Tag Archives: Bellevue

Shawn Doyle speaks of Unspeakable and some regrets playing Canada’s first prime minister

Unspeakable was, as the title suggests, once just that. The CBC miniseries delves into the tainted blood scandal in Canada that took place during the 1980s as the AIDS crisis was unfolding. A time when there was a misunderstanding in the disease, how it was spread and how some Canadians, as a result, were infected with Hepatitis C. It was something not talked about. Not anymore.

As I already covered in this previous story, writer Robert C. Cooper acquired Hepatitis C because of tainted blood. He turned his personal experience into the basis for Unspeakable, which tells the story from the perspective of two families caught in a tragedy that gripped Canada, as well as the doctors, nurses, corporations and bureaucracy responsible.

Shawn Doyle stars in Unspeakable as Ben Landry, a journalist. By the end of Episode 1, Ben and his wife, Alice (Camille Sullivan), learn of their son’s Hepatitis C diagnosis and realize it could have been prevented. That sends Ben on an investigative path to find out who is responsible. We spoke to Doyle about his most recent project and reached back into the past to talk about his portrayal of John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister.

Give me the background, Shawn. How did you end up finding out about Robert’s project in the first place, and what attracted you to it?
Shawn Doyle: Robert approached me about doing it, and he sent me the first few scripts, and then a couple outlines. I didn’t know a lot about the scandal other than the fact that my mother stood the risk of actually becoming infected because she had a number of transfusions in the early 80s. I read the script, and Robert had told me to look at the character, Ben, that I played. I actually originally was more attracted to the other character, Will, in so far as he was more volitional, you know?

I suppose on an unconscious level, there was a resistance within me about playing a character that ultimately is so paralyzed, feeling so impotent at the top of the series. Robert and I talked about it, and he kind of clarified why he thought I was appropriate for Ben. Ultimately, the result of that conversation and reading those scripts, I was just honoured to play the role because it felt like he was really entrusting me with kind of an awesome responsibility.

This project was personal for Robert. What about for you? You mentioned your mother.
SD: For me, it was really about dealing with the humanity of his relationships, the minute-to-minute experience of trying to reconcile himself with his wife and his son, and also trying to seek some direction in his life. In some ways, my job as the actor was to fill those very human moments and allow the larger story to take shape as Robert dictated through the writing.

In the first episode, it’s established that we’re starting to find out information. There’s a virus that’s in the States and is creeping its way into Canada. There’s fear, but there’s also frustration, that people don’t seem to be taking this seriously. They think that it isn’t a big deal. That really resonated with me.
SD: Yeah, I think everybody is in the dark, and there was nobody to turn to. That’s kind of the clear message that comes through, and certainly, it doesn’t take much of an extrapolation to figure out current-day examples of the same thing. We trust all these governing bodies to guide us in the proper direction, be it health or environment or safety. Constantly, we come face to face with evidence that nobody really knows, and often, people don’t care.

Sometimes we get a little bit blasé and smug in this country. When it comes to something like this project, Walkerton with the water and people dying, or Maple Leaf Foods, people getting sick, contaminated foods … We really can’t afford to be smug in this country because stuff has happened here, and people have died in this country, too.
SD: I would second your statement there. And I would go so far as to say that we often thumb our noses at the States and feel that we have some sort of superiority when it comes to taking care of our own and not being affected by the same level of corruption. But the truth is, like you just said, with Walkerton, with this, with the fact that private blood companies are still on the rise in this country, are still trying to be not regulated. I mean, this stuff happens, and it will continue to happen unless there are watchdogs out there looking after everybody.

In something like Unspeakable a historical precedent is set. It’s based on real events. As an actor, is it any different taking on something that’s historically accurate, or something like Bellevue, where it’s fiction? Does that matter to you when it comes to a project? Is one more difficult than the other?
SD: I think that the subject matter dictates how difficult a project is. For example, I played John A. Macdonald, and that required very specific preparation in terms of dialect and movement and look. In some ways, that kind of work frees your emotional life because it supports all the other kind of work you do from the moment-to-moment acting work. In some ways, I treated this more like fiction than trying to portray a real-life person because, in fact, I was an amalgam of other people. It was less about trying to pin down a specific person, a specific character that existed, and more about just trying to find it in the moment with my fellow actors.

The speech Ben gives in Episode 1 is stirring. You’re under makeup and you can feel the age in your voice. You can just feel the weight of what’s gone on in Ben’s life coming through in his voice as he stands in front of that group of people. It was pretty amazing.
SD: Oh, thanks for saying that. That was one of the most terrifying days in my career, I would say, to get up in front of 300 background people and be in age makeup and trying to play someone in their 70s who’s gone through this experience. That all happened very early in the shooting, too, so it wasn’t as if I had the momentum or the weight of having done a number of scenes. It was really very close to the top shooting, and so it really relied on imagination and trust and just trying to jump off the cliff. Also, when you’re in that kind of makeup, it’s really important that you try not to act your age, act that age because it’ll just weigh too much. Yeah. I haven’t seen it, and I don’t know if I want to see it, to be honest with you.

It’s so funny that you say that that was nerve-racking for you to be up in front of a group of people in makeup and saying that speech. That’s so funny. Out of all the work that you’ve done over the years, I find that interesting.
SD: Well, first of all, I hate speaking in public. I have a huge fear of it, as a lot of actors do unless they’re hiding behind a character. But secondly, there’s just so many traps to fall into when you’re playing … First of all, when you have a prosthetic on your face, and second, you’re playing such a different age. But more than anything, for me, it was the eagerness to try to capture the weight of history, the years that had gone by as he has struggled to keep a family together and not always won. I wanted to find ways to live that inside and not have to feel as if I had to act that, if that makes any sense, to present it. I didn’t want to present it. As much preparation as a five-page speech does in that context, it also requires time to just allow your heart and your mind to travel through what that must be like. Because again, we hadn’t done enough of the series yet for me to have physically experienced it, so it was all imagination. So, that’s what was terrifying about it.

Because you brought up John A. Macdonald. John A.: Birth of a Country was recently available on Encore +, so it’s readily available for people for free via YouTube. How does it feel to have that available online now for a new generation of viewers to see?
SD: I have very mixed feelings about it. I think it’s actually a very good film. I’m very proud of the work that we did, and I’m proud of the work I did. But post-playing John A. Macdonald, I discovered that I am First Nations. I have my First Nations status and I also now have a life partner who is an Indigenous artist, Métis, Cree and Saulteaux. My worldview of that particular part of our world has just expanded so dramatically, and I understand that there’s a glorification that happened in our production that I can no longer get behind.

Now, the idea was to do four films through his four major tenures as a prime minister. I think if we would have had that journey, we could see the frailty of the man or his flaws. We didn’t get a chance to do it in the one film, and unfortunately, we lionize him a little bit in a way that I regret based on what I’ve since learned about his behaviour towards First Nations people. Because when we did that movie back in 2009, I did my due diligence, and I read biographies and everything. There weren’t any anti-Macdonald biographies easily and readily accessible, so we didn’t dwell on that in the films, obviously. I didn’t really uncover that in my own research, and that’s something that I just have to carry with me.

So whenever things have come up with his anniversary a couple years ago, I have decided to kind of publicly talk about that, certain situations, because I think it’s important.

Unspeakable airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Serinda Swan on her CBC series Coroner and why Canadian actors in L.A. should come home

The last time I spoke to Serinda Swan, she was co-starring in A&E’s excellent and cancelled-too-soon Breakout Kings. Filmed in Toronto, Swan played one of a handful of criminals who worked with the U.S. marshals to collar prison escapees and have time taken off their own sentences.

Now Swan is back in Toronto, on the other side of the law in CBC’s new drama Coroner. Debuting on Monday at 9 p.m., the drama—based loosely on the books by M.R. Hall—stars Swan as Dr. Jenny Cooper, a recently widowed new coroner who investigates suspicious, unnatural or sudden deaths in Toronto. Created by Morwyn Brebner (Saving Hope) and produced by Muse Entertainment, Back Alley Films and Cineflix Studios, Coroner features Roger Cross as homicide detective Donovan McAvoy; Lovell Adams-Gray as pathologist Dr. Dwayne Allen; Tamara Podemski as Alison Trent, Jenny’s assistant; Kiley May as River Baitz, Dr. Allen’s assistant; and Ehren Kassam as Ross, Jenny’s son.

I chatted with Swan and Cross during CBC’s winter media day in November.

How did you get involved in Coroner, Serinda? Were you looking to come back to Canada?
Serinda Swan: I’ve had my eye on projects, Canadian projects, for a while because I feel there’s this new face of Canadian television that’s coming up or new perception of Canadian television that I think, as Canadian actors, we need to come back. We need to come back to Canada and we need to stop this archaic idea that in order to make it, we need to go to the U.S.

I think that dilutes the Canadian talent pool because we all leave, and then our team and our managers and agents don’t want us to come back, and I think this is a time that’s really exciting for Canadian television because we’re having these shows come out, and they’re becoming more specific. We’re not making Canadian television for American markets anymore. We’re making Canadian television for Canadian markets, and in that specificity, it becomes more universal.

Roger Cross: It’s making quality television, and it translates universally.

SS: I read a script a few years ago [for] Bellevue. And I loved it, I absolutely loved it, I thought it was incredible. And we got very, very close to actually doing it, and it didn’t end up working in the end, and so I had my eyes on [the production companies]. I was like, ‘OK, this is a pretty incredible group of humans that are orbiting around some really interesting material.’ They called me when this role came up, and said, ‘Would you be interested?’

And they sent me the bible for it, and it just was such an interesting perspective, the imagery that they used in it, the way that they described the character. The fact that she was more human than she was coroner … And so when I read it, I was like, ‘Oh this is some character work. I’m gonna be able to physically, emotionally and mentally change.’ And they were all for it. I was like, ‘I want my character to cut off her hair, I want to be able to put on weight, I want to be able to change my physicality, I want to be able to have a minute and a half panic attack on television. I want to show mental health issues, I want to show a diverse cast. I want to be able to have gay, straight, trans, black, white, First Nations on our show and not exploit it, but celebrate it. Show what Canada really is.’

And they literally went, ‘Yeah, of course.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, my people.’ This is exactly where I want to be, and I want to stop being a part of the problem, and just doing what I think cool American TV is.

A show like Dark Matter, just thinking most recently Roger, it’s just good TV regardless of what country it’s from.
RC: Yeah. And that’s the thing, you want to get rid of those labels. Let’s forget about, ‘It’s good for this,’ or, ‘You’re good because you’re a woman.’ And hopefully we evolve to that point where we can do that one day, and that will be great.

Jenny has her world ripped apart, and you see her struggle at times, but evolve and grow throughout it.
SS: To show the bad and the ugly. She makes good choices, bad choices and then some lovely choices.

I love the chemistry that Jenny and Donovan have. They have a really good repartee.
SS: I think that comes from both of them not really giving a shit about the other one. To be honest, she doesn’t care if he likes her, he doesn’t care if she likes him, and so there’s this relaxed sense of just being who you are, that is really interesting when it comes to two different characters. Because, normally, it’s two people don’t like each other and they’re fighting to make each other like each other, and that’s not it. I’m after the truth here, with or without you, I’m going after the truth. And so it’s this breaking down and figuring it out.

RC: One of the things that homicide detectives have is a consultant we talk to. We had real pathologists, real detectives, we had real SWAT members come out … We had some great people to lean on, and ask them, ‘When you are cutting a body out, would you do this? How would you handle evidence? How would you do things?’ We had these great people to lean on. And one thing this homicide detective said to me was, ‘Listen, we’re the main thing, it’s our world. They all serve to assist us to find the murderers and find these other people.’ And so, Donovan’s been used to that world where, ‘OK, we need you, coroner. We need you over here, we need these other people. But we run the show and we know what’s going on.’ He’s been used to doing things his way and had a coroner that would sign off on things, saying, ‘Yes, that’s how it’s done.’ ‘Yeah? OK good.’ [Jenny] comes in and she’s like, ‘Nah, ah, ah, ah, ah. I’m not signing off until I’m absolutely sure that that’s right.’ He’s like, ‘What’s wrong with you? Just stay in line, do your thing.’

SS: He started as Jenny, and then slowly it dulled out, based on the constant rubbing of people just trying to get the quick fix. And so eventually, it’s that knife, he comes in very sharp and by the end, you’re like, ‘I’m worn out, man.’ She’s coming in strong, and so there is that friction of, ‘Don’t mess up my life,’ on both sides.

With Morwyn Brebner as the creator, it’s no surprise Coroner is a roller coaster of emotion. It just came across like it’s a cable show. Yes, it fits on CBC, but it also very much as a cable show where you can have those moments, those long moments to really let a scene breathe and let those emotions come out.
SS: That was something that was really important to me because that’s how I act. I don’t react, I act, and in order to act, you have to hear, you have to listen, truly listen and you have to process and then you have to figure out how you want to act. And it could be a reaction, but there is that moment of processing.

Coroner airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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CBC and Sundance TV confirm casting for Unspeakable, including Shawn Doyle, Michael Shanks and Camille Sullivan

From a media release:

CBC and SundanceTV today announced casting for the dramatic eight-part miniseries UNSPEAKABLE, which chronicles the tainted blood scandal beginning in the 1980’s. Acclaimed actors Sarah Wayne Callies (Colony, The Walking Dead), Shawn Doyle (Bellevue, Big Love), Michael Shanks (Stargate SG-1, Saving Hope) and Camille Sullivan (The Disappearance, The Man in the High Castle) will lead the series. Production on UNSPEAKABLE begins spring 2018 in Vancouver, BC, for broadcast on CBC in Canada and SundanceTV in the U.S.

Created by Robert C. Cooper (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis) and based on first-person experience and non-fiction books, Bad Blood by Vic Parsons and The Gift of Death by Andre Picard, UNSPEAKABLE chronicles the emergence of HIV and Hepatitis C in Canada in the early 1980s and the tragedy that resulted after thousands of people were infected by tainted blood. One of the largest medical disasters in Canadian history, the blood scandal triggered a federal inquiry and precedent-setting lawsuit resulting in billions of dollars in compensation to victims.

A CBC and SundanceTV original series, UNSPEAKABLE is produced by Mezo Entertainment, with Cooper and Meridian Artists’ Glenn Cockburn serving as executive producers. The series is a passion project for Cooper, who himself was a victim, having contracted Hepatitis C from tainted blood. The series is written by Cooper, Carl Binder, Adriana Capozzi and Lynn Coady, with Cooper and Callies set to direct episodes.

AMC Studios will manage worldwide distribution outside of Canada.

CAST BIOGRAPHIES:

Sarah Wayne Callies has made an indelible impression on audiences worldwide by bringing complex and unique female characters to life on screen. She was recently seen in National Geographic’s miniseries The Long Road Home, opposite Michael Kelly, Kate Bosworth, Jason Ritter, and Noel Fisher. She also currently stars on USA’s drama series Colony, opposite Josh Holloway. In addition to her projects with NatGeo and USA, Callies recently starred in the season five reboot of FOX’s critically acclaimed series Prison Break. Another notable role held from 2010-13 was starring as Lori Grimes, on the internationally renowned, record breaking series The Walking Dead. On the film front, Callies most recently starred in This Is Your Death, alongside Josh Duhamel and Giancarlo Esposito, which premiered at the SXSW film festival in March 2017. She also recently appeared in Warner Brothers’ action-packed Into the Storm, directed by Steven Quale. Other feature credits include: The Other Side of the Door, Pay the Ghost, Black November, Whisper and Benoit Phillipon’s Lullaby for Pi; where she composed and performed an original song in addition to acting opposite Rupert Friend.

Shawn Doyle can currently be seen on WGN America starring opposite Anna Paquin in CBC’s Bellevue. He recently wrapped filming a role starring opposite Keon Alexander and Genevieve Kang in UCP’s Impulse for YouTube Red as well as season three of the SyFy series The Expanse, starring opposite Thomas Jane and Steven Strait. He can also be seen on TV starring opposite Jason Momoa in Netflix’s Frontier. He was last seen in theaters starring opposite Joanne Kelley and Jason Priestley in the independent film Away From Here, directed by Justin Simms. Shawn also starred in season three of the Emmy® nominated Netflix seriesHouse of Cards, as well as season one of Fargo and USA’s Covert Affairs. Shawn starred opposite Tatiana Maslany in the Sundance hit Grown Up Movie Star, and played “Joey” (Bill Paxton’s unlucky brother) in the critically acclaimed HBO show Big Love.

Michael Shanks, after a decade-long stint as fan-favourite Dr. Daniel Jackson in sci-fi series Stargate SG-1, has gone on to star on several other hit series, TV movies, and films, including, most recently, the drama series Saving Hope which earned him a Leo Award for Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series in 2013. Shanks has also directed three episodes of the series, after making his directing debut in 2001, directing Stargate SG-1. Shanks appeared in a three-episode arc on the Emmy Award®-winning drama 24, and recurred on the hit series Smallville, as Carter Hall (a.k.a. Hawkman). Shanks played opposite Anne Archer in the made-for-TV movie Judicial Indiscretion, and portrayed the hockey legend Gordie Howe in Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story, a role which earned him a 2014 Leo Award for Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Television Movie, as well as a Canadian Screen Award nomination. His other television credits include a recurring role on Burn Notice and guest-starring roles on CSI: Miami, Stargate: Atlantis, Mr. Young, Endgame, Supernatural and more. He also co-starred in the Emmy Award®-winning William H. Macy telefilm Door to Door and the film adaptation of Jack London’s Call of the Wild.

Camille Sullivan is an award-winning Canadian actress. Most recently, she was nominated for a 2018 Canadian Screen Award for her work on the miniseries The Disappearance. Sullivan has twice been nominated for Gemini Awards: once for her portrayal in the series lead role of Amy Lynch on Shattered, and then again for her portrayal of Francine Reardon in Chris Haddock’sIntelligence for CBC. She played a lead role in the drama pilot Mistresses, and other recent television credits include recurring roles on Man in the High Castle, Rookie Blue, Red Widow and Hellcats. She has guest starred on shows including Proof, Motive, Falling Skies, Combat Hospital, Alcatraz, Flashpoint and The Killing. Past film projects include the much lauded Ally Was Screaming for which she won the UBCP/ACTRA Best Actress Award for her stunning performance. Sullivan was also luminous opposite Gabrielle Rose in the heartbreaking film Birdwatcher for which she garnered another UBCP/ACTRA Best Actress Award. Another lead credit includes Carl Bessai’s multiple award-winning dramatic feature film, Normal. Her performance in Normal won her a Leo Award for Best Actress in a Feature Length Film. Other starring roles include Mount Pleasant, written and directed by Ross Weber, Mothers and Daughters, an improvised film directed by Carl Bessai for which she earned another LEO nomination. Sullivan also appeared in Bessai’s Fathers and Sons and now completes the set with Sisters and Brothers.

 

 

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Link: How WGN America used new technologies to launch “Bellevue”

From Simon Applebaum of Media Village:

Link: How WGN America used new technologies to launch “Bellevue”
Before the debut of Bellevue, Dollenmayer and his team created a custom 60-second trailer of Bellevue for USeek, inviting users to hunt for clues and earn points for prizes, such as $250 Visa gift cards, which were awarded to users who correctly solved the mystery.  More than 33 percent of people watching the trailer stayed with it to the end; the level of repeat viewers, estimated by Dollenmayer at three times each, was also very strong. Continue reading. 

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Links: Bellevue on WGN America

From Heather M. of TV Goodness:

Link: Adrienne Mitchell and Jane Maggs talk Bellevue’s aesthetic and working in TV
“With this, it’s the black mountains, the abandoned mines, and how they strangely, through nature, looked like these incredible sculptures with dark purple and red rivets that were created by rain and snow but were looming behind the workers’ houses that were there for convenience from the heyday of the mine. That became the center and everything would bounce off of that.” Continue reading.

From Karen Butler of UPI:

Link: Anna Paquin: It was tough to be a ‘semi-perky mommy’ while working on ‘Bellevue’
“It’s really grisly. More than how did I get into the character was how did I then shake it off for the weekend to go be a semi-perky mommy for my kids. That was harder than going into the dark place. I find jumping into the creative abyss incredibly easy and comfortable. It’s where I feel that I’m at my strongest. Honestly, some of the stuff we shot was actually really upsetting because we are depicting real life.” Continue reading.

From Heather M. of TV Goodness:

Link: Adrienne Mitchell and Jane Maggs Talk WGN America’s Bellevue
“I got a hold of the script and there was something really intriguing about the characters, and the mysterious presence of characters from their past and how there was a kind of an intimacy there that was very unique. And because it came from when [Annie] was a child, it had a fairy tale aspect to it that we were drawn to.” Continue reading. Continue reading.

From Mike Hale of The New York Times:

Link: Review: Anna Paquin Takes Her Turn as a Detective in ‘Bellevue’
“Bellevue” doesn’t do a bad job with chilly small-town menace, if that’s what you’re looking for. But unlike the better mysteries it evokes, it seems to have been run through a plot-generating machine — insert number of episodes, number of investigative breakthroughs per episode and extent of conspiracy, and voilà. The writers decided to spring for not one but two bonus credulity-stretching late twists. Continue reading.

From Jim Halterman of TV Insider:

Link: Anna Paquin Explores ‘Darkness’ in Her New WGN Drama ‘Bellevue’
“It’s one of those things where I’ve always loved cop shows and I’ve always loved horror shows. I think it is just something about the exploration of darkness that appeals to me on some level, which I can’t really explain. I’m almost an annoyingly law abiding person, I am the driver that puts my indicator on to turn into my own driveway on my back alley even though there will be no cars. ” Continue reading.

From Sonia Saraiya of Variety:

Link: TV Review: ‘Bellevue,’ Starring Anna Paquin
“Bellevue” isn’t trying to break the mold of a closed-ended mystery, but it does offer a riff on it that manages to be both cozily predictable and refreshingly contemporary. The show, created by director Adrienne Mitchell and writer Jane Maggs, is a fairly standard mystery that distinguishes itself by being conscious of the complications of gender presentation, whether that is the “dangerous” male, the “vulnerable” female, or the transitioning teen who tries and fails to be accepted by their peers. Continue reading.

From Sci-Fi Vision:

Link: Exclusive: Shawn Doyle Stars in Bellevue
” I started to understand that really the character was going to be driven by this deep secret from his past, mixed with his sense of protectionism over Anna. And so for me, that was very interesting, and the idea of exploring that was compelling.” Continue reading.

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