Everything about The Murders, eh?

The Murders’ Jill Carter: “The highlight of my career so far”

It’s been almost two years since I spoke to Jill Carter. Back then, it was a podcast to discuss her directing work on Spiral, a creepy web series. We also talked about her experiences directing episodes of Murdoch Mysteries and how she got into the Canadian television industry in the first place.

I caught up with Carter last week for her latest project, The Murders. Created by Damon Vignale, the series stars Jessica Lucas as Kate Jameson, a rookie homicide detective whose mistake on Day 1 leads to tragedy. And, unlike directing on an established series like Murdoch, Carter was on the ground level for The Murders, meaning she collaborated with Vignale on how Citytv’s Monday night drama would look and feel for four episodes, starting with the pilot. It is, as she says, “the highlight of my career so far.”

How did you get involved in The Murders? Had you worked with Damon Vignale before? 
Jill Carter: I’d actually never met Damon. My agent was dogged about pursuing this for me. The producers and Damon and Rogers were interested in discussing the show with me, and so they sent me the bible and the pilot episode, and I read it a couple of times, and did some homework in terms of what kind of police homicide detective shows I thought were interesting and maybe kind of relevant to the type of show that they were discussing. Damon had mentioned the show Marcella to me. So, I looked at that and then I looked at a couple of others that I also liked. Actually, they were all British shows.

And then, I let my imagination run wild and had a good conversation with the Muse producers and Damon and they, in the end, obviously, we’re happy with how that conversation went and were interested in hiring me and then they asked me to do one more thing before it could become official. They wanted me to do a look book, which was to basically create a document that represented what my thoughts and visual ideas would be in terms of how I would approach the show.

What was in your look book? 
JC: I pulled some reference stills from the shows that I was inspired by, and also the show that Damon had talked about, and ones that I liked the framing of or the colour palette of. We had also talked about wanting to have a very different take on a police station. I’m really pleased because I think we ended up achieving that. I had pulled some references for police stations, but not specific to that. I actually found, in Dwell magazine, an old post office that this digital company had repurposed, that looked really cool. I thought could be an interesting space or reference for a space for a police station. And then just shots of Vancouver and the diversity in culture and the diversity in landscape, and sort of the beautiful, soft colours of the west coast. But also the sort of darkness and rich colours of the mountains and when you get those rainy grey days, that kind of colour palette.

I basically pooled all of that and then hired a graphic designer to work with me on creating a pleasing book that would represent the show’s feeling. At the end of the day, you want to create something that people can really get a sense of the feeling and the tone and the style that you want to embody.

Is this the project where you had the most input?
JC: I never had that much input on a show before. And obviously, every show that you direct, they’re hiring you for a reason, so you try, within the sandbox that you’re given, to infuse your own taste and style and artistic value to that show. But you’re dealing with, as the director that followed me on The Murders, was they had to sort of follow what we had set out to be the tone and the style of the show. Which is fun, and it’s you trying to find a way in on something that already kind of exists, so it’s a different sort of challenge.

But, obviously, the most fun is when you can really have a hand in creating something and having the most ability to weigh in on what the sets are gonna look like, what locations you have. You always have that when you’re directing, but if you’re directing a show that’s already in place, you haven’t picked any of the original locations, you’re just handed whatever doctor’s office or police station you’ve been given.

I really got to, with Damon, go and decide. We saw a bunch, and there was a couple that we saw that was already dressed as police stations, and I’d look at him immediately and be like, ‘Nope,’ and he would agree. The two of us were very much on the same page about it. And we’re excited to find something different that we hadn’t seen before. And I think we really did that.

One of the things that I loved about our police station is that it’s right at street-level, and you see traffic passing by. I think it adds a real authenticity to the fact that they’re working in a location that they’re also servicing for their job. You feel like they’re in the thick of it, and it just adds another layer and sort of nuance to the scenes that are in the bullpen, and also give a buzz almost, like an extra something to every scene that’s there, and just life that you don’t often get a chance to see when you’re in those type of sets. I loved that element.

What are some of the unique challenges of filming in a city, on location, at night?
JC: The biggest challenge is time because you have restrictions in terms of the hours that you can be shooting. So that, I’d say, is kind of the biggest factor, because how you’re shooting or where you’re shooting really kind of remains the same in terms of like whatever situation you’re gonna have to deal with. It’s really just the restriction on how long you can shoot in that location.

A question about Jessica Lucas. People know her as an actress, but she’s also a producer on The Murders. What was it like working with her? 
JC: As an actress, she’s incredible. She really carries the show. Her character is quite stoic and very internal. Everything’s sort of kept close to her chest, and you know she’s very protective and very serious about what she’s doing. And Jessica is very expressive as an actress, and her face says a lot. Her style and ability as an actress really lends itself well to this character and was wonderful and really killed it, I think.

As a producer, she was open and collaborative and really, I think for her, was an opportunity to get her feet wet in an area that she’s interested in and would probably like to do more of. It was starting out in a space that she’s comfortable, meaning a show that she was working on as an actress as well, I think helps pave the way.

It was an opportunity to have a larger voice in terms of weighing in, especially on the script and in the story in terms of in pre-production and production, on what she felt was working or needed to be maybe adjusted for her character. But, also, the script as a whole, and wanting to make sure that we were all moving forward in the same direction, in the right direction, and having discussions about wardrobe and things like that. Getting more into the nuts and bolts of stuff that you maybe don’t normally get a chance to do as an actor for hire, when you’re not producing as well.

What can viewers expect as they get into the second episode and the meat of the season?
JC: If you saw the first episode and the preview of Episode 2 coming on Monday night, you’ll know that it’s a bank heist, and I had a ton of fun directing that. I’d never done one before, and that was super fun to do. All of my episodes have been different and fun. We learn more about Kate’s past and her family relationship.

And also you start to understand the dynamic of the group of detectives that are working together. If you’ve seen Episode 1, you know that we don’t shy away from presenting images that are difficult or challenging. That stays through the entire season, so I think people can be looking to be gripped and excited and presented with entrusting ideas and also just get to know our characters a little better.

The Murders airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Taro PR.

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The Murders, Season 1

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: For The Murders, it’s all about character over case says star Jessica Lucas
“It made me feel empowered to speak up and that my decisions were heard and listened to. I got to be part of all the creative stuff on the show — wardrobe, production design and how things are managed on set.” Continue reading. 

From Anne Brodie of What She Said:

Link: Jessica Lucas Stars in ‘The Murders’ on CityTV
“It’s not often that I get the opportunity to play a character with so many layers and I was really looking for a chance to challenge myself.” Continue reading.

From Julie Crawford of North Shore News:

Link: Jessica Lucas finds her niche behind the scenes
“I’m just really excited about the direction of the industry: everything is so niche. For actors like me there are so many opportunities to branch out and create more content.” Continue reading.

From Tony Wong of the Toronto Star:

Link: Here’s why Canadian actress Jessica Lucas jumped at starring role in new series The Murders
Vancouver native Jessica Lucas starring in her own Canadian television series is indicative of a growing trend that bodes well for the industry: a reverse brain drain of talented young stars returning to our shores. Continue reading.

From Heather M. of The Televixen:

Link: Series creator and showrunner Damon Vignale talks The Murders
It’s a good month to be alumni of CTV’s Motive. Netflix’s The Order, Dennis Heaton’s follow-up series that includes several of the Motive creative team, is raking in viewers, and this week, Damon Vignale, one of Motive’s writer-producers, is launching his first developed series on Citytv in The Murders. I spoke with Vignale last week about the new series, a procedural set in Vancouver. Continue reading.

From Charles Trapunski of Brief Take:

Link: Interview: The Murders’ Jessica Lucas
“This is by far one of the most challenging projects which I’ve ever been a part of, in that in front of the camera, I had a lot of responsibility.” Continue reading.

From Heather M. of The Televixen:

Link: Jessica Lucas talks Citytv’s The Murders
“She’s a very interesting, flawed, well-rounded, three-dimensional character. I felt like she was someone I could sink my teeth into and who would be a great challenge for me.” Continue reading.

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: Director Jill Carter on what made The Murders such a special and rare experience
“I looked at every script supervising job as an opportunity to learn about directing. I did everything I could to make it my reality.” Continue reading.

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Damon Vignale’s The Murders brings Jessica Lucas back to Canadian TV

Damon Vignale has been a writer and producer on some of the most ambitious and exciting television series on Canadian television. Blackstone, 19-2, Motive, Ghost Wars and The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco … he’s worked on all of them.

Now Vignale is back with a television project all his own: The Murders. Set in Vancouver, the eight-part thrill ride—bowing Monday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv—stars Jessica Lucas as Kate Jameson, a rookie homicide detective whose mistake on Day 1 leads to tragedy. Aside from alienating herself from at least one co-worker, Kate and her partner, Det. Mike Huntley (Lochlan Munro), are chasing a killer who uses music in a deadly way. Along for the ride are Dylan Bruce as Detective Nolan Wells, Terry Chen as Staff Sergeant Bill Chen and Luvia Petersen as Detective Meg Harris.

We spoke to Damon Vignale about The Murders‘ origin story and where it goes from Week 1.

I love the fact that The Murders doesn’t shy away from showing the Vancouver skyline. I love the storytelling. 
Damon Vignale: Thank you. Yeah, it’s very exciting to be shooting a crime drama in Vancouver. I was always a big fan of Da Vinci’s Inquest. Motive was definitely a show that has been a highlight of my career and it’s shot in Vancouver. So when I was developing a crime drama and Muse came on board, them being a Montreal company, I thought, ‘OK, I guess we’re going to be shooting on the east coast,’ and they essentially asked, ‘Well, where do you want to shoot it?’ Of course that was a no-brainer. I just said in Vancouver and they really supported that. My original pilot was always based in Vancouver, it was just great that an eastern production company wanted to kind of stick with the original vision, so that’s great.

Take me back to the beginning. The Murders is based on an idea by you. Is this been something that you’ve been thinking about for a while? Tell me the origin story.
DV: Often when you’re going out for writing gigs, most producers don’t want to read shows that you’ve written on, they want to read original material. They want to know, ‘Hey, what’s your voice?’ I hadn’t had anything written for a while because I’d been really lucky going from show to show. I had a little time off after Motive and I actually had just watched Marcella. I was really inspired by that and wanted to write something with a female lead and I liked the idea of a serial killer.

At the time, I was really interested, separately, in the song ‘Long Black Veil,’ a song that has been recorded by over a hundred artists, and it fell into a genre called murder ballads. I’ve been researching murder ballads and what they are and how they came out of folk music. Before that, the early settlers that came to America would bring these crime stories and they’re all a part of what eventually became the genre of murder ballads, and ‘Long Black Veil’ fit into that. So the idea kind of grew out of that song. What if the detectives came across a murder and the victim’s life tied directly to an old murder ballad? That seemed interesting to me. That’s really kind of what the seed of where I started exploring. There is one case in the show that kind of bookends the season. But each episode in between, they have songs involved but they’re not necessarily murder ballads; they more play to the theme of the episode.

Is that the reason why the logo is kind an equalizer? The bar’s moving up and down and changing to blood?
DV: Yeah! Here’s the reason for that. In pitching the show, one of the things that I thought would be interesting, always looking for ways to separate yourself from other shows and bring something interesting to the mix, is I thought if the show were to play over five seasons, it would be great to, in each season, explore one of the five senses. So in the first season, sound … music. In different cases, it plays a part in the show and that’s why that equalizer is in there, it’s a subtle reference. I don’t know if we’re necessarily pitching the show on the five senses, but in developing Season 2 I am looking at the sense of touch.

You said off the top, when it came to developing this you were trying to figure out what your voice is. So what is your voice? What’s your strength? Is it dialogue? Is it atmosphere? Is it setting a scene?
DV: It’s kind of hard to reflect on yourself. I think, certainly, crime drama, and I tend to lean toward the darker side of things. And so when I’m putting a room together, I purposefully put writers in the room that are really strong on the lighter, comedic side of things because you obviously need both in the show. But I have no problem getting into—Blackstone would be a perfect example—a show where you lift the rug up and show the dirt underneath. I tend to like that kind of stuff. It’s fun to write.

Let’s talk a little bit about Jessica Lucas. She’s fantastic as Kate. How did she get involved in the process? 
DV: I’m bi-racial, my mother’s black, my father’s white, and so when I wrote the show I thought, ‘I would like to have a character that was bi-racial.’ For me, without getting too personal, it’s sometimes weird being in that gray area where you’re not black, you’re not white, you’re kind of in the middle and you kind of see things a little differently. I thought it would be fun to do things with issues that are going on today. So in starting there, I was already looking for a certain actor, an actress who fit into that and Jessica was really top of my list. We just felt that she was right for the role and when we reached out to her and she read the material, the conversations were really good and she felt good about it.

This first episode, it really starts and ends with a bang, literally. Can you talk a little bit about this journey for Kate as she moves forward into these following seven episodes?
DV: I would say that would be a part of being inspired by Marcella. I really like that the character Marcella had all of the issues that she was dealing with in her policing. There’s a case that comes back into our story from Kate’s past. [We’re] just piling all this stuff on this character.

The Murders airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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New original crime dramas Hudson & Rex and The Murders headline must-see Monday nights on Citytv, beginning March 25

From a media release:

Viewers won’t have a hard time picking these two out of a lineup. Boasting all-Canadian casts, new Citytv original series Hudson & Rex – starring John Reardon (Van Helsing, Continuum) – and The Murders – starring Jessica Lucas ( Gotham, Cloverfield) – are bringing the drama to Monday nights, beginning March 25 at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET/PT, respectively.

Full episodes and exciting extras are available on Citytv.com next day post-broadcast, as well as on Rogers on Demand, and the authenticated Citytv App for iOS, Android, and fourth-generation Apple TV.

Hudson & Rex, produced by Shaftesbury and Pope Productions Ltd., in association with Citytv and Beta Film, is a 16-part action-packed police-procedural drama set in St. John’s, Nfld. The series follows the partnership between cunning Major Crimes detective, Charlie Hudson (Reardon), and his partner, Rex (canine Diesel vom Burgimwald), a German Shepherd with heightened senses and formerly with the K-9 police unit. In the premiere episode, Rex proves himself as a member of the Major Crimes team when he tails a kidnapper; and the clock is ticking as Charlie and the team realize the abduction is part of an elaborate plan. 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.

The Murders, produced by Muse Entertainment, in association with Citytv, and distributed internationally by APC and NBCUniversal, is an eight-part police-procedural crime drama set in Vancouver. Created by Canadian showrunner Damon Vignale, The Murders features an episodic case of the week that follows Kate Jameson (Lucas), a rookie homicide detective who searches for redemption in her investigative work after her negligence is the cause of a tragedy. In the pilot episode, Jameson partners with Detective Mike Huntley (Lochlyn Munro, Riverdale) as they navigate the case of a mysterious serial killer who uses music for destructive ends. The Murders features dynamic additional cast members, including Dylan Bruce (Orphan Black) as Detective Nolan Wells, Terry Chen (The Expanse) as Staff Sergeant Bill Chen and Luvia Petersen ( Ghost Wars) as Detective Meg Harris.

Hudson & Rex and The Murders are the newest chapters in Citytv’s ongoing commitment to tell great stories by and for Canadians. Championing Canadian independent producers and production companies across the country, Citytv supports the local industry and invests in homegrown talent with commissions that capture Canada’s rich regional character. Citytv’s original content celebrates our uniquely Canadian perspective and delivers world-class entertainment to 30 million Canadians every week.

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Jessica Lucas to star in new original crime drama The Murders, coming to Citytv 2019

From a media release:

Jessica Lucas (Gotham, Cloverfield) is set to star as Detective Kate Jameson in new original crime drama The Murders, coming to Citytv in 2019. Produced by Muse Entertainment in association with Citytv, the eight-part, 60-minute episode season began shooting in Vancouver on October 9, 2018.

The Murders is a police procedural crime drama that features an episodic case of the week coupled with serialised character elements and a powerful soundtrack. Kate Jameson is a rookie homicide detective who searches for redemption in her investigative work after her negligence is the cause of a fellow officer’s death. In the pilot episode, Detective Kate Jameson is partnered with Detective Mike Huntley (Lochlyn Munro) as they navigate the case of a mysterious serial killer who uses music for destructive ends. Joining Lucas and Munro are star-studded cast members Dylan Bruce(Orphan Black), Terry Chen (Jessica Jones), Luvia Petersen (Ghost Wars), and Venus Terzo (Arrow).

Muse Entertainment produces The Murders in association with Citytv, a division of Rogers Media. Creator, Showrunner, and Executive Producer is Damon Vignale, followed by Executive Producers Jesse Prupas and Michael Prupas of Muse Entertainment, Shawn WilliamsonJamie Goehring and Jessica LucasArielle Boisvert is the Producer. Lucas is represented by LA-based The Gersh Agency and Thruline Entertainment. From Rogers Media, Nataline Rodrigues is Director of Original Programming, Hayden Mindell is Vice President of Television Programming & Content, and Colette Watson is Senior Vice President of TV & Broadcast Operations.

The Murders will be distributed around the world by About Premium Content, a Paris-based distributor headed by Emmanuelle Guilbart and Laurent Boissel.

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