Tag Archives: CTV Sci-Fi

Astrid & Lilly’s Alix Markman: “I’ve always really been drawn to what I would term horror-adjacent”

I first met Alix Markman when we were both helping spread the word about the Toronto Screenwriting Conference. Since then, I’ve kept tabs on her career, which has included working as a story coordinator for the tween series The Next Step, script coordinator for the animated Go Away, Unicorn!, writer for the video game Gotham Knights and, most recently, executive story editor for Astrid & Lilly Save the World.

Airing Wednesdays at 10 p.m. Eastern on CTV Sci-Fi, Astrid & Lilly Save the World—about high school friends Astrid (Jana Morrison), Lilly (Samantha Aucoin), monsters and a portal to another dimension—is the perfect fit for Markman. With Wednesday’s new episode credited to her, we spoke to Alix about her career so far.

In your bio, you say there’s a fine line between horror and comedy and that’s exactly where you feel most at home. Did you grow up really liking humour and horror, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
Alix Markman: Very much so, I’ve always really been drawn to what I would term horror-adjacent. So think The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline and very much Buffy. Those types of things that really draw on the horror canon and are in a lot of ways, a love letter to the horror canon, but not traditional horror in and of themselves.

And then getting older, I was very drawn to things like Guillermo del Toro works and stuff like that. Again, very dark. Dark themes with almost a lighter access point.

At what point did you say, ‘OK, I want to do this for a living.’ Was there a light bulb moment?
AM: Sort of. It sounds deeply cliché, but I always wanted to be a writer. I knew from the time I knew what a job was that I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t know what type of writer. When I was quite young, I thought I would write books, I might be a novelist. And again, still in that sort of realm, growing up, I really loved fantasy and stuff, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter. I mean, I still love all these things.

And then when I was sort of a middle schooler, tween age, I got really into theatre and performing arts, so I thought I might be a playwright/performer. I kind of lost interest in performing, but never in the writing aspect. I was a theatre kid at the time when the movie musical was really making its comeback, Chicago and Dreamgirls and Rent and Hairspray.

I became very interested in what made a movie musical click. Why were some of these so successful, like Chicago? And why were some of these not quite as successful in their translation to the big screen? I went to the library, and it turns out there are no books about writing movie musicals—super rude—but there are tons of books about screenwriting. So I just picked up a bunch of screenwriting books and started reading about it. I really, really fell in love with the form. I just devoured these books and I started watching movies and doing breakdowns. I was like 14. I just completely fell in love with screenwriting as a craft. I thought I would primarily write films. And then, when I was about 15 or 16, my best friend sat me down. She told me, ‘OK, there’s this really weird show, but I absolutely love it. And I think if you give it a real shot, you’re going to love it too. We have to watch it. It’s called Buffy the Vampire Slayer.‘ She had the box set and we started watching it. That was my aha moment. I went, ‘Oh yeah. That, that is exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life.’

Astrid (Jana Morrison) and Lilly (Samantha Aucoin)

Writing a play or movie seems to be a solitary existence, as opposed to a TV show. Do you enjoy the collaborative aspect of writing TV?
AM: I love the collaborative aspect of it. Screenwriting, and writing for television in particular, has really circumvented that because you always have a team and if you are stuck on something, you can bring it to the room and say, ‘You know what? This scene worked on the board, but it’s just not working on the page. Let’s talk it out.’ And then in return, you get to be that person for other people. It’s really rewarding. And as much as we would all love to believe that we’re perfect writers, no, no, we’re not whatsoever. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.

A really good room will take that into account. And maybe one person really excels at dialogue. No matter what they can put it in these characters’ voices, and maybe one person really excels at structure, no matter what kind of story you’re trying to tell, they know exactly where each of the beats need to fall. And then maybe one person is really good at mythology. But in the best writer’s room, it develops into this sort of synergy that is just really, really rewarding to be a part of. And it makes you a better writer to work with better writers. I feel like that is very important. I think a lot of young writers are sometimes intimidated by the idea of working with other people.

You could read every screenwriting book in the world, you could take every screenwriting class available to you and nothing can mimic the experience of being in the room and collaborating with those other people.

You’re on Astrid & Lilly as an executive story editor. What does that title entail?
AM: In Canadian live-action, story editor is essentially synonymous with ‘writer.’ You’re part of a team, the writers’ room, where you collaborate with the other writers on the project to pitch ideas, break stories, and solve problems in order to support and ultimately execute the showrunner’s creative vision on the page. You also read every draft of each script and offer feedback in collaboration with the rest of the writers’ room to make each episode the best it can possibly be.

The show has gotten rave reviews in outlets like Time, particularly about its casting and diversity in front of and behind the camera.
AM: It’s been surreal. I feel like this show was tailor-made for me in a lab somewhere. I remember reading the pilot prior to my meeting with [co-creators] Noelle [Stehman] and Betsy [Van Stone] and just thinking, ‘God, what do I have to do to get this job?’

In that first meeting with Betsy and Noelle, they told me how important it was for them to have diversity, both in the cast and the crew and the creative. So to hear that from the beginning, I just knew I had to be a part of this. The Time magazine article in particular really blew me away. And of course, to see the comparisons to Buffy, which is such a monumental show for me as an artist and as a person, it’s truly been incredible.

Astrid & Lilly Save the World airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV Sci-Fi Channel.

Featured image from Alix Markman. Astrid & Lilly image courtesy of Bell Media.


Links: Astrid & Lilly Save the World, Season 1

From Caitlin Chappell of CBR:

Link: Astrid and Lilly’s Showrunners Break Down High School Horrors & Heroes
“We are committed to creating dynamic, layered, complicated female characters. We don’t see enough of that. I mean, now more so for sure, but we wanted to bring some characters to life that embody all those things that we usually see in the male characters.” Continue reading.

Link: Astrid & Lilly Save the World’s Actors Reflect on Groundbreaking Season
“I love the way the writers wrote Lilly’s coming out because it was such a sweet moment. It was something that my character was, I think, nervous to tell her best friend and say out loud.” Continue reading.

From Brittney Bender of Bleeding Cool:

Link: Astrid & Lilly: Jana Morrison on SYFY Series & Friendship (Interview)
“I connect with her in so many ways. I think we’re both pretty confident girls, and what we get that from, I think maybe it’s from trying not to be unconfident. I think people like the feeling of being ourselves and just letting it all hang out, you know?” Continue reading.

From Mads Lennon of Hidden Remote:

Link: Astrid and Lilly post-mortem: Stars Samantha Aucoin and Jana Morrison talk season 2, FortWell and more
“I didn’t expect it. I honestly had so much trust in him, and it’s funny; I felt really upset for my character because she has trust issues and abandonment problems, right? So I felt really sad for Astrid. They didn’t deserve that. I’m excited about what the fans are going to think.” Continue reading.

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: Astrid & Lilly Save the World director Jill Carter helps bring the new supernatural series to life
We all know high school is hard, but it’s especially hard when you’re different. That’s exactly how outcast BFFs Astrid (Jana Morrison) and Lilly (Samantha Aucoin) feel every day of their lives on the new SYFY and CTV Sci-Fi series Astrid & Lilly Save the World, premiering Wednesday, January 26 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Continue reading.

From Petrana Radulovic of Polygon:

Link: Astrid & Lilly Save the World embraces the weirdness of high school supernatural slayers
With big Buffy-sized shoes to fill in the high school students slay monsters genre, the creators of Syfy’s new series opted to take the template and make it weird. Very weird. Astrid and Lilly Save the World centers on two high school outcasts, who turn into unlikely heroes when they have to save their town from flesh-eating monsters. Continue reading.

From Judy Berman of Time:

Link: Astrid & Lilly Save the World is like Buffy minus the male gaze
But what makes Astrid & Lilly unique is the authenticity of its lovingly written, endearingly portrayed outsider heroines. Continue reading.

From Angie Han of The Hollywood Reporter:

Link: Syfy’s ‘Astrid & Lilly Save the World’: TV Review
The most obvious way to describe Syfy’s Astrid & Lilly Save the World is as a more lighthearted, less angsty Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Continue reading.

From Caroline Framke of Variety:

Link: Syfy’s ‘Astrid & Lilly Save the World’ Is ‘Buffy’ by Way of the Disney Channel: TV Review
Halfway through the pilot of “Astrid and Lilly Save the World,” best friends Astrid (Jana Morrison) and Lilly (Samantha Aucoin) stare down a mysterious stranger (Oliver Renaud) with awe and suspicion. Continue reading.

From Lauren Sarner of the New York Post:

Link: ‘Astrid and Lilly Save The World’ stars on new plus-sized heroine series
“When I got the audition, I was really excited about it because one of the things it was saying was the girls are supposed to be a little bit bigger – plus-sized people.” Continue reading.


SurrealEstate’s Tim Rozon: “The magic of the show is that group”

There’s a certain amount of scrutiny that comes with making the jump from one landmark TV show to another. For Tim Rozon, you can’t help but wonder if that scrutiny was even more intense.

After all, the Montreal native most recently starred on Schitt’s Creek, Vagrant Queen and a little show you may have heard of called Wynonna Earp. I’m happy to say that he’s hit a home run with SurrealEstate.

Airing Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV Sci-Fi Channel, George Olson’s creation is a perfect vehicle for Rozon, an opportunity to stay in the genre space while playing a very different character. His Luke Roman runs The Roman Agency, a real estate company whose team helps sell homes that are haunted and therefore tend to stay on the market. Along for the ride are co-stars Sarah Levy, Adam Korson, Maurice Dean Wint, Savannah Basley and Tennille Read.

We spoke to Tim Rozon about SurrealEstate, which films in St. John’s, haunted houses and his co-stars.

Was this a career path that you expected, that you’d follow one show with demons on it to a show with other demons on it?
Tim Rozon: In a way, yes, because I remember the moment I had this conversation with my wife and I said, ‘My dream is to be on a show that goes to Comic-Con, like one of these supernatural shows, I would just love that. And fast forward a year later, there we were, Wynonna Earp, at San Diego Comic-Con, and since then I’ve got to be on Vagrant Queen, and now SurrealEstate, so surreal is the feeling.

Had you considered at any point maybe taking a break after being on several seasons of Wynonna, or was the thinking the opposite, ‘I got to strike while the iron is hot’?
TR: A hundred percent. At the end of the day, we’re actors, actors want work. To be honest, I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been. It’s pretty difficult, I’ll tell you, there’s so much competition and so many great actors, and I feel very fortunate and I don’t take it for granted, that’s for sure. And then, especially on great shows that you really want to be a part of, I’m very fortunate in that sense, I’ve got to work a lot, but I’ve also got to work on shows that I really loved being on, and that’s from Instant Star to Schitt’s Creek, Wynonna Earp, Vagrant Queen, right into SurrealEstate, so I’ve been very fortunate.

I really like the humour George has established in the world of SurrealEstate.
TR: Yeah, we really lean into it as we start going. I think we really figured out what George’s vision was around Episode 3. We get it right off the bat, but I don’t think we really leaned into it until after, because he’s such a good writer, sometimes it’s so subtle, and at first we just showed up, we don’t know… You don’t know what show we’re making right off the bat. How do you not lean into the humour when you have someone like Sarah Levy there?

You couldn’t have picked a better location for your next project. Had you been to St. John’s before? What was it like shooting there?
TR: It was incredible. I’m lucky that I had been there before, when I was much younger, filming a movie called Screamers: The Hunting, and we filmed that all over St John’s and across the island down in the mines on Bell Island. So I was all over, and also I was Screeched In at that time, which is great because I don’t think I could have handled it now. Before we started [filming SurrealEstate], I was in no way a believer in ghosts at all. After filming in St. John’s, so many guest stars experienced something with ghosts at the hotel that production had them staying at. It was this old Victorian house where they brought in all the guest stars, and they would do their quarantine there and start filming.

But, supposedly, this house was haunted, and the crew and everybody are just like, ‘Yeah, all Newfoundland… all things are haunted, we all know that. I’ve got a ghost in my house. I got a ghost over here. My mom’s house has a ghost.’ It’s like the norm.

And I’m a non-believer, but after hearing the experience of so many guest stars, Sarah and I are like, ‘I don’t know, there’s got to be something, I don’t think anybody’s lying to us.’ Some guest stars actually left that house, they wouldn’t stay there. They had negative experiences with ghosts, and some of the people that I talked to had said they had had experiences before, and other people were kind of like me, it was their first experience. Now, saying all that, I didn’t have an experience while I was in there for mine. I personally didn’t, but it’s tough to call everybody a liar.

You already mentioned Sarah, and the great cast for this show. I haven’t seen Adam Korson in a while, so it was great to see him onscreen. Maurice Dean Wint, a legend in Canadian television and in film. Talk a little bit about this cast of characters that you got to play with.
TR: Yeah, I’m so happy you brought it up, because this truly is an ensemble piece, and the magic of the show is that group. Each episode we go into a new house, which means we get into a new ghost, which is super fun, but it’s the relationships between that group of people and how they deal with it that I think is the real magic of the show. Starting with Sarah Levy, I found out she was cast right away, and that was it, then I knew, ‘OK, I need to do this project because, A) she’s a great actor and B) she’s a great person.’ So I just couldn’t wait to work with her again. You just knew, both of us were like, ‘OK, this is going to be so good and chill.’

And so, you got to spend five months together, you want it to be with someone you really like. And then, as far as everybody else, I literally asked George and [director and executive producer] Danishka [Esterhazy] after, ‘How did you manage to do this?’ Because this was during COVID, and we didn’t have screen tests and chemistry tests. We didn’t get to meet because of COVID, there were no read-throughs or anything, so we met on set and our first scene was in the big room, the Roman Agency with everybody meeting Susan for the first time, and right there and then it felt like magic. It really did it, just immediately you could sense everybody’s character, and we all could connect and figure each other out, and it was great.

And then, for 10 episodes, we got to create that bond and chemistry. I can’t say enough about the cast, as people and actors.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about a couple of guest stars, Art Hindle and Jennifer Dale, playing Luke’s parents.
TR: Yeah, they knew each other, which was great, and I knew Art because I used to watch his show, E.N.G., when I was a kid. I knew that show, trust me, I only had two channels, we didn’t miss E.N.G., that was on in my house. So I knew exactly who he was, he was great. And Jennifer… I won’t get into too much, because of what I’m allowed to say or not say, but of course I knew who that was too, so incredible. And they obviously know each other, which was very nice.

Surreal Estate airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV Sci-Fi Channel.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.


Links: SurrealEstate, Season 1

From Heather M. of TV Goodness:

Link: George R. Olson and Tim Rozon talk SurrealEstate director and guest star Melanie Scrofano
“She had a feel for that goofy, weird, elusive tone that we had kind of created. She just stepped into it with such grace and such confidence.” Continue reading.

From Heather M. of TV Goodness:

Link: SurrealEstate creator George R. Olson talks world-building, characters, and more
“This felt like something that really had some legs because your only limitations are the number of houses and properties. [For each of those], there are hauntings with entities and demons and everything that you could think of.” Continue reading.

From Heather M. of TV Goodness:

Link: Tim Rozon talks characters and found family in SurrealEstate
“It’s been almost a decade since I’ve played a role without facial hair. I went to my first wardrobe fitting and they gave me Luke’s suit and I just started feeling the character immediately.” Continue reading.

From Victoria Ahearn of the Canadian Press:

Link: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ actors Tim Rozon, Sarah Levy reunite as co-stars on ‘SurrealEstate’
When the CBC sitcom “Schitt’s Creek” finished its run in April of last year just as the pandemic ramped up, cast member Sarah Levy anticipated a dry spell on the work front. Continue reading.

From CBC:

Link: New supernatural TV show shot in N.L. continuing to push production in province
The housing market in St. John’s has seen a boom over the past year and a half, but what if the houses for sale were haunted? That’s the premise of the latest TV show to be filmed in Newfoundland and Labrador, which will hit the airwaves later this month. Continue reading.

From Stephanie Webber of Us Weekly:

Link: Sarah Levy Reunites With ‘Schitt’s Creek’ Costar Tim Rozon in ‘SurrealEstate’: He’s a ‘Great Actor and Human Being’
Twyla and Mutt together again! Sarah Levy couldn’t put the “pilot script down” for SYFY’s SurrealEstate — and wanted to join the show even more once she learned her former Schitt’s Creek costar Tim Rozon was already attached as the star. Continue reading.

From Meredith Jacobs of TV Insider:

Link: ‘SurrealEstate’ Stars Tim Rozon & Sarah Levy on Why Their Characters Work Well Together
If you’re having problems selling your house because it’s haunted or possessed, you need look no further than the Roman Agency on SurrealEstate. Real estate agent Luke Roman (Tim Rozon) and his team of specialists handle the problem houses, the ones that scare would-be buyers (and sellers). Continue reading.

From Jeff Pfeiffer of Main Street Nashvile:

Link: Tim Rozon and Sarah Levy reteam for Syfy’s fun and frightening ‘SurrealEstate’
It’s been said to be a “seller’s market” for real estate lately. But even under such favorable conditions, the owners of the places featured in Syfy’s fun and frightening new scripted series SurrealEstate, premiering Friday, would find it impossible to unload their properties. A leaky roof or a crack in a foundation may not be deal breakers for motivated home buyers; poltergeists, demon dogs and portals to hell in a cellar, on the other hand, certainly are. Continue reading.

From Debra Yeo of the Toronto Star:

Link: From gunslinger on ‘Wynonna Earp’ to paranormal real estate agent in new series, it’s all surreal
Doc Holliday’s moustache almost came between Tim Rozon and Luke Roman. Rozon, the Montreal-born actor who played immortal gunslinger Doc for four seasons on supernatural dramedy “Wynonna Earp,” was on the phone earlier this week describing how he got the part of Luke, a realtor who specializes in haunted houses in “SurrealEstate,” which debuts Friday on Syfy and CTV Sci-Fi Channel. Continue reading.

From Alix Kingray of Horror Buzz:

Link: Interview with composer Spencer Creaghan
“SurrealEstate is what one might call a dream gig. George and Danishka were collaborators in the very nature of the word.” Continue reading.