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The Wedding Planners’ Michael Seater: “It speaks to themes I think everybody can get”

Frequent visitors to this site know I cover Murdoch Mysteries extensively. That means fans of the show know the name Michael Seater intimately. The veteran Canadian writer, director, producer and actor may very well be best-known for his portrayal of serial killer James Gillies on the period drama. But Murdoch isn’t his only acting gig.

Aside from Life with Derek, 18 to Life and Bomb Girls, Seater can be seen every Friday night on The Wedding Planners. There, he co-stars as James Clarkson—alongside Paige (Kimberly-Sue Murray) and Hannah (Madeline Leon), who take over their mother’s wedding planning business after she passes away suddenly.

We spoke to Michael Seater about The Wedding Planners, being an independent producer and … yes … playing James Gillies.

You’ve got a production company going. I know you’re making feature films. How did you end up playing James on The Wedding Planners?
Michael Seater: Beth Stevenson, who runs the show, was at Decode Entertainment, which did my first series back when I was a kid. She and I had a meeting earlier this year to talk about different things, sort of a general meeting and different things out there, from directing to acting. The Wedding Planners came along a couple of months later, which seems like good timing. It’s a really fun show. It speaks to themes I think everybody can get, which are loss and family and love.

James has a really interesting story. What’s the journey for him this season?
MS: Well, I think it’s interesting in that he’s left and there’s the appearance that he has figured it all out and doesn’t need this small-town life anymore, and I think the big city is more his speed. But bright lights, big city, things aren’t always as they seem. What happens to a lot of people in a big, giant metropolis like that, you quickly are living beyond your means. In how we operate today in an Instagram culture, we have this pressure, which I think has always existed but never more than now, to present like you are living a certain way that maybe you can’t afford.

I don’t think he plans on staying for long, but that might change because circumstances change. I think when you suffer such a great loss, you realize how important and valuable family is. Even if on the surface James plays sarcastic often, that he doesn’t really care that much about being there, I think that’s all a deflective veneer that he uses so people don’t see that he’s lost his mom and he’s hurting and he needs to be around his sisters right now.

Can you speak to any of the input you had into this character?
MS: There is a lot of dialogue in finding the voice, and a lot of figuring out the nuanced nature of, especially, a queer character. Making it feel that it’s honest and not put-on. I’m a queer person myself. I watch a lot of Drag Race. I want the language to be authentic. Then, there’s the story aspect of making sure that when we promise something in a story that we deliver on it.

You have a production company with Paula Brancati. Is working in somebody else’s sandbox, in your view, an exercise in not flexing producer’s muscles and getting back into the acting? 
MS: Yes and no. I give myself a talk sort of before I do a project where I am hired solely as actor. I am not shy with my opinions, and so I need to make sure that I’m not stepping on too many toes.

The three siblings are sort of the head of the department, and we are very inherently involved in stories. So, I think, from actors I’ve known throughout the years who when I was young, I kind of looked at as examples. Peter Outerbridge on ReGenesis is somebody who was a really magnificent lead on a show and how he works on how he pushed for the script to always be the best it could be. He looked out for younger or guest actors who don’t have a voice the way that he did.

But then, on the other hand, I tell myself, ‘OK, you’re not the director of this. Don’t try and get involved and say, ‘Well, what are you doing with the cameras?’ You’ve got to let somebody else do their job.’ And I hope I do that. Making a TV show, making a film is always such a collaborative endeavour anyways. Lots of people wear different hats, but even if you only ever wear one hat, your department affects another department. So, it’s always about communicating with one another and the best idea wins. That’s how I try and operate.

Murdoch Mysteries fans know you play James Gillies, perhaps the ultimate villain on that show. What was that like playing that character?
MS: I have the best time going to play on that show. I mean, a bunch of crew on that show was from shows I had done previously. I knew a lot of the cast, especially the longer I did the show. So, I would go back every summer and it was like visiting your favourite aunt and uncle for a week in the summer. It was family. We had such a good time and just got to play.

Gillies is so much fun because he’s one of those wonderfully truly classically evil characters. And by the later episodes, everyone knows he’s evil. So, it’s not like, ‘Oh, I need to hide this and play nice till the very end and we get the reveal at the end.’ I get to come in guns blazing and hold needles to babies’ necks and hairpins to women’s throats and all this fun stuff and get my face mangled. It was so good.

Also, I wouldn’t ever say that we’ve seen the last of Gillies. I’ve always said that was just his good twin and see, the evil twin used that weird brain thing that made the guy do the talking, use that on his good twin and the evil twin’s still alive and kicking. That’s just my opinion.

The Wedding Planners airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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Link: Interview: The Wedding Planners’ Michael Seater, Kimberly Sue-Murray and Madeline Leon

From Charles Trapunski of Brief Take:

Link: Interview: The Wedding Planners’ Michael Seater, Kimberly Sue-Murray and Madeline Leon
“The first two episodes were harder because it was all about their mother passing away, but that’s a bit harder because it’s close to home. But I don’t like one genre more than the other, I would say it’s all different challenges.” Continue reading.

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Links: Vagrant Queen, Season 1

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: Vagrant Queen’s Adriyan Rae on what it was like tackling the role of a badass space queen
“I was really interested in being a part of something that had a black female lead who was badass and is not defined by her sexuality. She’s just this badass character who pushes the envelope and is looking for her mom. It really resonated with me.” Continue reading.

From Josh Bell of CBR:

Link: Vagrant Queen is a fun, scrappy space adventure
The low-fi feel is part of the show’s charm, and the characters often joke about how unreliable their equipment is. The Winnipeg is constantly breaking down and losing parts, and the heroes’ blasters are always running out of batteries when they need them most. Continue reading.

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: Vagrant Queen: Tim Rozon’s comedic skills shine in his goofiest role yet
“When Vagrant Queen came along, I was in Florida. I drove up to Orlando to do a self tape and loved the audition. If anyone has heard me talk about my first experience with Doc Holliday, it reminded me of that and just one of those parts I thought, ‘I can be this guy. I gotta get this guy. I can do this.’” Continue reading.

From Adam Buckman of MediaPost:

Link: Syfy space series boldly goes where others have gone before
There are enough shootouts, perils and narrow escapes to satisfy fans of these kinds of shows, and vex the rest of us. Continue reading. 

From Raffy Ermac of Pride.com:

Link: ‘Vagrant Queen’ is the diverse, queer show the sci-fi world needs right now
“We were excited to tell this sort of more intimate story about this former queen going on a rescue mission, and it not being a story about necessarily good and evil, monarchy versus the revolution. It was just a very kind of more intimate story about this young woman trying to find her place in the world, and reconnect with her long-lost mother.” Continue reading. 

From Eric Amaya of Rotten Tomatoes:

Link: Vagrant Queen: Your new Guardians of the Galaxy-style TV obsession
“I haven’t felt so right for a part pretty much since Doc Holliday. Doc can be pretty intense, whereas Isaac is just a bumbling fool, and I feel like I’m a little closer to that at times.” Continue reading.

From Charles Trapunski of Brief Take:

Link: Interview: Vagrant Queen’s Adriyan Rae
“It’s my dream role and I’m surrounded by amazing people, from Jem [Garrard] to my castmates, to the cameramen, to the grip, to all the cast and crew. It’s a story of how equality is equality, love is love, how it’s okay to be a free thinker, it empowers women, it’s woke without pushing it down your throat, it’s entertaining while still funny and it will still pull on your heartstrings.” Continue reading.

From Nicole Hill of Den of Geek:

Link: Vagrant Queen: A fresh take on the hero’s journey
“I really love the idea of this space opera that really focused in on a very kind of personal and intimate journey and that you don’t really get to see much in this genre.” Continue reading.

From Cynthia Vinney of CBR.com:

Link: Vagrant Queen’s Adriyan Rae celebrates her “dream role” in the sci-fi show
“I started working on her mental and how it would feel to be an orphan, how it would feel to be on the run for so many years, how it would feel to feel as though both of your parents have died and then to hear that one of them hasn’t.” Continue reading.

From Russ Burlingame of Comicbook.com:

Link: Vagrant Queen star Adriyan Rae hopes they could get a second season that goes beyond the existing comics
“They made our outfits so that they weren’t super, super tight leather, and they were materials that could move with us. The costume is department is amazing. They made it distinctly so I could do all these great things in the outfit.” Continue reading.

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The Wedding Planners brings much-needed nostalgia to primetime TV

In a world full of turmoil and seeking comfort, Beth Stevenson’s creations couldn’t be more timely.

If you’ve tuned in to a Harlequin or Hallmark holiday movie, you’ve likely seen her stuff. Stevenson’s IMDB page is chockfull of such seasonal fare as Snowbound for Christmas, A Christmas Recipe for Romance, Twinkle all the Way or Christmas with a Prince. They’ve quickly become holiday classics. Now Stevenson, Brain Power Studio founder and executive producer, jumps into primetime TV with a new series.

The Wedding Planners, debuting Friday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv, introduces us to the Clarkson Wedding Essentials, a family-run business that is a one-stop spot for wedding planning. The business is headed up by Marguerite (Michelle Nolden), who hopes her children—Paige (Kimberly-Sue Murray), James (Michael Seater) and Hannah (Madeline Leon)—will one day carry on the business. When that day comes suddenly, the siblings are forced to work together to pull off the perfect wedding.

We spoke to Beth Stevenson about The Wedding Planners, and why shows like it are the perfect salve for uncertain times.

How did The Wedding Planners come about?
Beth Stevenson: Some of Marguerite is actually a lot to do with my mom was such a big part of my life. The reason I’m in the film and television business is because she was actually studying to go into the film and television business after she had raised all of us. I come from a family with siblings and Brain Power is actually a family company and a lot of my siblings do work in the company. My stepsons work in the company. We have that familial connection together with the fact that we’re building something and we’re working on something together. There’s a lot of comparison to how Marguerite has grown the business and expropriated bedrooms. We thought, ‘This will be a really nice location to base a series out of.’

What about the partnership with Rogers?
BS: Nataline Rodrigues, who’s the director of original programming, has this beautiful timeslot that’s called Fall In Love Fridays. We were doing many Harlequin films and most were Canadian content productions that we were doing for various Canadian networks. But predominantly, we were exporting them. She found me and said, ‘Hey, I see you’re doing romcoms and things that would work really well for our network.’ And we said to her, ‘We’re working on this nice limited series that is going to be about a family of wedding planners.’ We continued to talk and then we started to quickly move it through development and she believed in the concept and we went into production.

When it comes to putting together a project like this, a limited series as opposed to a two hour TV movie, it would seem there would be more space to play around. 
BS: It’s definitely nice to build worlds and to look at maybe a dynasty of characters that are together that can continue on. It’s good to do that two-hour movie to make sure you get the chemistry right in the casting, that you’re bringing these worlds together. With The Wedding Planners, we get the best of both worlds because we have this definitive storyline which is the bride and groom that we’re following that episode. And then you have this beautiful enriching family drama that’s flowing underneath it.

The TV-movies you have made have quickly become kind of go-to programming during the holidays. What is it that we love about these so much? Is it escapism?
BS: I go towards more of the word nostalgia. The holiday season has grown to a place of we want this comfort, we want this nostalgia, we want to have these moments where it’s that Christmas tingle people get. The nice thing from our adaptations is they’re coming from Christmas novels in many instances.

A lot of our movies are on Amazon Prime where we get the analytics every week. And it is phenomenal. It doesn’t stop in January I will tell you. Because I think again, people need that in these times. I think the barrage and the digital world can be very exhausting. So if you can get that comfort to come back and to follow a family or to follow a couple and to root for them and to have a little bit of a break, that’s, I think, making a big difference right now in the world.

The Wedding Planners airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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