I became a fan of Sheri Elwood when Call Me Fitz, starring Jason Priestley, exploded onto the scene in 2010. Since then, she’s produced, executive-produced and written on U.S. shows like Lucifer and Whiskey Cavalier. Now Elwood is back north of the border with a project that’s very close to her heart.
Moonshine, debuting Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CBC, tells the story of the Finley-Cullens, a group of adult half-siblings battling for control of the ancestral business, The Moonshine, a run-down summer resort in rural Nova Scotia. The cast is a who’s-who of talent, including Jennifer Finnegan as Lidia, Anastasia Phillips as Rhian, Emma Hunter as Nora, Tom Stevens as Ryan, Corrine Koslo as Bea and Peter MacNeil as Ken. All shine in the debut episode and set up the Season 1 journey to come.
We spoke to Sheri Elwood about how Moonshine came about and its killer cast.
How did Moonshine come about, and how did you end up back in Canada making it?
Sheri Elwood: I got a call a couple of years ago from a producer, Charles Bishop, and I was a fan of his and he said, ‘How would you feel about coming home to do a show?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, oh my God, that would be great.’
I had been trying to get back to Nova Scotia, for personal reasons. Also, my family is still here. He said, ‘Let me get a little more specific and said, how about a family drama?’ I said, ‘I have one.’ I actually have been noodling on this idea for a while now. He presented it to CBC and we had a show. It happened fairly quickly.
How close was the noodling to what Moonshine ended up being when it hits the air in the fall?
SE: The noodling is almost exactly what it ended up being. There’s this funny autobiographical element to the story, but my family runs a summer resort and on the social of Nova Scotia and I come from a big blended family of half-siblings. The characters are a huge departure from what we’re really like, but, but that core idea of coming home, I stayed fairly true to that idea. This takes place in a part of Nova Scotia that hasn’t really been seen on TV all that much. It’s a little less manicured, it’s a little more dysfunctional, both geographically and emotionally.
Anybody that’s ever been to a summer camp, or spent some time at a cottage, can relate to that setting and that relaxation that’s supposed to take place when you’re not arguing with your family about something.
SE: We were really trying to capture that yearning of summers past, which that is that, that timeless, timeless quality of your wet towels and sand on the floor and turning on the radio and it’s the same 20 pieces of classic rock, but they somehow sound fresh every single time. We’re really trying to capture that time and a place, summers with the family and at the beach, which I think is pretty universal.
You have a pretty large ensemble cast. Was that a bit of a challenge working with so many moving parts?
SE: This is a very large cast, but everyone feels like they’re the star of their own show. It was really easy to write for each and every one of them, and that’s a testament to the cast as well.
It’s like Christmas every single day because they’re so fantastic. I had to cast them all via Zoom because of COVID. All the chemistry reads, everything was done by Zoom, which is terrifying. I was blown away by this treasure trove of a cast, especially the women. Holy smokes, what a gift to be able to write for women in their 30s and 40s.
The tone of your shows is always great, and the conversations between the characters always seem so natural. Is that something you have to work at?
SE: That’s really the nicest compliment I’ve ever received about my writing. I’m so happy that it feels natural. I just really always try to write from character. I just really try to make sure that there are emotional cues to everything.
Moonshine premieres on Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.