Happy Season 61, The Nature of Things! The series, hosted by David Suzuki has always been timely in its nature, covering top-of-mind topics in an interesting, down-to-earth way that even I can understand.
Returning Friday at 9 p.m. on CBC, The Nature of Things is never more relevant, tackling COVID-19 with “Inside the Great Vaccine Race.” As the title suggests, this is an exhaustive peek at the people who worked tirelessly to help develop a vaccine for COVID-19 and continue to do so.
The episode begins with Dr. Alyson Kelvin (above), a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization in Saskatoon, who left her family in Halifax for five months to work on a vaccine. While most people, in the early days of the vaccine, expressed curiosity at what was going on in Wuhan, China, Dr. Kelvin knew that—within months—the disease could be worldwide.
“Despite the sacrifices that I made to come here, I would have felt useless being at home,” she says.
Meanwhile, in China, it takes less than two days for the virus to be mapped and identified as related to SARS. And, able to spread without obvious symptoms by the carrier, it can move undetected around the world.
The Nature of Things also visits Cambridge University, Germany’s BioNTech lab and China’s CanSino Biologics as part of its storytelling, outlining what was being done in each location as the sprint to creating vaccines increased.
Made by Infield Fly Productions (who had their own challenges filming a documentary during a pandemic) in association with the CBC, “Inside the Great Vaccine Race” is tough to watch simply because it’s showing a worldwide event we’re still in the midst of. Those that have lost family members or friends to COVID-19 are going to have a particularly difficult experience. And it’s an excellent education into how science can provide a relatively quick solution to a worldwide catastrophe.
“Inside the Great Vaccine Race” kicks off Season 61 of The Nature of Things, Friday at 9 p.m. on CBC.
What has Julia gotten herself into? That was my first thought upon seeing images for Monday’s new instalment of Murdoch Mysteries. Had she been sent to an institution for bad behaviour?
As it turns out, she’s there for a very good and important, reason. Here’s the official synopsis for “The Incorrigible Dr. Ogden,” written by Christina Ray and directed by Craig David Wallace:
To solve an inmate’s murder, Murdoch sends Ogden undercover at a woman’s reformatory.
And here is more information from me after watching an episode preview.
Things start gorily Murdoch Mysteries isn’t known for being over-the-top with its portrayal of dead bodies, and Monday’s death certainly isn’t that. Still, it’s a little disturbing to start off the episode with, well… you’ll see.
A Slasher star guest-stars If you’re a fan of Slasher: Flesh & Bloodor Kim’s Convenience, you’ll recognize Sabrina Grdevich in a key role on Monday. Keep your eyes peeled for August Winter (Mary Kills People), Sarah Dodd (Anne with an E), David Andrew Reid and Murry Peters.
Margaret is back! And it’s good to see her.
A new case for Watts A case of kidnapping brings a new person into Watts’ life, just when things seem to be at an impasse with Jack.
A history lesson Yes, the Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women was a real place. Opened in 1872, it closed in 1969(!). Find out more about where it was located, and a building that still stands from the complex, here. And, learn more about Eva Tanguay, “The Queen of Vaudeville,” and Long Tack Sam.
The folks at Family Law are in a pretty sweet position. With Episode 7 set to air this Friday at 9 p.m. ET on Global, a second season has already been filmed and in the can; we’re just waiting to find out when they’ll be broadcast. Having a second season already completed is rare in television and led to some nerves for Jewel Staite.
Staite—who has starred on Canadian projects like The Detectives, Motive and Stargate: Atlantis and U.S. projects like Blindspot, The Magicians, The Killing, Wonderfalls and, of course, Firefly—was nervous about how viewers would take to the show and her character, Abby.
When we first meet Abby, she is at her lowest point. A recovering alcoholic, Abby has moved out of her family’s house and moved back in with her mother. As a condition of her probation to return to her legal duties, Abby works at the firm owned by her estranged father, Harry (Victor Garber), alongside half-brother Daniel (Zach Smadu) and half-sister Lucy (Genelle Williams), leading to plenty of drama and laughs.
We spoke to Jewel Staite about filming Family Law and crafting a complicated character like Abby.
We’re getting near the end of Season 1 of Family Law, and a second season has already been shot and in the can. That’s a pretty unique position to be in. How does it feel? Jewel Staite: It’s pretty amazing. It shows that the network has a lot of faith in the show and is very behind it. We have felt supported, and the writers have felt supported by them and it’s great. Now, obviously, because it’s now on the air, things are a little bit more real. [Laughs.] We are open to public opinion now and it’s not just a show that we made in secret for us. Now, all we really want is a Season 3.
Are comedic performances in your background? From the eye rolls to physical comedy, your performance is a joy to watch. JS: Thanks, I appreciate that. I don’t get to do a ton of comedy, so when I do I like to have a lot of fun with it. Luckily, the people around me on the show, including [creator] Susin Nielsen, really like the idea of going for the humour in scenes.
In the audition process, I tried to stand out by making it funny and making Abby a little quirky in how she was written. I’m grateful that they appreciated that and agreed with me that that was the route to go with her. Some of her behaviour is a little unlikable, and I thought, ‘How can I make this person more acceptable to the audience in her actions and the things that she says?’
Making a lead character tough to cheer for is a tall order. JS: Exactly. I think, in the beginning, I was concerned that she wouldn’t be likable. I remember having this conversation with my husband where I said, ‘I just hope people like her.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, but if you go that route, you’re never going to approach it with honesty.’ I thought, ‘That’s completely right.’ It shouldn’t matter, and I should stick to making her as honest as possible, even if it means that, sometimes, she’s unlikeable and her behaviour is a little ugly.
Comedic moments aside, Family Law doesn’t shy away from tough conversations and scenes. When we meet Abby, her daughter, Sofia, is so embarrassed by her mother’s behaviour, and the larger themes of the show are dysfunctional relationships. JS: Yeah, it is. And it’s real. It’s an entertaining show in that there are a lot of fun, shocking moments and some laughs, but the reality is these people are going through hard times, especially Abby. It’s a heartbreaking time for her; she misses her kids a lot, she has screwed up her life and sometimes feels like she’s never going to get it back on track. She is so desperate to get her family back. There are a lot of sad moments.
And then the cases that we deal with are really sad. There is a lot of tough subject matter in these episodes, but it’s a great juxtaposition. The goal was to make the audience laugh and cry in every episode. [Laughs.] It’s beautifully written and tugs at the heartstrings.
The dialogue and conversations these characters have are very believable. Susin Nielsen chalked a lot of that up to the relationship between the writers and the cast. JS: As an actor, it’s so much easier to prepare and to remember the lines when it feels naturally conversational. Our writers are very gifted in that respect because we’re not improv-ing any of that stuff; everything is on the page and it flows beautifully. The characters surprise you with the things that they do and the things that they say but, at the same time, the way the characters are written and fleshed out, you feel like you are getting to know them very quickly.
The chemistry on this show was there from the very beginning. I don’t know if that was because the casting director [Maureen Webb] is amazing—because she is—or if it was just luck because we all just get each other. We’re on the same page and we have the same work ethic. We don’t rehearse a ton—we move very fast when we are shooting this show—and it keeps us on our toes and the day interesting. My favourite scenes are with the family because it feels so natural.
Family Law airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Global.
Adam MacDonald is a busy guy. When he’s not acting on series like Tribal and Rookie Blue, he can be found behind the camera, writing and directing his own projects, like the horror films Backcountry and Pyewacket.
MacDonald’s latest directing gig has been for TV’s Slasher: Flesh & Blood. Airing Mondays on Hollywood Suite, Flesh & Blood reunited him with series creator Aaron Martin and showrunner Ian Carpenter.
We spoke to MacDonald about directing Flesh & Blood, his career and his next film, Out Come the Wolves.
You first came onto my radar on Rookie Blue and Being Erica, but it’s been a real blast over the last few years to see you writing and in the director’s chair. I’ve gotten a chance to see Backcountry and Pyewacket, so congratulations on writing and directing those. Adam MacDonald: Thank you so much. Bruce McDonald gave me the advice, ‘Go write something, because someone’s not going to hand you a feature film to direct.’ It’s just very rare if it’s not impossible. And then attach yourself to that script. That proved to be very sage advice. I gave it my all and then, yeah, it worked out.
Slasher: Flesh & Blood reunites you with Ian Carpenter and Aaron Martin. Take me back to Slasher: Solstice. How did that all come about? Did Aaron have you in mind for directing? AM: I found out from Enuka Okuma, who’s a good friend of mine who was in Rookie Blue. She was in the first season of Slasher. I knew Aaron Martin from Being Erica. I’ve always liked him, always been a fan of his work. I loved working with him and I love his writing, as an actor. And, so I knew of Slasher, and I went to the premiere with Ian at a theatre when they premiered Season 1 and we were in the audience. I remember Ian and I looked at each other like, ‘We’d love to work on a show like this.’ And we meant it, and Ian’s really close with Aaron. So it wasn’t a jealousy thing, it was more like, ‘This is really good. This is cool, man. It’s just like a perfect fit.’
But going back to Enuka, she told me that Aaron saw Backcountry and was talking really highly of it and he really liked it, and that meant a lot to me. We met after that and he just expressed how much he liked Backcountry. When Season 2 came around, he asked if I was interested and I was blown away. I was like, ‘Yeah, this is amazing,’ but I was shooting Pyewacket at the time. And then Season 3 came around and I got another chance to come in and pitch and all that stuff to be part of the team.
I was so excited, and I drew up some storyboards, got really jazzed, went over, pitched in front of them and it just worked out. Working with the writing, I can see these visuals and it’s just really fortunate.
So, when you’re reading through a script, do those images pop right into your mind? AM: Oh yeah, right away. I was the kid in class daydreaming constantly. And I’m a very voracious reader, so my imagination is pretty visual anyway. I’d read the script and I could see it in my mind, and I would be like, ‘Oh that’d be great if I could do that.’ And Ian, being very supportive, we’d try some things. I’d say, ‘This is what I want to do here.’ And he’d be like, ‘Yeah, go for it.’
And certain scenes, certain emotions, would be written and some things would be a certain angle. I would go for that to try to accentuate what’s already written there by Ian and Aaron. When it works, it’s just the best feeling.
I can’t ask a director question without asking you about working with David Cronenberg. What was it like to work with him and direct him? AM: Wow. Just hearing that from you almost seems surreal. It was pretty incredible. It was very satisfying because he came on set as an actor and I treated him like an actor. I think he appreciated that, but I was just, of course, this is natural to do that. This is what he’s coming in for. So I’d give him notes and all that stuff. You’re telling them where to go, what to do and all that stuff, you just hope it jives with everybody. And he was great.
And I remember the second day shooting with him, it was a big scene and I was nervous, but it went away within five minutes. I never really get nervous directing, but it was one of the only days I was ever a little nervous because of him. It was definitely a memorable experience.
Last question. What’s the status of Out Come the Wolves? AM: That’s going to camera next year. It takes a while and certain things have to come into place, but we’re finally at that finish line and we are scheduled to go to camera in 2022, finally, after nine years of development. We’ve got Missy [Peregrym to star] and Enuka wrote the script.
If someone reading this is an aspiring director or just wrote a script and things are taking longer than they think they should, just hang in there, man. Hang in there, because sometimes things just need to blossom in their own time. And when they do you’ve just got to be ready. Sometimes it takes a year. Sometimes it takes 10 years. It’s about perseverance.
Slasher: Flesh & BloodÂ airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Hollywood Suite.
Remember “Sir. Sir? Sir!!!,” the Halloween episode of Murdoch Mysteries that was so controversial?An homage to classic horror movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it featured a dire conclusion. Fans either loved it (like me) or hated it.
Here we are again with a Halloween instalment of Murdoch Mysteries. Will it be as galvanizing as “Sir. Sir? Sir!!!” was?
Here’s the synopsis for “I Know What You Did Last Autumn,” written by Simon McNabb and directed by Craig David Wallace:
At Halloween, Murdoch pursues a killer dressed as a clown who is terrorizing romantic, young couples.
And here are some observations by me after previewing the episode.
It begins with the opening credits… Monday’s episode lets you know this one’s going to be different with a twist to Robert Carli’s theme.
… And gets creepy fast Like the serial killer genre it is acknowledging, “I Know What You Did Last Autumn” features a mysterious phone call that goes downhill quickly.
A killer costume Anyone who is disturbed by clowns will be freaked out by this MM creation. The fact the mask looks handmade is all the scarier, in my opinion. Someone took the time to make themselves look this way. Gah. Helping in the investigation is Miss Cherry, who reported on events the previous year when a clown was stalking “teeners.”
Meanwhile, back at the Station House Watts and several other lads partake in a pumpkin carving contest. Turns out that Watts is much better as a detective than a jack o’ lantern maker. Also? Someone in the MM cast of characters seems to have invented a certain spice we enjoy so much of today.
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on CBC.