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Preview: Hudson & Rex returns for Season 4 with a new look and feel

I like Hudson & Rex for a few reasons.

First, its cast is top-rate. From John Reardon, Mayko Nguyen, Kevin Hanchard and Justin Kelly to Diesel vom Burgimwald on down, everyone on the call sheet is enjoyable to watch. Secondly, the writing team is truly gifted. Led by showrunner Peter Mitchell, they craft stories that are believable, have real dramatic stakes and a pinch of humour thrown in. And third, that stellar Newfoundland setting and the crew that works it. Every episode is a love letter to that part of Canada, no matter how dark the crime may be.

Returning Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern on Citytv, here’s the official synopsis for “Sid and Nancy,” written by Peter Mitchell and directed by Gary Harvey:

When two hikers are discovered murdered near a remote coastal trail, the team is on the hunt for a fugitive duo wanted in a series of grisly campsite murders.

And here are some non-spoilery notes from me after watching a screener of the episode.

A new setting…
As I mentioned above, all the main players are back in Season 4. But, there is a big change within minutes of Episode 1. The Major Crimes team is on the road and reporting out of a mobile unit.

“It keeps all of us together and takes us out into the field more and in the office less,” Reardon says in the Season 4 press kit. “Having the team together adds a new element of storytelling and it showcases Newfoundland even more than we have in the past. I think it makes the show more dynamic because we’re all in communication with each other, we’re responding in real-time, and solving the case in real-time instead of regularly coming back to the office to regroup.”

… and a new vibe
I totally agree with Reardon’s statement. There is an energy, sometimes frantic, in Thursday’s return, that has been added to Hudson & Rex. It just feels like there is more at stake and more opportunity for conflict between local police forces that don’t appreciate the big-city unit rolling onto their turf.

A little spark?
Over the past three seasons, Hudson & Rex has faintly hinted at an emotional connection between Charlie and Sarah. Judging by a scene on Thursday, the needle may be headed into “strongly hinting.”

Hudson & Rex airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Derm Carberry for Shaftesbury and Pope Productions.

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Hudson & Rex: John Reardon and Mayko Nguyen discuss Season 3

The third season of Hudson & Rex returns on Tuesday with an episode new and veteran fans will love. Entitled “The Hunt,” the instalment serves as the show’s origin story, revealing how Charlie (John Reardon) and Rex (Diesel vom Burgimwald) became partners. Charlie recalls the story to Sarah (Mayko Nguyen) and we view the emotional adventure through flashbacks.

It’s a powerful episode of television, and the perfect kickoff to Season 3. We spoke to stars John Reardon and Mayko Nguyen about the evolution of Hudson & Rex, and what fans can expect this season.

How did COVID-19 affect production on Season 3?
Mayko Nguyen: I’m not going to lie, coming out of strict isolation and then being out in the world which you could be out here at that time and then being on set, being around people, it was a bit jarring for sure. But I felt confident in the measures that we were taking. We’ve shot outside a lot more this year. You know, the adjustment of wearing the masks. It’s funny. It’s just like anything else, it takes a bit, and sometimes you have people who are like, ‘Ugh,’ but then it’s like, you’re just wearing a mask. It’s not a big deal. And then you get used to it. Like now I feel weird when I don’t have the mask on. I feel like I’m missing something. So, I think it’s, again, it’s just like any transition, you just get used to it and I think we’re all happy to be there and happy to do it for the sake of getting to work.

John Reardon: I feel very fortunate that we’re able to be working right now. We’ve been working since July, I think one of the first productions in North America to come back. It’s something that we don’t take for granted because the situation in so many places is very tough for people right now. So, it’s pretty special to have people wanting to see the show and being able to keep it going. I’m definitely excited to get it on the air.

The first episode of this third season really, really well done. It was enjoyable to get the true origin story of how Charlie and Rex became partners, even if it was a tragedy that brought them together.
MN: We had a screening for the cast of that one episode. I think we do really well with this show because there’s a lot of heart, and I feel like that’s unavoidable when you have a dog who is working to help people, that’s just unavoidable, but that episode in particular … oh man, it’s just gut-wrenching. And you see how Rex and Charlie develop the start of that relationship and that also is … oh, it’s such a good episode and I was really excited when I read it for the first time because it is a departure from the standard structure of our show and it’s a special episode and I’m really glad because of course, of course, we want to know how Charlie and Rex started out, right?

JR: I remember reading that episode for the first time about a month before we went to camera and just thinking how much I felt the audience would enjoy it because they’re going to see the sneak peek of how Rex and Charlie meet and how everybody interacted before Rex was there and then sort of see where that relationship starts. I’m really happy with how it turned out and I think everybody is and so I hope people really respond to it well.

Watching the first episode, I feel like the show has confidence going into Season 3. Do you feel that?
JR: Yeah, I do. I definitely feel like I learn more about Charlie every year and I think what’s great is when we have an episode like this and we also have a few other episodes later in the season that has sort of personal stakes or alludes to our characters’ history. I think when we add that stuff in, it helps build the character even more. Things that we might not have known as the actor comes to light and then that adds an extra layer to them. In our very first episode, ‘The Hunt,’ we allude a little bit to how Charlie and Rex met, but when you infuse it with all the heart from that episode and all the scenes that we shot and you create that history, then that I feel that lives on in the future episodes as well. I think it just adds to the DNA of the show.

There are 10 directors during this season of Hudson & Rex. One of them is Tracey Deer. She’s an amazing person and director. What was it like working with her?
JR: I hadn’t worked with her before, but she’s fabulous and I really enjoyed working with her. She’s a very intelligent, very thoughtful director, and puts a lot of thought into how really small things can make a huge difference in the tone of the story. She looks at it not just at the macrocosm, but also the microcosm of everything and that’s great because it just gives you more and more stuff to play with. She’s a lovely person and I really, really enjoyed working with her. She’s very talented.

Mayko, what can you say about Sarah’s journey this season?
MN: There’s stuff going on in Sarah’s life for sure. I think that that first episode is an example of it, sort of cementing this friendship with Charlie and the rest of the team. But, you know, in that first episode, Charlie lets her in on this very special, private thing that he does, this annual thing that she gets to be part of that, and I think I feel very honoured to get be, to have that shared with me. I feel like every season we’re deepening that friendship and deepening those relationships, I feel and maybe this is what you’re picking up on, but the team does feel that much more cohesive this year and I don’t know how to articulate why or what that is, but it feels much more tight-knit and we’ve got some episodes for sure where we’re working even harder as a team to figure out some of these cases.

Hudson and Rex airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Shaftesbury.

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Hudson & Rex’s Sherri Davis fetches some info on the show’s canine co-star

Diesel vom Burgimwald is No. 1 on the Hudson & Rex call sheet. That’s because he’s in almost every scene being filmed. And, unlike his human co-stars, Diesel—who is one of three German Shepherds who portray Rex on Citytv’s canine-and-cops drama—has someone helping train him.

Meet Sherri Davis, who has trained and supplied a menagerie of animals to the film and television industry for 25 years. We spoke to Davis about Diesel vom Burgimwald, and the work that goes into prepping him—and his nephews—for primetime TV.

Give me a little bit of background Sherri. How did you get involved in Hudson and Rex in the first place?
Sherri Davis: I’ve been in film for over 25 years and about seven years ago they came to me with the script for Hudson & Rex. They thought it might take off and it didn’t come to head. So, seven years later I got a call and they’re like, ‘You still got your shepherds?’ I was like, ‘Yep.’

They came out and we looked at the shepherds. My shepherds at the time were very black. I had just gotten Diesel a week prior to them coming out. He knew absolutely nothing. One of my staff brought Diesel up because I was going to start training him. Originally on the show, it was a very different looking shepherd.

I’ve heard that there’s more than one shepherd being used during production.
SD: Yes, there’s Diesel and Izzy and Iko. Izzy and Iko are Diesel’s nephews. This bloodline is a bloodline from Germany. The dogs are extremely consistent in looks. In fact, these go back 15 generations to the original Rex, which was a pure fluke. I did not know that. The breeder figured that one out.

What kind of a journey has it been from taking Diesel from not being trained to being trained? Is that a month journey? Is it a year journey? Is it still going on?
SD: It’s still going on. We were training every day for 10 hours a day. Even to this day, I’m teaching him to sneeze. So he’s learning new things every day and it’s been over a year now.

When you’re teaching Diesel how to sneeze, is that so that you’ve got something that you can say to showrunner Derek Schreyer? Or are you doing it because it’s in an upcoming script? 
SD: It’s in a script and I’m like, ‘You want him to sneeze? Are you kidding me?’ I get the script and I break them down and then we work five days a week on set and they’re usually 12 to 14 hour days that we’re on set for. And then, on the weekends, we do about eight hours of prep for the upcoming script.

This is the first time the writers have written for a dog. Nobody really knew how far we could push Diesel. We’ve really worked on his training, so now it’s jumping out of the car windows and it’s traversing along a two by four and climbing a ladder.  In any of the shows in the past, the dog has not been your key cast.

When did you find out that you had a relationship with animals?
SD:  My grandparents, my great-grandparents, they always had animals and we’d go out to the farm and everybody would be in the house and I will be out with the dogs or the horses or the cows. I got my first dog when I was five and I’ve had dogs ever since. I work with dogs, cats, rats, mice, rabbits, skunks, raccoons horses, sheep. Maybe I’m part animal.

It just comes very natural and, and somewhat easy for me to relate to the animals and, and train them. And you know, I think it’s a respect thing. You respect me and I respect you.

Hudson & Rex airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

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Citytv’s Hudson & Rex takes a bite out of crime

An age-old adage says that you should never work with kids or animals in the entertainment business. But for actor John Reardon, it’s been a dream being part of Hudson & Rex … and a case of coincidence or maybe fate.

“My wife and I, we just had a little boy named Hudson,” Reardon says with a laugh from St. John’s. “He was probably about 10 months old when I first received the script.” The actor, a Halifax native who has appeared in shows like Arctic Air, Continuum and Van Helsing, stars alongside a German Shepherd named Diesel vom Burgimwald.

Debuting Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv, Hudson & Rex follows the partnership between Major Crimes detective Charlie Hudson (Reardon) and his partner, Rex (Diesel vom Burgimwald), a canine with heightened senses. Based on the Austrian drama Inspector Rex, the drama also stars Mayko Nguyen, Kevin Hanchard and Justin Kelly. In the premiere, Rex proves himself as a member of the Major Crimes team when he tails a kidnapper. We spoke to Reardon during a break in production.

How has production on Season 1 been going so far?
John Reardon: It’s been going great. We are just finished up our twelfth episode right now of 16. We had a nice long break over Christmas and I got to go back and see my folks in Halifax. We’ve been having a great time filming in St John’s. We’ve shot a lot of the famous locations here, like Signal Hill and along the row houses. And we’ve been really lucky with some amazing locations, the landscape here is really unique and beautiful. We’ve been braving the winter elements, as well.

I think you also ran in that little park just by the Terry Fox statue as well, in Episode 1.
JR: That’s right. That was actually one of our very first locations. Episode 1 was actually the third episode that we shot. But yeah, it was one of our first locations down there, it was beautiful.

The classic adage is not to work with kids and not to work with animals. Despite that, here you are with a canine co-star. How did Hudson & Rex all come about? 
JR: I got a script … my wife and I, we just had a little boy named Hudson. He was probably about 10 months old when I first received the script. And my wife and I had just bought a place in L.A. We’d been living at Venice Beach for a lot of years and then we bought a place more in the suburbs when Hudson was born. We were in the process of moving the bags into our house, we had been there for I think maybe two days when I got the script. And I remember my wife read the script first because I had to run out and do a few errands and I came back and she said, ‘I think you have to do this show because your character’s name is Charlie Hudson.’ There was definitely a little bit of—I don’t know if serendipity’s the right word— but it definitely got my attention and then I read the script and I loved it.

And yeah as you say, people say working with animals definitely can be a challenge but that actually was a huge plus for me, because I love dogs, I grew up with them. But I’m just so impressed with what he’s capable of doing and what the trainers are capable of having him do. He keeps you on your toes a little bit because, you know, he’s a dog and he will sometimes do things that you just completely don’t expect. It makes it fun, it makes it a lot of fun.

Can Diesel only work a certain number of hours and then you have to shut things down, or he has to take a break? 
JR: I’m not sure what the restriction is. They make sure that he has plenty of rest during the day. There are actually three dogs, so they make sure that Izzy or Ico, who are the other two dogs who are actually his nephews. They will come in at times to make sure that he is having breaks, that he’s not on set for too long. That he’s getting rest, and often times they’ll do a lot of the more stunt type stuff, just to protect him to make sure because he has been trained the most thoroughly. They’re very careful about that, they take really good care of him and we very often see him in his downtime having a little nap over in his trailer. [Laughs.]

He’s got a better life than the actors.
JR: Yeah, he lives well.

What I found very interesting and very different, is that the show just starts with the crime, and you don’t learn about how Rex and Hudson got together until midway through the episode. I enjoyed the wait.
JR: That’s exactly what I think the writers were going for, something where the action kicks off right away, and the relationship component of the story I think is much more interesting once you do know the characters a little bit. It’s kind of nice that we get into the story, we see the characters working together at the police station and Rex, and then as you get to know us you start to get the backstory and people care about it. We like to have a large component of action and then a large component of the relationship stuff, which we call action with heart.

I was also surprised at how quickly we’re introduced to the rest of the team. Again, I was expecting that the focus was going to be Charlie and Rex when the reality is in the first episode they spend very little time together.
JR: It’s really a show about a team and everybody has their strengths and brings something unique to the team. You see all the people that you’re going to start to get to know and have them be together and see their relationships from the start.

The showrunner for Hudson & Rex is Ken Cuperus. I know him mainly from children’s programming. What’s he been like to work with?
JR: He’s great, I love working with Ken. One of the things I love is he’s very collaborative and he likes to get to know us actors, and he watches us on set to see how we interact with each other. And then he will often write to that a little bit, so he likes to find little things in our relationship that we have in real life. Not a lot, but he will just add little things here and there. And it’s nice because then you’re like, ‘Oh this character has more and more of me in it each time I read the script.’ And he’s a great a writer and mixes action and more of the relationship stuff really well.

Going through this guest cast, you’ve got Greg Bryk and Jeremy Ratchford and Tamara Duarte in Episode 1, I know that Lauren Lee Smith is in an episode later, as well as Anastasia Phillips, Tony Nappo and Kristin Booth. This is a who’s who of Canadian talent that’s dropping by to play in your sandbox.
JR: Every single episode, every single character, we were so fortunate to have these great actors come in. First of all I feel very thankful to have the opportunity to work with them. And then it’s just fun because we have been based on the West Coast for so long, I haven’t had an opportunity to work with a lot of these actors. I know them so well but I hadn’t had a chance to work with them personally because so many of them come from Toronto. It’s great to meet the actor behind the characters, and the great thing too is that all the actors that come in are obviously very talented but they’re great people.

Hudson & Rex airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.

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