Tag Archives: 19-2

Executive producer Virginia Rankin breaks down Transplant’s origin story

Virginia Rankin has executive-produced some of the most compelling series in Canadian television. From 19-2 to Bad Blood and This Life she, and the folks at Sphère Média Plus, have brought unique characters and compelling stories to primetime TV.

The latest is Transplant. Airing Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, Rankin’s newest project debuted to strong ratings in Canada. Starring Hamza Haq as Dr. Bashir “Bash” Hamed—a Syrian doctor with battle-tested skills in emergency medicine—it appears she’s got another success on her hands.

We spoke to Virginia Rankin about how Transplant was created, and how the TV market has changed for a company like Sphère Média Plus.

Take me back to the beginning. How did Transplant come about?
Virginia Rankin: I work very closely with Tara Woodbury, who’s our head of development, and Tara really wanted to do something around immigration and refugees. Her family, her extended family, sponsors a Sudanese refugee, so she has firsthand experience with it and so she wanted to do something around that. And my experience, in 20 years of television, is that it’s incredibly hard to tell those stories because mainstream networks are like, ‘Ah, it sounds like an issue. We don’t do issues.’ So, I sort of a little hesitant, but she was really passionate about it. And at first, we were bouncing around ideas like rom-coms and comedies and this kind of thing.

At the same time, we knew that [CTV] was looking for a medical show to replace Saving Hope. And we also knew that we wanted to work with Joseph Kay. I had had a great experience working with him on This Life. We sort of cornered him. We all kind of sat around and threw ideas around and then one night, in the middle of the night, they kind of all came together and the title Transplant came to me and that was some debate about whether it should be The Transplant, by the way, or Transplant. But for me, it was just Transplant and I saw the poster and on the poster was Hamza Haq.

We knew from working with him what a great guy he was and that he’s the full hero package. He’s charismatic, he’s handsome as anything, he’s got the acting chops and he’s a wonderful human being. My job was done and then it was over to Joe and Joe just took those simple elements and he went away and he did a lot of deep diving, a lot of research and he came back and he pitched us this beautiful story of Bash and his sister Amira as Syrian refugees and their new lives in Canada.

It was really all created by Joseph.

Just to clarify, Hamza was not attached. We didn’t say it has to be this guy and we hadn’t attached him in any way. We actually went through a full audition process before we attached him, but he did come on as a consultant. So he read the draft and gave Joe his thoughts.

He actually had to audition and we did audition a number of Syrian actors. We looked quite extensively at Arab actors. And when it came down to it, he was still the guy who we really thought could bring an audience to the show.

What is it about Joseph Kay that ticks the boxes when it comes to a showrunner?
VR: It’s how seriously he takes his job. It’s the research that he does. He has to really know his characters in a deep way. And he does that. He does that work. He’s a wonderful collaborator. I’ve worked on two shows with him now and I just love the creative conversation with him and how he listens and he thinks and he takes everything on board. And then he comes out with beautiful work. So, I can’t say enough good things about working with him.

As you said, Hamza is fantastic. You can’t help but cheer for this guy.
VR: He’s a leading man. He’s Omar Sharif and you don’t see that that often either. And frankly, I think we’re incredibly lucky that we kind of discovered him when we did. I mean, he already had it long CV, but certainly, this is his first major, major leading role. And I feel like a year or two from now we wouldn’t have been able to get him. So, I feel like he’s going to break out. But luckily for us, he loves the show. He’s really, really, really passionate about it and he works so hard and put so much of his heart and soul into it.

When you see NBCUniversal International Studios attached to this, I can’t help but think about the way that the market has changed and how it’s become truly international. As a producer, has there been a seismic shift in the way that you go about making television shows here in this country and how you shop them around?
VR: It’s interesting. It is quite different working with NBC than it has been working with the other international distributors we’ve worked with in the past. NBC sees itself as a studio. We don’t have a studio system in Canada. In Canada, we, the production company, sees ourselves as a studio because we own the copyright and the cashflow and we do all that stuff. But NBC does see themselves more like a studio. Their participation is on a level that they’ve earned that. And so they are much more actively involved than the experience I’ve had with other international distributors, which is great because you do want your show to sell around the world and they obviously know how to do that. So, we really appreciate their perspective and we really hope that the show does succeed in significant markets around the world.

What can you say about Bash’s journey through the first season of the show?
VR: The journey of Bash is, to a certain extent, to allow himself to release some of his secrets because some of his secrets are kind of killing him. He’s carrying guilt and trauma as any refugee will have, any survivor will have. And he’s sharing those things and he perhaps needs to share them more for his own sake, for his own survival. So that is his character journey, which is to learn to let some of those secrets go.

The first episode ends with Bash sitting down with Jed Bishop and Jed saying, ‘Let’s have that job interview over again.’ Is this going to be a mentor-mentee type of relationship, a father-son relationship between these two?
VR: Yes, yes, absolutely. There’s the father-son dynamic there and like any father-son or parental relationship, it’s not always nice. It’s not always pretty. So on both sides, there’s rebellion from the son figure and there are disappointments from the father figure, it’s all of those variations of the father-son relationship.

Transplant airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Exclusive photo gallery: First-look photos at CTV’s Transplant

Clearly, we here at TV, Eh? were good boys and girls last year because Bell Media has given us one heck of a cool belated Christmas gift: an exclusive first-look at CTV’s newest original series, Transplant.

As previously announced, Transplant stars Hamza Haq, John Hannah, Laurence Laboeuf, Jim Watson and Ayisha Issa.

 

Here is the official synopsis for Transplant direct from Bell Media:

Dr. Bashir “Bash” Hamed (Hamza Haq), a Syrian doctor with battle-tested skills in emergency medicine, makes the difficult decision to flee his country with his younger sister Amira. With the hope of returning to his career in medicine, together Bash and Amira strive to build a new life in Canada while managing the struggles that come with a new country. With life experiences and a medical background unlike his Canadian counterparts, Bash works to navigate a new environment and forge new relationships after earning a coveted residency in the Emergency Department of one of the best hospitals in Toronto, York Memorial.

Transplant debuts this spring on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Dramatic actors take a comic turn in Hospital Show

I’d been excited to see the web series Hospital Show ever since the project received support from the Independent Production Fund in June of last year. The chance to see dramatic actors like Sara Canning, Adrian Holmes and Jordan Connor in comedic roles got me jazzed.

Now, the wait is over. Hospital Show, created, written, directed, produced and starring Adam Greydon Reid, debuts today on YouTube with the first two episodes—subsequent instalments roll out one per week—on the platform. Charlie (Canning) is a med school dropout turned actor who plays one in a medical drama called Critical Condition. Alongside Charlie are the big-hearted Rich (Holmes), Instagram lover Vince (Connor) and alcoholic Will (Reid).

We spoke to Adam Greydon Reid ahead of Hospital Show‘s debut.

How did the idea for Hospital Show come about in the first place?
Adam Greydon Reid: I’ve been an actor since I was a kid. I started off on, You Can’t Do That On Television. I’ve always wanted to explore the world of actors because I’d been an actor all my life and I actually see it as very non-glamorous. It never felt real to me. I wanted to create a comedy that just felt like a workplace comedy, except these people, who all feel like people you went to high school with. Totally normal human beings who all have problems and foibles and weaknesses, happen to wear white coats for a living and pretend to be doctors.

The next step was, ‘OK, well what kind of set do I want it to be on?’ When you look for a premise, you often try to look for something that’s ironic. I just liked the idea of setting it on a hospital show because here we have these broken, diluted, addicted if lovable people who are pretending to be healers when they need the healing.

How long have you had this idea kicking around?
AGR: Oh, a long time. Over five, at least five or six years, maybe more. I think as a result the characters feel very rich. The world feels very rich. I always thought if I looked at it as sort of the archetype of The Wizard of Oz and Dorothy is Charlie. Charlie is sort stuck in this world that she kind of belongs in, but doesn’t really belong in. She should be a real doctor instead of pretending to be one. The rest of the characters kind of fill out from there. Rich is The Cowardly Lion. And I would be The Scarecrow.

Carol-Ann is really enjoying her amorous activities at the moment. She’s a widow, a mother of two and so I see her kind of like The Tin Man. Looking to find heart, find love again, find something to fill a void that’s inside her. And then, of course, Oz being the all-seeing eye, the showrunner that’s not really there but can see everything. Kind of like the God figure.

Now that you’ve given me this whole Wizard of Oz angle, I totally see it now. Is it supposed to be there for people to pick up? 
AGR: No one will see it. No, no one would see it or figure out. It’s just for me. Just for me and people like you who I can tell, but honestly, they’ll feel it. When you’re dealing with archetypes, it’s completely transmitted on an unconscious level.

Sara Canning, Jordan Connor and Adrian Holmes all star in Hospital Show. How did you land them?
AGR: We all kind of know of each other and sometimes we’ve gotten to work with each other. I actually did not know Sara at all. I think we’d met maybe once, but I knew of her, of course, and I immediately imagined her as Charlie. There aren’t a lot of people that have the right energy to play someone that you believe is that smart. She’s so sharp. And I believe that she could be a doctor.

I knew Adrian from before. I’ve known him from other stuff. I just ended up being at the airport with him. We shared a cab home one day and I said, ‘Hey, you ever thought about doing comedy?’ He said, ‘Yeah, man. I’d love to, I’d love to do comedy.’ That’s the thing about the cast. Sarah, Jordan, Adrian and even Kristin [Lehman]. These are people who have basically made their careers doing dramatic fare. I think the chance of doing a comedy was really appealing to them because they just don’t get the chance to do it.

What kind of a writer are you? Are you the type that needs to have a quiet room to write?
AGR: Well, for this process, I tapped my actors for ideas. I had a general overall kind of thing going already and it had many rough drafts of it, but there were things that I wanted to spice up and I wanted to add to it. So, probably on the fifth draft, I started that once I had my cast together. I was like, ‘So, tell me about some of your experiences.’ And some of Kristin’s experiences are already in the show, they’re just exaggerated. And with Sara, who actually did Remedy. She says, ‘Well, probably one of the weirdest things in that was we had to practice. We really had to do suturing and we had to practice on bananas.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh my god, that’s going in. That is for sure going in.’

Hospital Show is available on YouTube now.

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Award-winning writer/producer Bruce Smith to lead story room for 2019 Bell Media Prime Time TV Program

From a media release:

The Canadian Film Centre (CFC) and Bell Media are pleased to welcome one of Canada’s top drama showrunners Bruce Smith as the Executive Producer in Residence of the 2019 Bell Media Prime Time TV Program. From September to December 2019, Smith will lead the story room as well as the six television writers selected to participate in this year’s program as they work together to develop Smith’s original series.

Bruce Smith was most recently creator and showrunner of Street Legal on CBC. Previously, he was the showrunner of CTV’s award-winning drama 19-2 and of Cracked (CBC). Over its four-season run, 19-2 earned more than 30 Canadian Screen Awards nominations, including the win for Best Dramatic Series in 2016, when it was also nominated for an International Emmy in the same category. Additionally, Smith has worked as a writer/producer on numerous dramas, including Durham County (HBO CANADA), and has penned multiple award-winning MOWs and miniseries, including The Sleep Room (CBC), Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story (CBC), The Investigation (CTV), and John A: Birth of a Country (CBC), for which he won a 2013 Canadian Screen Award. Smith has received three WGC Screenwriting Awards, including the WGC Showrunner Award in 2015 and the McGrath Service Award in 2019.

The 2019 Bell Media Prime Time TV Program participants are:

  • Henry Campbell (BC)
  • Imogen Grace (ON)
  • Amy Halloran (QC)
  • Rose Napoli (ON)
  • Lori-Ann Russell (ON)
  • Ian Steaman (ON)

This year’s program begins on September 23, 2019. The Bell Media Prime Time TV Program, now in its 20th year, delivers a real-world story room experience and an intense professional and project development process for six TV writers a year. The program has attracted some of Canada’s most prolific and successful showrunners to lead the story room as Executive Producer in Residence, including Michael MacLennan, Karen Walton, Brad Wright, Dennis Heaton and Alexandra Zarowny. The program has played a vital role in developing numerous hit series through its story room, including Travelers and the Emmy Award-winning series Orphan Black. Learn more about the program here.

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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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