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Murdoch Mysteries: Introducing Season 11 writer-producer Dan Trotta

Season 11 of Murdoch Mysteries marked significant changes in the writers’ room. Dan Trotta, Natalia Guled and Noelle Girard joined the CBC drama after Michelle Ricci and Carol Hay departed to create Frankie Drake Mysteries and the untimely passing of Jordan Christianson.

Trotta, who most recently was a writer and producer on Omni’s Blood and Water drama, penned Monday’s new episode, “Dr. Osler Regrets,” which saw historical figure Dr. William Osler drop by, a sequential killer on the loose and the return of Louise Cherry (Bea Santos). We got Trotta on the line to discuss the episode and introduce him to the Murdoch Mysteries fandom.

Before we talk about tonight’s episode specifically, how did you get into the Canadian TV industry in the first place?
Dan Trotta: I started out in theatre. I took playwriting at university and was in the trenches for a few years and couldn’t make any money. I was broke. I liked the idea of being a starving artist but I didn’t like the reality of it. The romance faded pretty quickly, so I started teaching. I was a teacher at Fanshawe College for a while. I’ve lucked into some pretty amazing jobs and feel like I haven’t been qualified for them at all. I was teaching for awhile but I realized I could do that for 20 years and not even realize it. Teaching was a great job but the time was just sort of floating away and I knew I wanted to write but I didn’t know how to make a living at it.

TV sort of made sense. The first script I ever wrote was accepted into the National Screen Institute. I went through there—it’s a crash course for a week where you rewrite your pilot and have meetings—and it was great. Then I was living in Montreal at the time and offered my time at Muse Entertainment. I asked if I could just hang out and make coffee and find out how the business worked. They were incredible and said, ‘We can’t have you hanging out for free but we have this stack of scripts that need to be read.’ It was amazing. I owe a lot to them. I was there for about a year and read hundreds of scripts. They let me sit in on meetings and were working on The Kennedys at the time. I wrote synopses and materials for some of their other projects; it was awesome. They were the ones who told me I should go to the Canadian Film Centre. I got in and was lucky enough to be there and have Denis McGrath as our showrunner that year. From there, I got an agent and was grinding it out for a couple of years writing Lifetime movies and other stuff and then Blood and Water came along.

How did you come to be on Murdoch Mysteries?
I sort of knew [showrunner] Peter Mitchell through mutual friends and we watched hockey occasionally. When positions opened up he sent me an email and asked if I wanted to come in and interview for it. I never expect to get anything—that’s just how I operate—so went in and the pressure was off. I didn’t really have any procedural samples. I’ve always liked and respected the show, Peter, Simon and Jordan; that was kind of it. It was a very last-minute kind of thing; I think I found out I got the gig on the Friday and I believe they were starting on the Tuesday.

You might have known people involved in the show, but you were still joining a mystery drama going into its 11th season. Were you nervous?
Yeah. I didn’t know the show too well. I had seen Murdoch and knew what it was but I didn’t have a super-solid understanding of the show. I did some major catching up. And then there was the procedural element to the show, the actual mystery was kind of new to me. We had written a procedural at the CFC and I had a couple of pilot procedurals but I didn’t have a lot of experience with it. That was the trickiest for me, figuring out how the mystery works and unfolds and the order with which you reveal things. The real nuts and bolts of it was the hardest thing to pick up and I think I’m still picking it up, quite frankly.

In Monday’s episode, you had a historical figure in Dr. Osler to work into your story as well as Louise Cherry, who fans are very vocal about. There was a lot of pressure going into your first credited episode.
The Osler thing was kind of a gimme in that I found this article about the actual incident. Not the murders, but his speech. And how everything was taken out of context and blown out of proportion. From the interview with Pete and knowing somewhat about the show, I knew they liked it when they could establish a corollary about what happened then and what happens now. This was kind of an early version of now what we call Internet shaming. Osler’s reputation was, essentially, ruined for awhile. Part of the mythology of that story is a couple of older men supposedly committed suicide because of what he’d said. That’s what we ran with. The story was kind of there and we had to build the mystery around it.

As far as Louise Cherry, it’s interesting to see just how much the fans dislike that character based on the incident: she basically said the Murdoch’s were boring. So we turn it up to 100 and have her fabricate these newspaper stories. It was fun, though. She has a laser focus and it’s fun to write for her.

How did you work George’s clock hobby into the story?
We reverse engineered that. We came up with the victim angle first and then thought it might be cool if George had a connection to this somehow. We didn’t actually start with George, we sort of backed it in. I kept wanting to write funny lines and ham it up and everybody in the room said, ‘Keep it simple because Jonny will make it funny. Just don’t overwrite it. Keep it short, keep it tight and he’ll do something.’ These guys are awesome, it’s just second nature to them 10 years in.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.




Preview: A sequential killer stalks Toronto on Murdoch Mysteries

There are three new faces in the Murdoch Mysteries writing room this season. Dan Trotta, Natalia Guled and Noelle Girard joined the long-running, high-rated CBC drama after Michelle Ricci and Carol Hay departed to create Frankie Drake Mysteries and the untimely passing of Jordan Christianson.

Tonight, Dan Trotta—who most recently wrote and produced on the Omni drama Blood and Water—gets the spotlight with “Dr. Osler Regrets,” directed by Alison Reid. Here’s the official synopsis from CBC:

A spate of murders staged as suicides leads Murdoch to suspect a sequential killer targeting the elderly.

And here are a few more tidbits we caught after watching a screener.

Louise Cherry returns
I’ve read the comments on the Murdoch Mysteries Facebook pages and fans are pretty clear in their feelings regarding Ms. Cherry: they don’t like her. It will be interesting to see what fans think of Ms. Cherry after this week’s instalment because she’s up to her old tricks again.

Kristopher Turner guest-stars
I’ve missed Kristopher Turner since This Life was cancelled—watch both excellent seasons via the CBC site—so it’s a treat to see him in Detective Murdoch’s world as Jack Borden. Also after appearing on Murdoch Mysteries once before as Dr. Lawrence Abbott in “Buffalo Shuffle,” Stewart Arnott re-appears in the role of Dr. William Osler. You can read up on Osler’s real-life achievements here; among his accolades, Osler was one of the founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital. We get a nice little bit of backstory with regard to Julia’s education and how Osler factored into it.

Violet gets her hands dirty
It doesn’t take long for Violet to contribute to the team. Within minutes she’s up to her elbows in guts at the city morgue, helping Julia determine a cause of death in the episode’s first victim.

George reveals a timely hobby
Julia isn’t the only one we learn something about. After 11 seasons Crabtree unveils an interesting hobby.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.




Shaftesbury’s Christina Jennings honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award

From a media release:

Christina Jennings, Chairman and CEO of Shaftesbury, was honoured at the Content Innovation Awards gala last night with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. Jennings, who founded the multi-platform content company in 1987, has been an industry leader not only in producing original TV and feature film content, but also for creating groundbreaking series for digital and social media platforms, mobile apps and VR experiences.

Shaftesbury’s award-winning television titles have been sold in 120 countries worldwide. One of the company’s best-known series, Murdoch Mysteries, is now in production on its 11th season. The series, Canada’s #1 drama, has been licensed to broadcasters in 110 countries and territories, including the U.S., the U.K., France, China, Australia and the Middle East. The company’s current television slate also includes Frankie Drake Mysteries for CBC and UKTV, and Slasher for Netflix.

As Shaftesbury continues to produce award-winning primetime television series, Jennings’ vision and willingness to explore new technologies, platforms and opportunities has led the company to successfully adapt to and address the rise of digital and changing viewership habits. In 2014, Shaftesbury launched the hugely successful digital series Carmilla on YouTube, a modern spin on the cult gothic vampire novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, fully funded by U by Kotex®. Carmilla has been viewed in 193 countries, translated in over 20 languages by fans and more than half the views across all its content come from outside North America. The Carmilla brand continues to grow – Carmilla the Movie is slated for release this fall, licensing deals are in place for publishing, apparel and accessories, and Shaftesbury is in development on a TV adaptation. The company also recently announced a partnership with Walmart Canada and Interac® for a new branded entertainment series Upstairs Amy.

Outside of Shaftesbury, Jennings serves as Chair of the Canadian Film Centre (CFC), Canada’s premiere training center for content creators. Named to top Canadian newsmagazine Maclean’s Power List of Canada’s 50 Most Powerful People, Jennings’ other recent awards and honors include Playback’s Producer of the Decade, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television’s prestigious Academy Achievement Award and the Innovative Producer Award at the Banff World Television Festival.

The Content Innovation Awards are presented by Digital TV Europe and TBI (Television Business International).




Preview: Murdoch Mysteries introduces its newest cast member

It was just two weeks ago on Murdoch Mysteries that Rebecca James announced she was leaving Toronto for her own private practice in Chatham, Ont. And, after an excellent episode featuring a return appearance of Alexander Graham Bell and the introduction of Helen Keller and hotel detective Ralph Fellows, we’ve got a new face in the morgue. As previously announced on the Murdoch Mysteries Facebook page, Shanice Banton has joined the cast in a recurring role, capably filling the void left by Ms. James.

Here’s the official CBC episode synopsis for Monday’s new episode, “The Canadian Patient,” written by Simon McNabb and directed by Laurie Lynd:

Murdoch investigates a surgeon whose cutting-edge organ transplants wreak medical havoc and run afoul of Mary Baker Eddy and The Christian Science movement.

And here’s some non-spoilery info from us after watching a screener.

Meet Violet Hart
Shanice Banton portrays Violet Hart, who is introduced immediately after the opening credits, manning a booth at the Toronto Medical Exposition. Her easy smile and good humour make an immediate impression on George. Speaking of George, he has a hilarious speech in the morgue that fans will love.

Jayne Eastwood guest stars
The veteran actress plays Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science movement, who believes sickness can be cured by prayer.

George’s gift shines
We love it when George just misses coming up with the trademarked name for a real product. He’s up to his old tricks again on Monday when he just misses naming an invention Violet is promoting.

Julia and William’s Season 11 journey?
Showrunner Peter Mitchell teased a new domestic drama will consume Julia and William’s lives this season. We’re pretty sure we know what it is after watching Monday’s instalment thanks to a woman named Marilyn Clark.

Margaret returns!
Seriously, it has been too long since Mrs. Brackenreid was back in our lives. We’re still chuckling over her interactions with H.P. Lovecraft. When we catch up with her in this episode, she’s pretty upset with her husband, and for good reason.

Murdoch‘s crew comes through
I’ve always been impressed with the work the Murdoch Mysteries does to make everything as historically accurate as possible. Everyone involved in the operating theatre scene is to be congratulated for their work on set decoration, wardrobe, special effects, lighting and camera angles. It’s stunning.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.