Sadly, the last of Hard Rock Medical is just over a week away. Yes, January 30 marks the final new instalment for TVO’s half-hour medical drama. (Thankfully you can catch up on this season and the past three via TVO’s website and the past three via APTN’s website.)
There’s a lot we’re going to miss about the series. Co-creators Smith Corindia (right in the above picture with series star Danielle Bourgon) and Derek Diorio (left) have attracted a whos-who of Canadian talent to drop by the show, like Jennifer Podemski, Marc Bendavid, Ron Lea, Michelle Thrush and, this season, Corner Gas‘ Eric Peterson alongside regulars in Andrea Menard, Tamara Duarte, Angela Asher, Jamie Spilchuk, Stephane Paquette and Pat McKenna. With dramatic storylines and humour jammed into 22-minute episodes, and Hard Rock Medical has done something very special over the past four seasons.
We spoke to Corindia and Diorio about the show’s journey and where they go from here.
OK, before we get into some more story-specific questions, let’s deal with the obvious one: whose decision was it that this be the last season of Hard Rock Medical? Was that TVO’s decision? Yours?
Derek Diorio: TVO has never been in the drama game. Over time, when we went back and when we originally pitched this, we convinced them to come in and we convinced them to bring in APTN [as a broadcaster]. It was a novel idea. From Day 1 TVO said, ‘We are not in the drama game.’ And two seasons in they said, ‘We are not in the drama game.’ I said to them, ‘You can’t just be a little bit pregnant. We are the drama.’ And they carried on because it’s a good deal for everybody. It’s certainly been a good deal for us because we got to make a TV show and in a very different way, I understand, from the way it’s done in Canada. We’ve had very few levels of broadcaster input. The commitment was always to do four seasons, we got through that and we are extremely happy about it.
Smith Corindia: Yes, and they were committed to us as well in terms of what our desires were for the show and seeing it through to the fourth season. Derek and I figured out a groove and a formula. Our budget was nowhere near those of other shows.
Four seasons of a show in any country is a triumph.
DD: It was hard. If you go to our website, that’s the one thing that comes up is ‘My god you did four seasons.’ We had a very good run and there is nothing to be displeased about.
I’ve been consistently impressed with the talent you get on the show, from Pat McKenna and Andrea Menard to guest stars like Eric Peterson. How have you been able to score this calibre of talent for four seasons?
SC: It’s almost like we had this theatre troupe mentality in terms of the actors’ commitment. And, of course, they were pleased with how we were developing their characters and the direction the series was going. I think word just got out. And, when people actually saw our show they basically wanted to be a part of it. I don’t think we had to do any real arm twisting to convince anybody.
DD: We had Ron Lea in the first season. I had never met Ron Lea. He showed up and we were having a conversation and I asked him why he chose to do it. He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, ‘When I saw the sides come across … I don’t see that kind of stuff at all.’ That’s what a lot of actors have said. They don’t get a chance to do the kinds of things we’re doing. On our set, actors get a chance to bring their own stuff to the party and they enjoy the process. And, we do our episodes in half the time that other shows do. They come in, they work and they like the environment. And, everybody got the same amount of money, which is not a lot. I wish we had the budget to pay them more because I think they’re underpaid for the most part.
Let’s get into some character story arcs. Farida’s [played by Rachelle Casseus] Season 4 story looks very interesting. She’s treating a young girl who is caught in the custody battle between her parents.
SC: We set Farida up in the first three seasons. And this season we set her up where we’re going to learn more about what she’s struggling with and the death of Erica. That’s going to trigger her past and it’s going to be a little bit of a slow unravelling of her past and what’s she’s dealing with, the grief and the moral issues that she is grappling with. And the character of Healy, who has had his own demons in the past is, appropriately, the one who puts things into perspective for her. Of course, she also got the situation with the family and the child [to deal with].
One of my favourite characters has been Charlie, played by Stephane Paquette. What can you say about what he goes through as we close out Season 4?
DD: Most of the stuff that happens to Charlie is stuff that has happened in my life in general except I’m not going to med school. Steph Paquette is a friend of mine and I’ve been working with him for 10 years or longer, mostly on French shows. We actually mine Steph’s life a lot. He’s a musician and he tours and he’s got so much baggage … the crazy stuff that happens to Charlie is the crazy stuff that happens to him. Steph was in Dubai once and was walking around and was told to be careful where he went. He decided to go into a shopping mall, but it was a women-only mall and he wasn’t supposed to be in there. Two seconds later he’s on the ground surrounded by guards. That’s Steph Paquette’s life. So, it wasn’t hard to ask, ‘What’s happened to you this week?’ And, as writers, you can go in that crazy direction with him because stuff always happens.
SC: The first two years, we found there was more humour within the Charlie character and within the show. We found with Seasons 3 and 4, it became more mature and less humorous. I think that’s because of the stories but there are still classic Charlie scenarios that lend itself to humour. And he’s the guy we had to find humour with. We’ve always been a drama, but we’re a half-hour drama and that’s where it gets tricky because no one is really doing that except on Netflix or HBO.
So, does everyone graduate from Hard Rock U at the end of this season?
DD: That will be up to the viewer to decide, whether people graduate or not. Let’s say the bulk of them will. It’s not tied up with a nice bow but I would say the viewers will walk away satisfied.
Smith, in an email to us you hinted at Hard Rock Docs. Were you joking or will there be a spinoff? What’s next?
SC: We feel we’ve created a show that is very inclusive and diverse that has been well-reviewed with franchise possibilities. We would love to continue the journey and would be open to any broadcaster having us come in to pitch and be part of our next idea… we’re just sayin’…
Hard Rock Medical airs Tuesdays with back-to-back episodes at 9 and 9:30 p.m. ET on TVO. Episodes are available for streaming at tvo.org the day after each new broadcast.
Images courtesy of TVO.