A child gone missing. It’s one of the most traumatic things a family can face. The Sullivan family experiences that awful scenario this Sunday when the original six-part miniseries The Disappearance debuts at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV. Starring Peter Coyote, Aden Young, Camille Sullivan, Joanne Kelly, Micheline Lanctôt, Kevin Parent and Michael Riendeau, The Disappearance is a gripping thriller about lives turned upside down.
“What is the worst thing that can happen to parents?” executive producer Sophie Parizeau asks television critics during a set visit to Montreal. “It’s having a child that disappears. And not having answers as to why is very, very difficult. Emotionally, I think people will really connect with it.”
It won’t take long for viewers to be drawn into the story on Sunday; Normand Daneau and Geneviève Simard’s first script of six directed by Peter Stebbings is tightly-wound and traumatic, beginning with an idyllic day at school for Anthony Sullivan (Riendeau) and ending with darkness, police lights, an investigation by Lieutenant-Detective Susan Bowden (Lanctôt) and Sergeant-Detective Charles Cooper (Parent), and an overturned bicycle. Between those bookends, we learn Anthony’s father, musician Luke Sullivan (Young), and mother, microbiologist Helen (Sullivan), are signing off on their divorce, something Luke’s father, former prosecutor and judge Henry (Coyote) frowns upon. Meanwhile, Anthony has gotten in trouble at school—a class project on the community invades his neighbours’ privacy—and how to discipline him divides Henry, Helen and Luke.
Daneau and Simard brought The Disappearance to Joanne Forgues at Productions Casablanca in 2011, but after some initial interest in Quebec, the project stalled. After translating the first script into English they pitched it to Bell Media, thinking the psychological drama would fit on a variety of properties, including Bravo and The Movie Network. Bell Media bit and the project was a go, but landing their leading man proved to be a challenge: Young was starring in an ABC pilot and wouldn’t be available. But, as often happens in Hollywood, the pilot wasn’t picked up.
“They sent me three episodes,” the Canadian-Australian actor recalls over lunch. “My agent called me and asked how far I was into the scripts and I said I was on the third one. I realized I’d just been blowing through the pages … it was a real whodunnit and that excited me. This was an investigation, a let’s get into it and get after what’s happened kind of thing.”
What’s happened is key. Was the person who took Anthony a neighbour unhappy at the boy entering their home while he researched the project? Could someone Henry put in prison during his 40-year-career be exacting revenge? Or is the disappearance related to someone from Luke’s past? Secrets are revealed—and they’re not pretty—but there is at least one sliver of hope.
“Usually, something like this would break a relationship,” Sullivan says of Luke and Helen. “We’re already split at the beginning and, because we’re locked into the search for Anthony, we really do start to rediscover each other. There is also no one else in the world at that moment who can understand what you’re going through. Only the other parent, and I think that’s something that really draws us together.”
The Disappearance airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.
Images courtesy of Bell Media.