Tag Archives: Discovery Canada

Frontier: Writer and co-executive producer Kerri MacDonald previews Season 3

Just in time for the chilly days of winter, Season 3 of Frontier blows into town on Discovery.

Returning Friday at 10 p.m. ET with two back-to-back episodes, the Canadian original once again crashes through the brush with its tales of adventure, heroics and bloodshed among feuding fur traders and trading companies. What can fans look forward to when Frontier checks in later this week? The Hudson’s Bay Company is cracking heads and Declan Harp (Jason Momoa) is on a mission to rescue Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle) from Lord Benton’s (Alun Armstrong) clutches. Meanwhile, Sokanon (Jessica Matten) plots to free Indigenous women from being bought and sold around James Bay.

For more insight into Frontier, we turned to writer and co-executive producer Kerri MacDonald for more details and behind-the-scenes scoop!

So talk a little bit about working with co-creators Rob and Peter Blackie. What’s it like working with those two?
Kerri MacDonald: Oh, my God, it’s the most fun ever. It truly, truly is. I love working with those guys. They operate … it’s funny to work with people who are very close as siblings, right? They have a very specific relationship. They do have a very specific brotherly relationship, which makes for an enormous amount of laughter and humour in [the writing] room for sure.

As a creative unit, I love working with them because they do have really very much a shared vision for the show, and when you talk to one, you’re talking to the other in that way. It’s really comfortable and it’s really great because like I said, they know what they want for the show, and it’s my job then to support it, and then to laugh at all of their hilarious jokes in the room.

Does working on Frontier include some research that you had to do, some deep dives into the history of Canada to formulate these characters?
KMD: Yeah, the boys did a lot of research out of the gate about the time and the trade, and the players involved. I think the show was never intended to be something that was built on the accuracy of some sort of historical engine. It was always meant to be an action/adventure series with the trade as the backdrop. So that in and of itself was interesting because we were building a world. We were building a world in a way that we hadn’t before for sure with the other shows that we’ve done. That was really, really interesting.

As far as the way people talk in our world can slide into feeling very contemporary. There was a conscious choice early on not to be super formal with the dialogue. That was sort of helpful in some ways because you’re not tied to certain types of speaking.

Now, of course, certain characters in the show, like Lord Benton, or we have a new character that we are introducing this season by the name of Lord Fisher, played by Jay Simpson. These guys, of course, are aristocratic, well-born, and well-learned men, so of course, they speak differently. They speak more formally. Then, of course, you have our Scottish guys, who use all kinds of great colloquialisms and stuff.

For me, I find tapping into my voice as a Newfoundlander is one of my strongest points in terms of voicing. Newfoundland is an incredibly unique place, and therefore my voice, my experience, my family, the place I grew up, all of that sort of informs how I write. It’s a really fun show to write. The characters are all so different, and all so rich, and all have such different voices that I embrace that challenge of that sometimes.

Jessica Matten as Sokanon

Not only are the characters rich, but the wardrobe and the sets are just incredible. It’s one thing to write those scripts, but I would imagine as the actors and actresses get into their clothing and get into those sets, man, it just really helps them get into their characters.
KMD: Oh, yeah, 100 per cent. Our costumes are magnificent and they’re hand-sewn, and they have weights, and function, and all of those things that would help anybody sort of step into another time. Absolutely. We have an incredible crew of people, and the people who make those decisions, Michael Ground and Gord Barnes, just like really spectacular work.

How many were there in the writers’ room, aside from yourself and the Blackies in Season 3?
KMD: It was me and the Blackies and Sherry White and Chris Roberts and Russ Cochran and Michelle Latimer.

After you spent time in the room, you’re batting around ideas, you’ve worked out the beats for the episode and that type of thing, and then you go off by yourself to write an episode, are you the type where you can go to a coffee shop and write or do you need a room that’s quiet to write? 
KMD: For me personally, I am a real creature of habit. I find when I’m writing a script, there’s sort of levels to it. There’s the stuff that if I’m feeling challenged on that day I’ll write the easy stuff, or if I’m really digging into it, I can write the difficult stuff. I find that not everywhere is easy to write sometimes, but my favourite place to write is literally on my couch in my basement in front of my television. Like everything I write, I say to my friends all the time, it’s quite funny, that anything I’ve ever written has basically been in a four-foot square space in my basement.

Is the TV on or is it off?
KMD: Oh no, it’s on. I always have the TV on. I’m an only child. I was raised partially by television, so it’s not unusual for television to be always on in my house, even if I’m not.

One of the characters that I’ve been fascinated with is Cobbs Pond, played by Greg Bryk. I spoke to him last year, and he just loved talking about playing this twisted character, this crazy character, and just being able to unleash the inner madman in him.
KMD: Pond is one definitely of our most interesting characters on the show. He’s in some ways … he’s boundary-less in a lot of ways, so for that, he’s a really fun character to write, because he’s really unpredictable and kind of all bets are off with him.

Something that sort of happened this season is that some of the storylines have broken away from this main thrust of Harp, so that’s allowed us to open up the world and cross over the characters in interesting sort of new dynamics, so this season you’ll see Pond in a bit of a different position, and you’ll see him from a slightly different angle, but that doesn’t mean you should settle into him being anything different than you know.

Zoe Boyle as Grace Emberly

Is there a character that you particularly find that you’re able to find their voice for quickly? Is it Pond? Is it Harp? Is it another character that you really like to write for?
KMD: One of my favourite characters to write for is Malcolm Brown [played by Michael Patric]. Malcolm always says what’s on his mind, and he’s never really hiding anything, he’s kind of blustery and old, and it’s kind of fun that way because there are certain characters that have certain levels of restraint in this show, and sort of societal boundaries, but Malcolm doesn’t really, and he’s fun to write that way. He’s a bit of an id.

Writing for the female characters on the show is a treat. History wasn’t kind to women during that period, and being able to bring to life these ladies who are such survivors, who maintain their agency at any cost while remaining at the mercy of the men around them, is an exquisitely fun job. And when you’re lucky enough to have the extraordinary talent of the actresses we have on our show, it’s thrilling to see these badass ladies kicking Frontier ass all over the place. They are so inspiring.

What can you say about working with Jason Momoa?
KMD: Jason’s great. I haven’t had a lot of close interaction with him really. It’s just sort of a here and there, but I had the chance last season to kind of work with him a little bit more, and he’s a terrific collaborator and really genuinely excited about that character, so when you write for him, all you wanna know is whether or not he really likes it.

He knows what he wants. Nobody knows Declan Harp really more than Jason Momoa, and he brings him to life in a way that I certainly couldn’t, to be honest. He and Pete work really, really closely on his character, and I sort of defer to whatever the guys want, because they know that character, they know how to tell that story really, really well.

I just really, really liked working with Jason. It was a really awesome treat.

Frontier airs Fridays at 10 and 11 p.m. ET on Discovery.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Discovery Canada renews Thunderbird Entertainment’s Highway Thru Hell for an eighth season

From a media release:

Thunderbird Entertainment Group Inc. (TSXV:TBRD) (“Thunderbird” or the “Company”), a global multiplatform entertainment company with offices in Los AngelesLondonVancouverOttawa and Toronto, is pleased to announce the hit series Highway Thru Hell has been commissioned for an eighth season on Discovery Canada. The new season will consist of 17 inspiring episodes and begin airing in late 2019.

Highway Thru Hell follows the heroes of the highway as they fight to keep some of the most economically important and inhospitable trucking routes in North America open to traffic. The current season airs Tuesday nights on Discovery Canada. Highway Thru Hell is Discovery’s most-watched factual series, dominating Canadian entertainment specialty channels in its timeslot.

Thunderbird has produced more than 100 episodes of Highway Thru Hell and its spinoff series Heavy Rescue 401. The series can be watched in over a dozen languages in more than 170 countries worldwide.

Series executive producer Mark Miller, who is also the president of Thunderbird Entertainment, attributes the success of Highway Thru Hell to its cinematic storytelling and rich character development. “This series has raised the bar for factual documentaries around the world. In addition to attracting top ratings on Discovery in Canada, it is also a worldwide staple on Netflix,” he explains. “Viewers connect with the day-to-day struggles of these heroes of the highway, which makes their stories highly relatable and visually entertaining.”

Highway Thru Hell has consistently attracted impressive audiences, ranking as a Top 10 series on entertainment specialty television in Canada for total viewers and the A25-54 demographic. The series has made Discovery Canada the most-watched entertainment specialty channel in its timeslot among total viewers as well as the A25-54 and A18-49 demographics.

Highway Thru Hell is produced by Thunderbird Entertainment Group Inc. in association with Discovery Canada. Wendy McKernan is the producer and Neil Thomas the series producer.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Daily Planet cancelled at Discovery Canada

It’s the end of the road for Daily Planet. No more “High-Tech Toys Week,” no more “Shark Week,” no more daily science updates from hosts Ziya Tong and Dan Riskin. Bell Media announced is has chosen not to renew the long-running Discovery series after 23 seasons.

“To our viewers, we will always love and appreciate the support you gave us every night at 7e/4p,” a tweet from the show’s Twitter page read on Wednesday afternoon. “From @ziyatong, @riskindan and the @dailyplanetshow family, thank you for watching.”

 

Co-host Ziya Tong followed up with her own message:

 

Co-host Dan Riskin also took to Twitter to say his goodbye:

 

“This programming change reflects the significant financial pressures Bell Media faces in a broadcasting industry defined by growing international competition, evolving viewing options, and an uncertain regulatory framework,” read a statement sent from Bell Media on Wednesday.

Debuting as @discovery.ca in 1995 with host Jay Ingram, the program was renamed Daily Planet in 2002. Ingram exited Daily Planet in 2011 after 16 years at the helm. Past hosts have included Judy Haladay, Gill Deacon, Natasha Stillwell and Valerie Pringle. The program captured a Canadian Screen Award in 2017 for Best News for Information Series.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Cold Water Cowboys returns for more danger and drama in Season 4

Being a fisherman off the coast of Newfoundland is a dangerous career. Being injured by machinery or a sharp object is always a concern. If something bad happens, you might be hours away from shore. And if things go really bad, you’re dead.

Filming what goes on aboard a fishing boat off the coast of Newfoundland is just as dangerous. Just ask showrunner Maria Knight, whose small team captures dramatic and triumphant footage for Cold Water Cowboys, returning for Season 4 this Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Discovery.

“It’s not easy for my guys on a lot of levels,” says Knight. “They’ve all received emergency training—they can’t get on the boat without it—and they’re on a boat. It may look majestic on TV with them on the ocean, but there’s not a lot of space and it’s constantly moving. It puts the guys through a major workout.” Each boat has two men capturing footage for Cold Water Cowboys and keeping track of possible story angles for the season. And while other series have the crew heading home or to a hotel after a long day of work, these guys sleep on the boat, below with the crew. It might not be comfortable, but Knight says it builds trust between her team and the men on board.

Capt. Paul Tiller (right) and the crew of the Atlantic Bandit

In Tuesday’s Season 4 debut, a trio of tales keeps viewers engaged. Capt. Rick Crane wonders if he’s returned to the job and Crane’s Legacy too soon following the death of his grandfather … and rubs first mate Rope the wrong way; Capt. Paul Tiller takes the Atlantic Bandit the furthest he’s ever gone in search of crab; and pack ice threatens to tear up Capt. Morris Anstey’s equipment and The Sebastian Sails before the season even gets started.

Knight joined Paperny Entertainment after stints at Warner Bros. and CNBC in Los Angeles, and MasterChef Canada and was immediately drawn in by Cold Water Cowboys.

“I was captivated by it, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen,” she says. “I used to be a documentary producer at CBC, so that really resonated with me. But it’s exciting as well. You have the excitement of Deadliest Catch with the factual documentary style.” She’s right. That mix of danger, alternating with the colourful characters (and language) from Newfoundland makes for a wildly entertaining series. But’s it’s a logistical nightmare for those who make it. Five boats means five crews of two are at sea filming. Each of the eight episodes spotlights three boats and three storylines. That means a trio of story editors and editors piecing a ton of footage together to tell an engaging narrative that makes sense.

“You have to make sure all the trains are leaving the station on time,” Knight says with a laugh. Or, in the case of Cold Water Cowboys, the boats all leaving the dock.

Cold Water Cowboys airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Discovery.

Images courtesy of Bell Media. 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Ontario’s highways thru hell star in Discovery’s Heavy Rescue: 401

Anyone who relies on Ontario’s 400-series highways knows that, at the best of times, you’ll fly along to your destination. But throw in some weather or boneheaded move by a fellow driver and chaos ensues. That’s what’s captured in Heavy Rescue: 401.

Debuting Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Discovery Canada—and from the same folks behind Highway Thru Hell, Heavy Rescue: 401 tracks the tow truck drivers, provincial police and emergency personnel who work long hours in dangerous conditions to keep cars and trucks full of precious cargo—human, animal and product—safe and on to their destinations. Yes, the west coast’s Coquihalla highway has snow and high peaks, but Ontario’s roads have their own challenges.

“I would fly into Toronto for meetings at Discovery and would drive from the airport and see guys smashing into each other in front of me,” executive producer Mark Miller says. “I’d get to Discovery and tell everyone about the hell I had just been through and they’d say, ‘Yeah, we go through that every day.’ We spoke to tow truck drivers that work the roads and quickly realized there was something there. It was different enough that it makes for a really cool series.” Miller likens the 401 to a spine with manufacturing plants and factories attached to it; the sheer number of tractor trailers needed to transport supplies along that route means jam-packed lanes and accidents waiting to happen.

“It’s all about time,” says longtime Abrams Towing driver John Allen (pictured above), one of several drivers featured in Heavy Rescue: 401. “You have auto parts going to Oshawa, auto parts going out to Windsor. If they get tied up, it’s costing GM or Chrysler or whoever is doing the manufacturing millions of dollars because they don’t have the storage capacity. Their storage is the trucks coming in.” Tuesday’s debut episode wastes no time showing what happens when snowy conditions and several lanes of traffic mix: a multi-vehicle accident has shut down part of the 401 and Allen is among the drivers rushing to the scene. Other companies followed in Season 1’s episodes include Herb’s Towing, Preferred Towing, Ross Services, Steve’s Towing, Classic Heavy Towing and Metro Towing.

Allen, with over 25 years in the towing business, has seen it all on Ontario’s roads and isn’t fazed by the fact he’s about to become a TV star. Instead, he’s more interested in educating viewers about the dangers involved in his profession.

“Part of what I want to get out of this show is for drivers to slow down, move over and give us a little space,” Allen says. “One tow truck driver is killed every six days in North America. That’s more than police officers, firefighters and ambulance drivers put together.” Injuries and death, he says, occur when a tow truck operator is crushed between vehicles or in what he refers to as “the 30 feet of kill zone” between his door and the back of the truck working in an active traffic lane and totally unprotected.

“Not even one in 10 drivers will move over and give me room,” Allen says. “I was watching the episode back and was getting scared! Give me some space in my workplace … that’s all I ask.”

Heavy Rescue: 401 airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Discovery Canada.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail