Tag Archives: Coroner

Coroner: Morwyn Brebner and Adrienne Mitchell preview the finale and look back on Season 1

When we last spoke with Coroner showrunner Morwyn Brebner and executive producer/lead director Adrienne Mitchell, the series had just premiered to solid numbers and the pair hoped they had a winner on their hands. Now, as the season finale approaches, they know the show is a bona fide hit and are rightfully proud of what the cast and crew accomplished during the first season.

“It’s the kind of show where everyone could really bring their artistry,” says Mitchell, on the line from icy Toronto. “And we call it the Collective—it’s the Coroner Collective. I don’t mean for it to sound cheesy, but it’s really true. It’s this continuum of people, and it’s just been a beautiful process.”

Brebner, enjoying warmer weather in New York, concurred, saying, “I’m happy to have made something that was made in a respectful way, which is actually kind of a huge thing. That feels like a milestone for me to have worked in a way where that was also a priority.”

After last week’s shocking penultimate episodewhich flashed up “To Be Continued…” just as Jenny (Serinda Swan) encountered the bloody corpse of former coroner Dr. Peterson (Michael Healey)we had to get Brebner and Mitchell on the phone to preview Monday’s big season finale, entitled “Bridges,” and provide their closing thoughts on Season 1.

Congratulations on a great first season. I was impressed with the way you were able to mix some big issues, including mental illness and police violence, into the season in such a natural, organic way. Was that hard to achieve?
Morwyn Brebner: I feel like it’s not hard in a sense because I think sometimes people think that tones are mutually exclusive, that a show is serious or a show is funny or whatever. I guess we’re really trying to be in the tone of life, which fluctuates between the two. So I feel like we’ve been able to find a good balance because we’ve kept ourselves open to that balance. I know in terms of the writing in the writer’s room—and also in terms of the beautiful visuals of the show—that we really have tried to be open, to not be set in a mode but to try and allow life into the show in a way that feels like life is. I feel like every show has sort of a range of tones and that you can move within that range and it can feel authentic, and we really have been striving for that.

Adrienne Mitchell: Also what really helps keep things from becoming too didactic or issue orientated is the very specific and personal take the characters have as they move through these scenarios and cases. I mean, the writers, Morwyn and the team, really can come up with it, and Seneca [Aaron], Episode 6 was something he wrote. There was just a very personal take, and he also comes from a West Indian background and could bring that to the story and Donovan McAvoy’s perspective, and I think it just gives it a reality and makes it more organic. That’s the thing, you can’t really separate it from the personal, and when you can’t separate it from the personal, it feels more organic. It doesn’t feel like just putting something on top of a story, the story’s infused with the characters.

And that’s why having a diverse writer’s room is so important, that authentic mix of perspectives.
AM: Exactly.

MB: The diversity of the writer’s room and the diversity of the cast were a huge strength for the show.

One of the season-long storylines has involved the mystery of the black dog and Jenny’s sister. In Episode 7, we learned that the dog may have killed Jenny’s sister … or maybe not. Will this all get explained in the finale?
M: I’m so spoiler averse, I’m going to let Adrienne answer.

A: Stayed tuned and watch Episode 8.  I can say we’re going to go back into that world and truth will be revealed.

I like the fact that you’re dealing with Jenny’s clouded memory of the events and then her father, who has dementia, is not really able to clarify the situation. It adds multiple layers to the mystery and demonstrates the unreliability of memory.
AM: That’s exactly it, that’s a very astute observation. That’s exactly what we’re working with. It’s interesting when things from your past are coming up, and your parent who was there, you don’t know if he is a reliable witness or not. The parent is experiencing dementia, so you have no one to confront in a way that you can usually confront. It’s challenging for her.

We also saw more of Gerald Henry Jones in Episode 7. Kudos on casting Rick Roberts in the role. He has kind of a gentle face, but he can also seem really sinister. Did you have him in mind for the part?
MB: Rick Roberts is an actor with incredible range and he’s so good in this part. We did have him in mind, actually, and he did audition, and it was just like a coup de foudre, it was like, he’s the guy.

AM: Yes, we have an amazing casting director, Lisa Parasyn, who understands our aesthetic and is also presenting us with people who are not the usual suspects for any role. It’s almost like this unspoken communication between us where you’re [at first] going, ‘Well, that’s not [who I had in mind],’ and then you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, yes.’ And she knows that we’re the type who will really respond to unusual ideas. So it’s this great bouncing off with her and Morwyn and me, and we get these really exciting casting results.

MB: I feel like Rick brings us a nice layer of nice guy/bad guy and you don’t know in what proportion and you don’t know in what way, and it’s really mysterious.

What can you hint about Jones in the finale? Will McAvoy and Townsend finally take him down?
AM: I can say he comes back, and it will be really compelling. How’s that? It’s an interesting episode because it harkens back to many of the themes that we’ve been building throughout the season. When Morwyn and I started doing this, we really had a desire to treat the whole thing like a feature film, something that’s novelistic and has those elements that run through but also has the cases. Everything is really beautifully intertwined, and I think the last episode will harken back to earlier themes and themes we’re developing in a way that I think will be really poignant and compelling for viewers.

MB: I find it really hard to talk about the show from the outside in a weird way. But I think, from the inside, the finale feels mysterious and correct and exciting and unexpected in the ways that we had hoped it would be.

You also surprised me by bringing back Dr. Peterson, and more, almost making me like him.
MB: Well, we love him as a foil to Jenny. We felt that they brought out interesting things in each other and he was such an interesting person to pair with her in really kind of a little bottle moment. He managed to really get inside her psychology and needle at her at a way that would bring stuff out. We really just loved them together, and that’s why we brought him back.

AM: And life is like this, you know? You can have a certain perspective on somebody, and it may not be the fulsome experience of that person. I love that the situation arises where these two have to show a different side of themselves to each other, and in doing that, they have a new appreciation for each other. And I think that’s really the way life is on some level.

MB: It is completely the way life is. I feel like you know people in different ways and people are themselves in different ways depending on the moment and circumstance. And there is an empathy and a sadness beneath him that’s really evident, and I think that Jenny sees as well. He’s also a person who is unable to overcome a barrier to his full expression of good self, and Jenny has a barrier in her that she is unable to overcome. They’re two people wrestling with that and trying to see each other as individuals over that divide of their own various limitations in the moment. And they do kind of find a sort of synergy together for a while—until it falls apart.

And, boy, did it fall apart. The episode ended with poor dead Dr. Peterson and the second cliffhanger of the season. What does his death mean for Jenny in the finale?
MB: All I can say is that it’s a satisfying ride and I hope that people will feel that it’s a satisfying ride.

AM: It’s going to be a really interesting journey, and things are going to hit you in a really unexpected way. It’s a great season end.

Looking back over the first season, what makes you the proudest?
AM: Wow, that’s a good question. I’m most proud of the creative collaboration between Morwyn, myself, and the team to realize the kind of hybrid way of telling a story, where there’s a really unique balance between personal and case with kind of a quirky sense of humour, yet it was done in a very cinematic way. Before shooting, there was a lot of discussion about tone and how to make it unified, because we’ve got weird bits of humour, we’ve got the personal, we’ve got the case, and there was—not inside our ranks, but outside of our ranks—there was nervousness that we were spending too much time on the personal stories and the personal stories might feel too outside what was happening in the case. But we all felt pretty strongly and stuck to our guns that it was going to work and that it was organic. And, you never know, but I think because Morwyn and I and the team were able to execute this vision, it all just gelled—and it works. It works. Some people might look at this and say, ‘Well, is [the outcome] that unique?’ But it is very unique in terms of all the elements. 

We decided when we got together that we weren’t going to get into a rut and keep doing the same thing, we were going to move and shift and change the way human beings do. And I’m just so proud of my work with Morwyn, so proud to have worked with her to bring all of that into a really beautiful alchemy. As a director, I’ve never been more able to execute my vision visually, through my [director of photography] Samy [Inayeh ] and Elisa [Suave], the production designer. To actually be able to achieve that in a ridiculous timeframe and a Canadian TV budget? I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished.

MB: I’m very proud of everyone’s work on the show. Everyone worked on it with incredible commitment, and everyone was an artist and brought their artistry to it on every level of the show. I’m proud to have made this show, and I’m proud that it was truly collaborative. And I’m proud to have made something that feels inclusive and diverse, proud to have made something that feels in the tone of life, and I’m so happy to have worked with Adrienne.

Coroner airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Link: Coroner: “The Suburbs” postmortem

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: Coroner: “The Suburbs” postmortem
“We see a dynamic between Mac and Jenny, but this was a nice way to counterpoint that and how he deals with someone else. It’s such an interesting world right now, and what’s interesting about the series is that it’s looking at overburdened systems and people having to come up and take on things.” Continue reading.

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Link: Coroner “The Suburbs” preview + Tamara Podemski interview

From Heather M. of The Televixen:

Link: Coroner “The Suburbs” preview + Tamara Podemski interview
“Every time a process is inclusive of as many voices as possible, I think you just get better results. We’re at a time in TV where people want to see themselves reflected on the screen. The demand is there now and the networks are understanding and implementing.” Continue reading.

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Coroner: Roger Cross on McAvoy’s flaws and “rekindled” passion for the job

Roger Cross is no stranger to playing cops. Over his nearly 30-year career, he’s been cast as just about every type of police officer, detective and special agent imaginable. However, Detective Donovan McAvoy, his character on CBC’s Coroner, is a little bit different from the others.

“I think it’s his flaws [that set him apart],” says Cross. “You learn that he might have been married once or twice, and you learn that he kind of left his old neighbourhood. He tried helping, but, for him, it was like, ‘Well, some people don’t want the help. Why am I going to bash my head against a rock? I’ll leave it alone.’”

That situation was the focus of last week’s timely and poignant episode, “Confetti Heart,” in which coroner Jenny Cooper (Serinda Swan) led an inquest into a questionable police shooting involving McAvoy’s community. According to Cross, the events of the episode “allow [McAvoy’s] path to confront him, and when that happens, he’s like, ‘OK, you know what? Maybe the fight is worth it.'”

We called Cross in Los Angeles to learn what this change of attitude might mean for McAvoy going forward and to find out what’s coming up for him in Monday’s new episode, “The Suburbs,” and beyond.

First of all, it looks like Coroner is doing very well in Canada and the UK. How does it feel to be involved in another hit?
Roger Cross: It feels great. You know, you do these things in a bubble, and you do your best and you hope for the best. And the only thing you can control is your intent and what you do on the day, and then you put it out to the people and you see how they respond. All and all, the executives on down, everyone kept watching the dailies as it came along, and they all kept saying great things, and you’re like, ‘OK, that’s good, but let’s see when it gets out there what people really think.’ And it’s lived up to it. It’s a bona fide hit, so it’s great. It’s very fulfilling.

Episode 6 was very timely as well as being politically and emotionally charged. How did you feel about it?
RC: It was a very touching story because it delved into a child getting killed. And wrong or right, good or bad, a child is dead, and how do we prevent these sorts of things from happening again in the future? 

I think it’s a story that needs to be told. It’s like the old cliché, if you bury your head in the sand, it’s not going to make the world go away. So pretending that there aren’t these bad cops out there is not going to make things go away. Yes, people have this ideal where they’d like to think that our cops are here as protectors and that they’re here to take care of us and they’re here to enforce the law, it’s for the people and all that sort of thing. But the reality is there are some bad cops out there and some people who should not have badges. Just like with anything, there are some people who, when they have power, whether it be at work or as cops and things like that, they abuse it. And those are the people we need to get rid of and allow the good people to do their job. Because the good cops don’t want these people in there. They would rather these cops be gone as well. They make them all look bad, and then people start painting them with the same brush.

A funny story, I did a police ride-along when I was in Calgary doing a movie. And this cop and I went out on this ride-along, and they were selling t-shirts to raise money to buy a helicopter. I wanted to buy one of the t-shirts, but I only had large bills on me, and he was like, ‘Oh, let’s just stop somewhere and grab some change.’ We go to this hotel, and I won’t say the name of the hotel, but it was a very fancy hotel. We pull up in front of the lobby, and this cop and I get out of the car, talking and laughing, and we walk into the lobby—and the whole place went quiet. It was silent. We walked to the counter and I asked them to break down a $100 bill for me, and they did. But when we left, the cop was like, ‘That was really weird.’ And I was like, ‘Yes, but sometimes there are people who think it’s weird to see a black guy and a police officer getting along and talking.’ It shocked everyone. It was literally like out of a movie how quiet this big, busy hotel lobby went.

And this [police officer] was honestly a great guy. We talked about family, we talked about everything and we were getting along, and he said, ‘You know, now when some of these guys give me the side-eye and a dirty look as I drive by, I’ll understand it a little more. But it doesn’t make it right.’ And it’s true. Both sides are angry at each other, both sides have those misconceptions of each other, and mistrust is the biggest thing. But we both have to come together and say, OK we both have faults, but it doesn’t make doing the wrong thing right. So I think the episode was very timely, and it could be a conversation starter.

The other thing McAvoy has been dealing with is Jenny’s decision to re-open all those old coroner cases. Why isn’t he onboard with that decision?
RC: Because, for him, there might have been one or two things that were messed up, there may have been one or two cases where they didn’t handle it properly, but by and large, it was handled very well. And so what’s she’s done now, as we see in Episode 5, is people like this murderer [Gerald Henry Jones], he’s got money and now his lawyer is like, ‘Well, now you’ve called everything into question. I want all these things thrown out.’ Without this forensic evidence, criminals are going to walk free, and she’s allowing this to happen without even knowing what she’s doing. He’s like, ‘OK, we missed a few things.’ Because these cops handle a lot of cases, so yes, one or two will fall by the wayside. But what’s she’s done is just open a can of worms. The genie is out of the bottle and it will not go back in.

Why is the thought of Gerald Henry Jones getting out of prison so scary?
RC: Because he’s a sociopath and feels he has a right to kill these people who he thinks are less than human, less desirable to be around. And a guy like that, who is very smart and was almost impossible to put away—we barely found enough evidence to get him convicted on this one murder, much less this other series of murders which we know he did but cannot prove—if the evidence gets thrown out, this man is going to walk the streets. And you know he’s going to do this again. He’s going to find a way to quell his desires if you will.

What can we look forward to seeing from McAvoy over the last two episodes of the season? 
RC: I think you’ll see a rekindling of that younger detective that, when he came there, wanted to set things right. His fire gets rekindled, the passion that he had. Because he was calling it in a little sometimes. Just like with anything else you do for a while, you look at a [crime] scene and go, ‘Oh, that was a murder,’ or ‘That was a hanging.’ You make judgments based on your experience, and you dig past the surface if something doesn’t look right, but you’re not looking too hard for that. Whereas, when you first [get on the job], you’re like, ‘Oh, we gotta do this, and we gotta break it down, and we have to go through everything in detail, and then we’ll find out what happened.’ And he’ll get a rekindling of that—but his personal life won’t get better yet.

What would you like to see happen with McAvoy if there is a Season 2?
RC: Maybe straighten out his personal life a little bit. 

You’ve been in so many good TV series over the years. If you could bring one show back and continue the story, which one would you choose?
RC: Oh, that’s a tough one. But, you know, I loved Continuum. From top to bottom, everyone we worked with, it was like a family atmosphere there. And the Travis Verta character, he had so much more to do. He was a character who could just continue to grow and find his humanity. At a point, we saw that he’d lost a lot of his life and he’s learned things, and that story had a lot more to tell. And even 24 would be a blast to do again. That show was great and had so much potential. But if I had to choose only one, I’d probably say Continuum.

Coroner airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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