Everything about Open Heart, eh?

Open Heart’s Mena Massoud opens up about Jared

Mena Massoud realizes the Canadian television industry is difficult. Often, you have to pay your dues over a period of years before snagging your first gig. But that didn’t happen for the Ryerson Theatre School grad, who scored his first acting role on Open Heart straight out of school.

“I had my first audition and then about a month later I got a call back and then a few weeks after that I got a screen test with Karis,” Massoud explains. “And then it all came together.” He laughs and quickly notes his story is one of extreme luck and timing. It’s also the story of a memorable character. The Markham, Ont., native portrays Jared Malik, the snarky and in-your-face head of the Youth Volunteer Program at Open Heart Memorial. Those under his supervision are Dylan Blake (Karis Cameron)—currently investigating the disappearance of her father—Mikayla Walker (Cristine Prosperi) and Wes Silver (Justin Kelly). Massoud’s role is a tough one: be too snarky and fans of Dylan’s will label you a villain. It’s a label the basketball fan is quick to dismiss.

“The one thing I want to do with all of my roles is make the characters real,” he says. “[Creator/executive producer] Ramona Barckert and [executive producer] Stefan Brogren and I sat down and really worked on him. As the show goes on it becomes more of a balancing act because he starts to open up and you see another side of him. That was journey in itself. I think that even when you meet jerks, there is a human side to them.”

Viewers have already gotten a chance to see that more human side of Jared; Open Heart’s lockdown a few weeks ago found Mikayla and Jared sharing some personal space—and a kiss— before the all-clear was called by security. How that smooch affects their working relationship has yet to be seen, though Wes made his feelings known by gagging when Mikayla confessed what had happened. Massoud had a lot of fun during production, reading scripts and observing how Jared evolved and interacted with the other characters and utilizing his comedic side. Who can forget that scene in the hospital supply closet when Dylan spilled cleaner all over Jared and he had to strip down to his skivvies?

“That’s the amazing thing about Jared and about this show,” Massoud says with a laugh recalling that scene. “It’s has a mystery and a thriller element to it, but it has some very funny moments. I think Justin and I have the most moments like that in the series. It’s very much like real life. Some days are really lousy and dramatic and other days are fun and funny.”

Open Heart airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on YTV.


Review: Open Heart goes for the heart

It’s been four weeks since the debut of Open Heart on YTV, and after being impressed with the first double-dose of episodes on Jan. 20, I decided to sit down and revisit the series. Not that I haven’t been watching—I have a day or two after the fact via PVR—but I wanted the series to simmer for a bit, for the characters and story to evolve before breaking it down and analyzing it. Are the characters still compelling? Is the mystery still interesting? Is anyone getting on my nerves? Has Open Heart kept up the drama it promised in Night 1?


“In Plain Sight” picked up seconds after last week’s instalment, with Dylan making a quick list of the people who most likely knew about the drugs her father was taking. It was a short list: Nana, Papa, Mom and a big question mark after London. (Can I take a second to throw some kudos towards the on-screen messages that flash up every time Dylan is on a computer, tablet or cell phone? It’s an ingenious way of storytelling without wasting a camera shot over her shoulder all the time.)

What a doozy of an episode to pick to review. By the time the half-hour had closed out Dylan and London confirmed Richard was schizophrenic, taking meds and seeing a psychiatrist, they learned their mother was sleeping with Dr. K and Wes told Dylan he loved her.

It was a lot for Dylan to take in and I can’t help but worry for the girl’s health, both mental and physical. Discovering she could inherit her dad’s issues was bad enough, but uncovering his secret place—jammed with maps, sketches of a soldier, numbers, keys and the name Agent Sheppard scrawled over and over again—clearly rattled her. Luckily, London was there to support her both in the storage locker and when they confronted Jane about what she knew.

Speaking of London, I didn’t take any pleasure in her decking Dr. K. He had, after all, asked Jane to reveal their relationship to the girls. K just happened to be there at the wrong time and bore the brunt of London’s rage.

And while I’m happy Wes revealed his feelings to Dylan, I think Mikayla was too hasty when she told him to do it right away. With so much on her plate right now, Dylan could push Wes away until she can fully process her feelings toward him. Don’t get me wrong. I was thrilled that he built up the guts to do it—with some help from those cute seniors and Casablanca—but I worry she’ll spurn him and he’ll back off completely.

Notes and quotes

  • Despite initial reservations (I thought he was too geeky), London and Seth have turned into a fantastic couple.
  • I may be a little out of touch, but I’m pretty sure Mikayla was wearing Nikki Sixx’s pants from Mötley Crüe’s Theater of Pain tour.
  • I cried a little bit when Mikayla and Wes didn’t know what a VHS tape was.
  • “What happened to ‘Eat all the fries London?'”
  • “What in the hell?” I’d been waiting for that reaction from Dylan ever since Jane’s phone said she was at a hotel.

Open Heart airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on YTV.


Link: Tofino teen embraces Open Heart TV series

From Michael D. Reid of the Victoria Times Colonist:

Tofino teen embraces Open Heart TV series
As unlikely as it might sound, having been born and raised in Tofino has its advantages when you’re shooting a TV series set at a bustling, big-city hospital, says Karis Cameron. The Tofino teenager was a competitive synchronized swimmer growing up on Vancouver Island’s west coast, and she says her aquatic experience came in handy while shooting Open Heart, the new teen drama series premièring tonight at 9 on YTV. She stars as Dylan Blake, a rebellious 16-year-old who is arrested after falling in with the wrong crowd and is ordered to perform community service at Open Heart Memorial Hospital. Continue reading.


Buckle up for Open Heart’s wild ride

Creating a flawed television character isn’t easy. Make them too likeable and a drastic change can alienate viewers. Too much of a jerk and nobody cares what strife you put in their way. Playing that character is a whole other thing, especially for a relative newcomer to the business. And yet Karis Cameron does it as Dylan Blake in YTV’s newest scripted drama, Open Heart.

Debuting Tuesday night with two back-to-back episodes, Epitome Picture’s Open Heart doesn’t just spotlight Dylan, but puts her at the centre of a show that’s equal parts focused on medicine, the angst of teenage life and a family mystery.

“We really wanted a new approach to telling a teen story that wasn’t really focussing on high school or college elements,” says creator, executive producer and scribe Ramona Barckert, who has written for Epitome’s landmark Degrassi. “We thought, ‘What stories can we talk about in a different way?'” Different meaning, not just tales of fights with Mom and the tropes, twists and turns the viewership has already seen in countless projects.

The answer? Open Heart, which places Dylan Blake, a strong-willed 16-year-old who is arrested and placed in court-ordered community service at Open Heart Memorial, the very hospital where her mother Jane (Jenny Cooper, 24) and sister London (Tori Anderson, The L.A. Complex) are working. Dylan quickly bonds with fellow teens placed there, including Mikayla (Cristine Propseri, Degrassi) and Wes (Justin Kelly, Degrassi). Dylan is the black sheep of the family, the girl who only really related to her father, Richard (Jeff Douglas, Canada’s Smartest Person), but he’s recently gone missing, adding the mystery layer to Open Heart.

It takes some deft acting to pull off a rebellious teen that you want to cheer for, and Cameron really is a revelation. With just two professional acting gigs under her belt—Signed, Sealed, Delivered and R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour—the Vancouver Island native jetted to Toronto for weeks of prep work with, among others, Degrassi alum Stefan Brogren before cameras rolled on Season 1.

“We spent the first three of four weeks just breaking down Dylan,” Cameron says. “We had the first four scripts and just broke them down. Why is she doing what she’s doing? What are her motives? Why does this mean so much to her? Why is she saying this?” The result is a series that—despite being broadcast on YTV—can entertain any genre of viewer.

Tuesday’s debut of two 30-minute episodes—Open Heart shifts back to the one-instalment setup next week—introduces viewers to the main characters, including fellow hospital staffers in Dr. K (Demore Barnes, Hemlock Grove), Teddy Ralston (Dylan Everett, Degrassi), Dr. Scarlet McWhinnie (Elena Juatco, Canadian Idol), Seth Park (Patrick Kwok-Choon, The Best Laid Plans), Jared Malik (Mena Massoud, The 99) and Dr. Hud (Kevin McGarry, Being Erica). The briskly-paced stories jump from hospital to family mansion back to the hospital where Dylan uses her street skills to get some much-needed information into her dad’s disappearance. By the time the hour is up you’re left wanting more.

“My style of writing is very fast and I want people to buckle up at the beginning of the episode and know you are on a ride,” Barckert says with a laugh. “There isn’t a lot of filler. There are no musical montages about feelings and no longing looks. The characters make decisions quickly and move quickly. There is not a lot of pausing.”

Buckle up everyone, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

Open Heart airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on YTV.