Tag Archives: BET+

Preview: CBC’s The Porter is an important story of Black history in Canada

The first thing that struck me about The Porter, CBC’s newest series—debuting Monday at 9 p.m.—was the sound. The flick of a lighter, the crackle of a tobacco cigarette igniting, the scrape of glass on a wooden bar. Then, it was the colour of the clothing, a peacock of brights, followed by the music. This, I told myself, was going to be different. And I was right.

Co-created by Arnold Pinnock and Bruce Ramsay, showrun by Marsha Greene and Annmarie Morais, and based on true events, The Porter delivers a rich and dramatic look at the Black community in St. Antoine, Montreal—known at the time as the Harlem of the North—the key characters who live in it and the relationship the community has with the train line between Montreal and Chicago.

The eight-episode journey begins in Montreal in 1921 and follows train porters Junior Massey (Aml Ameen) and Zeke Garrett (Ronnie Rowe, Jr.). While Zeke fights the railway to change how Black porters are treated by unionizing them, Junior takes advantage of the existing structure to pursue money and power through gambling and bootlegging. Meanwhile, Junior’s wife, Black Cross nurse Marlene (Mouna Traore), and club performer Lucy (Loren Lott) are set on different paths to a better life after an awful tragedy.

In CBC’s press material for The Porter, series creator, executive producer and writer Pinnock, an avid reader and history buff, first came across the story of the sleeping car porters and the first Black Labour Union. It resonated with him, and the first seeds of The Porter grew in his mind.

I’m a history buff as well, and a series like The Porter not only tells a story from Canada’s past but an important Black story from this country’s past. The Porter has been grabbing a ton of headlines for its storytelling, creative team, cast and crew. So, is it worth the hype? Absolutely.

The Porter airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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CBC and BET+ greenlight The Porter (working title), an original drama about railway workers in Canada

CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster, and BET+, the preeminent streaming service for the Black audience, are partnering on original series THE PORTER (working title, 8×60) from Inferno Pictures and Sienna Films, which has been greenlit for 2021/22. Originated and created by Arnold Pinnock (Altered Carbon, Travelers) and Bruce Ramsay (19-2, Cardinal), with Annmarie Morais (Killjoys, Ransom, American Soul), Marsha Greene (Private Eyes, Ten Days In The Valley, Mary Kills People) and Aubrey Nealon (Snowpiercer, Cardinal), THE PORTER is set in the roar of the 1920s and follows the journeys of four ambitious souls who hustle, dream, cross borders and confront barriers in the fight for liberation – on and off the railways that crossed North America. Morais and Greene are writers/showrunners on the eight-part series, with Charles Officer (21 Thunder, Ransom, Coroner) and R.T. Thorne (Blindspot, Utopia Falls) set to executive produce and direct. Pinnock and Ramsay are co-executive producers.

The first season, set primarily in Montreal, Chicago and Detroit as the world rebuilds after the First World War, depicts another battle as it ripples through the Black community in Little Burgundy, Montreal – known, at the time, as the “Harlem of the North.” For the American and Canadian men working as railway porters, it’s a fight for equity and dignity. For the women in their lives, facing sexism and colorism, it’s a movement to claim their independence and identity. They’re young, gifted and Black, in an era that boasts anything is possible, and if change isn’t coming for them, they will come for it. By any means necessary.

Inspired by real events, THE PORTER is a gripping story of empowerment and idealism that highlights the moment when railway workers from both Canada and the United States joined together to give birth to the world’s first Black union.

A CBC and BET+ original series, THE PORTER is originated and created by Arnold Pinnock and Bruce Ramsay, with Annmarie Morais, Marsha Greene and Aubrey Nealon, and produced by Winnipeg-based Inferno Pictures Inc. and Sphere Media’s Sienna Films. Morais and Greene are showrunners and executive producers. Charles Officer and R.T. Thorne will direct the series, and are executive producers. Pinnock and Ramsay are co-executive producers. The series is written by Morais, Greene, Andrew Burrows-Trotman, Priscilla White, Pinnock and Ramsay, with R.T. Thorne participating in the writers’ room. The series is funded with the support of the Canada Media Fund and Manitoba Film & Music, and is distributed internationally by Abacus Media Rights (AMR) and Sphere Distribution. AMR and Sienna Films brokered the partnership with BET+.
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