Tag Archives: Frank Spotnitz

Humour and heart at the centre of Russell Peters’ The Indian Detective

There’s a definite Beverly Hills Cop vibe to The Indian Detective and that’s a good thing.

Debuting Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, Russell Peters stars as Doug D’Mello, a Toronto cop who stumbles upon a murder case while visiting his father, Stanley (Anupam Kher) in Mumbai. Like Eddie Murphy’s Detroit-raised Axel Foley does in Beverly Hills, Doug finds himself woefully out of place in India, despite his heritage. But his wit and charm—not to mention some pretty decent detective work—woos legal-aid lawyer Priya (Mishqah Parthiephal) as the pair investigate dirty dealings in India that reach back to Toronto and involve twin gangsters Gopal and Amal (Hazma Haq) and real estate developer David Marlowe (William Shatner).

Written by Frank Spotnitz and Smita Bhide and executive-produced by Spotnitz, Lance Samuels, Daniel Iron, Mark Burton, Clayton Peters, Paul Canterna and Russell Peters, the four-episode The Indian Detective isn’t just a vehicle for the Canadian stand-up comedian to mug through. He’s emoting folks, making Doug an interesting and multifaceted character who uses his quips to great effect.

We spoke to Peters about the development, tone and future of The Indian Detective.

I’ve watched the first two episodes and I really enjoyed them.
Russell Peters: Thanks. Episode 3 is really good. I’ve watched all four and Episode 3 is my favourite.

You said, in another interview, that you were leery of the process of being cast in something where you weren’t playing yourself. Why the concern?
It wasn’t that I was leery about playing somebody else. I understand that that’s acting. But, if they want me to tone down myself … you don’t hire Vince Vaughan to be somebody else. You hire Vince Vaughan because of his personality … hence the same thing with me. I’m not putting myself in the same category as Vince, but it’s that kind of thing. I’m me, and people want to see me be me. But, I can be me and be somebody else at the same time.

Doug is an instantly likable character. There are a lot of laughs, but there is also a lot of heart and drama to this show. 
The way I had it planned is that it would have more dramatic moments and then the network wanted it to be funnier. I’ll be honest, I’m glad they went with their instincts over mine because it did work out better.

Were some of the funny lines ad-libbed?
I would say 90 to 95 per cent of those lines were ad-libbed. You can tell because they flow a lot easier out of my mouth than some of the other words.

Can you talk a little bit about the scripts written by Frank and Smita?
Frank and Smita came to my house a few years ago, and we were trying to determine what the direction of the show was going to be. Then they came to us about a year later with the scripts. I had actually forgotten about it by then. I always kept forgetting about it because I was doing other things and said, ‘OK, well, let me know when we’re going to shoot it.’ And then, last year, my brother said, ‘Remember that show? They’re getting ready to shot.’ I said, ‘With who?’ And he said, ‘You, you idiot.’

 

It proves, once again, how long television development can take.
It’s like a teenaged boy’s voice; it takes a long time to develop.

The first episode really immerses the viewer in Mumbai and India overall. You really get a taste of the music, the food, the colours and the vibe. Was that important?
It was very important to me and that was one of the things I kept saying was ‘We can’t fake Mumbai.’ It’s impossible to fake. And, even the times that we did fake it on set, our set designer was amazing because we interspliced the fake Mumbai with the real Mumbai and you can’t tell which is which.

What was it like filming in Mumbai and Cape Town?
Cape Town was the long one, that was two months. Mumbai was only a week and Toronto was two weeks. But Cape Town was amazing. So much fun. We worked six days a week, 14 hours a day, but I still loved it.

Let’s discuss the characters a bit. By Episode 2, it would appear Priya and Doug have a connection. Is there romance by the end of Episode 4?
The second you see Priya on screen, you immediately want to be with her too. It’s the TV world. Where else can a guy that looks like me end up with a girl like that than in the world of TV? Because in real life I don’t think she wanted to stare at me once.

And William Shatner?
Shatner, first of all, is 82 years old. He doesn’t look it at all. He looks like a 62-year-old that says, ‘You want to go and pound some scotch?’ He was so nice, so professional, so cool. We’re filming and he’s doing his lines and I forgot we were shooting a TV show. I’m like, ‘Damn, that guy looks just like William Shatner.’ [Laughs.] He says his line and he’s just staring at me and I’m like, ‘Oh, can I get my line again, please?’ I’m sure he thought I was a complete f–king moron. I got a little star-struck.

The Indian Detective is four episodes. Could there be more?
When you do see Episode 4, we leave it a little open.

The Indian Detective airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

 

 

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International co-production Ransom takes over Global’s primetime

Global’s Ransom—debuting Sunday, Jan. 1, on the network before moving to Saturdays on Jan. 8—is a fast-paced emotional roller coaster about a crisis negotiation team dropped into potentially deadly situations at a moment’s notice. For Canadian actor Brandon Jay McLaren (Slasher) and Ireland’s Sarah Greene (Vikings), joining the series was just as quick and last-minute: they were cast just days before production on Season 1 began.

“I found out, like, four days before we started shooting that I had gotten the part,” McLaren says with a laugh. “I had to get on a plane in Los Angeles in a day. There was not a lot of prep [for the role].” The same was true for Greene, who found out she’d scored her gig on a Wednesday and needed to be in Toronto for the following Sunday. But while neither had time to prepare for their roles in advance, they’ve gotten a crash course since filming began. McLaren portrays Oliver Yates, a psychologist and profiler who sizes up people and situations in an instant, a key member of Eric Beaumont’s (Luke Roberts, Wolf Hall) crisis negotiation team. Greene’s Maxine Carlson, meanwhile, is the newbie on the squad, introduced in the first moments of Episode 1 and able to quickly prove she’s valuable to have around … despite Oliver’s misgivings.

Brandon Jay McLaren

“Eric and I met years ago, during another hostage taking, and I am very protective of Eric because I know something about his past,” McLaren explains. “When Maxine shows up, I am not happy she’s involving herself with our program because she brings a lot of emotion and instability to Eric and we can’t afford that. I’m very standoffish with her in the beginning, only because I was to protect what we’ve got going.” What Oliver and Eric have got going is something rare within the crisis industry. Inspired by the real-life experiences of hostage negotiator Laurent Combalbert, Eric refuses to carry a gun, preferring to use words and turn of phrase to diffuse deadly scenarios.

“I was told about Laurent about two and a half years ago,” Ransom‘s executive producer Frank Spotnitz says. “It already makes a great TV show, because, in the case of Laurent, every case is 24 to 48 hours. They are naturally adrenaline and suspense-filled. And he doesn’t carry a gun. That’s crazy. I’ve done lots of shows, including The X-Files, where people solved their problems with guns. To have a guy who says, ‘No guns. I’ll solve this with my mind,’ is a challenge but I wanted to do a show like that.” Eric’s skills are shown moments into Sunday’s debut when he confronts a gun-wielding man holding parishioners hostage inside of a church. Everyone gets out safely, but things are dodgy there for a few seconds and even Eric’s longtime team member, and former cop, Zara Hallam (Nazneen Contractor, Covert Affairs) had doubts.

“I exposed an internal crime ring at the NYPD,” Contractor says of her character during a break in shooting in downtown Toronto. “I was fired and shortly thereafter Eric approached me to join his company. She’s a misfit with a very strong sense of honour and moral compass. Zara is the expert who knows every building entrance and exit, who is armed and not armed. I’m his eyes.” She also trusts Eric; like him (and the rest of the team), she no longers uses bullets to solve problems.

Luke Roberts and Nazneen Contractor

Ransom, a co-production between Global, CBS in the U.S. and TF1 in France (Toronto’s Sienna Films and eOne are among the production partners) truly is an international affair both in front of and behind the camera. Spotnitz’s Season 1 writing room consists of Canadians Sara Dodd, Annmarie Morais and David Vainola and homegrown directors Érik Canuel, James Genn and Eleanore Lindo. After filming in Toronto for several months—the city stood in for North American locations—the series decamped for the south of France, with the area representing European spots.

“It sucks,” Contractor teases. “We have to stay in the south of France for three months, live in Nice, shoot five episodes, live on the Riviera … it’s a really hard job and not for the faint of heart.”

Ransom debuts Sunday, Jan. 1, at 8:30 p.m ET on Global before moving to Saturdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT beginning on Jan. 7.

Images courtesy of Global.

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Set visit: Global’s crisis negotiation drama puts Toronto up for Ransom

Living in Toronto, seeing orange traffic cones signify one of two things: road work or a film or television production. I’ve seen plenty of the former and latter over the past 15 years, but never a full-on road closure for a television production. Until earlier this summer.

The reason? Global’s crisis negotiation drama, Ransom. The co-production between the Canadian network, CBS in the U.S. and TF1 in France (Toronto’s Sienna Films and eOne are among the production partners) closed down a block near the Eaton Centre, filming a bank heist scene taking place during one of 13 episodes. Yellow barriers and Toronto police redirected traffic while black SUVs and cop cars emblazoned with the NYPD logo sat staggered in front of an old office building standing in for a bank. A phalanx of actors portraying SWAT police trooped down the street during several takes as a drone buzzed loudly overhead, capturing the action.

Ransom stars Luke Roberts (Black Sails) as Eric Beaumont, a hostage negotiator who jets to locales around the world talking criminals out of dire situations. The hook? Eric doesn’t carry a gun, preferring to use his gift of patter to disarm the bad guys. Based on the real-life experiences of negotiator Laurent Combalbert, executive producer Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files) says this is the biggest international show he’s done.

“I was told about Laurent about two and a half years ago,” Spotnitz says. “It already makes a great TV show, because, in the case of Laurent, every case is 24 to 48 hours. They are naturally adrenaline and suspense-filled. And he doesn’t carry a gun. That’s crazy. I’ve done lots of shows, including The X-Files, where people solved their problems with guns. To have a guy who says, ‘No guns. I’ll solve this with my mind,’ is a challenge but I wanted to do a show like that.”

Ransom2

Rounding out Ransom‘s cast is Sarah Greene (Penny Dreadful) as Maxine Carlson, a girl with a secret; Brandon Jay McLaren (Slasher) as Oliver Yates, a psychological profiler; and Nazneen Contractor (Covert Affairs) as ex-cop Zara Hallam. After filming in Toronto for several months—the city stood in for North American locations—the series decamped for the south of France, with the area representing European spots.

Spotnitz, who lives in London, full-time says he fell into the current production model where several countries toss production money into a hat and share costs but sees it as the way of the world now, where viewers are watching programs both traditionally and non-traditionally (like his The Man in the High Castle on Amazon).

“When I moved to London, I sort of fell into this model,” he says. “It’s an amazing time to be in Europe. There is a real awakening of television and a new ambition to do shows in the English language that compete with the best shows in North America. It’s challenging to do a show for two or three broadcasters but I enjoy it, travelling and getting to know all of these different cultures.”

Ransom airs during the 2016-17 broadcast season on Global and CBS. Look for more Ransom coverage on TV, Eh? as we get closer to a broadcast date.

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