Tag Archives: Billy Campbell

Cardinal: Showrunner Sarah Dodd reflects on Blackfly Season

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched the season finale of Cardinal: Blackfly Season “El Brujo”!!

Well, Cardinal fans, were you shocked by the season finale of Blackfly Season? Although I’ve read the books, Thursday’s climax still left me breathless. My heart went out to John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) when he realized the person who’d jumped to their death was his beloved wife, Catherine (Deborah Hay).

That wasn’t the only stressful moment during “El Brujo.” In true, nail-biting fashion, the fates of Terri (Alex Paxton-Beesley) and Kevin Tait (Jonathan Keltz) were up in the air when it appeared Leon Rutkowsky (Dan Petronijevic) and Ray Northwood (Bruce Ramsay) would get their final sacrifice. As it was, the bad guys were arrested in time—I was secretly hoping they’d be killed—and order was restored.

We spoke to Blackfly Season showrunner Sarah Dodd—who most recently served as a co-executive producer on Motive—to talk about her experience adapting Giles Blunt’s novel for television, the challenges of filming night scenes and what’s next for John Cardinal.

Before we get into specifics about this season and the season finale, can you tell me how you became involved in Cardinal in the first place?
Sarah Dodd: I was working in London, England, on a series called Ransom. And that show has among other production partners, Sienna Films. So, when I was in their story room on Ransom, they were looking for showrunners on Season 2 and 3 of Cardinal. They called me and asked if I would be interested and I jumped at the chance. I’ve always wanted to do a limited-run murder mystery series like this. I’m a big fan of all the Scandi-noir stuff and shows like Happy Valley, Broadchurch and The Killing. So, I said, yes that I would love to. I came back to Canada at the end of the summer in 2016 and read all six books that Giles Blunt wrote and that was how it started.

Was there any nervousness on your part? Giles Blunt established this world in his book and Aubrey Nealon set the stage in Season 1.
It was both terrifying and inspiring. The books are very cinematic. Giles is very good at writing a scene and I was inspired by how much was there in the material. I was definitely daunted by the big shoes I had to fill from Aubrey’s season. I was a huge fan of Season 1, so it was a brass ring. I just had to go for it. But, always in the back of my mind was, ‘I have to be true to it and really honour Season 1 and not disappoint the fans.’ My biggest fear was that everyone who fell in love with Season 1 would be disappointed in Season 2. [Laughs.]

But, at the same time, I was working with a great advantage because I was writing for Billy Campbell, Karine Vanasse, Glen Gould and all of these actors in my head.

What did you learn about the differences between writing a six-episode season and an 18-episode one?
It is less daunting because it’s only six episodes but in other ways, it’s a completely different art form for me. It’s a miniseries, so it’s long-form and I have done so much episodic that this was very new for me to carry one case over the course of six episodes. I had never done that before so writing a new genre, basically, was exciting and scary. We also only had five weeks in the writer’s room to break all six stories and walk out of that room knowing how to write up our outline. We couldn’t have done that if we didn’t have the book. We added a lot of characters and storylines that weren’t in the book and we changed a lot of things and made some adjustments, so it was challenging in that way.

What did working on Cardinal force you to do as a television writer?
I think that Jennica Harper and Alison Lea Bingeman would agree that it was a really fantastic opportunity to dig deep into character. The other noticeable difference for me was less dialogue. The standard one-hour episodic that I’m used to writing is dialogue heavy and with Cardinal we had to find ways of cutting way back. Less was more, especially John Cardinal. He doesn’t say much. Neither does Lise Delorme, really. In their scenes together, so much of what they say passes between their faces. The other big thing is that when we were breaking the episodes we were working on index cards with a colour-coded system. We made sure that we had a specific colour that was the visual card. There was no plot, we just knew we wanted an image there. It wasn’t part of the story. The landscape of Cardinal is character in the show, so we were breaking story, plotting characters and thinking a lot about visuals.

Can you talk a little bit about working with Jeff Renfroe? He directed all six episodes and established a wonderful colour palette and look for Season 2.
I thought that Daniel Grou and Aubrey did a wonderful job in Season 1. Everybody talked about that dark, cold landscape and how much landscape was a part of the show. And my story takes place in the summer, right? The first conversation I had with Jeff was, ‘What will be our birch tree? What will be Cardinal’s mind palace, for lack of a better word? What are we going to see when we are trying to get into the emotion of the characters?’ From a writing perspective, we always thought about cottage country in the summer. Boats, beaches, campfires and going to the bar in the summer when the sun hasn’t even gone down yet. Bugs swarming you. And then I looked to Jeff and Dylan Macleod, our cinematographer to undercut that so that we always have that eerie feeling that things aren’t quite right. Our touchstone was that there was a rot behind the beauty. A decaying quality.

How did you go about choosing your writing team? 
Both Sienna and Bell were very supportive of me finding the right people for my little room. I had just worked with Jennica on Motive and we get along really well. Not only is she a very good one-hour procedural writer but I also know her as a poet so I knew she would be able to bring that lyrical, metaphorical quality to the writing and in the imagery. And she’s also got comedy chops. I had met Alison socially but I had never worked with her before, but we share an agent and Alison has had a project in development with Sienna, so they knew her and she’d done 19-2 with Bell so they knew her. And I knew from my group of writer friends that Alison was good with one-hour procedurals not only with breaking but with serialized storytelling in This Life. We had a telephone conversation and I got to know a great new writer in the process. We also had a fourth person in the room named Gemma Holdway who was our intern at first and then was upgraded to story editor.

Bruce Ramsay played a wonderful bad guy in Ray Northwind.
Casting that character was huge. When we were developing the series and writing the scripts always in the back of our minds was, ‘Who are we going to get to play Ray?’ It can’t be the moustache-twirling stock villain. It has to be someone with some pain and some layers and a bizarre, otherworldly confidence. It was a tall order and we were thrilled to get Bruce.

Terri ends up being a real bad-ass and flat-out saves Kevin in a lot of ways in the finale.
That was another conscious change that we made from the book. She gets a little forgotten about by the end of the book and we thought that because we’ve invested so much time with her and she’s really put her life on hold to come and extricate her brother from a bad situation, we didn’t see her as someone who would just give up. We think she’s a fighter and wanted to have her be active in the finale.

How long did the fight scene between Cardinal and Ray last when it came to filming it?
It was faster than you might think because we had a lot of camera coverage and we covered it from every angle. Every filming day was packed and Jeff had so much to accomplish and that day was no different because we had stunts and underwater work and working in the dark. I had a lot of discussion with Jeff and Dylan in pre-production about motivating light at the camp. In the book, the place is completely off the grid and it would have been all lanterns and candles and flashlights but because we needed some practical lighting to motivate Dylan’s lighting along the walkways and down by the shore so we could see the actors’ faces and know what was going on we said, ‘OK, they have a generator somewhere.’

If anyone has read the books they know Catherine dies at the beginning of the third novel, By the Time You Read This. Why was it decided she would die at the end of Season 2?
There were lots of conversations around that to make sure it was the best choice. For the writers, we thought that if we didn’t end Catherine’s story there that if you looked back over the six episodes of Season 2 you would say, ‘What is Catherine and Cardinal’s story?’ There is a strong beginning because she’s out of the hospital and is well and back at work. Their daughter is doing well in Toronto. But there is always this undercurrent of when is the next time and it’s inevitable there will be a next time. Cardinal is ready to hang it up so that he can be there with Catherine so that maybe there isn’t a next time. That, of course, is a dream.

What did you think of Season 2 of Cardinal? Are you excited to see Season 3? Let me know in the comments and check out the Season 3 teaser trailer!


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Cardinal: Behind-the-scenes with Sienna Films’ Jennifer Kawaja

Are you enjoying Blackfly Season, faithful Cardinal fans? Will Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse) and John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) keep Terri (Alex Paxton-Beesley) safe Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, or will Ray Northwind (Bruce Ramsay) track her down?

We’ve certainly loved the new season so far and have Julia Sereny and Jennifer Kawaja of Sienna Films to thank. The production company founders are not only responsible for executive-producing the Cardinal franchise, but the Global/CBS drama Ransom, Global’s excellent military drama Combat Hospital, web series in Riftworld Chronicles and the feature films New Waterford Girl and How She Move.

We spoke to Jennifer Kawaja last summer on the set of Blackfly Season about how the series came to be, the excitement of filming on location and working with stars Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse.

Give me the origin story. How did Cardinal end up a Sienna Films production?
Jennifer Kawaja: CTV optioned the project and they went looking for producers to work with them. We fell in love with Giles Blunt’s books and his writing and it really felt like it was in our wheelhouse in the sense that it is Canadian, Canada playing Canada, on location—we love the specificity of the little things that happen when you’re on location shooting something—so we really tried to get the project. Once we did get it, we developed it and then [Season 1 showrunner] Aubrey Nealon came on board and wrote two scripts. That’s when CTV greenlit it.

The seasons attracted us as well. Each book is set in a different season. We love how Giles uses the physical environment in his storytelling.

Does being inside a warehouse that’s been converted into a set turn you off?
No. We did that with Combat Hospital in Etobicoke, Ont. That was fun to do. We love creating really specific worlds. Trying to get the feel of what Giles wrote and the feel of the place is important.

What are the challenges, if any, of going from Aubrey in Season 1 to Sarah Dodd as showrunner in Season 2 to Patrick Tarr in Season 3? 
It has been hard. The ice and the snow and the cold gives you a certain feeling right away. The change of season to summer, a completely different story that is much more case-heavy than the relationship between Delorme and Cardinal … but then we saw the dailies and we were excited. It’s Karine Vanasse and Billy Campbell as Delorme and Cardinal and even if the investigation into him isn’t there, there is still that chemistry. There’s simpatico between them and you just want to watch.

Is it important, as a producer, to be on-set during filming?
We’re pretty hands-on producers and always have been. We worked with [director] Podz and Aubrey very closely on Season 1. I really believe that, when you don’t have the budgets that the American shows have, every decision that you make has an effect on the show. You’re trying to create something without the money of a U.S. project so to make the right decision we feel the need to be here and be part of the team.

What can you say about Billy Campbell as John Cardinal?
CTV was very involved in that decision and was definitely encouraging in that way. We feel so lucky with Billy and Karine. Not only are they total pros and beautiful, amazing people—we’ve kept them in minus-40 weather with not enough clothing on and in the middle of bugs—they have never complained. They’ve always been game. It has been an incredible privilege. They have also connected with these characters. I think there is a part of Cardinal that is really Billy. And it’s the same with Karine and Delorme. Yes, they’re incredible actors but I feel they’ve really brought part of themselves to the roles.

Cardinal: Blackfly Season airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.


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Cardinal: Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse preview CTV’s Blackfly Season

Forget about catching a murderer. The real killers during the filming of Season 2 of Cardinal were the insects. As the title suggests, Cardinal: Blackfly Season—returning  Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV—was filmed during the spring in North Bay, Ont., and boasted a horrific number of flying things that chomped on stars Billy Campbell, Karine Vanasse, and the rest of the cast and crew.

“Mosquitoes were first,” Campbell said during a break in filming last summer. “Then we had the blackflies, then the shadflies, horse flies, deer flies … a hands-worth of horrifying things. The thing about blackflies is that they have an anaesthetic they put into you first, so you don’t feel them biting and you only find out later when you get home and take off your shirt and it starts itching. And it itches for days.”

With Sarah Dodd (Motive) showrunning Blackfly Season, the Cardinal franchise once again embraces Giles Blunt’s book series to tell its twisted tale. Where Season 1 set the table for viewers by introducing Det. John Cardinal (Campbell) and Det. Lise Delorme (Vanasse) and the world they inhabit, Season 2 offers plenty for viewers to feast on. The Nordic noir theme returns with the star addition to the cast once again Northern Ontario, ruggedly beautiful and buggy as all hell. It’s against that backdrop we’re introduced to Red (Alex Paxton-Beesley) a young woman who stumbles out of the forest bug-bitten and suffering from amnesia on Thursday. Who she is and what crime she witnessed is the focus of Season 2’s six episodes.

Karine Vanasse as Lise Delorme

Along for the drama are returning characters in Det. Jerry Commanda (Glen Gould), Catherine Cardinal (Deborah Hay), Staff Sergeant Noelle Dyson (Kristen Thomson), Cpl. Malcolm Musgrave (David Richmond Peck) and Kelly Cardinal (Alanna Bale). New faces in the fictional Algonquin Bay include Ray Northwind (Bruce Ramsay), Kevin Tait (Jonathan Keltz), Det. Alan Clegg (Kevin Hanchard), Scott Lasalle (Kris Holden-Ried) and Leon Rutkowsky (Dan Petronijevic).

We spoke to Campbell and Vanasse, who gave us some Season 2 scoop.

Aubrey Nealon was the showrunner in Season 1 of Cardinal. This season it’s Sarah Dodd. What’s it been like working with her?
Billy Campbell: I’d never had the pleasure of working with Sarah before and I have now. It was as smooth a transition as you can imagine. It was different people involved but the same quality of everything. Aubrey, as you know, did the whole first season himself and it nearly broke him. [Laughs.] Sarah had a few people with her and I think it was a much easier thing all the way around for that reason.

The book this season is based on is called Blackfly season and you filmed during blackfly season. What were the bugs like?
BC: Horrifying. Horrifying. Mosquitoes were first, then we had the blackflies, then the shadflies, horse flies, deer flies … a hands-worth of horrifying things. The thing about blackflies is that they have an anaesthetic they put into you first, so you don’t feel them biting and you only find out later when you get home and take off your shirt and it starts itching. And it itches for days. I slathered myself with mosquito repellant, the DEET-free stuff, and it worked like a charm until I got home and realized they’d gotten under my shirt and had burrowed into my hair and eaten into my scalp. I saw a horse fly down by the river during one day of shooting out of the corner of my eye and I thought it was a hummingbird. I looked and it was a fricking horse fly.

Karine Vanasse: The bugs are really present. I was just really glad I wasn’t bitten around my eyes. There was one scene where they had to film me from one side of my face because the other side was all swollen. The seasons are so well-explored in the books—the beauty of the area and the atmosphere is very heavy—it’s perfect for the heaviness of the story; the weight that Cardinal is carrying compared and contrasting with how lush the landscape is.

Alex Paxton-Beesley as “Red”

Where are we at when we catch up with John Cardinal?
BC: To me, the spine of the show is what’s happening with Cardinal and Delorme. And then, of course, there are the things to support that. The crime itself is almost incidental. It’s almost symbolic of the tortured inner life in a way. Where Cardinal is when we start the second season is, what I’ve figured out, is he really wants to quit. The first time we see him this season he’s lounging in the back of a motorboat on a lake with Catherine and he takes her to see a little cabin on the lake and says, ‘I can fix it up and I can quit.’ She says, ‘Pfft, you’re never going to quit.’ He really wants to be done and, at the same time, he’s afraid of being done because he has a wife who is sick and isn’t sure what he would do if he wasn’t doing this. As far as he and Delorme are concerned, they already feel a certain way about each other.

As far as he and Delorme are concerned, they already feel a certain way about each other. For me, it’s there, it’s just that he can’t even admit it to himself. There is an intimacy between them and I’m convinced a respect for each other as detectives. There is that running under the surface and the things that happen in the second season … Sarah and the gang did a wonderful job of interweaving what will happen in the third season into Season 2.

In Season 1, Lise had a boyfriend in Josh, who was not a character in the books. What about in Season 2? No Josh, right?
KV: Oh no. We see that she’s not really sad about that. What we get from the books is that Lisa really doesn’t have much of a social life. And, by having a boyfriend and then having him leave is just a confirmation that she doesn’t have much of a social life.

What’s her journey in Season 2?
KV: She shared a secret with Cardinal in Season 1 and he didn’t want to talk about it. So, where do you go from there? She still has that feeling he’s keeping something from her and she’s confused about how she’s feeling at her job and working with him. This season we see what it means for Lise to be affected by a case when it hits home. Not because you’re closely related to that person but because you care. That’s new to her.

Cardinal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.


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Cardinal returns for Season 2 beginning Jan. 4 on CTV; plus photo gallery

From a media release:

CTV officially announced today that CARDINAL, the international success and #1 new Canadian drama series of the 2016/17 broadcast season, returns for a gripping Season 2 on January 4. Strategically scheduled in a Thursday night timeslot immediately following the two biggest shows on television, THE BIG BANG THEORY (8 p.m.) and YOUNG SHELDON (8:30 p.m.), the critically acclaimed series airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV and CTV GO, following a CraveTVTM FIRST LOOK streaming beginning Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET. CARDINAL is also set to premiere on Super Écran day-and-date with CTV.

Viewers can catch up on Season 1 now on CraveTVTM and in a six-part television event beginning Monday, Dec. 25 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV Two and CTV.ca. Click HERE for the Season 2 trailer.

Directed by Jeff Renfroe (ROGUE), Season 2 of the Directors Guild of Canada(DGC) award-winning series stars Golden Globe®-nominee Billy Campbell (THE KILLING) as John Cardinal and the multiple Genie Award-winning actress Karine Vanasse (REVENGE) as Detective Lise Delorme, as they weave through an intricate investigation that exposes the seedy underbelly of picturesque Algonquin Bay.

Cycle 1 of CARDINAL garnered a worldwide audience after Entertainment One (eOne) successfully licensed the series internationally to more than 100 territories, with additional sales still pending. For eOne, the series has been a hit with international audiences, debuting to critical acclaim and strong ratings. International sales include: Hulu in the U.S., BBC Four  in the UK, and Canal Plus in France, Telekom in Germany, Calle 13 in Spain, C More in Scandinavia (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway), and SBS in Australia, to name a few.


CARDINAL picks up several months after the events of Season 1. It’s early summer in Algonquin Bay and the blackflies aren’t the only ones out for blood. Detectives John Cardinal (Campbell) and Lise Delorme (Vanasse) find themselves with a strange case on their hands involving a young woman with a gunshot wound to the head. The investigation quickly takes a turn as Cardinal and Delorme uncover a series of disturbing, ritualistic killings that may be connected to their young victim. Cardinal must work to identify the young woman before her attacker strikes again.

Joining Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse in Season 2 of CARDINAL is an all-star supporting cast that includes Bruce Ramsay (19-2) as Ray Northwind, Alex Paxton-Beesley (PURE) as Red, Jonathan Keltz (REIGN) as Kevin Tait, Kevin Hanchard (ORPHAN BLACK) as Detective Alan Clegg, Kris Holden-Ried (VIKINGS) as Scott Lasalle, and Dan Petronijevic (19-2) as Leon Rutkowsky.

Returning cast members include Deborah Hay (The Anniversary) as Catherine Cardinal, Glen Gould (Rhymes for Young Ghouls) as Det. Jerry Commanda, Kristen Thomson (Away From Her) as Staff Sergeant Noelle Dyson, David Richmond-Peck (ORPHAN BLACK) as Corporal Malcolm Musgrave, and Alanna Bale (PRIME RADICALS) as Kelly Cardinal.

In the premiere episode, entitled “Red” (Thursday, Jan. 4 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV and CTV GO), Detective Jerry Commanda (Glen Gould) finds a confused, red-haired woman alone at a roadside bar with a bullet in her head. Red (Alex Paxton-Beesley) has no memory of who she is, how she got there, or who shot her. Even after the bullet is removed, she can’t remember anything. Commanda turns the case over to Detectives John Cardinal land Lise Delorme, who must protect Red while trying to uncover her identity and shooter.

CARDINAL is produced by Sienna Films and eOne in association with CTV, with the financial participation of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, the Canada Media Fund, and the Cogeco Program Development Fund; and with the assistance of the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit. Super Écran has commissioned the series for French-language Canadian broadcast. eOne distributes the series worldwide.

CARDINAL is adapted from the John Cardinal Mysteries series, a series of six bestselling crime novels written by Giles Blunt. Sarah Dodd (MOTIVE, RANSOM) serves as an Executive Producer and writer for Cycle 2. Jennica Harper (MOTIVE), Alison Bingeman (19-2), and Jeff Renfroe co-executive produce the series, with Renfroe directing all six episodes. The drama is executive produced by Sienna Films duo Julia Sereny and Jennifer Kawaja (COMBAT HOSPITAL). For eOne, Jocelyn Hamilton and Armand Leo serve as Executive Producers.


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Production Underway on the Third Cycle of CTV and Super Écran’s Hit Serialized Drama CARDINAL

From a media release:

CTV and Super Écran, alongside producers Sienna Films and Entertainment One (eOne), announced today that production is underway on the third cycle of hit original drama CARDINAL, starring Golden Globe® nominee Billy Campbell (THE KILLING) and the multiple Genie Award-winning actress Karine Vanasse (REVENGE). Inspired by By the Time You Read This and Crime Machine, the fourth and fifth novels in the John Cardinal Mysteries series written by Ontario native and award-winning author Giles Blunt, the third season of the networks’ serialized drama is shooting six, hour-long episodes in North Bay, Ont. and Toronto.

The first season of CARDINAL was the #1 new Canadian drama of the 2016/17 broadcast season, averaging 1.1 million total viewers weekly, and received an unprecedented two-cycle renewal. eOne has successfully licensed the series internationally with the first season of CARDINAL having aired in U.S., U.K., France, Spain, and Scandinavia, among other territories. The second season of CARDINAL recently wrapped production and is slated to premiere as part of CTV and Super Écran’s 2017/18 season.

In the third season, entitled CARDINAL: BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, the autumn season starts to shroud Algonquin Bay, but the glorious fall colours can’t hide the town’s most gruesome double murder for long. As Cardinal and Delorme’s detective work brings them precariously close to a doomsday cult with nothing to lose, Cardinal launches his own investigation into a case far more personal and dangerous.

Joining Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse in CARDINAL: BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS is an all-star supporting cast that includes Rya Kihlstedt (RAY DONOVAN), as Sharlene ‘Mama’ Winston; Aaron Ashmore (KILLJOYS) as Randall Wishart; Alex Ozerov (THE AMERICANS) as Jack; Sophia Lauchlin Hirt (THE ROMEO SECTION) as Nikki; Canadian Screen Award winner Nick Serino (Sleeping Giant) as Lemur; Tom Jackson (NORTH OF 60) as Lloyd Kreeger; Jennifer Podemski (BLACKSTONE) as Wendy Doucette; Susan Coyne (SLINGS AND ARROWS) as Susan Bell; and Devery Jacobs (THIS LIFE) as Sam Doucette.

Returning cast members include Deborah Hay (The Anniversary) as Catherine Cardinal; Glen Gould (Rhymes for Young Ghouls) as Det. Jerry Commanda; Kristen Thomson (Away From Her) as Staff Sergeant Noelle Dyson; Stephen Ouimette as Dr. Frederick Bell; and Alanna Bale (PRIME RADICALS) as Kelly Cardinal.

CARDINAL is produced by Sienna Films and eOne in association with CTV, with the financial participation of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, the Canada Media Fund, and the Cogeco Program Development Fund; and with the assistance of the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit. Super Écran has commissioned the series for French-language Canadian broadcast. eOne distributes the series worldwide.

CARDINAL is adapted from the John Cardinal Mysteries series, a series of six bestselling crime novels written by Giles Blunt. Cycle 3 of CARDINAL is written by Patrick Tarr (SAVING HOPE), who also serves as an Executive Producer and Head Writer, with co-executive producer Noelle Carbone (SAVING HOPE, ROOKIE BLUE) and story editors Shannon Masters and Aaron Bala. Executive Producer Daniel Grou aka Podz (19-2) returns to direct all six episodes. The drama is executive produced by Sienna Films duo Julia Sereny and Jennifer Kawaja (RANSOM, COMBAT HOSPITAL). For eOne, Jocelyn Hamilton and Tecca Crosby serve as Executive Producers.


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