Tag Archives: Jann Arden

Jann co-creators Jennica Harper and Leah Gauthier on the success of the show and writing Season 2

CTV’s sitcom Jann is an undeniable critical and ratings success. Its first season garnered rave reviews, millions of viewers, and a 2020 WGC Screenwriting Award for Best Comedy Series.

However, there was a time when the show’s co-creators and executive producers, Jennica Harper and Leah Gauthier,  were unsure if the series—which stars singer-songwriter Jann Arden as a highly fictionalized version of herself—would work.

“It was a real act of faith at first,” says Harper, explaining that Arden “was very funny and very talented” but unproven as a comedic lead. There were also some concerns about the show’s unique blend of tones: part entertainment industry satire, part slapstick comedy, part family dramedy.

“It’s not a comedy in the conventional way, it’s a little bit more cable, I think,” says Harper, who also acts as the series showrunner. “There’s a bit more of a blend of very silly comedy right up to, hopefully, poignant, dramatic moments. We’re trying to kind of have our cake and eat it, too.” 

Harper and Gauthier got their cake and more when CTV quickly greenlit the series for Seasons 2 and 3. But having a hit show creates new worries.

“You immediately put pressure on yourself,” Gauthier says. “Like, ‘Can we do it again in the second season?'”

The answer to that is a resounding yes. The first four episodes of Season 2 have provided some of the series’ funniest moments as chronically narcissistic Jann works to win back her family after ditching them to go on tour last season. Her hilarious quest has featured a wrestling match with Sarah McLachlan (who guest-starred in the first episode of the season), some bizarrely unconventional couple’s therapy with girlfriend Cynthia (Sharon Taylor), and a disastrous camping adventure with sister Max (Zoie Palmer) and mom Nora (Deborah Grover).

On Monday’s new episode, “Drop the Single,” Jann is in for more uncomfortable situations when Cale (Elena Juatco) pushes her to record an electronic dance track and she shares a talk show couch with a very unimpressed k.d. lang. The instalment also features some of the show’s patented family drama as Dave (Patrick Gilmore) brings the baby to visit his mom.

We recently chatted with Harper and Gauthier about their approach to writing the new season and what to expect in the show’s second half.

Season 2 has been excellent so far. Did you find it easier or harder to write than the first season? 
Jennica Harper: Easier. When we were breaking the stories for Season 2, I was just so excited because it became clear who the characters are and we had the casting. When we wrote those [Season 1] scripts, we hadn’t cast anybody yet, other than Jann, of course, and now that we know those actors and those characters, it was a lot more playful. 

Leah Gauthier: For sure. And as we watched [the actors] as we were making Season 1, we were like, ‘What are these characters naturally great at that we can pick up on in seasons following? Is this character really good at panicky situations? Has this person come up against Jann as a buddy or as an enemy? Where can we expand on what organically happened on its own and lean into it?’ Because the Charley character, she becomes sort of a social influencer in Season 2, and that was because we were watching Alexa [Rose Steele] in real life, and were thinking, ‘This woman is very interesting and her social media following is huge’. That’s the kind of thing that we sort of lean into and pull from real life, that’s kind of what we’re doing in these later seasons, and I feel it’s more fun to write. 

JH: Another example was with Nora, Jann’s mom, who’s played by Deb Grover. There are these moments where she’s kind of sassy, not just this sort of sad person going through her early stages of memory loss, and we loved that.

How does an episode of Jann begin in your writers’ room? 
JH:  We essentially develop a story arcs document for the season, and that’s something that Jann, Leah, and I do together. Traditionally, that would be the three of us going to Jann’s house in Calgary for a few days and just talking about the shape of the season, because it’s serialized, and what the theme is before we figure out what some individual funny story would be within that. For example, in Season 2 it was about whether Jann could make things up to the people she pissed off and also Cynthia and Jann giving it a go and her relationship with Cale, with Cale being someone who has a lot of ideas that Jann is uncomfortable with.

The three of us developed a road map for the season and some story ideas that could go with that and had them fleshed out. So when we get together with the rest of our writers, we’re presenting our thoughts for the whole season, ‘What do you think?’ Then we ask them to respond and help us refine that and start talking individual stories. That’s not necessarily typical on other shows. Sometimes you just show up and there’s a blank page and you kind of have to figure out one by one what the episodes are going to be. But we kind of come in with some of that work done, so that we can really be running when we have the writers together.

Where do you come up with some of the crazier situations that Jann gets herself into? 
JH: We pull from Jann’s personal stories for sure, anytime we’re chatting about something that kind of works. For some of the family storylines, we have more relatable stories [from our own lives] that apply. But there’s also a lot of what-ifs. You know, ‘What if Jann and Cynthia went to couple’s therapy and maybe this person isn’t even a therapist?’ There’s a lot of just pitching jokes and story ideas in the writers’ room. 

LG: Our writers’ room is a really comfortable space. Everyone feels really comfortable to pitch any idea, even if it’s crazy. Sometimes people will start with, ‘OK, this is a bad pitch, but what if Jann is hanging from her crotch on a barbed wire fence?’

And Jann is game for doing whatever. She understands that the physical comedy lands really well. She’s really helpful because no one is scared to say, ‘I was thinking we’d put you in boxer shorts and you drag garbage cans out the front’ because she’s not ever gonna shut it down. 

JH: She actually pitches it sometimes. She’s the one in the camping episode that really ran with the idea of having an emergency situation in the woods. She went all the way. She went, ‘What if I use a sock?’ That was in the script for a little while, and then we thought this is bizarre for even us. But I think the show works because she is fully committed to looking ridiculous. 

LG: And she’s such a good sport. In the last episode, when she’s on that inflatable pink couch, she was flipping around upside down and sideways on that thing, and she’d just had her gallbladder removed about 15 days before. That’s how committed she is to doing whatever it takes to make people laugh. She’s a true hero. 

Speaking of the inflatable pink couch, how much of the physical comedy is specifically scripted and how much of it is just finding funny situations that allow Jann Arden to be Jann Arden?
LG: For the pink inflatable chair thing, it was scripted that she was stuck in it and she couldn’t reach her pop and she knocks the pop over and says, ‘What a waste.’ But then she kept going, like flipping up and back. That was just her going for it. 

JH: We try to create the space, like you said, for her to run with it. And sometimes we realize later and add it. Like in Episode 3 with the fall out of the rickshaw, Charley pulls up outside the school and Jann is texting and she gets out and she falls, and it’s very funny. 

LG: That was her own stunt. We put a pillow underneath the black mulch, and then we [told her], ‘You’re good.’ 

JH: Yeah, ‘Just fall like you mean it!’

LG: And she did. 

I love Jann’s relationship with Cynthia. I’m a woman of a certain age, gay, and in a relationship, and it’s rare to see characters and humour representing my demographic.
JH: When we were recently talking about Season 3, Leah said how important it is that we feel we are writing a woman in her 50s and living her best life. I mean, obviously, Jann is not actually living her best life yet, but there’s sort of an aspirational quality to it. You know, we want to see women in relationships, we want to see women in sexuality. That’s really important to us and we feel it’s really underrepresented. I think people who haven’t watched the show maybe don’t know how progressive it is.

LG: We’re writing Season 3 now, and in one of our Zoom writing rooms, I said to everyone, ‘As we’re wrapping up our first drafts, can we look back at them with an eye for the moments where Jann can be very proud of herself. ‘ She’s a woman in her 50s that is not done. She’s not over, we haven’t forgotten about her, she’s still excited about stuff, she still gets to do really cool shit, the game’s not over. I want people to watch this and go, ‘I can still do lots of stuff. I have so many days ahead of me that I can do some great things.’ 

And Jann is so helpful in those rooms, too, because she’ll just tell us a story from her real life and we’ll just be like, ‘Got it. Hot flash, girlfriend, laying on the bathroom floor. Cool, it’s in the show!’ 

You’ve had great guest stars this season, including Sarah McLachlan, and in the next episode, k.d. lang. How was it to work with them?
JH: Intimidating. I was very excited, but there were definitely moments where I couldn’t believe this was happening.

LG: Jennica was freaking out. 

JH: I was, in my calm way, freaking out. No, it was very cool, and they were so different. Sarah was really like, ‘Let me do the silly stuff, I’m totally excited about this,’ and k.d. was more reserved, but I thought it was hysterical how she, just with her facial expressions, absolutely nailed the ‘I can’t, this woman is ridiculous,’ vibe. 

LG: She’s very cool and calm, that k.d. lang. She drove herself there and dressed herself, nailed it, and then drove home. 

What can you preview about the second half of the season?
JH: A big thing that’s ramping up is Jann and Cale’s adversarial business relationship. It’s going to really come to a head.

LH: I’m excited about [an episode where] the sisters go on a road trip. I really like the sister dynamic, so putting them in a car together and sending them off was really fun. That’s Episode 207, and I’m really looking forward to that. 

Can you tell me anything about Season 3?
JH: We plan to shoot after the new year, so a little later than normal. We’d normally be shooting now. We’ve already scripted the whole season, we’ve got drafts of the whole thing. We’re revising and punching them up a bit, but we have a story to tell, so we’re pretty excited. 

Jann airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Jann Arden’s clueless alter ego is back in town for Jann’s second season

Unlike her TV alter ego, Jann Arden is aware of her own good fortune. 

The iconic singer-songwriter and star of CTV’s hit comedy series Jann—returning for its second season on Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT—has been able to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic from the socially-distanced comfort of her rural Alberta home.

“I’ve got nothing to complain about,” she says during a phone chat from her house. “My nearest neighbour is a half-mile away. I usually work out here anyway, and I’ve done a lot of recording here. I have a big piece of land, a huge garden, and I’m here with a dog. I want for nothing.”

That isn’t to say the coronavirus hasn’t thrown Arden a few curveballs. For instance, her official induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame was scuppered when the JUNO Awards were cancelled in March, and her much-anticipated cross-Canada tour had to be postponed in May. Still, she’s taking it all in stride. 

“It was disappointing, but [COVID-19 has affected] all of my colleagues, everyone on the planet, every person that I know,” she explains. “Good things come out of bad things. I think it has actually taken the façade off of a way that we’ve been living that’s been so empty, and without a lot of merit, and truth, and vulnerability….I, for one, am grateful to have had the opportunity to slow the hell down.” 

As philosophical as Arden is about 2020’s setbacks, it’s safe to say her hilariously narcissistic TV namesake wouldn’t handle things so well.

“Oh, she would have been terrible!” Arden laughs. “Everybody in Jann’s family would have been made miserable, she’d be like, ‘You have no idea what I’m going through!’”

Of course, TV Jann—Arden’s less-successful, much more self-involved doppelganger—doesn’t need a worldwide pandemic to make people miserable. Her lack of self-awareness and desperate attempts to revive her career kept her family cringing—and viewers laughing—throughout Jann’s critically-acclaimed first season. 

Jann’s self-serving antics crescendoed in the finale when she left her mom Nora (Deborah Grover), who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, on the doorstep of her pregnant, bedridden sister Max (Zoie Palmer) so she could go on tour with her on-screen nemesis, Sarah McLachlan.

This naturally caused some hard feelings. 

However, as the second season starts, Jann is sporting a new, family-first attitude. After finding out Max is in labour, she decides to ditch McLachlan’s disaster-prone tour—think food poisoning and exploding musical instruments—to make amends with her family and win back her ex-girlfriend Cynthia (Sharon Taylor). The problem is, no one is particularly happy to see her when she returns, and her knee-jerk selfishness trips her up at every turn.

Exhibit #1: When she finds Max and brother-in-law Dave (Patrick Gilmore) cradling their newborn baby in the opening minutes of the premiere, she indignantly cries, “You couldn’t friggin’ wait for me?”

Things don’t get much better over the next few episodes, as Jann finds out her former manager Todd (Jason Blicker) has signed a hot new talent (Nia Taylor) and her new manager Cale (Elena Juatco) keeps pushing her outside her comfort zone.

“Things really pick up where they left off,” Arden says. “You kind of got to know everyone in the first season, and I love the new situations that the writers have put them in.”

She’s also pleased with Season 2’s stacked guest-star lineup, which includes k.d. lang, Elisha Cuthbert, Keshia Chanté, and in the first episode, McLachlan—who gamely skewers her nice-girl image to settle a score with Jann.

“She’s fantastic, and she’s such a good sport,” Arden says of McLachlan, making it clear that the Jann/Sarah rivalry doesn’t extend to real life. “Half of the stuff you see was her idea.”

As in the first season, Arden’s natural comedic timing and willingness to take the piss out of herself help keep Jann likeable even when she’s at her worst. Meanwhile, Grover’s whimsical and tender handling of Nora’s Alzheimer’s journey continues to provide emotional depth. 

Arden’s real-life mother passed away from Alzheimer’s complications in 2018, just after the first season wrapped. When asked if that loss made shooting Season 2 more difficult, she says it was actually the opposite. 

“You know what? It was a delight,” she says. “I got to live in a world for the five or six weeks when we were shooting where my mom was alive. And Deborah reminds me so much of my mom. My mom was hilarious. She was very intrepid; she wasn’t precious about dying.”

Arden says she’s thrilled that Jann allows her the opportunity to educate the Canadian public about Alzheimer’s and dementia.

I think to be able to see a main character in a contemporary, modern scripted comedy on a major network, to see that in your living room is so accessible, and it’s been really important,” she says.

During Season 3—which has already been ordered and set to go before cameras in January—Arden plans “to keep the pressure up” with Nora’s journey.

“There are so many great things that we can do with the story, and it makes it interesting,” she says. “You have to have pathos to have humour, right?”

Meanwhile, Arden says there are no plans to include COVID-19 stories in future seasons.

“We’re not addressing it, we’re not mentioning it,” she says. “In TV Jann’s world, it never happened.”

For the sake of Jann’s family, that’s probably a good idea.

Jann airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Kristin Kreuk and Jonathan and Drew Scott win 2019 Rockie Awards

Canadians Kristin Kreuk and  Drew and Jonathan Scott were among the winners celebrated during the Rockie Awards gala on Tuesday night at the Banff World Media Festival.

Hosted by Jann Arden—who kept the night light and upbeat with tales of bad relationships and once suffering from diarrhea onstage during a performance in Berlin—the festival honours outstanding talent and executives from the industry.

“We want to extend a giant thank you to all of the people who made this possible for us,” Jonathan Scott said. The pair were given the Innovative Producer Award, which recognizes the entrepreneurial excellence and achievements of an independent producer in TV/digital media. The Scott Brothers have amassed an empire of television programs through Property Brothers and spinoffs, as well as launching programs under their production banner like Menu Match-up, Reno, Set Go and Half Price Paradise. Past honorees of the Innovative Producer Award include New Metric Media, Wolf + Rabbit, Don Carmody and marblemedia.

“The reason that I am standing here today is in large part due to luck/privilege and other people who could see more of the playing field than I could,” Kreuk said. The star and executive producer of CBC’s Burden of Truth was given the Canadian Award of Distinction for a body of work that exemplifies outstanding achievement in the entertainment industry. Past honorees include Sheila Hockin, Just For Laughs, Eric McCormack and Kim Cattrall.

“I never really set out with a plan to do any of this, and along the way, I have made some good decisions and some terrible ones,” Kreuk said. “There are times that I just wanted to leave and times I’ve been devasted by the toxicity of this business. And without good, solid people around me, professionally and personally, I would not have made it this far.”

Here is a complete list of the winners:

CANADIAN AWARD OF DISTINCTION:
Kristin Kreuk (Burden of Truth, EuroTrip, Smallville)

INNOVATIVE PRODUCER AWARD:
Scott Brothers Entertainment Inc.

PROGRAM OF THE YEAR:
Surviving R. Kelly

THE GRAND JURY PRIZE:
Sharp Objects

AWARD OF EXCELLENCE:
Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Freaks and Geeks, Ghostbusters, The Heat)

SHOWRUNNER OF THE YEAR:
Jed Mercurio (Bodyguard, Line of Duty)

A+E INCLUSION AWARD:
Kitti Jones, survivor and author, Brie Miranda Bryant, SVP and Executive Producer, Lifetime, dream hampton, executive producer, Tamra Simmons, executive producer (Surviving R. Kelly)

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER IMPACT AWARD:
Justin Simien (Dear White People)

SIR PETER USTINOV COMEDY AWARD:
Bill Hader (Barry, Trainwreck, Saturday Night Live)

Image courtesy of Kristian Bogner.

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Preview: Jann Arden guest-stars in Private Eyes’ Season 3 return

In what has quickly become a spring tradition, Private Eyes—Global’s fun detective drama starring Jason Priestley and Cindy Sampson—returns for a third season of 12 new instalments beginning this Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

When we last left the duo, things were looking grim. Conned into stealing sensitive government intelligence, Angie Everett (Sampson) ended up behind bars. Now it’s up to Matt Shade (Priestley) and their assistant, Zoe Chow (Samantha Wan), to prove Angie’s innocence.

Here is the official episode synopsis for “Catch Me If You Con,” written by Alan McCullough and directed by Shawn Piller:

In the aftermath of Angie’s incarceration, Shade and Angie must risk everything to recover the stolen hard drive and clear Angie’s name. Their hunt leads them to a lavish museum gala where a priceless ancient artefact is on display.

And here are a few more hints from me after watching a screener.

Two women, wearing orange prison jumpsuits, sit in a cell.Jann Arden appears
The hottest commodity in Canadian television at the moment—guest-starring on Wynnona Earp and headlining her own series, Jann—Jann Arden plays Loretta. The cell block boss isn’t happy a high-profile inmate like Angie is on her turf. That causes, um, problems. As an aside, I love trying to locate where Toronto-set shows have filmed. When it comes to the exterior views of the prison Angie is in, the show chose the stately R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant.

Laura Vandervoort and Colin Ferguson return
The pair who set Angie up in the first place, Dana and Dominik, have skipped off leaving no trace of evidence to connect them with the hard drive. Saving Angie and getting the hard drive back is going to be tough.

A man and woman put earpieces into their ears.Lucas Bryant drops by
Agent Ellis won’t drop his case until the hard drive has been handed to him, adding more pressure to Shade, Angie and Zoe’s task. Eagle-eyed Haven fans will, of course, recall Bryant, Priestley and Ferguson all appeared on that show together, which was executive-produced by Shawn Piller, Private Eyes‘ executive producer and sometime director. Also, Killjoys fans should look for Sean Baek; he plays a security expert who may have had his laptop stolen by Dana.

Zoe goes undercover
Samantha Wan always injects the perfect amount of hand-waving comic relief, especially when she’s in the field. Wednesday’s episode gives her the opportunity for more antics, especially when she goes undercover as Zoe Von Furstenberg … something … something.

Private Eyes airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Global.

Images courtesy of Corus Entertainment.

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Jann: Zoie Palmer on Max and Jann’s “very cool sister dynamic”

Zoie Palmer has well over 100,000 Twitter followers that she interacts with on a regular basis, but back in 2015, she picked up one particular follower who wanted to cast her on a TV show she was developing: Jann Arden.

“Yeah, we met on Twitter of all places, and she talked about me being on the show,” Palmer says. “She’s funny as heck, and she’d been watching a show I did, and I’ve been watching her career forever. We just got on like a house on fire, it was just a natural thing.”

Their online friendship led to Palmer being cast as Max, the fictional sister of fictional Jann Arden, in the CTV comedy Jann. As the series begins, Max finds out she’s pregnant with her fourth child—despite her husband Dave’s (Patrick Gilmore) recent vasectomy—and is well over being the responsible sister who cares for their mum Nora (Deborah Grover) while Jann freely pursues her music career.

But even though Palmer says the siblings “may not know each other” if they weren’t related, she also says that they need each other.

“They bring a lot to each other,” says Palmer. “And because they’re so different, the comedy of that is endless.”

Max and Jann’s complicated, hilarious, and ultimately loving relationship is on full display in Wednesday’s new episode, “Major Party Foul,” as Jann takes over planning Nora’s 75th birthday party from Max.

We spoke to Palmer, who will also be appearing in the upcoming second season of Pure, during a visit to Jann‘s set last fall to learn more about Max and her experience working on the show.

Jann is quite a change of pace from your recent work on Dark Matter, Pure and Wynonna Earp.  Have you found it fun to work on a comedy?
Zoie Palmer: I love it. You know, Dark Matter was amazing, I loved it, it was a great three years. But then when things are over as an artist, the best thing that can happen is that you do something that is nothing like the thing you just did. That’s how I want to make my career, to go from totally unrelated thing to totally unrelated thing.

You play Jann’s sister Max on the show. They seem very different from each other. 
ZP: Jann has no kids and a music career, and Max has three kids and is pregnant, so their lives are very different from one another. And I don’t know if these two people would know each other if they weren’t sisters, you know what I mean? They’re really different. But it’s incredibly complementary and they kind of lean on each other in a weird way. Like, Jann brings to the table what Max doesn’t and Max absolutely brings to the table what Jann needs a lot of the time. So it’s a very cool sister dynamic. I think a lot of siblings have this thing where they think, ‘I don’t know if I’d know my sister or brother if we weren’t actually growing up in the same household,’ and I think it’s the case for these two, but it’s very cool that they are. They bring a lot to each other, and because they’re so different, the comedy of that is endless.

Jann has mentioned how nervous she was about acting in this series. Have you been helping her out at all on set?
ZP: There are technical things, like jargon on set where she might ask, ‘What does it mean when they say this or that?’ But overall really, because she presents such an honesty in her life, she really is an authentic person. The Jann that you saw [during the set visit], the Jann that we see on set is the same Jann that is in the kitchen making coffee. That’s her. I think the reason why that lends itself so well to acting is that she’s able to very easily tap into a real moment, which you need so much as an actor. So she kind of comes by that side of acting quite naturally. She’s pretty real, and she doesn’t have many moments that are not real.

Besides Jann herself, what do you think viewers will enjoy most about the show?
ZP: I think people are going to see their own family on TV in a lot of ways. Because this show presents all of those dynamics: the disagreements, the uncomfortable moments, the love. You know, I have one sister, and my mother used to say, ‘You have to be there for each other. You only have each other.’ I heard it over and over. It was a mantra in our house. So, I think it will be relatable.

You’ve been working all over Canada the last several months, shooting Pure in Halifax and filming Wynonna Earp and Jann in Calgary. Are getting homesick for Toronto at all? 
ZP: I’ve been travelling since May, but I love what I do and I love being in new places and, for me, it’s like a dream. It’s what I wanted to do since I was a kid, was this, so I love it. But, yeah, I have my things I like, my shower I like, and my park that I like to walk in. All the things you have at your house that you want.

Jann airs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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