Tag Archives: Four in the Morning

Murdoch Mysteries: Daniel Maslany on playing Detective Watts’ and his dark backstory

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched Murdoch Mysteries’ latest instalment, “Brother’s Keeper.”

Back in 2016, Daniel Maslany was part of another CBC series. Four in the Morning featured Maslany as Bondurant, part of a quartet of twentysomethings who stumbled their way into odd adventures in the dead of the night in Toronto. Four in the Morning was cancelled after just one season—I think it was just a little ahead of its time—but it freed up Maslany to play Detective Watts on Murdoch Mysteries. In fact, if it wasn’t for Four in the Morning‘s outrageous production schedule he might not have been hired for Murdoch at all.

“I’d been up the previous night until five in the morning and then had the [Murdoch Mysteries] audition the next day,” Maslany remembers. “And I think it actually really helped. He’s a little bit more grounded and lazy and sloppy, and so, my exhaustion just from shooting the night before really helped.”

That sloppy—yet brilliant—detective has been part the series for three seasons. On Monday night, viewers were treated to Watts’ backstory. We spoke to Maslany to get the scoop on what makes the man tick and what it’s been like being part of the show.

So if you hadn’t been super tired and had that experience on Four in the Morning, Watts might have been totally different.
Daniel Maslany: I mean, Watts might have been someone else. I think there’s so much luck in this business, and I’ve … I can count all the different kind of serendipitous things that fall into place when I did a role and a lot of it is out of my control.

People have said a lot that Watts reminds them of Columbo. Are you seeing that? Was he an inspiration?
DM: In the writing, Columbo was actually written in the original breakdown for the character. It was a reference I didn’t know. I didn’t grow up watching Columbo, so I watched some clips to get some ideas, and then it sort of veered in its own … anything that goes through the filter of someone else, it becomes their own, so yeah, I had that as a reference point, but also so much had been in the script from Simon McNabb in that first episode. Norma Bailey was the director and she was always really encouraging me.

That became sort of a game in that first episode, and I honestly was happy with that being the character and would have been happy to play him in that realm for the rest of these three seasons. I found that really fun world to play in as a foil to Murdoch and be sort of his opposite.

But then I started getting these episodes, especially in Season 11 where it was taking Watts to a more human, emotional place, and that was really exciting to sort open him up in that way.

Your speaking voice with me right now is very different from the way that Watts speaks. What was the inspiration for the language choice?
DM: I think some of it had to do with the fact … we talked about being tired in the first episode and having to wake up earlier, and that kind of thing. I think it was also the most maybe grown-up role I’d ever played? So I kind of felt like I had to play it as grown-up/adult a little bit. So it’s kind of like a false … a false grown-up voice to it, which I think is appropriate, since he’s a really young. He’s a young detective, and he’s filling some big shoes, and he’s playing cops-and-robbers with all these real grown-ups. I feel like he plays a bit older than himself.

When Watts first came on to the scene a lot of fans said, ‘Who is this guy? Why is he coming onto this show? Is he going to replace somebody?’ But now you’ve become a fan favourite. What’s it been like to be embraced by the fans?
DM: It’s super exciting. I mean, I know it is such a loyal fan base, so I was … I kind loved the hot/cold attitude that they had with him, especially early on. It’s fun. What I find with the fans is that they like investing in the reality of the show, so they are actually cheering for the good guys and angry at the bad guys. And obviously no one would want to watch a show where everybody’s happy and good, but a lot of the comments you see online are, ‘I just want them all to be happy. I want the bad guys to go away.’ And the bad guys can’t go away or else there’s no show. So when Watts veers into more of an antagonistic realm, it’s fun seeing them be upset about that, because he’s not always super nice to Murdoch but obviously that’s the fun of it.

We’ve gotten a little bit of backstory into Watts in the last couple of seasons, but man, you really reveal a lot about this character in Monday’s episode.
DM: Yeah, I was as surprised, probably, as people will be watching the episode reading it, because this was all news to me, and with each more dramatic-leaning episode that I’ve had for Watts, I’m learning more about his backstory, and part of me, the nervous, scared actor me, wonders, ‘Oh, is this the same guy?’ and ‘Does this make sense that he would be so quirky and distracted and out of it if he’s had such a tragic past?’

I’ve been sort of realizing that these are his walls and his protection, his barriers that he puts up because he’s had a really tragic childhood, leading up to when he comes to Station House No. 1 and then to Station House No. 4, and then he keeps losing people in his life. So I’ve had this list that I keep going back to when Watts is having a sort of a sadder moment. He’s lost this person, this person, this person, and that list keeps getting longer with each episode. Because a lot of people have just left him or died.

You share some wonderful scenes with Yannick as William Murdoch, especially in the interrogation room. What was it like working with him up close and personal, just the two of you like that?
DM: That was such an exciting day, because we shot all of the interrogation stuff and the scene right before that where I’m getting my arm bandaged all in one day, and we got to shoot it chronologically, which is such a dream, because so often you’re shooting out of order, you’re trying to connect the dots, and especially with this script, because they’re so many alternate versions that are told, and his interpretations that are told.

It was really nice to work chronologically, and Craig David Wallace, the director and I, had a long chat after the first table read of this episode, where he broke down every single interrogation with me, and we went, ‘OK, what are the games being played? What is at stake? Is Watts just protecting himself, or is he protecting Hubert here?’ We kind of designed this whole arc, and also never talked to Yannick about it, because then there was this sort of playfulness and this mystery. But there’s an unknown of how’s the dynamic going to work once we both get in the room together. So Yannick didn’t know about these kind of things that we had discussed, and then it was really fun in the blocking watching Yannick react and see where he goes with it, with anything.

People don’t realize how much homework can go into making a TV show, and you did a lot of it for this episode.
DM: Yeah, I mean, I think everybody has a different process. Coming from the theatre, I really need to spend time with a script before I feel comfortable with it. I’m amazed by actors who can pick up a few pages, memorize it, and then shoot the scene and have such grounded and nuanced performances, but I do need to take some time and actually sort of think about the thought process of the character before I feel ready to share it.

I wanted to ask about the wardrobe that Joanna has created for Watts. She’s new to Murdoch this year with regard to the clothing. I guess that’s just another layer of getting into that character; putting on those suits, putting on that hat really gets you into character.
DM: Yeah, she was so great. She gave me a really fun new suit that’s a green plaid suit this season. It’s great, and I feel like it’s nice that it was established in a really silly Halloween episode, ’cause it fit so much with his really heightened palette there, and now it’s become one of his staples that he wears. In [Monday’s] episode, obviously, Watts shoots his own sleeve, his own arm. And so they have to cut a little hole in it and patch it, but it’s such a beautifully handmade suit, so they were like really worried to damage it at all. So it’s a really nice kind of a patching that they did. It still looks pretty great.

What can you say about Watts’ journey for the rest of this season?
DM: The joke is less about him bumping up against the way things are supposed to be done, and he’s learning to be a team member within the station house and work well with others, so he’s growing as a person and as a detective, and he’s also starting to question his own philosophy. So we see that unravel even a little bit more as the season goes on.

What did you think of this episode? Do you have a message for Daniel Maslany? Let me know in the comments below!

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Four in the Morning goes out in a blaze of surrealistic glory

CBC ended its eight-episode run of Four in the Morning with the airing of the final two episodes back to back. The first, entitled “Four Christs,” riffs off of The Three Christs of Ypsilanti by Milton Rokeach (Parker hands us this one on a silver platter: William overhears a summary following a very long montage of memories). At any rate, all four of our protagonists are upset with each other, and yet all are feeling entirely blameless. After last week’s big reveal, William (Mazin Elsadig) and Mitzi (Lola Tash) sleeping together, Mitzi admits to William that she was mistaken, Bondurant (Daniel Maslany) and Jamie (Michelle Mylett) did not sleep together.

But, they did, long before Jamie and William got together. Despite his own adulterous guilt, William wallows in his delusional belief that he is the affronted party. The rest of this episode is angst-ridden with a little soupçon of string theory. The episode closes with a long shot on an empty booth at the diner setting the stage for “The Music.”

A few weeks have passed and this final episode begins like the first: in the Patrician Grill, the clock flipping over to 4:00, indicating that we have come full cycle. However, Tatiana Ratowski (Alison Brooks),  the ratty admissions director from Julliard, has come to notify Bondurant he is the worst trumpet player to ever approach her school. To console himself, Bondurant again breaks into Massey Hall and takes centre stage for a final time. Leaving his trumpet at centre stage, he finds a jet pack and rockets off in search of Shangri-La.

But Bondurant has been preyed upon by the backstabbing Ms. Ratowski. Seems she and Rat Man Tom (Micheal Therrault) are guarding a secret about the music program at Julliard.

Meanwhile, William recognizes he is in love with Jamie after-all. In a weak moment, he contemplates suicide and unwittingly shoots himself in the ear.

Mitzi, having had her apology rejected by William, heads to Amadeus’ falafel shop, and asks for the washroom key.

This is where things get weird … or weirder.

Instead of a washroom, the key unlocks a deserted hospital where Mitzi has a miscarriage, giving birth to a pig. Albert the talking pig returns to explain to Mitzi that she is not at fault for all of the disharmony in her friends’ lives.

The season closes with Jamie, Mitzi and William leaving the hospital with baby Margaret whereupon they see Bondurant, a.k.a. a shooting star, blazing across the morning sky.

Four in the Morning has been such a fun little show. The characters, despite their narcissistic tendencies, won me over. There has not been any word yet whether CBC will pick this up for another season. I hope it does. I really enjoy programs that don’t spoon feed you, but rather make you think. But should it not, I am content where the story closed.

What did you think of Season 1? Comment below or @tv_eh.

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Four in the Morning: Bandercamp and Hollow Man

Jamie (Michelle Mylett) has a surprise for William (Mazin Elsadig) and she is on a mission to share. William follows in her determined wake as they hustle through an empty bar into the back kitchen.

This is it!

Jamie asks, “Do you trust me?”

William replies, “Absolutely not!”

“Then this is going to be terrifying for you,” and Jamie climbs into a freezer full of water.

Wait! WHAT?

OK, so the freezer is secret passage—part of a network built before the discovery of fluid dynamics—to Dovie’s (Jennifer Dale) backyard pool. It seems Jamie has arranged a party of popular authors, giving William an opportunity to rub some elbows and get feedback on his manuscript. However, like Roman Roman (Richard Zeppieri), the effort has pushed all of Jamie’s insides out, leaving her empty. William, though, is full. Feeling completely alone, Jamie has fallen victim to loving too much.

Meanwhile, Mitzi (Lola Tash) and Bondurant (Daniel Maslany) are visiting Bondurant’s father Orvis (Rod Wilson) in the backwoods of Manitoba and Mitzi hears a startling sound. She sends Bondurant to investigate … his mother Sitari (Cheri Maracle) has come home to roost.

In typical Bondurant fashion, we learn that his parents, in their raven forms, were forced into marriage as punishment for being so selfish as to allow the twin towns of Wendel and Clark to burn to the ground. Apart, his parents are the best parents ever, but together they are poisonous. This proves an uncomfortable reunion for Bondurant and speaking of poison … Bondurant’s parents lace Mitzi’s tea with amobarbital, whereupon Mitzi reveals to all that she slept with William.

So that leaves us with two couples, each on the brink of a breakup.

This surreal little show is one that people either love or hate; there is no in-between. The most frequent complaint is that it is “overacted,” or “takes itself too seriously.” That, though, is exactly the point. You only get out of it what you put into it. If you take a bit of time to unpack these quirky stories, you come away with a lot of great wit.

Four in the Morning airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

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The episode of Four in the Morning where they blow up the moon

We begin this episode of Four in the Morning, appropriately entitled Moon, with Jamie (Michelle Mylett) waxing poetic about how fabulous the moon looks whilst William (Mazin Elsadig) is completely indifferent. It makes him feel insignificant. William  hasn’t been reacting to anything at all lately and that is pissing Jamie off. They head into an empty Patrician Grill as the lone patron, Coralie (Shiva Negar), rushes out. She slim jims a car and William and Jamie tag along for a trip to the observatory. It seems a group has gathered to watch the destruction of the moon.

Meanwhile, Bondurant (Daniel Maslany) just cannot catch a break with his trumpet playing. This time, he is called away by William in order to save the moon. Seems our musician Bondurant is also a world-class mechanical engineer. He also suffers from heavy fingers. It is only once a year, when the moon is at perigee, that its gravitational pull balances the heaviness of his fingers, making his trumpet playing c’est magnifique.

But these are just the surface stories. Mitzi (Lola Tash) discovers Bondurant lied about getting into Julliard, and she confesses that she had an abortion … but did she? Jamie and William fight about his lack of emotional engagement and William almost confesses about his time with Mitzi. In the end, William finally reacts, putting Jamie and William back on track and  Bondurant terminates the moon for Mitzi! Yep … Parker had Bondurant blow up the moon! Guess we are significant after all.

As I sat down to watch this episode, I was thinking “OK, here we go again, we have a pattern established … yawn.” But, about halfway through “Moon,” I didn’t have a clue where we were going. Then there was a fabulous bullet time sequence edited with “Che gelida manina,” from La Boheme scoring the scene. This was absolutely perfect for Maslany’s physical theatrical style. Sure it was gimmicky, but it was perfect and I loved it. I also realised I am starting to care about these characters, albeit some more than others.

Let me know what your thoughts are about tonight’s episode in the comments below.

Four in the Morning airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

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Four in the Morning — The shadow knows…

Well let’s get it out of the way right away; there is a lot of sex happening in Episode 4 of Four in the Morning. Orgasms, mistimed orgasms, fake orgasms and anti-orgasms. Then there are the conversations about the orgasms.

We also have shadows, and it seems Bondurant (Daniel Maslany) is able to read them. Good thing, because Mitzi (Lola Tash) is afflicted with a purple shadow.  Apparently, this means she is conflicted about something, and feels guilty. Well—DUH!—of course, she is! All of this shadow discombobulation means Bondurant and Mitzi are “off,” rather their timing is off, and it is getting worse the more they try (and they try a LOT!).

Meanwhile, Jamie (Michelle Mylett) has been keeping secrets … lots and lots of secrets! For one, she admits to  William (Mazin Elsadig) that she has never achieved an orgasm with him; she has been faking it all along. She also confesses to not one but two previous marriages, (we don’t count the third marriage) and each of those ended with her spouse committing suicide. It seems she is a “sexualcontrarian.” Despite her aphro-dipsomaniacal demands, Jamie can only achieve an orgasm at the precise moment her partner achieves an “anti-orgasm.” Her partners’ desires to see her satisfied drove them all to their ultimate sacrifice. William, determined to satisfy Jamie, fakes an anti-climax. And it seems his approach worked.

Practice appears to be approaching perfect for Bondurant and Mitzi, and whilst honing their timing, these two little lovebirds admit their love for each other. Bondurant invites Mitzi to come home for Thanksgiving, but the whole Julliard and pregnancy things are still not resolved.

I watched this episode twice before finishing the review. At first, I was overcome with all of the sex. Well, I was really thinking, “HOW in the HELL am I going to write about all of the sex while avoiding an R-rating?” So, after a bit of thought, and some self-censoring, I came to  this conclusion: Parker got in a couple more quirky portmanteaus and tossed in another confessional monologue. We can now consider whether or not we should completely sacrifice ourselves for a relationship and forgo our own happiness for that of our partner.

The pattern is now set. We have a rhythm. We know what to expect. Now I hope we can get into some really meaty storytelling. Let me know what you thought of the episode in the comments below.

Four in the Morning airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

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