and was sitting in a theatre in New Orleans, watching a film festival and said, ‘That’s what I’ll do.’ So, I came back to St. John’s and started dabbling in the incredible co-operative called the Newfoundland Independent Film Co-operative. I walked in one day and they were training for films and the only job left was locations, so I took it. I’ve spent a bunch of years doing that.

I’ve worked in other departments and have been out of the industry for six or seven years and then I [joined Hudson & Rex].

Where does the location manager fit into the production schedule? You’re somewhere between the initial script and the filming.
TB: The script comes down and the art director vets it. We sit down together and bring in the director as soon as possible and we look at everyone’s vision. I then go out and scout locations, keeping in mind practicality, aesthetics and the needs of both the director and the production. And then I present as many options as I can get. And you try and cluster locations as much as you can. There were some challenges on Hudson & Rex because they wanted a cosmopolitan feel with a lot of modern buildings. We don’t have a lot of that, per se, so we had to work with those restrictions. And we shot in winter but they didn’t want to see snow. That didn’t have much to do with me, but it did have some. Everyone pulled together and I was really impressed.

Have you got locations in your back pocket for reference so you have an idea of a place as soon as you see it in a script?
TB: Absolutely. And, also, St. John’s is a small city that has developed in segments. You know the neighbourhoods. This one was developed in the 80s, this one was developed in the 60s, so you can really narrow down your search. And then, you try to build a day around one location without having to move the unit, ideally. And you have people to help you, like real estate agents and people who manage properties. So, yeah, you have properties that you go to first and then go further if you have to.

Hudson & Rex airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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#1 Citytv original scripted series Hudson & Rex renewed for Season 2

From a media release:

Shaftesbury and Pope Productions are thrilled to announce freshman hit series HUDSON & REX has been renewed for season two by Citytv (16 x 60), just six episodes into its 16-episode first season. HUDSON & REX is Citytv’s highest-rated original scripted series since 2015, reaching more than 2.5M viewers during its first six debut episodes*. Season 1 of the series returns from a mid-season hiatus on June 13, with episodes moving to Thursdays at 8 ET/PT on Citytv.

Inspired by Inspector Rex, one of the most successful international television franchises airing for a total of 18 seasons in 125 countries, HUDSON & REX has been acquired by Italy’s TV powerhouse RAI for primetime. Additional territory deals to be announced in the coming weeks.

HUDSON & REX is an action-packed police-procedural drama set in St. John’s, Nfld. The series follows the partnership between cunning Major Crimes detective, Charlie Hudson (John Reardon; Van Helsing, Continuum), and his partner, Rex (canine Diesel vom Burgimwald), a German Shepherd with heightened senses and formerly with the K-9 police unit. Based on the Austrian drama Inspector Rex, HUDSON & REX also stars Mayko Nguyen (Killjoys) as Doctor Sarah Truong, Kevin Hanchard (Orphan Black) as Superintendent Joe Donovan and Justin Kelly (Wynonna Earp) as Tech Analyst Jesse Mills.

HUDSON & REX is produced by Shaftesbury and Pope Productions Ltd., in association with Citytv, a division of Rogers Media, and Beta Film GmbH. HUDSON & REX is executive produced by Christina Jennings, Scott Garvie, and Ken Cuperus; co-executive producers are Derek Schreyer, John Callaghan, and Jessie Gabe. Paul Pope and Julie Lacey are producers. Friedemann Goez and Oliver Bachert are executive producers for Beta Film GmbH. Produced with the participation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation, the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit, and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit. Beta Film GmbH holds worldwide distribution rights.

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Hudson & Rex’s Mayko Nguyen: “It’s equal parts dog, and equal parts us.”

The film and television business is truly a unique one. A project can seem dead in the water and then, suddenly, months later it’s up and running. Likewise, an audition that seemed to go nowhere can just as easily return.

The latter occurred with Mayko Nguyen. After having what she felt was a great audition for Hudson & Rex led to, well, nothing. Then, out of the blue, a screen test and a jaunt to St. John’s to play Doctor Sarah Truong, Head of Forensics on the police force and helping Charlie and Rex catch criminals.

We spoke to Mayko Nguyen after she’d completed a long day of rehearsals for her latest project, the play Beautiful Man running from May 4-26 at Toronto’s Factory Theatre, and some ADR work on Hudson & Rex.

How did you get the role of Dr. Sarah? Did you audition, did they seek you out, how did that work out?
Mayko Nguyen: I auditioned. It was an interesting process in that. In January 2018, I think, they started the first rounds of auditions. And I did that. And I actually felt good, like decent about the audition, because that never happens. And then I never heard back. And I think it was like months later, I found out that the project had been shelved for a little bit.

And then it wasn’t until sometime in the summer, I think,  just got a call and they wanted to screen test me with some people, which was really bizarre, because it was just one audition, and then I never heard anything about it, and then to jump from that into a screen test, seemed a bit crazy.

I guess the gap was because Ken Cuperus came on board, and they re-jigged the show because he thought that it would fit better the way that it exists now.
MN: Yeah, yeah. It’s funny because I actually didn’t even know that that was exactly what it was. But that makes sense. But it is funny though, it’s just like this business is so bizarre in that way, where you can do this thing and then you might know nothing about it. And then, half a year later, it pops up and you have a job.

How much of a lapse then was there on production from Killjoys to Hudson & Rex? It might have been a pretty quick turnaround for you.
MK: It was a very quick turnaround. I think I moved out to Newfoundland while they were still finishing up the final season. So I got out of Killjoys, and then yeah it was October I think they were still just, they were just finishing up. So yeah, it was a very quick turnover.

What’s the experience been like being in St. John’s?
MN: Actually my very first real kind of big gig that I booked out here in Toronto started shooting in St. John’s. And that was in 2003, I think it was. So I had spent a tiny bit of time. But shooting, so not hitting the tourist spots. And that was so long ago. So I didn’t really remember it. And then this past little bit, we were out there for about six months.

And it was … I mean listen, it was great. It was great. Because it’s gorgeous, and it’s a landscape and a beauty that I’m actually not accustomed to, here in Canada. It’s different, you know? But in the winter time, it’s also ferocious. The wind is insane. And the show’s supposed to be a summer show. So the snow was definitely an impediment, and it was a challenge constantly. It would be really lovely if the show came back, and we shot at a different time of the year. But I hear that their summers are not very long. So I don’t think we really get away from the inclement weather, regardless.

One of the things that I really like about Hudson & Rex so far, and I said this to Ken Cuperus, is the fact that yeah, there’s a dog on the show, but you’ve got this core group of humans as well. And they all get along. I really like that.
MN: I think that’s actually one of the things that I was most surprised by. When you’re shooting it, you don’t know how much the dog becomes the focal point of the show. And it’s really nice because it feels like it’s equal parts dog, and equal parts us. Sometimes when an animal is the focus of a show, it changes the tone and the nature of the show and this doesn’t feel that way. I love it. And Diesel’s so great. It’s shocking what he’s able to do.

According to the press kit, Dr. Sarah is motivated, she keeps a schedule of late nights in the lab, and early morning forensic sweeps. She has the discerning eye for forensic evidence. Nothing gets past Sarah. Are we going to find out a little bit more about her as the season goes on? What can you say about this character?
MN: The one really great thing you pointed out with the show is that it does really focus on the four of us, and I think a lot of the season is spent just establishing that group dynamic. Establishing those relationships. We definitely learn more about the characters as the season goes on. But I think, again, this season has really focused on establishing this ensemble, including the dog, and this unit, this team. You do get to meet my boyfriend for a quick little bit. But we’re still leaving things … we’re not saying too much about anybody just yet.

Give me an update on the play Beautiful Man, that you’re a part of. You’ve been doing auditions, so what can you say about that?
MN: Well, I’m in the throes of auditions. I’m very stressed out. We start our technic next week, and it’s at the Factory Theatre. It’s a show that sort of looks at gender reversals in a really interesting and provocative way. To watch it is a little bit of a mindfuck. It’s a really interesting show and I’ve had very many really great conversations that have come out from this rehearsal process.

Watch Hudson & Rex online at Citytv.com, on Rogers on Demand, or on the Citytv app.

Hudson & Rex returns with new episodes Thursday, June 13, at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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Hudson & Rex’s Justin Kelly: “I get to really play with these quirks”

I first became aware of Justin Kelly’s work back in 2015 when he was part of the ensemble cast of YTV’s cancelled-way-too-soon family drama Open Heart, playing a sarcastic scamp named Wes. Followed by roles on Citytv’s Between and Space’s Wynonna Earp, Kelly has returned to his old Citytv stomping grounds on Hudson & Rex.

Kelly plays Jesse, described in the show’s press materials as “the quintessential millennial: young, driven, more than a little awkward, and right at home in front of a computer.” What should be added to that logline is one more word: unlucky. With just four episodes broadcast so far, Jesse has been shot, drugged and almost drowned. We spoke to Kelly about his dangerous new gig.

So far Jesse has been shot, and in the latest episode, he was roofied and almost drowned. What’s going on with this poor guy?
Justin Kelly: I mean, that’s what happens when he decides to leave the desk. He gets into trouble. A lot goes down in the first few episodes with him. And we later learn that he might just be better behind his desk than being out in the field. But the field stuff is fun, so hopefully, we can expect more of that.

St. John’s is particularly special to me. What about you?
JK: Absolutely. It was a bucket list thing for sure, wanting to get out there. And I’m just lucky enough that I was able to get out there for work and for such a long period of time. It’s a beautiful, beautiful city. We’ve been shooting there throughout its winter, which can be pretty harsh, especially this winter has been a little crazy, there are still so many reasons to love it in spite of that. And I had the opportunity to really explore the city and walk around and do what the locals do. Yeah, I love the city, it’s great.

Tell me how you ended up being on the show in the first place. Did you go through the usual audition process?
JK: I did, yeah. It came out of nowhere. It was presented to me as this opportunity, that is like, ‘Come in and audition for this role of Jesse.’ I read one of the scripts, and it was something I hadn’t done before. I loved the idea of working for a major crimes unit in a police station. That was last summer, and it was around the time I was working with Shaftesbury on an episode of Frankie Drake Mysteries. I had gotten to know a few of the producers from Shaftesbury through that first, and then I auditioned. And about probably a week later, I found out I got the part, and the next thing I knew, I was out in St. John’s. It’s been a bit of a wild six months.

What goes into your thinking when you’re choosing a role? On a show like Open Heart, Wes was funny. On Wynonna Earp, Robin was a little bit strange and funny as well. Jesse’s a little bit offbeat, definitely the youngest guy in the team. What do you look for in a role?
JK: I think that’s exactly it. I’m a huge fan of comedy myself. One thing that these roles have in common was there was a place to go in terms of finding these quirks in these characters. I feel like every character needs to have something quirky and something off centre about them. That’s something I saw in Wes when Open Heart happened, was that he was the sarcastic Chandler Bing character that I grew up watching.

Robin was very similar. Robin was hilarious and this amazing damsel in distress, and was weirdly unaffected by all this crazy stuff that was happening around him in Purgatory. And with Jesse, I get to really play with these quirks and explore the nerdy comedic side of him, because he’s the youngest one on the team. He’s the millennial. He makes the jokes that the older folks don’t quite understand. That’s something that I just always latched onto and always really enjoyed.

The interesting thing about Hudson & Rex is that this group of humans are really tight. These characters don’t feel as though they’re the straight men to the dog. It’s great to have a dog on the show, but you also want to have characters that interact well with each other.
JK: Completely. You’re absolutely right, and that’s really important to me as well. When you deal with a certain formula of TV, where every episode is a different case, and you’re not necessarily following a linear pattern, you’re watching these characters grow within each episode. We’re so lucky that we have a great cast and that we get along really well. That happened right away, and that’s something that we’ve been playing with. A lot of these scenes that we have in the bullpen is really our opportunity to see how these four, and the dog, all react with one another. That’s the thing that keeps us going as well, is wanting to learn more about these characters as well as the dog.

What’s it been like working with Diesel?
JK: Having Diesel on-set is almost like … it’s almost like having Al Pacino on set. He’s so good, and he’s so well trained. He’s this presence, that as soon as he’s on set doing his work, everybody’s in awe of him a little bit. He’s this regal dog and is just there to do his job and is in it for the roast beef. And he’s all business, and it’s great to see. The episode that we just watched, ‘School Days,’ he’s pulling me out of a pool. To see how that all panned out and how it all worked was pretty amazing because they obviously did tests before, but he’s pulling me out. I’m wearing wet clothes and adding up to probably about 175 pounds. He’s just panting, trying to get me out. It’s really neat to see him work, and it really brings a bit of the camaraderie to the set, and everybody’s really just happy to have him there.

You just spoke about being in the pool. Was that a long day of production for you? 
JK: I think I was in and out of the pool for about five hours. I didn’t have to do a whole lot in terms of swimming, or anything. You come to find after about an hour, that treading water with wet clothes on is a lot harder than it seems, and it can really knock it out of you. I remember going home that day … I was finished by one o’clock, and I just konked out, and was like, ‘Wow, that was tough.’ I mean, I just watched the episode on video with my fiancée probably about an hour ago, and I was like, ‘I’m really happy with how that cut together and how it looks.’

Jesse is described as being this quintessential millennial. He’s young, driven, more than a little bit awkward, and right at home in front of a computer. What else are we going find out about this guy?
JK: Not to give too much away, but we really learn about how much his work means to him. I like to think that he’s going home and he’s still working, and he has that personality. So we really see how invested he becomes in this job and in working with these people. And that just continues to grow and grow.

Hudson & Rex airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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