Tag Archives: Celeste Parr

Production begins on new original drama, Rex – coming to Citytv in 2019

From a media release:

Shaftesbury, Pope Productions, and Citytv announced today that production has begun on new drama series REX (wt). Centred on the partnership between a police detective and his hardworking dog, REX is a procedural drama with a twist. Starring John Reardon (Van Helsing, Continuum), Mayko Nguyen (Killjoys, Fahrenheit 451), and Enrico Colantoni (Bad Blood, Flashpoint), the eight-episode, 60-minute series is based on the long-running, international hit series Rex, a Cop’s Best Friend. Executive produced by Christina JenningsScott Garvie, and Paul Pope, the series has begun shooting in St. John’s, Newfoundlandand will continue through December 2018.

Set in St. John’s, NewfoundlandREX is an action-packed police procedural drama focused on the partnership between a dedicated detective and his extraordinary former K9 dog. Rex and Charlie are a detective team that combine their individual skills to solve the most puzzling crimes. This is the first English-language adaptation of the highly successful European format that has aired in 125 countries around the world for 18 seasons.

Starring John Reardon as Detective Charlie Hudson, Rex’s partner; Mayko Nguyen as chief of forensics Sarah TruongEnrico Colantoni as Superintendent Joseph De Luca; and Diesel (a Canadian Kennel Club Grand Champion) as Rex.

Shaftesbury and Pope Productions Ltd. produces REX in association with Citytv, a division of Rogers Media, and Beta Film GmbH. Beta Film GmbH holds worldwide distribution rights. Produced with the participation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation, the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit, the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit and the Rogers Documentary and Cable Network Fund.

REX is executive produced by Christina JenningsScott GarviePaul PopeKen Cuperus, and Avrum Jacobson, followed by Laura Harbin as Supervising Producer, Julie Lacey as Producer, and Lisa Porter as Associate Producer. Friedemann Goez and Oliver Bachert are Executive Producers from Beta Film GmbH. Episodes are written by Showrunners Ken Cuperus, Paul AitkenJohn CallaghanJessie GabeAvrum JacobsonSimon McNabb, and Celeste Parr. Episodes are directed by Felipe RodriguezAlison Reid, and John Vatcher.

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This Life scribe Céleste Parr on “Destruction as Creation”

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen This Life Episode 208, “Destruction as Creation.”

In last week’s episode of This Life, the Lawson siblings became suspicious that Oliver (Kristopher Turner) may be living with bipolar disorder. In Sunday’s new episode, “Destruction as Creation,” written by Céleste Parr, parents Gerald (Peter MacNeill) and Janine (Janet-Laine Green) are brought up to speed, and the entire family rallies around him.

“Everyone’s sort of able to bolster each other with their struggles, and it’s easier to do that when everyone’s being upfront about their struggles,” says Parr.

The Montreal-based writer co-wrote her first episode of the season, “Communion,” with showrunner Joseph Kay, but this time she was writing solo. Well, sort of.

“It’s really as collaborative as ever,” she explains. “I’d say I may have had a little bit more confidence to assert convictions about the way a scene might play out . . . But, overall, we work as a team, so the lines of authorship are always kind of blurry. Every episode is really assigned to all of us. With love, from all of us.”

Parr joins us by phone to tell us more about Oliver’s mental illness and what surprises to expect from the Lawson family over Season 2’s final episodes.

The entire family learns that Oliver is bipolar this week. Is this a turning point for him?
Céleste Parr: It’s a turning point for Oliver in terms of recognizing to what degree he can handle this by himself. He’s such a solitary person and such a private person, but he’s forced to acknowledge the role of mental illness in the events of the last episode—the fire and the damage and the way that it has a ripple effect, waves of damage, spreading out to Gerald, and sort of having to confront the way that it’s affected Romy, and the way his secretiveness and his insistence on not burdening other people with it probably exacerbated his difficulties and the pain and concern of the people around him. So now that that’s out in the open, he can sort of relax a little bit around it, and he has a really great support network around him.

Did you have many discussions in the writers’ room about the way the show wanted to depict mental illness?
Yeah. In any case, with any character, we want to be true to that person’s struggles, so I think in the case of a mentally ill character, it’s not just that you want to be authentic or sensitive about it, you also want to be aware of portrayals of mentally ill characters in other fiction. You want to be true to the way that they’re often misportrayed and made into caricatures, or sometimes made into criminals and want to really show how this illness enriches [Oliver’s] life in some ways and how it really hinders him in other ways. You want to be sensitive to it and to not create a sense of shame around it.

Romy’s secrets come out in this episode. She tells Natalie about wanting to live with Oliver, and David finds out she’s been freelancing. Is she going to be more open with her parents now?
I feel like Romy has been, on the one hand, asserting her agency where people have failed her. So she’s saying, ‘OK, I can’t count on these people. I’m going to take care of things myself.’ But she’s also been doing that in such a way to say, ‘Hey, notice me, notice this.’ So even though she was hiding and lying, I think she was doing it with probably the subconscious intention of asking to be seen and called on it. So now that she’s made that point to Natalie and David, she won’t have to hide or lie. I think she will start to be given the freedom that she needs and the support that she needs.

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David tells Romy he will have to split his time between his two families but won’t abandon her this time. Is he finally ready to step up?
I think a lot of the work for this scene to fly in Episode 208, a lot of that work was done during his road trip with Kate in the previous episode, and seeing him differently with his wife and showing that he isn’t just sort of flitting in and out as he pleases. He actually is a man who is torn. Emotionally, he is torn and he’s in limbo.

His talk about how his feelings of guilt about failing one family, it sort of keeps him outside of things with everyone, and so here he is having these difficult conversations, and a lot of what he’s allowing himself to do is to not throw his hands up in the air and say, ‘I’m a disappointment, so I’m outta here,’ but to accept that he is going to be disappointing to everybody. If he allows himself to be a little disappointing to everybody, he can also step up for everybody, and derive a lot of fulfilment out of that and drop his, ‘Aw shucks, I’m such a disappointment’ thing. At a certain point, if you become too complacent in that—and I think he had become too complacent in that—it’s like he’s performing his guilt to himself. Eventually, he has to stop playing that one note and step up on all fronts.

Maggie takes the huge step of telling Raza she is in love with him, but he says he doesn’t feel the same way. How is she going to handle that rejection?
Awkwardly. Maggie is someone who always just jumps into things, and I think when you’re making that kind of admission to somebody, you should probably think about the fact that you live with that person. If it doesn’t go well, that apartment could feel very small. That’s how that’s going to go. Suddenly, the walls are going to close.

Caleb’s car got impounded, he lost his tuition money, and then he suddenly ran off to join Flood Relief. What’s going on with him?
I think Caleb’s been setting himself up for this downward spiral, and I think, in having messed up on all fronts, now he’s sort of free. I think it’s very telling about him—and Emma points this out—they could use him at home, and ultimately that’s who Caleb is, he is a caretaker.

At the end of Episode 204, we see him take off because he needs to figure out who he is outside of this role at home, and then really kind of flying the plane into the mountain at school and with the rideshare at work, and then being free from all of that, being free to do whatever he wants. I think it’s telling that his instinct is still to say, ‘I’m a caretaker,’ to exercise that in himself outside the pressures and the baggage of feeling disappointing, feeling like he hasn’t been able to measure up at home, to go somewhere else that’s not loaded with that baggage but still carry that role forward because that is who he is at heart.

Nicole and Beatrice have another tense encounter. What was that like to write?
Joe and I spent about a hundred thousand hours talking about that scene, and what’s happening in that scene, and trying to get to a place of recognizing that these are both women, two mothers who want to protect their children from feelings of shame about their families and how to do that. So both of them are coming at it in a way that is wanting to be protective of their children and also being very vulnerable as women, and both of them being kind of right and having to recognize that in one another if they want to move forward. They both are interested, they both are here for the same purpose but it feels like cross purposes.

That was a hard scene to write. It was like playing chess with myself and having to cross the table and look at the pieces and go, ‘OK, if I was Beatrice I’d go here,’ and then go back to the other side of the table and go, ‘Now what’s open?’ And also feeling vulnerable myself and trying to connect through all those layers of fear and pain and uncertainty and vulnerabilities. That’s a lot of layers to talk through and be heard and be understood.

Natalie’s doctors tell her that doubling the dose of her cancer drug could present grave dangers to her and lessen the quality of her life, but, of course, if she doesn’t double it, she will fall out of partial remission. Can you give any hints about what she chooses to do? 
I can say that a lot of what we talked about when we were discussing this episode—and Natalie’s arc in general, especially as far as her illness is concerned—we talked a lot about this idea of maintaining. She seems to be doing well, her side effects are manageable, she’s in partial remission for now, but I think a lot of what is going to shape her decision about this is in what ways her illness is affecting her ability to live her life rather than just maintain or bide her time.

I think a really big awakening for her is, all this work she’s been trying to do to protect her children from what’s going to happen to her, and trying to make sure that they’re going to be OK, and through that process of trying to control all of that, she actually has been missing so much in terms of what her children are going through. So if that’s what’s happening, then what is she really doing?

There are only two episodes left. What are you most excited for viewers to see?
I’m very excited for them to see the bravery of everybody, the bravery and the boldness of everybody. There’s a lot of surprises, so it’s really hard to say anything . . .  It’s all exciting because we get to see different facets of all these characters as they’re spun in unexpected ways.

This Life airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Writer Céleste Parr on This Life’s small, meaningful moments

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen This Life Episode 204, “Communion.”

Sunday’s episode of This Life, “Communion,” was a rough one for several members of the Lawson family. Natalie’s custody battle with David came to an abrupt end after Caleb chose not to testify against his father, and Matthew made a desperate move to save his marriage by bringing Nicole to meet his son. Meanwhile, Maggie made a disturbing discovery about Oliver.

Céleste Parr co-wrote the episode with series showrunner Joseph Kay. A veteran of feature films, she turned her attention toward television in 2014, writing a pilot that caught Kay’s attention and eventually landing a spot in This Life‘s Season 2 writers’ room.

“We both have a deep appreciation for the small and the understated,” Parr says of Kay. “They strike us both as being more emotionally powerful and resonant.”

Joining us by phone from Montreal, Parr breaks down the major plot points in “Communion” and explains the importance of the show’s small, emotional story beats.

Several scenes in this episode really resonated with me, including the two bathroom scenes with Nicole looking at the clothes of Julian and then later Abby. What’s the key to making quiet scenes like that work?
Céleste Parr: I know that in my case, having worked in low-budget film, you sort of become very aware of small moments in your life that resonate and learning how to say a lot about an emotional moment or an emotional shift and to do so in a quiet and down-to-earth way. I actually find that it’s easier to create a visceral emotional response with small moments like that, because they trigger a sense of recognition in our lives. So I think it’s actually easier to tell an emotional story in small moments like that, small visual cues that ring true broadly just on a human emotional level.

Natalie decides to stop fighting David in court after Caleb backs out of testifying. What is Natalie’s relationship with David going to be like going forward?
Natalie, I think, is realizing now that she has no choice. Obviously, so much that’s going on with her is that she’s afraid that she’s not going to survive her illness, so she’s trying to parent her children posthumously. But to do that, she would have to control uncontrollable variables. She wasn’t able to control what happened in Matthew’s marriage, and she can’t control David, who’s elusive and inconsistent and, God forbid, more complex than the deadbeat she’s made him out to be in her mind. And she doesn’t even realize the extent to which her children are already outgrowing her control, and so moving forward with David, she’s going to have to open her eyes to a version of him that she used to be very close to, and loved even, and to recognize he’s a complex human being and that he might actually bring something to the lives of their children.

I’m surprised that David has become one of my favourite characters. He’s so complex and real. Do you enjoy writing him?
I love writing David. I’ve always been very drawn to writing characters who on the surface may appear antagonist or a villain or characters who present a threat, and I’ve always found it very rewarding to understand them. Instead of having a knee-jerk reaction of judging or reducing them to their worst qualities, really trying to connect with them and understand them, and to recognize bits of myself in them so that I can do justice to them as people, not just characters there to move the plot forward.

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Caleb moves out of Natalie’s house at the end of the episode. What’s that going to mean for him and for Natalie?
For Caleb, it’s going to take some time for him. He’s going to have to spend some time in limbo trying to figure out who he is outside of what Natalie and his sisters have needed him to be, and who he is outside of trying to fill the shoes of David, who was absent for so many years. So, in this episode, Caleb has to make this difficult decision that, to him, he may worry that he may be perceived as letting down the family, but he’s finally stepping up for himself, and coming of age in this way, and becoming an adult. And we see this in [Episode] 203 with the fridge, he knows that he never has been able to be a father. You know, he was the man of the house before he was a man, and now he has to break off and grow into a man.

And that’s going to part of Natalie having to let go of the things that made her feel safe and in control. She’s been able to count on Caleb and not realizing to what extent she was robbing Caleb of his own agency and his own identity. So she just has to trust in herself and the girls, and she has to trust in Caleb that he’s going to take care of himself.

The scene between Matthew, Nicole and Beatrice was so hard to watch. What was Matthew’s plan there?
We all recognized it as this great, terrible plan, bringing Nicole and Beatrice together. But I think the beauty of it, even though it is a terrible idea, is that he’s not wrong. He knew that if Nicole could see Julian, she would recognize the innocent life he’s trying to protect and nourish, which reminds her, heartbreakingly, of why she loves this man. And she sees traces of him in his son, so, of course, instinctively, she’s going to love that little boy, too, and connect emotionally to Matthew’s decision to be a father to his son. She’s really a mother at heart and she’s a deeply compassionate woman. Compassion, though, it also has a way making matters of the heart very complicated, because it was almost too easy and convenient for her to villainize Matthew and dismiss him as a con, but now she can’t.

Nicole tells Matthew that she can’t move forward with him. Is there any way she can forgive him in the future?
I think what we see in her in this episode is forgiveness. I think she does forgive him after this journey. But forgiveness is one thing, to continue to be vulnerable and intimate and to trust this man, that’s a whole other story. She’s going to have to look inside and see whether or not that’s a possibility for her, or whether she’s going to have to stand on her own.

Maggie goes to Oliver’s studio and finds it in a deplorable state. What’s going on with him?
Oliver is clearly struggling, and he’s a very private person, and he’s a very solitary person. So we’re going to discover at the same time as his family what’s happening with Oliver. That’s going to be a journey we take with the people who love him. But what we will see is that, with Matthew and Natalie’s lives imploding in these really spectacular ways, these really striking ways, the noise that creates within the family has made it too easy for others who are struggling to slip between the cracks unnoticed.

Raza delivers some truth to Maggie this week. Their marriage might have been a bad idea, but is he good for her in a way?
I think Raza is a much-needed touchstone for her. He’s not got much invested in making her happy. It’s not like he’s counting on getting lucky at the end of the night. So she comes to him and wants a dose of the truth, and he’s going to tell her the truth. And he, standing on the outside, has perspective that nobody else has, and he has no agenda here, so he can just level with her.

Do you have a favourite scene in the episode?
I was really surprised by the scene with Caleb and David at the end of the episode. I was blown away by the chemistry that those two actors have, but also physically, the difference between them on screen, the size of them. David being someone who is so comfortable in his skin and his body, and he’s just sort of processing his day, and then Caleb shows up sort of vulnerable and also having had kind of an epiphany. This bonding moment between them after all those years and all those feelings of betrayal and disappointment, for them to just connect in this moment, to actually see it, to feel the chemistry between them was really surprising.

And then just at the end of the scene, the focus shifts—I mean literally the focus of the image—shifts from David to Caleb, and Caleb just sort of looks at his father with those big blue eyes, and he looks like a boy. And it’s like I’m seeing a boy and his father, and it really moved me. Something like that, you can’t put that on the page. Everyone does their job and you get these moments of magic like that.

This Life airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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