Tag Archives: Blackstone

Murdoch Mysteries: Christina Ray talks “The Ministry of Virtue”

[Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched “The Ministry of Virtue.”]

Christina Ray is one of two new additions to the Murdoch Mysteries writer’s room for Season 14. No stranger to Canadian television, Ray has penned and/or produced for series like The Collector, The Best Years, The Pinkertons, Blackstone and Tribal. And, on Monday night, she turned in one heck of a script for Murdoch.

Amid a main storyline about arranged marriages was a tragic blow to the Watts/Jack relationship, as well as a major jump forward in Miss Hart’s bond with Arthur Carmichael. We spoke to Christina Ray, via email, about “The Ministry of Virtue.”

Welcome to the Murdoch Mysteries writer’s room! Give me your backstory. I know you’ve written for shows like The Pinkertons, Blackstone and Tribal. How did you end up in writing in the Canadian TV industry?
Christina Ray: A lot of Canadian writers seek their fortunes down in L.A., but I did the opposite. After winning a screenwriting award in Austin, Texas, I married a Canadian and moved here. I have no regrets. I love Canada.

And how did you end up on Murdoch Mysteries?
CR: I’d worked with executive producers Paul Aitken and Peter Mitchell years ago when we were developing a show about Bulgarian vampires. Alas, that show never came to be and the world will forever be deprived of our Bulgarian vampire brilliance. Flash forward 10 years and I get called in to an interview for Murdoch. I was thrilled by the prospect of working with Peter and Paul again, because they are such witty, fun and generous collaborators.

Where did the idea for the main storyline, arranged marriages, come about? Was it inspired by research you did or was it pitched in the virtual room by someone?
CR: Executive producer Simon McNabb had discovered an article published in The Globe and Mail in 1906 about “Salvation Girls,” women who’d been convicted of various offences in England who were offered the chance to start new lives in Canada as servants, wives and mothers. This was an actual program sponsored by the Salvation Army at the time, and we felt the concept of mail order brides was a juicy one to explore as a Murdoch storyline.

Detective Watts has evolved into a complicated character and he does a lot of heavy lifting with story in this episode. What’s it been like writing for him? Daniel is fantastic in the role.
CR: I loved writing the Watts and Jack scenes. The arc of their relationship is especially heart-wrenching in this episode. Watts is wonderful, quirky and complex in a way that is quite lovable. It’s compelling to watch him navigate the difficult reality of a being gay man at a time when his very identity was against the law.

Miss Hart is another interesting character on Murdoch Mysteries. People love, or hate, her. What’s your take on Miss Hart? Is she just misunderstood?
CR: Violet Hart is a sly, feisty survivor. Despite the challenges of being a woman of colour during the turn of the century, she pursues the life she wants, and I admire her moxie. She’s surprising and mysterious. Her personal dynamic is unlike anyone else in the show. She’s definitely polarizing, but I love her character.

Miss Hart and Arthur Carmichael shared a kiss that was not shown on-camera. Was that a reflection of the shock of the time? Was it written in the script that way or was that a decision director Mina Shum made?
CR: You can thank COVID-19 for that! I would have loved to have shown the kiss on screen, but the pandemic affected our creative choices. As one of our many pandemic related precautions this season had a ‘no kissing’ rule! Many other precautions were taken to keep everyone in our cast and crew safe: daily health check questionnaires, temperature checks, location disinfection, mask requirements, etc. Shaftesbury really knocked it out of the ballpark when it comes to finding a way to continue production during this crisis.

Jack Walker’s butcher shop was vandalized and he and Watts broke up. How could you break them up?!
CR: The course of true love never did run smooth, said Shakespeare. The fact the audience cares that we broke them up is exactly why we broke them up! It’s called drama. Hearts and flowers all the time would be dreadfully dull. All I can say is we’re not done with Jack and Watts. Stay tuned for future twists and turns!

What kind of writer are you? Do you prefer a noisy coffee shop (remember those?) or a quiet room? Do you like to play music while you write? What works for you?
CR: I could never work in a noisy coffee shop. I like a quiet room, with as few distractions as possible. I do listen to music, but it can’t have lyrics. No words, just instruments. I need to hear the dialogue that’s going on in my head without interruption. I love all kinds of music, but while I’m writing what works for me is to listen to ambient electronic grooves like Fila Brazilia, Tosca, or Kruder and Dorfmeister.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Ron E. Scott returns to APTN with procedural drama Tribal

It’s no secret that I loved Blackstone. Created by Ron E. Scott (above right), the APTN drama series was an unflinching look at life—and death—on a Canadian First Nations reservation. Violent, dramatic and unflinching, it was very much like The Sopranos in tone while its stories were about what life is really like on reservations.

Now Scott is back with a new series. Debuting Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on APTN, Tribal is more procedural but no less dramatic. Jessica Matten (above left)—last seen on Frontier—plays Samantha Woodburn, a First Nations woman who is teamed with big-city cop Chuck “Buke” Bukansky, played by Brian Markinson (Unspeakable, Continuum), to solve crimes on and off the reservation.

We spoke to writer, creator, director and executive producer Ron E. Scott about Tribal‘s beginning and where it goes in Season 1. At press time, APTN had announced a second season of Tribal had been ordered.

How did Tribal come about? Was this something you were developing while Blackstone was going on, or did you take some time off from Blackstone and then start working on this?
Ron E. Scott: As a content creator, I’m always developing projects. I had three or four projects that I was working on, and Tribal was one of them. You just don’t know what’s going to go. We’re just so thankful that APTN saw a lot of value in the project and saw that it was going to be great for their audience, so they went ahead and greenlit the show.

Did anything change in the time between pitching APTN and them green-lighting it and then you heading into production? 
RS: They definitely had some ideas of what they wanted to deliver to their audience. And so there were discussions and there was some back and forth. We shaped it for a certain demographic, a certain time zone, time period, which is always something that of a content creator goes into, your conception of what you’re delivering to your audience.

What is the tone like? 
RS: Blackstone has its aggressive, confrontational, very kind of in your face. I think this is kind of a progression of North American native storytelling. This character has a lot of dimensions and it’s something that I don’t think we’ve seen before. In that way, I think it’s a progression. It’s not Blackstone and it’s not anything that’s really been out there. At the same time, it’s told with a Native American voice. Our lead is a Native American woman. I think the tricky part is we don’t know what to call Native People in America or Canada anymore. It’s Indigenous one week and it’s Aboriginal, First Nation.

So we’re running around, trying to figure this out, and I think that we deal with that a little bit in the show. It is a crime drama, so there’s a crime of the week, but it’s a character-driven crime drama. We’re driving characters forward and story and then we get into this really beautiful kind of arc and later in the season, where we’re starting to see a real crescendo of commentary from like I said, a Native American viewpoint.

Jessica Matten is your female lead. 
RS: Whenever we create a story world where there’s a mashup between Tribal Police and the city police, a lot of people don’t understand that the jurisdictions of any Canadian reserve is held with the Canadian government. Technically, in the traditional days, the RCMP, which is the federal government, would have control over the reserves.

And so what happened is there have been hints of corruption. It hasn’t been sustained. It’s just allegations. And so the federal government comes and goes. In this day and age, this is not looking good for us, so we’re going to take over the Tribal police, but we’re going to remove the chief who is corrupt. Let’s say he is an old boys’ club kind of thing. It’s a very interesting kind of dynamic that unfolds. It’s a story world that I don’t know how far away it would be from reality because, in this day and age, there’s still some reserves that are being third-partied by the federal government. A lot of people don’t know this, but it’s a very interesting dynamic that unfolds. Let’s put forward the most politically correct candidates and let’s go from there, but we’re still in control, which is a big part of what the government does everywhere.

Talk about working with Brian Markinson.
RS: He’s just so talented and he was very impressed with the role. He loves the writing and so he was all over it. And I can’t say enough about him and Jessica. They create this collision on screen, but there’s a chemistry that is really interesting. I’m looking forward to hearing what people think about their chemistry, too, how it develops throughout the first season.

Has it been a bit of a learning curve for you then when you’re talking about filming a more procedural show?
RS: I definitely learned a lot on Season 1, and it’s just like when you’re flexing different muscles. It’s not like you’re learning a new sport. It’s just finding opportunities to kind of get in there and have a voice.

At the same time, we’re still trying to be aware that we’re creating a dynamic of characters. And so that’s not lost whatsoever. So I’m very proud of how these two characters navigate the season and they don’t always see eye to eye. We get a perspective from the Native and a non-Native perspective on both sides. There are always two sides presented.

That kind of collision, I think, is intelligent television. And I think that’s what I always strive for.

Tribal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on APTN.

Images courtesy of Prairie Dog Film + Television.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

APTN rolls out winter programming

From a media release:

APTN presents its Winter 2020 TV schedule with exciting new shows and the latest seasons of returning favourites. Audiences can also expect new binge-worthy series to roll out all through the season on the network’s growing Indigenous-focused streaming service, APTN lumi.

Tune in to the premiere of Ron Scott’s TRIBAL, watch NHL hockey in Plains Cree and see what inspired Canada’s First Contact series this winter on APTN. The new winter season will roll out on APTN from January 2020 to the end of April and will include the following programs:

  • Spirit Talker – Season 1 (Premieres Feb. 19, 2020)
    Renowned Mi’kmaq medium Shawn Leonard travels across Canada and connects the living with the dead to bring hope, healing and closure to Indigenous communities.
  • TRIBAL – Season 1 (Premieres Feb. 20, 2020)
    Ron Scott, the producer of APTN flagship series Blackstone, brings TRIBAL to the screenThis new drama series follows an Indigenous “tribal” police force and the four First Nations communities it oversees. They must work together to prevent colonial control from resurfacing.
  • First Talk – Season 4 (Premieres March 2, 2020)
    Panel discussions, viral videos and pop quizzes: First Talk has it all. The show addresses a wide range of topics, from environmental and social issues to fitness and wellness trends.
  • First Contact (Australia) – Season 1 (Premieres March 3, 2020)
    The original Australian First Contact (2014) that inspired its successful Canadian counterpart is coming to APTN’s airwaves. This docuseries takes a diverse group of six people and immerses them into Aboriginal Australia for the first time.

Indigenous-Language Original Programming:

  • Rogers Hometown Hockey in Cree (Premieres Jan. 19, 2020 – in Plains Cree)
    Expect to hear more cries of kociw osihew, pihtokwahew! – he shoots, he scores! – across the country. Following the historic first NHL broadcast in Plains Cree last season, Sportsnet and APTN are expanding their partnership to deliver more games over the next three seasons. In total, a minimum of six games per year will be broadcast on APTN in Plains Cree.

French-Language Original Programming:

  • Orignal et marmelade – Season 4 (Premieres Jan. 6, 2020)
    Bush cook Art Napoleon and classically trained British chef Dan Hayes explore and compare Indigenous and European culture and cuisine.
  • La terre en nous – Season 1 (Premieres Jan. 13, 2020)
    While humanity is pushing the Earth to its limits, some are taking initiative to resist climate change. Christian Pilon travels across Canada to meet environmental trailblazers and learn about their inspiring projects.

APTN will also air special programming in honour of International Women’s Day, the International Day for the Elimination of Racism and National Canadian Film Day.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Link: APTN celebrates 20 years of representing Indigenous peoples

From Melissa Hank of Postmedia:

Link: APTN celebrates 20 years of representing Indigenous peoples
“We always knew that there needed to be a network that represented us, a network that was true to who we were and that allowed us to learn the technical skills to tell our stories. Now we could actually see ourselves and hear our stories.” Continue reading.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Link: In Conversation with Carmen Moore ~ Actress: Outlander, Blackstone

From Davina Baynes of Absolute Music Chat:

Link: In Conversation with Carmen Moore ~ Actress: Outlander, Blackstone
“I came onto Blackstone because there was nothing like it on TV, it was groundbreaking, it was called ‘the Native Sopranos’. It was the first time that I had seen a show that was mostly Native cast, so that was really exciting.” Continue reading.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail