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Saving Hope’s Erica Durance: “It’s mayhem at the hospital”

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have watched Saving Hope Episode 501, “Doctor Dustiny.”

Well, Saving Hope fans, what’s your reaction to Sunday’s Season 5 return? What started out wonderfully—Charlie (Michael Shanks) proposed to Alex (Erica Durance)—crashed and burned by the end, with her giving the ring back and walking away. Fans may not be happy about that story angle, but Durance couldn’t be more thrilled. As an actor, she relishes a challenge and Alex’s change of heart is exactly that.

We spoke to Durance over the phone; she gave us some exclusive scoop into what Alex does next, the effect Dr. Manny (Jarod Joseph)—and characters played by Greg Bryk and Missy Peregrym—have on Alex’s life, and how she can operate on you if the situation called for it.

This first episode of Season 5, “Doctor Dustiny,” certainly begins dramatically. Charlie was shot by Crenshaw, Crenshaw is dead and then Charlie proposes to Alex.
Erica Durance: I know. We thought we’d hit all of the most important things at the get-go and get fans excited. It just sets our show off at a faster pace. We have a lot of story to tell and only 17 episodes after the first one to tell them.

So, Charlie proposes—something the fans have wanted since Season 1—but by the end of the episode Alex is giving him his ring back. What was your reaction reading that in the first script?
Oh, I laughed. I thought it was fantastic. I love it when they surprise me. I’m one of those actors who like the twists and turns and the unpredictable and the challenge of starting in one specific place and by the end of it, she’s giving his ring back. How am I going to get to that point emotionally? I like the challenge of it and it gives the audience a glimpse into what’s to come in the rest of the season. This character goes on this final little journey. It’s mayhem at the hospital.

The writers told me it’s fun to have Alex and Charlie together for a bit, but then it gets boring. That roller coaster must be a lot more fun than being cuddly and happy all the time.
Exactly. I said, ‘Listen, if you put us together and have us play board games, I’m going to lose my mind.’ I don’t like drama in my real life, but I want pretend drama. I want conflict and I want my character to be unpredictable and get to go on that journey.

During my set visit, I was shown a motorcycle. Apparently, it’s Alex’s motorcycle. Is that true?
Yes, sir.

Do you ride it?
Alex rides a little bit, but not much because, by that point, I had let everyone know I was pregnant. I wanted to ride, but no one would let me ride! Slightly outside of her form, which is what’s fun about it, is that she decides to take that on because it’s something she’s always wanted to do. Because of the decision, she’s made with Charlie, she’s exploring some avenues. She’s always been the good girl and has always done the right thing. She’s tempting fate a little bit.

Being able to play another layer of Alex must be exciting.
It’s funny because you’ll have some actors on-set that don’t want a whole lot of conflict and want everything explained perfectly. I don’t want everything explained, I want it to be messy because that’s what we’re like in real life. I would get into these little debates with people at work. It doesn’t have to make sense because, often, we don’t make sense as people. We run off of emotion and do dramatically different things than we say we’re going to do.

Does Alex get a tattoo? A piercing? How far does she go?
Oh god, I pitched it! You’ll just have to watch and see! [Laughs.] If they had taken on what I wanted to do, it would have been very different. I don’t know what people would have thought of Alex but I would have had a great time.

Let’s talk about a few new characters this season. How does the new CEO, played by Joe Dinicol, affect day-to-day life at Hope Zion?
He interacts mainly with Dawn [Michelle Nolden], who goes head-to-head with him. It’s very interesting because she’s always used to having power and this upstart comes in and kind of takes over. He is in there to cut costs and fix things and creates a lot of chaos. People lose their jobs and he starts to hit on one of the doctors there.

What can you say about Alex and Dr. Manny, played by Jarod Joseph? We saw him briefly on Sunday night.
Manny is a character that makes Alex laugh and she has a lot of fun with him. He is a different kind of dynamic for her, so I think the audience will really love to see unfold and where it ends up going for her.

There are several guest stars this season. What can you tell me about Greg Bryk’s character?
That was a completely different kind of storyline for us. It was a little bit of a departure because he brought a little more danger to the episode and to Alex. She has to track this guy down and he’s in the witness protection program, and she has to try and convince him to save his son. Again, danger, and some comedy and a heartrending story. Greg is such a lovely actor.

What about Missy Peregrym? Anything you can tell us about her character?
Missy and I worked on a couple of episodes together and she challenges Alex in a completely different way. It was like working with a sister, we had this wonderful banter and had this sarcastic back and forth that I’ve never had before.

What will you miss about Saving Hope?
I’ll desperately, desperately miss my cast and crew, the people who worked with me on a day-to-day basis. They made me laugh so much. I’m actually going to miss all of the medical stuff that we learned. Our medical consultant, Bryce Taylor, he was a chief of surgery, and he’s in there working with us and teaching me how to suture. I was always learning something every week.

If there was a medical emergency and someone needed a stitch or two, could you do it?
Yes! I’ve learned enough to cut you open without cutting any vitals and take things out. I don’t know if I can replace anything, but I can stitch you back up!

Saving Hope airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Link: Erica Durance hangs up her scalpel

From Tony Wong of the Toronto Star:

Link: Erica Durance hangs up her scalpel
“It was difficult, but we finished in this one set that was a favourite of ours and the cast was in the final scene. I wasn’t sure how we would be able to end it at first. I did know we wanted to stay true to our characters. And I think it was written so beautifully, it was a fall to your knees moment.” Continue reading.

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Link: Saving Hope’s Erica Durance on her directorial debut

From Christy Spratlin of The TV Junkies:

Saving Hope’s Erica Durance on her directorial debut
“I personally like being behind the camera quite a bit. One of the reasons that I fell in love with the business is all of the work that it takes to get that one moment. I find everything that’s happening behind the scenes quite fascinating. So me being behind the camera experiencing it all, and having all of their help and support and seeing all the things from that perspective was awesome. Then seeing the whole project through editing, and how important the whole process is, it gives you a whole other perspective of things. It was really great.” Continue reading.

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CTV orders Season 5 of Saving Hope

From a media release:

– Eighteen new episodes have been ordered for CTV’s 2016/17 broadcast season from ICF Films and Entertainment One with production on Season 5 set to begin Spring 2016 in Toronto –
– New episodes from SAVING HOPE’s current fourth season return in a new Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT timeslot beginning January 7 on CTV and the CTV GO app –
– Love is in the air for SAVING HOPE as Season 4 will conclude with a special two-hour finale event on Valentine’s Day, Sunday, Feb. 14, beginning at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV and the CTV GO app –
– New episodes of SAVING HOPE continue to be available the day before their broadcast premieres on CraveTVTM, with the first three seasons also streaming now –

CTV confirmed today that is has ordered 18 new episodes for a fifth season of hit original series SAVING HOPE (@SavingHopeTV), from Ilana Frank’s ICF Films and Entertainment One (eOne) for CTV’s 2016/17 broadcast season. The most-watched Canadian drama this fall will begin production in Spring 2016 in Toronto and will see the return of series leads Erica Durance as Dr. Alex Reid and Michael Shanks as Dr. Charlie Harris. The Season 5 order comes as Season 4 episodes are set to return in a new Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT timeslot beginning Jan. 7 on CTV and the CTV GO app. The season will conclude with a special two-hour finale event on Valentine’s Day, Sunday, Feb. 14, beginning at 8 p.m. ET/PT, and the emotional and dramatic two-hours will culminate in a shocking moment viewers won’t want to miss.

The #1 Canadian drama series this fall, SAVING HOPE currently averages 1.3 million viewers in its Thursdays at 9 p.m. timeslot on CTV. Also the most-watched Canadian program among the key adult demos this fall, SAVING HOPE has seen a 16% increase in the key A18-34 demo, as well as a 63% increase in F18-34 over its third season.

Returning for Season 5 of SAVING HOPE is 2013 Canadian Screen Award nomineeErica Durance (SMALLVILLE) as Dr. Alex Reid; Michael Shanks (STARGATE SG-1) as Dr. Charlie Harris; 2013 Canadian Screen Award-winner Wendy Crewson(BEAUTY AND THE BEAST) as Dr. Dana Kinney; Benjamin Ayres (LESS THAN KIND) as Dr. Zach Miller; Julia Taylor Ross (ROOKIE BLUE) as Dr. Maggie Lin;Michelle Nolden (REPUBLIC OF DOYLE) as Dr. Dawn Bell; Huse Madhavji (CALL ME FITZ) as Dr. Shahir Hamza; and Kim Shaw (THE GOOD WIFE) as Dr. Cassie Williams.

SAVING HOPE is back in January with an all-new episode entitled “All Down the Line” (Thursday, Jan. 7 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV and CTV GO). With Dr. Dana Kinney (Wendy Crewson) back from Paris, Dr. Alex Reid (Erica Durance) enlists her help to save Lorenzo (Stefano DiMatteo, KILLJOYS), a hot-tempered chef suffering from oral cancer. Her concerns over her friend’s own treatment (or lack there-of) quickly bubble to surface however, when their patient refuses medical attention in favour of pursuing the opening of his restaurant. Meanwhile, Dr. Charlie Harris (Michael Shanks) has his hands full juggling the spirit of a restless single mother, while working to save her life after a DIY treehouse accident. The episode also features guest star Stacey Farber (DEGRASSI: THE NEXT GENERATION) as Dr. Sydney Katz.

SAVING HOPE is produced by ICF Films with eOne in association with CTV, with the participation of the Canada Media Fund and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit. ION Television in the U.S. has also renewed the series for a fifth season.

SAVING HOPE is executive produced by Ilana Frank and John Morayniss and co-executive produced by Linda Pope, Trish Williams, Noelle Carbone, and Patrick Tarr. Adam Pettle is Executive Producer and Showrunner. All distribution rights are handled by eOne.

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Saving Hope celebrates with a holiday episode

Christmas is upon us, and the folks over at Saving Hope have given fans one heck of a present: a special holiday episode. Yup, Thursday’s newest instalment, “Shine a Light,” combines an ice storm, ugly sweaters, family, wayward spirits, an injured Santa and a dose of miracles into a feel-good story that’s unique to the series. As co-writer Fiona Highet says, creating an episode of Saving Hope for the holidays means dropping ongoing storylines—such as Dawn’s sexual assault and Maggie’s near-death experience—from the mix so the episode can air out of sequence from the series.

Before we talk about “Shine a Light,” I want to chat about this season overall. There have been some really strong episodes and storylines, particularly Dawn’s sexual assault and the marathon bombing that led to Maggie chatting with Charlie.
Fiona Highet: The show has so much heart, you want to take people where you know they’ll be moved. The trick in a story like the bombing one is to position our characters in it rather than have patients come into the ER. We positioned Maggie into the race and then took the unusual step of having her speaking to Charlie. That opened up Charlie’s world wider than it’s been.

Did Adam Pettle really push the writers’ room this season to explore those boundaries?
With the addition of new characters, every episode so far has served a lead character, a guest star and a new character. That’s three angles to come at rather than two, which is much harder. That construct really challenged us. We needed bigger stories. The cast is playing more like an ensemble than they ever have. I wouldn’t say that Adam specifically said anything, but we’ve moved away from the love triangle and have said, ‘Now what? What obstacles can we put in everyone’s way?’

OK, let’s talk about “Shine a Light.” How does it feel to have a writing credit on something that will live on and be broadcast every holiday season?
I was so excited, and it’s not even because Patrick Tarr and I are the Christmassy-ist. He and I were already lined up to write Episode 12, and that’s the one it turned out to be. I’ve written with him before and he and I just clicked, so I knew this was going to be good. I was really excited to be writing it for a couple of reasons. One, as you say, it has a life outside of the show, but it also comes with its own challenges. We couldn’t use the new cast members or serial information. All of the stories and drama around Charlie and Alex were gone. We have to play Dawn as though she has not come through this experience … those things seemed to be more challenging than they were once we were in it.

Were there certain items on the Christmas episode checklist that you felt needed to be addressed?
I had to do a little research. I could picture M*A*S*H and Christmas in The Swamp, but not much else. I very consciously watched some Grey’s Anatomy and some ER Christmas episodes to see what they did and what they were talking about. There is always a kid on the verge of life and death. There was certainly conscious thinking around story balance and structurally saying, ‘We cannot go from this child waiting by the tree to the guy whose genitals hurt.’ That was much harder than I thought it would be.

We knew we wanted to cover ugly Christmas sweaters because it’s funny, we knew it would be funny to put Dana and Shahir together because we don’t often see them together and we knew we could give them some of the anti-Christmas sentiment and they would play it with exactly the right touch.

You spoke earlier about doing research for this episode by watching holiday episodes of Grey’s and ER. Are there holiday episodes, TV movies, movies or specials you watch during the holidays?
I can’t not watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. My kids are 13 and 11, so they’re too old for it but I’ll drag them back in every year. Elf is a modern classic and I’m a fan of a more recent movie called Arthur Christmas. My family has a funny tradition—I don’t even know how it started—of watching Gene Kelly movies at Christmas, the big musicals, so I’m sure I’ll be seeing Anchors Aweigh even though it has nothing to do with the holidays. I’ve also come around to the Love Actually phenomenon.

Saving Hope airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

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