Tag Archives: Denis McGrath

Link: Denis McGrath

From Alex Epstein of Complications Ensue: The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog

Link: Denis McGrath
We lost one of the best writers I know tonight. A writer, and a firebrand for writers. And a good friend. And a wit, and a style, and a voice. Damn it.

I met Denis McGrath on a plane to South Africa. We were parachuting in on a show where the previous writing team, who were on a plane going the other way, had not got along too well with the showrunner. When we got there, we had to retcon some sort of sense out of the episodes that had been shot, and then rewrite the next script literally over the course of 24 hours. Continue reading. 

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Denis McGrath teases X Company’s season finale

First, the good news: X Company has been renewed for a third season. The bad news? Our favourite Allied spy team is up to their necks in trouble heading into Wednesday’s second season finale. Will Aurora and Alfred be successful in turning Franz Faber? Will the squad be able to help the Canadian soldiers stranded on the beach at Dieppe?

We spoke to X Company‘s writer/co-executive producer, Denis McGrath, about what’s in store and the stunning real-life story behind Episode 8, “Butcher and Bolt.”

Congratulations on this season of X Company. It’s been spectacular.
Denis McGrath: You never know how good it’s going when you’re doing it. In the beginning, you’d see footage of Torben [Liebrecht] and think, ‘Oh my God, he’s taking it to the next level,’ but it doesn’t really connect until it’s finished. We all see the episodes when they’re in their rough cuts, and the music isn’t complete and the editing is still a little wonky. It’s takes a lot to get a jaded television professional to watch the finished version and go, ‘Oh my God!’ I’ve been doing that this season.

Was there anything that showrunners Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern wanted to explore specifically this season?
We wanted everyone to be a little more bashed up this season. The reference points we kept going to were the amazing pictures of soldiers before they went to Afghanistan and then one year later when they rotated back. It was haunting because you could see in their faces that none of these guys would ever be the same again. We wanted that sort of aspect to it. And the main thing they brought to us—and I was skeptical about it at first—was that they wanted to have a very compressed timeframe because they wanted to start with the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup of the Jews in July of 1942 and end with Dieppe, which is a little over a month later. That’s very compressed for 10 episodes and we had to figure out the timeline.

X_Company

We actually had a calendar up in the writers’ room that was the summer of 1942 and we penciled in, ‘Episode 1 takes place here and Episode 2 takes place here.’ The other thing that they brought—and we loved—was Sinclair in the field. There was a good mix where they came in with a backbone and then from there it was pretty easy to fill the bones in. We locked in very early with what we were doing.

What does the Episode 9 title, “Butcher and Bolt,” mean?
The more you look into Dieppe, what’s cool about it is that that 75 years later or whatever it is, there is still a legitimate argument about what the hell they were thinking. David O’Keefe’s book, One Day in August, basically said that the whole Dieppe raid was a cover for an intelligence operation and they were trying to get an Enigma machine. All of the books seem to agree that no one knew what the Allies were going for with this raid.

What was supposed to be a bigger invasion was scaled down to what it became and they changed the name of the operation. There is a line in the communications somewhere where Churchill refers to it as a “butcher and bolt” operation, which is a bit of cockney slang in there. To take a butcher is to take a look, so it was to go in, take a look around, and then get the hell out. That was the whole plan.


“We always said in the writers’ room that if anyone felt safe, we weren’t doing justice to the era.”


Talk about the radar part of the storyline.
We kept circling back to the radar thing because there is a truly amazing story. It happened with a real Canadian named Jack Nissenthall, who actually did the mission that our guys do in Episode 9 and 10. He was a guy who knew about radar and his job was to hook up with a group of soldiers and he was supposed to infiltrate the German radar station and get their secrets and then blow it up. Things went south and they couldn’t get there, but at one point the literally found themselves on top of a tank and had to take it out. In the end, they didn’t get into the radar station, but they got the intel in a different way, which we will show. Essentially, the mission competed by the X Company spies really happened.

What can you tell me about Scuba Man? He created the diversion at Camp X and then nothing.
[Laughs.] The only thing that I will say is that we do leave some threads hanging.

What can you tell me about the season finale, “August 19”?
There is a sense of finality. We do close off the story. There are a lot of scenes of closure that were inevitable and some horrible stuff that happens. There is some amazing stuff that causes you to think, ‘Oh my God, what’s going to happen in the next chapter?’ It’s a tough watch, man. We continue to do what we did to the audience all season and that’s to drive a lot of emotion, action and the feels.

Is there a chance someone from the core group doesn’t make it?
What I will say is that we always said in the writers’ room that if anyone felt safe, we weren’t doing justice to the era.

X Company‘s season finale airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on CBC.

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Denis McGrath on his WGC Screenwriting Award Nomination for Less Than Kind

DenisMcGrathThis year’s Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award winners will be announced on April 22. We’ve been catching up with many of the writers nominated in the comedy and drama categories. Denis McGrath was nominated for his episode of Less Than Kind, “Danger, Wrestling.”

Can you describe the episode “Danger, Wrestling” and how it fit into the Less Than Kind season?

It’s actually part of the “lost” 3rd season. As most people know, our beloved Sam Blecher, the great Maury Chaykin, passed away while we were writing Season 3. I wrote the first draft of “Danger, Wrestling” with a B-Plot featuring Sam. That had to be rewritten by the room eventually — and by that point I was on another show.  I went with my draft, which had some elegiac stuff with Sam that obviously, we weren’t able to use.

Other than that there’s fun stuff of Josh auditioning talent for his acting school — and Sheldon discovers the joys of wrestling.

What was the biggest triumph in this particular episode?

Well there’s two answers to that. Obviously for the show, the fact that they rallied and got the whole season made as a tribute to Maury and wound up with a beautiful exploration of how a family moves through grief — that’s so much greater than any individual contribution, and a testimony to the talent of Mark McKinney, the creators Marvin (Kaye) & Chris (Sheasgreen), and the team they put together.

But personally? I don’t write a lot of comedy … I’m mostly a drama writer. When I was considering whether to enter the script — I have to thank Karen Hill for that — I reread it for the first time in two years and really laughed. There’s  a wonderful subplot about Sam tracing the ups and downs of a piece of stock — and him coming to terms with selling it (for the same amount he bought it for 30 years ago) — but it’s really about him coming to terms with feeling his sons will be okay without him. I’d like to think that my strength as a drama writer is a light touch, and as a comedy writer, I go for the big cry. That’s a little messed up, isn’t it?

What does this recognition mean to you?

So much. I love LTK. It’s employed some of my best friends. Working on the show brought my fiancee and I together. I came from a family that yelled, with love … so I recognize those characters. I’ve had an incredibly lucky career and after winning a WGC Award for writing a drama show, it’s humbling and exciting to get nominated for comedy. And it’s a recognition by my writer peers, and that is incredibly important to me.

If there is one Canadian show that is no longer on the air that you could see honoured at this year’s awards, what would it be? (If you have a specific episode, even better).   

For the love of God, why has CBC not done a Street Legal reunion/reboot movie? I miss Chuck and Olivia. I can’t be alone on that one. But the truth is — they ALL should be honoured. From Wojeck to DaVinci to Intelligence to the first 30 years of Citytv we have made, and continued to make, wonderful TV in Canada. I think it’s sad that we only note that when the New York Times or some American publication says so.

There are such strong nominees this year. So many great scripts. I am so jazzed to be among that talent. Maybe I can make a go of this writing thing.

Less Than Kind is entering into its fourth and final season on The Movie Network/Movie Central in 2013. 

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