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Transplant: Creator Joseph Kay teases Season 2

To say Season 1 of Transplant was a success would be an understatement. Critics and viewers lauded the CTV medical drama with high ratings and Canadian Screen Award nominations and wins. The love extended to the U.S., where Transplant aired on NBC and around the world in the UK, Spain, Australia and the Netherlands.

Now Transplant is back and, judging by the season premiere—kicking off Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV—that success will grow even more.

We spoke to Joseph Kay, Transplant‘s creator—showrunner, executive producer and writer—about what’s next for Bash (Hamza Haq), Jed (John Hannah), Mags (Laurence Leboeuf), June (Ayisha Issa), Theo (Jim Watson) and recurring characters Dr. Mark Novak (Gord Rand) and Rania (Nora Guerch).

What was it like to see the love that the show was getting as the first season rolled out across North America?
Joseph Kay: I was and am really, really proud that people responded to the work. Really thrilled by that. There’s a team of people who work unbelievably hard to make the show on every level, and we care a lot about what we do and put all of ourselves into it. You work hard and sometimes audiences respond and sometimes they don’t, but you work hard either way. So to see people like it, to see audiences respond to it is just very humbling and exciting and thrilling. I always did feel that there was something at the core of the show that would connect with audiences. It tells someone’s individual experience that people are interested in, but it also has some resonance and accessible themes.

We always did our best to deliver them in a warm, engaging, fast-paced, page-turney sort of way. We are excited for people to see the work we’ve been doing the last year as well.

I immediately fell in love with the characters and cared about what happened to them. And that continues in Season 2 with the first episode, “Guardrail.” What is it that makes a show succeed in this connection with an audience like Transplant does?
JK: I wish I could articulate the answer to that well. I totally hear where you’re coming from, and as an avid viewer of things, sometimes you just connect and sometimes you don’t. I think on the level of Transplant, I’d say two things. One, I would first say that, man, we do have such a great ensemble, starting with Hamza, to Laurence, John, Jim, and then even expanding from there, our actors are very, very good. And I think that they deal with the emotion in a really real accessible, funny way. They’re just warm people that you want to spend time with and they convey that. So I think that’s a very huge part of it.

And in terms of the storytelling, one thing I’m proud of about the show is that we’re telling a very specific story for Bash that I think audiences are interested in, but I feel like we’re also trying to tell this kind of thematic story for everyone. Our stories are always about moving forward or starting over or reconciling old versions of ourselves with new versions of ourselves. We locate a theme and variations on the theme that allow audiences to connect with the show. And that that’s why audiences are interested in following those characters on their journeys. And finally, Transplant is a medical procedural, yes, but it’s very much about the main characters. Some of these shows have a balance that skews towards the guest stars, the patients, whereas our show is really, really firmly grounded in the doctors and the main characters. So we try really hard to get you engaged on that level as well.

Was there anything that you changed between seasons? Anything you felt needed tweaking?
JK: We did some tweaking. From a narrative perspective, we feel like we’re going through stages of Bash’s journey, so we’re digging into a different side of it now. He’s kind of grasping onto job security and we get to open up deeper and wider emotional stories to tell, and that changes things, I’d say, just in terms of how we address the storytelling overall. From my perspective as a writer and producer and of all people who make the show, the directors, the editors, the people on set, we’ve gotten better at all sides of it, so it allows us some more freedom.

When we last left the group, Jed had collapsed from a stroke. Did you always know that would be the Season 1 cliffhanger?
JK: In the first season I actually had intended to kill John’s character in the finale. I had always been really fascinated by the death of the mentor part of a hero’s journey. And that’s what we started off kind of thinking that Bash would’ve saved him in the pilot and there’d be lingering effects from what had happened that just kind of come out of nowhere and kill him and then Bash would’ve had to move forward without him. By around Episode 4 of production in Season 1 we realized, ‘We can’t do that.’ He’s too good. He makes everything around him better, as an actor, as a human being, as a person to collaborate with. He’s just a wonderful presence and performer.

In Monday’s episode, we are introduced to Dr. Mark Novak, who shakes up the department. I love Gord Rand and was thrilled to see him play this character.
JK: I like to think of [Mark] as a little bit puckish, because he’s an agent of chaos and that’s a really fun thing to write, too, and Gord really delivered.

A question about your writer’s room. Adam Barken, Stephanie Morgenstern, Mark Ellis, Rachel Langer, Julie Puckrin … what a who’s who of a writer’s room. What was it like working with these folks in the writer’s room for Season 2?
JK: We’ve been blessed on that level across the board. Everybody was really excited to come onto the show when the writing started for Season 2. And yeah, you absolutely nailed it, it’s kind of an all-star list of writers that you just rattled off. They’re all incredible. One thing that I think is great with Transplant is because there’s freedom in the narrative when it comes to the kinds of stories we tell it encourages great writers like that to come with stories they are really passionate about, they would love to tell that maybe it would be harder to tell in other kinds of places. And I always am like, ‘Yeah, let’s find a way to tell that story.’ I feel like it excites the writers, so we have this season all throughout, all of those people brought selflessly pieces of themselves to share and pour into the show. And I’m really proud of the results that are great. We’re lucky to have them.

“Guardrail” really kicks off Season 2 with incredible visuals.
JK: I want to shout out to Stefan Pleszczynski, our lead director and one of the EPs this year who is a huge part of just maintaining the aesthetic consistency of the show. Beyond Stef, the whole production team is really committed to that. Our director of photography, Pierre Gill, is an unbelievably talented guy, and we sort of across the board take that really, really seriously. Directors who come to the show all want to knock it out of the park on a visual level. There’s a way that the show’s written that encourages long takes or exciting movement, and the directors all really like to play and make the production value really sing.

What types of stories are on the way in Season 2?
There are stories coming up where we deal with different issues, medical issues, cultural issues. And in all of those cases, we just take the research and authenticity and truthfulness component extremely hard, because I think that something that’s inherent to the tone of the show across the board is it tries to be grounded. It tries to be human. It tries to be emotionally honest. So we always like to do that work and we challenge ourselves to do that work and be challenged all the way from idea to beyond editing, and editing is still doing that work.

You ended the first season with a cliffhanger. Is that the same with Season 2? Have you set that bar? Is there a cliffhanger at the end?
JK: There is a cliffhanger at the end of Season 2. There are multiple cliffhangers.

Transplant airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Award-winning CTV original drama Transplant returns for Season 2 January 3

From a media release:

Following a successful first season that garnered worldwide acclaim, and four Canadian Screen Award wins including Best Drama Series, CTV Original drama TRANSPLANT returns for its second season Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT beginning Jan. 3 on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app. Season 2 of TRANSPLANT is produced by Sphere Media in association with CTV and Universal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group, and the translated French version, TRANSPLANTÉ, joins Noovo’s lineup in 2022.

Filmed in Montréal, Season 2 of TRANSPLANT consists of 13 one-hour episodes and is anchored by Hamza Haq (My Salinger Year) as Dr. Bashir Hamed – known to most as Bash – a talented doctor and Syrian refugee who fled to Canada and was granted a second chance to practice Emergency Medicine at York Memorial Hospital in Toronto. In advance of the Season 2 premiere, viewers can catch-up on Season 1 on CTV.ca and the CTV app.

Season 2 of TRANSPLANT picks up almost immediately where Season 1 left off, with Bash (Haq) and his fellow residents reeling after their Chief of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Jed Bishop (John Hannah, MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.), suffered a stroke. With everything at the hospital destabilized, the place Bash was starting to consider home suddenly feels precarious. As the team adjusts to new colleagues while dealing with the challenges of life, unexpected faces from the past leave Bash questioning what his ‘transplant’ into this new world really means. Bash’s hard work, compassion, and hopefulness tell a universal story about the human ability to not only survive, but ultimately thrive, when our lives suddenly change course.

Joining Season 2 in recurring roles are Gord Rand (CHAPELWAITE, ORPHAN BLACK) as Dr. Mark Novak, and Nora Guerch (TOM CLANCY’S JACK RYAN, Zoe) as a woman from Bash’s past who was reunited with him at the end of Season 1. Also appearing in Season 2 is TRANSPLANT cultural consultant and internationally produced playwright and actor Ahmad Meree, who plays a character with a gripping, defining role in Bash’s past.

Returning cast starring alongside Haq are Laurence Leboeuf (19-2) as Dr. Magalie “Mags” Leblanc; Hannah as Dr. Jed Bishop; Ayisha Issa (Polar) as Dr. June Curtis; and Jim Watson (DESIGNATED SURVIVOR) as Dr. Theo Hunter. Also back for Season 2 are Sirena Gulamgaus (ORPHAN BLACK) as Amira Hamed; Torri Higginson (DARK MATTER, THIS LIFE) as Claire Malone; Linda Smith (19-2) as Dr. Wendy Atwater; Kenny Wong (PRETTY HARD CASES) as Arnold De Luca; and Sugith Varughese (KIM’S CONVENIENCE) as Dr. Aajay Singh.

Resonating with audiences across the country, TRANSPLANT was the biggest new Canadian drama since 2015, becoming the most-watched Canadian series among total viewers, with an average audience of 1.4 million during the 2019-20 broadcast season. Following the success of the first season in Canada, the series has been embraced by U.S. viewers on NBC and across multiple territories including the UK, Australia, Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands. The critically acclaimed series also garnered six Canadian Screen Award nominations and four wins, including the coveted Best Drama Series, and Best Lead Actor, Drama Series for Hamza Haq.

On the Season 2 premiere of TRANSPLANT, titled “Guardrail” (Monday, Jan. 3 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app), a bus full of kids crashes and sends the team racing. Bash’s (Haq) life is upended when he is reunited with a woman from his past. With Dr. Bishop (Hannah) still unconscious after his stroke, Mags (Leboeuf) struggles to find support in her mentor’s absence. Theo (Watson) faces repercussions from his family after taking a full-time job away from home, and June (Issa) has an important career decision to make. An encore of the Season 2 premiere airs Thursday, Jan. 6 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Writers on Season 2 of TRANSPLANT include Joseph Kay, who is also Executive Producer and Showrunner, Adam Barken (EP), Stephanie Morgenstern (EP), Mark Ellis (EP), Rachel Langer (Co-EP), Julie Puckrin (Co-EP), Tamara Moulin, Anusree Roy, Sami Khan, and Carmine Pierre Dufour. Directors are Stefan Pleszczynski, who also serves as Executive Producer, Daniel Grou (PODZ), Chloé Robichaud, Bosedé Williams, and Kim Nguyen.

Cultural consultants on Season 2 of TRANSPLANT, providing valuable insight and feedback on scripts and character development, include Dr. Khaled Almilaji, Ahmad Meree, Manar Chabouk, Dr. Yusra Ahmad, Muzna Dureid, and Eli Shankji.

All distribution rights for TRANSPLANT are handled by NBCUniversal Global Distribution, with the series airing on NBC in the U.S. The series is produced with the participation of the Canada Media Fund, provincial and federal tax credits, SODEC, the Bell Fund, and the IPF’s Cogeco Television Production Fund.

TRANSPLANT is created by Joseph Kay who also serves as Executive Producer and Showrunner. For Sphere Media, Executive Producers are Bruno Dubé, Jocelyn Deschênes, Virginia Rankin, Josée Vallée, and Tara Woodbury.

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Preview: Friendly faces and weird art on Heartland

I have some catching up to do! I thought I knew all of the main players on Heartland, but Sunday’s new episode brings back faces fans haven’t seen in years.

Here’s what the CBC says about this week’s instalment, “Our Sons and Daughters,” written by Mark Haroun and directed by Chris Potter:

When some old friends return to Hudson on vacation, Amy tries to teach them about the life-changing power of connecting to a horse, in order to help them cope with parenting struggles. Meanwhile, Georgie gets invited on a road trip, but it might not be everything she hoped for. And with Lou back in New York, Peter takes care of Katie, but worries when she doesn’t come home from a trail ride. Then, Jack and Lisa receive an unexpected housewarming gift.

And here are some non-spoilery bits we can reveal after watching a sneak preview.

Peter, Jack and a strange work of art
I love it when Jack is allowed to show his sarcastic, comedic side and he gets to do that alongside Peter this week. Speaking of Peter, he has his hands full taking care of Katie while Lou is away and is crushed when he overhears a conversation between his ex-wife and daughter.

Cara Pifko returns
I haven’t seen Cara Pifko since she co-starred on CBC’s excellent This is Wonderland and had no clue she’d previously appeared on Heartland as Mackenzie Hutton. Well, she’s back—alongside hubby Ian (Gord Rand)—and has some key news to share with Amy and the rest of the family.

Wyatt + Georgie
Dempsey Bryk has been a welcome addition to Heartland and his Wyatt looks cute as a button next to Georgie. After singing her that sweet song last week things can only get better for the pair, right?

Drones rock
Drones with cameras mounted on them have become all the rage in television production and Sunday’s episode begins with a sweeping overhead shot of the dude ranch that is simply breathtaking. Drones also help with a key piece of storytelling later in the episode.

Heartland airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBC.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Killjoys moves to the next step in the Hullen war

Man, did I love last week’s episode of Killjoys, “The Lion, the Witch and the Warlord.” Getting a chance to delve into Pree’s back story was a particular treat, as was the unending back and forth between Zeph and Johnny. Speaking of Zeph, she’d managed to open the Remnant, but closed it back up without telling anyone. Why would she do that if she’s such a devoted member of this team?

Perhaps Zeph’s actions will be explained in Friday’s episode, “Attack the Rack,” written by Shernold Edwards and directed by Jeff Renfroe. Here’s the official plot synopsis via Space:

The Killjoy rebels take drastic measures to clean house: a secret ops attack against their own RAC. Thanks to Aneela’s schemes and a mole among them, not everyone will make it out alive.

And, as always, more info from us after watching a screener.

Corner Gas‘ Tara Spencer-Nairn guest stars
We’ve seen Spencer-Nairn do comedy on Corner Gas and drama on Saving Hope. How does she do in the sci-fi realm? Swimmingly. She portrays a woman with a deep history and an uncanny way of healing from wounds. Thanks to her, Dutch and Turin devise a way to distinguish good guys from bad. Also appearing this week: Rookie Blue‘s Noam Jenkins in a devious role, and Pure‘s Gord Rand as a snide asshole. (Oh, how I miss Pure.)

Erik Knudsen returns!
Yup, he does. He, Dutch and D’avin are locked and loaded and going … somewhere. He may not have made the A-team but Knudsen’s McAvoy makes up some deeply important RAC backup. Speaking of returning folks, Fancy makes an appearance too. We’ve missed his face … and sarcasm. Fancy has a bit of a sit down with Spencer-Nairn’s character, and it’s something to behold.

Professional etiquette is key
Turns out there IS a bad time to bust in on someone you’re tracking. Thanks to D’avin, we find out when that is.

Aneela is still scary
Back when I saw Episode 1 of Season 1, I likened Killjoys to Star Wars in its tone and look. Something Aneela does during Friday’s episode certainly hearkens back to a key Star Wars villain’s abilities. I got chills. (There are actually two Star Wars references I picked up on.) And the budding relationship between Aneela and Delle Seyah Kendry blossoms more this week. I was a little wary of the pairing, but I’m all in now.

Killjoys airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on Space.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail