Samantha Wan is a Toronto-based actor and filmmaker. Samantha found her passion for film and acting at a young age in high school. From there, she was accepted into the country’s top theatre school, the National Theatre School of Canada, which boasts a number of notable of alumni including award-winning actress Sandra Oh.
Samantha Wan recently received a 2019 Canadian Screen Award nomination in the category of Best Comedy Series for her sitcom Second Jen.
Second Jen is a buddy comedy about two second-generation millennials making it on their own in the big city. Season 1 aired on the major Canadian network Citytv and Season 2 was later picked up by OMNI Television. The show was produced by Don Ferguson Productions, the production company famously known for creating the Royal Canadian Air Farce. Samantha developed the series with actress and screenwriter Amanda Joy. The two became the youngest televisions creators in Canada.
Samantha is also known for her role as Zoe Chow in the comedy-drama television series Private Eyes starring alongside Jason Priestley and Cindy Sampson.
Have you heard of the children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? It’s about a boy who wakes up, and from the moment he does, everything goes wrong. I can’t help but think of that book—written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz—every time I watch an episode of 19-2. Every time something goes right for that Montreal police squad, it seems like 20 don’t.
Returning for its fourth—and final—season on Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT, 19-2 makes the jump from Bravo to CTV, a well-deserved move that will give more Canadians the opportunity to catch this exceedingly well-written, expertly acted cop drama. (CraveTV subscribers get to see episodes a day early, on Sundays.) Adapted from the Radio Canada series of the same name, showrunner Bruce Smith and his writers have not only managed to set the English version of 19-2 apart from the French but has outlasted it by one season. It’s also gathered a pile of awards—Canadian Screen Awards for leads Jared Keeso, Adrian Holmes as well as Best Drama—and critical acclaim in the U.S.
Now it all comes to an end beginning on Monday with the episode entitled “Swimming.” Season 3 ended in a flurry of violence and emotion. Officers Nick Barron (Holmes, above) and Ben Chartier (Keeso) were determined to hunt down Inspector Elise Roberge (Krista Bridges) to avenge the brutal death of Nick’s sister and Ben’s lover, Amelie (Tattiawna Jones). Escalating mob violence in the city has an impact on the 19-2 squad directly, leading to Ben and Audrey (Laurence Leboeuf) involved in a deadly car accident.
When we first met Nick and Ben we asked, ‘Can these two guys be partners?’ And, after Houle [Conrad Pla] shot himself, and fell into the lake, and the two of them are driving back into the city … the message we were sending to the audience is they’re partners now.
Back for Season 4 of 19-2 are Dan Petronijevic J.M., who saw his marriage crumble because of his rage issues; Benz Antoine as Tyler, on the mend from alcohol abuse; Mylène Dinh-Robic as Béatrice, who is seeking redemption after losing her stripes; Bruce Ramsay as manipulative District Commander Marcel Gendron; and Alexander De Jordy as young cop Richard Dulac. Maxim Roy returns to guest star as Nick’s ex-wife, Det. Isabelle Latendresse. New cast includes Aiza Ntibarikure as Roxanne, a new young female cop; and Sagine Sémajuste as Farah, a social worker.
Last November, TV, Eh was part of a press junket to Montreal that included a stop at the set of 19-2, where we chatted with Smith, Keeso and Holmes about Season 4, and the series overall.
Where do we pick up in Season 4?
Bruce Smith: Season 4 picks up exactly where Season 3 left off, not just in terms of plot, but emotionally and in intensity. These are characters in extremis from the beginning. We’re really excited about the way Season 4 starts. It starts with more plot going on than is normal for us—it’s not always about plot with our show, it’s about emotion. And really what we felt is that we spent so much time building up the emotional intensity, particularly for Nick and Ben, that we felt we could keep that intensity going rather than having to build it again. And, really, this final season is really the second of two two-part movies.
When we first met Nick and Ben we asked, ‘Can these two guys be partners?’ And, after Houle [Conrad Pla] shot himself, and fell into the lake, and the two of them are driving back into the city … the message we were sending to the audience is they’re partners now. They have been through the school shooting, through Houle … whatever they feel about each other, they are inseparable. Season 3 and four has been an exploration of that partnership under extremis. The real extremis was the losing of a common loved one between them. It really was like a marriage and the loss of a child causing a marriage to break up. We tracked them almost breaking up last season, and then they came together and move forward into Season 4. They’re not together when we start Season 4.
Can you saywhy?
One of the first things they experience is the weirdness of not being together for a very emotional moment. That’s for both the characters and the audience. There are a series of events that happen and they are physically separated. When they do come back together, it’s strange because they haven’t experienced it together. One of the focuses for us in the writer’s room in Season 4 was to show how much is undone. There are very prominent characters, our core characters, who never really had arcs together before. There are a couple of new pairings and new relationship arcs between core characters in Season 4.
Jared and Adrian, what were your reactions to Amelie’s death last season?
Adrian Holmes: It was a huge shock to me. Tattiawna was so great and when you lose an actor it’s hard because it’s like a family we’ve created here. So to not have her around was hard. And for the characters, it’s a huge blow and it’s something that adds a lot of tension and friction. The characters have to rise above that and find a way to still keep the marriage together. It was a big shock, but these are the things that make 19-2 so unique and special. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. The shock value is very high on our show and we take a lot of pride in it.
Once you do an episode about a school shooting, the second episode really needs to be about what that feels like. That’s it. It’s very challenging to write and very challenging to act, but if you can do it, you get rewarded for facing those challenges.
Jared Keeso: I think it was the first time that I read the script, and I texted Smitty and said, ‘This is a great opportunity for us as actors to play something like this.’ I’ve certainly never played anything that heavy before. The good thing about our show is it’s earned. It’s all about the writing on our show. It builds and builds and builds, and then boom. All the context is there and that’s a huge advantage for us as actors as well.
I always watch 19-2 cringing because no one is safe. That’s by design, correct?
Bruce Smith: From the beginning of the show and certainly by Season 3 we saw, from the reaction of the audience, that we had done our jobs. We want to train the audience to be afraid. When you have happiness, be a bit nervous but also cherish it. With the cast that we built up and the writers and directors we’ve had, we felt early on what we were really good at. We were really good at provoking intense emotion in the audience and in the characters. It’s a show about first responders. It’s not a show about abstraction and putting things together and solving something. It’s about being stuck in awful or exhilarating or wonderful moments and then dealing with the aftermath of just that moment.
Once you do an episode about a school shooting, the second episode really needs to be about what that feels like. That’s it. It’s very challenging to write and very challenging to act, but if you can do it, you get rewarded for facing those challenges. In Season 4, we’re coming in hot and there is intense feeling from the top and you’re on an emotional roller coaster with these characters.
Do you think fans will be happy with the series finale episode?
Bruce Smith: I sure hope so.
Things are less than sunny for the folks at Sunnyside; City has decided not to renew the Canadian sketch comedy series for a second season.
“We are extremely proud of Sunnyside and the 13 episodes of this fiercely original comedy that we were able to bring to our viewers,” a statement sent to TV, eh? on Wednesday read. “It was a privilege to work with the immense talent—both off and on screen —involved in this unique Canadian production. It was a difficult decision, but, despite critical acclaim, the series was unable to connect with the audience it needed to continue. We thank Canadians for their support of Sunnyside and look forward to bringing them more original content in the future.”
The news is a definite buzz-kill for co-creators Dan Redican and Gary Pearson and cast members Pat Thornton, Kathleen Phillips, Patrice Goodman, Alice Moran, Kevin Vidal and Rob Norman; the group captured a Canadian Screen Award for Best Performance in a Variety or Sketch Comedy Program or Series (Individual or Ensemble) during Sunday night’s gala, besting This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Rick Mercer Report and The Second City Project. Sunnyside’s photographer, D. Gregor Hagey, won a CSA for Best Photography in a Variety or Sketch Comedy Program or Series and three other nominations.
Filmed in Winnipeg, the series followed the odd folks and characters who called the neighbourhood of Sunnyside home.
I had never heard of Tiny Plastic Men until it was nominated for three Canadian Screen Awards this year. That’s pretty shameful, especially since the offbeat comedy series is entering Season 3 on Super Channel this Monday night. Still, showrunner, co-writer and co-star Chris Craddock understands; his show is on a network you have to pay extra to have access to.
Nominated for Best Comedy Series, Best Writing in a Comedy Program or Series for Craddock and Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Comedic Role for Mark Meer, Tiny Plastic Men follows the antics of Crad (Craddock), October (Meer) and Addison (Matt Alden), three misfit toy testers who get into oddball mischief at Gottfried Brothers Toy and Train Company.
In Monday’s return, “Crad Van Winkle,” Crad awakens to discover that he’s lost a year of his life and nothing at Gottfried Bros Toys is the same as it was. Can he go back to the beginning and return Gottfried Bros to the beloved status quo? Upcoming guest stars include Alan Thicke, Kevin McDonald and hockey Georges Laraque who reprises his role as Gaston LeBoeuf, Canada’s openly gay linebacker.
We caught up with Craddock (right, in the picture above with Alden, left, and Meer, centre) before the Canadian Screen Awards gala.
I have to admit and I’m ashamed to say this but I hadn’t heard of the show until the Canadian Screen Award nominations came out.
Chris Craddock: I do think we’re a bit of an obscure show because we’re on Super Channel and not a lot of people subscribe to it, unfortunately. And with so many different ways to watch television I do feel like we’re lost in the shuffle a bit. It does make me sad because we’re crazy proud of the show, we work hard on it and we think it’s funny and even a little fresh. We’d love to get some eyeballs and would love to develop an audience.
Super Channel really is a hidden gem for Canadian content. Are you happy your creation is on the air somewhere?
Very happy. It’s not easy to get past the gatekeeper in this industry and being greenlit by a Canadian broadcaster is an all too rare treat for us. Super Channel has been nothing short of amazing when it comes to supporting Edmonton folks.
Super Channel is no stranger to Canadian comedy. There are you guys and Too Much Informationwith Norm Sousa.
Yeah, man. Norm is hilarious and I love that guy.
What’s the comedy scene like in Edmonton?
We’re improv-based like so many other people are. There is a live improv soap opera we do here called Die Nasty and all of us have done that, and there is Edmonton Fringe too. When you’re young and an up-and-comer, you’re at that festival because it’s so accessible and a big part of what makes the comedy scene here what it is.
They could have said, ‘This is not what we ordered,’ and taken it away. But they didn’t.
You guys are heading into your third season. How did Tiny Plastic Men come about in the first place?
It was a funny thing and a really rare thing in this business. Because of the success we had with Mosaic Entertainment with Caution: May Contain Nuts on APTN, Super Channel approached them about a sketch show. And maybe we were a little cheeky or dumb, but we didn’t follow orders and created this sitcom thread that runs through it. We were passionate about it and Super Channel was cool enough to say, ‘OK.’ [Laughs.] There it is. It would have been a sketch show and I think we would have done a good job at that but I like what we have now. I love narrative. I’m a playwright, so I love characters and continuity and love the challenge of putting it together over the course of multiple episodes. It’s crazy, looking back. They could have said, ‘This is not what we ordered,’ and taken it away. But they didn’t.
What’s the writing process like on Tiny Plastic Men? Is it collaborative or do you all write and come back to the table with finished scripts?
We’re super collaborative and the three leads are the writers. I’m the head writer/showrunner if you will. Very equal voices at the table. We jam out a season arc and have our episode ideas and what genres we want to focus on. Sometimes it’s a sci-fi thing, sometimes it’s a horror thing. And we have pop culture beats in there too.
Coming from a playwright background, what was the most surprising thing that you learned?
How much things cost. In the beginning I’d write, ‘They have a car and it’s a hatchback and the back half of the car looks like the Millennium Falcon and the front of the car…’ and they’d be like, ‘Yeah, we can’t afford that.’ Things you don’t think will cost a lot will cost a ton.
How important is it to have a Tiny Plastic Men website where you guys can put up clips and online extras?
It’s pretty important for us, especially since not everyone gets Super Channel.
Who are you wearing at the Canadian Screen Awards?
I’ll be wearing Simons. I’m proud to be wearing Canadian.
Have you got a speech prepared?
Nope. I don’t know what I’m going to say. I may come up with something short on a just in case basis. People say it’s just an honour to be nominated and we’re just thrilled to be nominated. We’re in a category against shows that have 10 times our budget and just to be named among all these other shows is just an honour.
Tiny Plastic Men airs Mondays at 9:30 p.m. ET on Super Channel.