Tag Archives: Charles Vandervaart

Murdoch Mysteries: Charles Vandervaart discusses the Season 12 finale

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched the Murdoch Mysteries Season 12 finale, “Darkness Before Dawn, Part 2.”

Wow, what a season finale! After worrying John Brackenreid would never walk again, his second surgery was a success and, it appears, Margaret and Thomas Brackenreid’s marriage may be on the mend. But there are still a few niggling questions left remaining. William knows Miss Hart planted evidence in the murder case and in doing that scored the coroner’s job. Meanwhile, Dr. Dixon has made it VERY clear he’s interested in Julia. Here’s hoping we get answers when Murdoch Mysteries is renewed for Season 13.

To close out my season-long Murdoch Mysteries interviews, I spoke to Charles Vandervaart, who has been playing John Brackenreid for a handful of seasons now, about how he got on the show in the first place and the evolution of John over the years.

Let’s get your origin story. How did you end up on Murdoch Mysteries in the first place? Did you go through the traditional means, an audition? 
Charles Vandervaart: Yeah, I auditioned. I actually originally auditioned for the role of Bobby Brackenreid, funny enough, way back when. I did the scene where he’s playing in the sandbox and he gets abducted. But that didn’t work out. So about two years later, I auditioned for the role of John. You know, I didn’t think it would last this long, this many seasons. But I’ve been very fortunate that they keep writing me in and developing my character. I’m a happy camper.

You have literally grown up onscreen, on Murdoch Mysteries. That must be a little bit mind-blowing to think about.
CV: Yeah. It’s hilarious. And I love watching reruns. It’s like watching old home movies. I’ve been really lucky. This and The Stanley Dynamic was the other show that I was on when I was younger … both of these shows have really helped me get comfortable in front of the camera. I’m definitely a believer that the best of kind of acting lesson is just being on set and being with all these other actors and getting directions from all these directors. I’ve been so fortunate to get all of these acting lessons and to help improve my craft over the years. So it’s been such a blessing at the end of the show.

What made you decide to get into acting in the first place? Is it something you always wanted to do? 
CV: The thing that I said when I was a little kid was, I wanted to be a theoretical astrophysicist in the area of nanotechnology because it was just the longest thing I could think of. I didn’t actually know what it meant at the time. I was just like, ‘This will impress the old people.’ I grew up in a small town about an hour and a half away from Toronto and I went to go see a play there. I was so immersed in it and I thought it was such a magical experience. And I asked my parents if I could try it out and act at the local theatre.

My first role ever as an actor was Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol. It just kind of grew from there. I did a couple of plays here in Toronto, and then I got an agent and auditioned. And I couldn’t have done anything without my mom because we live so far away from Toronto. She drove me back and forth to auditions together. She’s just as much a part of it as I am. But I think, maybe at 14, I actually started really committing to it and saying, ‘This is what I love. This is my passion. I want to do this for the rest of my life.’

You mentioned about learning your craft over the years. What have you learned? 
CV: What’s really helped me at being on sets all the time is just getting myself out there. It can be quite a nerve-wracking thing, being in front of a camera and being in front of a camera crew. So, I’m still working on getting those nerves down. But I think it’s also a good thing to have nerves because it means that you care about what you’re doing, you love what you’re doing. I also think that a lot of the times I obsess about the craft. When you’re doing a season, you could be three, four, five months working all day, every day. And then on the weekends you’re obsessed with what you’re doing and you’re constantly memorizing the lines and things like that. And then the season ends and you have a lull because you’re waiting for the next season and you’re waiting for your next project. I’ve had some great talks with some fellow actors about this. It’s really important to keep living your life and to not obsess about what the next thing is. And actors, their whole profession is based on drawing from your experiences. And you do have those lulls. You’ve got to go out with your friends and you’ve got to read some books and go out and watch some movies. So I’m getting better at just kind of putting it aside and using my onset experience and then also my offset experience to draw from.

We’ve really seen this character of John Brackenreid grow up, especially in Season 12. Here’s a guy who is coming into his own as a constable. And now he goes through this season, before even getting shot, his parents divorcing. 
CV: John has always been kind of this character, I think, that’s been on the brink of adulthood. He’s almost there. And this season especially because, before we’ve always seen John as this quintessentially innocent character. And then, all of a sudden, he has all this baggage. His parents and he may not walk again, he’s been sleeping around. It’s a John that we’ve never seen before. It’s great because everyone makes mistakes and has crazy days when they’re just growing up and they’re on the brink of adulthood. And John is really going through some stuff right now. And it’s been a pleasure to play that because I love all the crazy, messy things as an actor.

What was your reaction to the fact that John was going to be shot and maybe not walk again? Did Peter Mitchell pull you aside and say, ‘It’s OK, by the end of the episode you’re going to walk? Did they make you wait? How did that work?’
CV: Apparently, for quite a while, the writer’s room knew that I was going to get shot. And, a few of the crew knew that I was going to get shot. One day I made a joke about me getting shot. And everyone was just kind of like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s funny.’ Even though all of them knew that that was actually going to happen in the season finale. So I think that was a pretty predetermined thing. But, yeah, Peter took me aside and he said, ‘This is what’s going to happen. You’re going to be fine, though, don’t worry about it.’ But I think he knew for a few seasons that he was going to do this.

It must be some of the easiest acting you’ve had to do. You got to lie down. You didn’t have to wear the uniform or anything.
CV: Yeah. For two episodes I had to sit down and lie down. [Laughs.]

A big part of John’s life this season has been the effect of seeing this family break up. How have you felt about seeing your onscreen parents split?
CV: I think it was a great little storyline from the writing perspective and from the perspective of the show. Because they’re both two characters that are very feisty and they’re very opinionated and I really hope that they pull this together. I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next season. As a watcher of the show, I’m really hoping that they just come out of this stronger than ever and as a couple, together. It was crazy and it kind of felt a little bit out of body because you have these two fake parents, these two parents that I’ve had for six years. And then they’re going through this divorce and sometimes you catch yourself, you’re like, ‘Oh, this isn’t real.’ I’m really eager to see what happens in the next season.

What have you thought of Season 12 of Murdoch Mysteries? What would you like to see happen in Season 13? Let me know in the comments below!

You can stream past episodes of Murdoch Mysteries on CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Murdoch Mysteries: Paul Aitken talks “Annabella Cinderella”

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched the latest episode of Murdoch Mysteries, “Annabella Cinderella.”

Well, that as quite the road trip for Constables John Brackenreid, George Crabtree and Detective Watts, wasn’t it? I always get a kick out of road trip episodes and this one was a lot of fun, even with an accused axe murderer at the centre of the story. With Inspector Brackenreid gone from our lives for now and Julia and William back on Toronto planning to write a police handbook containing the latest forensic sciences available, it was up to the trio to collar Annabella and investigate the truth behind her case.

We caught up with the episode’s writer, executive producer Paul Aitken, for details.

It’s been a great season so far.
Paul Aitken: Yeah, I think it’s been good. I’m curious to see how it all turns out. I know how the stories turn out, but I haven’t seen it in frame.

Oh really? Is that common?
PA: It’s common for me because once we get past a certain point in the story, I like to just see it in its whole.

We’ve seen a little dip into Watt’s past, and certainly a lot more into Brackenreid’s past. As somebody that’s been with the show from the very beginning, what’s it like to dip into these back stories and find out a little bit more about these characters as we’ve been going along this season?
PA: Oh I think it’s a really useful well to dip into because you can get story ideas out of the past that you can’t if you just are going forward. There’s something you can use that’s interesting, and you can build a story around it, and it also deepens the character. I think it’s fun for the audience because they get to see and come to understand the characters in a way that they wouldn’t have in the past, and it’s also just a really useful story tool.

The story getting a peek into Watts’s history was fantastic, emotional. Daniel Maslany did a wonderful job.
PA: I thought so too. I thought that worked really well. We didn’t know Watts very well, and I think he was a bit of a mystery, and I think this grounded him. It picked up on story elements we introduced in earlier episodes. But I think it’s true with any character, if you can pull something out of the past, it’s fun to watch and it’s fun to write.

Let’s get into tonight’s episode. I immediately thought of Lizzie Borden. Was that an inspiration at all? 
PA: No, actually, it wasn’t, not at all. We came to the idea of the axe because we wanted her to be dangerous. It’s more fun if your quarry is someone who could kill you. And it also made her dangerous. You want to buy that this character could be nice and flirting with John, but at the same point would drive an axe into his back if necessary. And I think the mother aspect of it, because Lizzie killed her parents, that was a plot that seemed to work best. So first came mother, then came the axe. And Lizzie Borden wasn’t just an afterthought. We did think of referencing it, but I’d already referenced Lizzie Borden in an earlier episode in Season 3. We’ve had several women wielding axes on the show, and we can’t reference Lizzie Borden every time. But yeah, there are a lot of parallels. She killed her mother, there was someone coming into the house at the time, someone running out of the house. I can’t remember exactly what happened with Lizzie Borden, but yes. Obviously, I can see why you would think that.

It’s been nice to see Charles Vandervaart get more screen time, and clearly, you were able to touch a little bit into the fame that goes behind supposed serial killers or just killers at large, this fascination that he had with her was pretty great.
PA: I thought so, too. We’ve been trying to make this an episode for a while. And I always pictured it as the person that they are escorting to justice, and then they escape. I always thought of that person as a man. It’s kind of like, what’s that movie with Jack Nicholson back in the early 70s? He was escorting a sailor to be incarcerated. [Editor’s Note: The Last Detail.] I always wanted to make an episode like that, and so that was how it started out and then we realized that it was actually a lot more interesting if the protagonist was a female that John Brackenreid had a crush, and we could play that flirty angle. So that’s how that came about.

I did want to ask about William and Julia. There are a lot of fans out there that always want to see the two of them front and centre every episode, and in this one, they certainly weren’t. They weren’t a major part of the story, although they did have their own fun kind of storyline. Is it nice to have them in the background and not be having them do the heavy lifting? 
PA: As regards to heavy lifting, I think it’s always good if you can give your main actors a bit of a break, because so much is demanded of them, just on a humanitarian crowd I think it’s a good idea. And in terms of the story, in terms of what the audience wants, yeah, they want to see the main guys, but it’s also kind of fun and challenging for an audience to not be able to see the main guys in the main role all the time, to see someone else step up. I think it’s kind of fun to be able to do that. And I know that the audience, I think, will sort of just go along with it. Murdoch will be back next episode, there’s no danger about it, and I think it’s unusual to have Murdoch not be involved in any way in the actual mystery except at the very beginning and the very end.

Will their storyline continue? The publishing storyline? Or is that kind of a one-off?
PA: We’ll see where it goes.

What can you say about Margaret and Thomas going forward as we get closer to the end of this season?
PA: I think, obviously that will be when the season goes along, but it’s a season long story. And I think it’s a really good story. I think it resolves, or doesn’t resolve, I think, where it goes, how it goes is actually really interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing it myself.

What did you think of this episode? Are you excited to see where Julia and William’s writing careers go? Let me know in the comments below.

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

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Preview: Murdoch Mysteries carries on with an axe murderer

I think this season of Murdoch Mysteries has been just great. I know a few don’t agree with me and that’s OK. Some folks only want the “core four” to feature in every case and have everything wrapped up in a neat bow by the time the hour is up.

Me? I’m loving the deeper dives we’re getting into who Ruth, Watts, Higgins and Brackenreid in Season 12. With so many years under its belt, I truly feel like Murdoch Mysteries has become a well-rounded show boasting a wealth of riches when it comes to cast, crew and stories.

But back to the present, and Episode 11. Here’s what the CBC has released as an official storyline for “Annabella Cinderella,” written by Paul Aitken and directed by Sherren Lee.

Crabtree and John are transporting a convicted axe murderer to prison when she escapes to exact revenge on those who testified against her.

And here are more tidbits from me after watching a screener.

George and John team up
John Brackenreid has been vaulted onto centre stage now that his father has left Toronto. That’s good news for fans of he and actor Charles Vandervaart (for even more Charles, catch him Saturdays on Family Channel on Holly Hobbie). Personally, I love it when George and John are paired up. Not only is there usually a bit of comedy but I also view their dynamic as what William and George’s was back in the early days of Station No. 4.

Rachel Van Duzer guest stars
Rachel Van Duzer plays the woman at the centre of this episode. I’ll have to confirm this with the episode’s writer, but I feel like “Annabella Cinderella” is loosely based on Lizzie Borden‘s story. As for Van Duzer, she’s wonderful in this role, giving dimension to a villainous character. Her scenes with Vandervaart, in particular, will tug at your heart.

A television critic makes his Murdoch Mysteries return
Bill Brioux, a friend and veteran television critic (check out his website for Canadian and U.S. coverage), first appeared in a non-speaking role in Season 5’s “Murdoch of the Klondike.” His triumphant return is marked this Monday as “Ticketman” at the Pickering train station. I expect a Canadian Screen Award nomination soon.

William and Julia are in demand
The pair doesn’t get a lot of screen time on Monday, but they make up for it in a deliciously entertaining storyline involving police manuals and publishing.

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

Images courtesy of CBC.

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