APTN and Prairie Dog Film + Television’s new one-hour crime drama series, TRIBAL begins production today in Calgary.
TRIBAL follows a First Nation Tribal Police Force as they navigate a controversial new Chief amid allegations of corruption and takeover from the federal government. TRIBAL’s award-winning cast includes Jessica Matten (Frontier, Blackstone) and Brian Markinson (Mad Men, Unspeakable). The series will also feature the talented Michelle Thrush, Justin Rain, Garry Chalk, Adam MacDonald and Julian Black Antelope.
In TRIBAL, the department of Federal Justice attempts to save political face under the mask of inclusion and collaboration as they take control of the Tribal Police Force. Interim Tribal Chief Samantha Woodburn (Matten) attempts to overcome political red tape, and must also prove herself amongst the old-white-boys club of the Metro Police. Thrust into an unfamiliar world, she navigates politics and procedure as she clashes with her new partner, Chuck “Buke” Bukansky (Markinson), a seasoned but broken-down Metro Police detective. This season examines First Nation crime stories based on real-world cases, including mistaken identity, pipeline controversy, healing lodge justice, social services, tobacco and missing Indigenous Peoples.
TRIBAL Showrunner and Director Ron E. Scott is a prolific producer and innovator, who has contributed to over 190 episodes of TV that have broadcasted globally on Netflix, including the ground-breaking one-hour dramatic series Blackstone, now streaming on APTN and CBC.
Filming locations include Calgary and the Tsuu T’ina First Nation in Alberta, Canada. TRIBAL is produced by Ron E. Scott, Janet Hamley, Adam Frost and Nancy Laing from Prairie Dog Film + Television. The series will broadcast in Canada on APTN.
The first season of CBC’s Burden of Truth was a pleasant surprise. At first glance, the series—with its vague title and legal theme—had the unfortunate outer markings of a bland procedural, a sort of brown paper bag among more colourful “Peak TV” offerings.
But in a wonderful sidestep, the series eschewed a plot-focused case-of-the-week format in favour of a single, serialized case that took its time and built its characters. Moreover, its environmental storyline involving big-time corporate lawyer Joanna Hanley (Kristin Kreuk) and a mysterious illness affecting high school girls in her hometown of Millwood, Manitoba, exonerated its seemingly punchless title. As the suffering of the girls became impossible to ignore, the weight of Joanna’s conscience—which her lawyer-boss father David Hanley (Alex Carter) proudly proclaimed she didn’t have—became heavier and heavier. This moral awakening led her to defect from her dad’s big-city law firm and help small-town lawyer Billy Crawford (Peter Mooney) investigate the cause of the girls’ illness. It also led her to discover that her father once preyed upon an underage girl, resulting in the birth of her sister Luna (Star Slade). This helped her to win the case but forced her to change her name.
The burden of truth, indeed.
In the show’s Season 2 premiere, which airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBC, that burden still looms large. Now working at a high-pressure corporate law firm in Winnipeg and using the last name “Chang,” Joanna is trying to distance herself from both her father’s shadow and the Millwood case. However, the events of Season 1 won’t be easy to shake off.
“I think Brad Simpson, who created the show, really wanted to be sure that we stayed with the lives of these people and to really instill that these cases don’t just end and that’s it,” Kreuk explains during a phone interview from Toronto. “There’s a lot of complexity and also a lot of horrible things happened, so they have to deal with the balance of that.”
For Joanna, that means having to deal with Millwood-related aftershocks—be they in the form of a visit from her estranged father or in the form of an unwanted Case of the Year award—while she is struggling to rein in her difficult new client, a hacker-turned-political activist (Varun Saranga). For the people of Millwood, that means finding a way to rebuild their lives after the closure of Matheson Steel, the source of the environmental contamination that made the girls ill.
While the series is admirably willing to delve into the aftermath of Season 1, Mooney assures viewers that there are plenty of fresh storylines and threats lurking about in Season 2.
“I think the danger in the second season is so much more immediate,” he says. “The onus in the first season was chipping away at these girls’ lives in a really tragic way, and this season is just as dangerous. But that danger is not a future danger, but a danger that’s present and right there in every day of the season.”
One major source of danger is Joanna’s new case, which involves hacktivists, shadowy corporations and Internet privacy.
“When the hacktivist stuff happens, it’s hard for her,” Kreuk says. “Not just because she doesn’t understand the Internet and she doesn’t understand privacy, but because she’s dealing with young people who are really emotional and really intense, and that’s really tough for her. I think, practically, that puts her into a space where her life is on the line and so are the lives of her clients.”
To make matters worse, the case forces Joanna to confront parts of her personality she would rather keep hidden.
“When people attack Joanna’s privacy, it starts to get into emotional profiling and the darkest parts of your psychodynamics that you don’t want to look at and you don’t want anyone else to see,” Kreuk says.
Meanwhile, back in Millwood, Matheson Steel victims Molly (Sara Thompson) and Taylor (Anwen O’Driscoll) are trying to physically and emotionally heal after their ordeal, while Luna remains troubled by the crime David Hanley committed against her mother (Jessica Matten). The town is also reeling from the closure of the mill—an event that is driving up unemployment and increasing tensions. This causes Billy to retreat to the outskirts of town, but his tranquil existence is interrupted when his impulsive younger brother (Andrew Chown) suddenly turns up.
“Billy got away pretty clear in Season 1,” Mooney says. “Anything from his past that he’d rather have avoided, he was able to avoid in that season. But in Season 2, it comes crashing back into his life and we meet his brother Shane, who brings us back into his history, and it’s tricky history. There’s a lot going on. We see a lot of different sides of Billy beyond the side that he usually puts forward.”
If all of this sounds like a Season 1-style slow-burn instead of the “immediate” danger Mooney spoke of, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. There is an early-season twist that turns everything on its head, and Kreuk says the fallout will challenge viewers and push them to “think about their place in Canada, or in the world, in a more nuanced way.”
Mooney concurs, adding, “We tell a really difficult story this season, and I think it’s really well told. I’m really proud of it.”
Burden of Truth airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.
I’ve been desperately trying to watch Seasons 1 and 2 of Frontier online since you mentioned they were available. I’ve been really enjoying the series so far and I expect Season 3 will be just as great. One of my favourite characters is Jessica Matten’s Sokanon. She is such an unpredictable character and I never know where she will go in any scene. I hope Sokanon makes it to the end of Frontier! —John
I agree that the showrunners should stick to the original format of [Murdoch Mysteries], in terms of showing the main four and covering their backstory. William, Julia, Brack and George are the only characters that I like to see have the main focus of each show. I actually wrote a letter to Peter Mitchell telling him that the show has too many characters since S9; Nina, Louise, Marilyn Clark, Ruth, Watts and even put more focus on Henry, John and Margaret. I told PM that I hoped Louise would get murdered, because that be the most interesting story with her in it. I also said that I didn’t like that H, J and M were getting more screen time. The point that I was trying to make with you was that, if this season is doing something a bit “fresh,” by having episodes that give more of a backstory to the main four, then I’m OK with that. Watts is an OK character but yeah, I could’ve done without an ALL Watts episode. Basically, I don’t think the writers will be doing these kinds of episodes in S13 (fingers crossed). —Crystal
I think it’s selfish of viewers to expect the same product in every episode of any show. Creative people feel boxed in when they can’t follow their instincts. I like the profile stories of Watts and Brackenreid for the depth and enrichment of the characters, for the stretching of the writers’ imaginations, for the challenge to the actors. Doing the same thing with minor variations and over is BORING. For them and for me. One reason I’m such a fan of MM is their all-over-the-place unpredictability. Obviously this fluidity works for most of us since MM is on its 12th season with only a few changes to cast. They’re happy, let them do their thing. —Sadie
Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? Email greg. email@example.com or via Twitter @tv_eh.
Just in time for the chilly days of winter, Season 3 of Frontier blows into town on Discovery.
Returning Friday at 10 p.m. ET with two back-to-back episodes, the Canadian original once again crashes through the brush with its tales of adventure, heroics and bloodshed among feuding fur traders and trading companies. What can fans look forward to when Frontier checks in later this week? The Hudson’s Bay Company is cracking heads and Declan Harp (Jason Momoa) is on a mission to rescue Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle) from Lord Benton’s (Alun Armstrong) clutches. Meanwhile, Sokanon (Jessica Matten) plots to free Indigenous women from being bought and sold around James Bay.
For more insight into Frontier, we turned to writer and co-executive producer Kerri MacDonald for more details and behind-the-scenes scoop!
So talk a little bit about working with co-creators Rob and Peter Blackie. What’s it like working with those two?
Kerri MacDonald: Oh, my God, it’s the most fun ever. It truly, truly is. I love working with those guys. They operate … it’s funny to work with people who are very close as siblings, right? They have a very specific relationship. They do have a very specific brotherly relationship, which makes for an enormous amount of laughter and humour in [the writing] room for sure.
As a creative unit, I love working with them because they do have really very much a shared vision for the show, and when you talk to one, you’re talking to the other in that way. It’s really comfortable and it’s really great because like I said, they know what they want for the show, and it’s my job then to support it, and then to laugh at all of their hilarious jokes in the room.
Does working on Frontier include some research that you had to do, some deep dives into the history of Canada to formulate these characters?
KMD: Yeah, the boys did a lot of research out of the gate about the time and the trade, and the players involved. I think the show was never intended to be something that was built on the accuracy of some sort of historical engine. It was always meant to be an action/adventure series with the trade as the backdrop. So that in and of itself was interesting because we were building a world. We were building a world in a way that we hadn’t before for sure with the other shows that we’ve done. That was really, really interesting.
As far as the way people talk in our world can slide into feeling very contemporary. There was a conscious choice early on not to be super formal with the dialogue. That was sort of helpful in some ways because you’re not tied to certain types of speaking.
Now, of course, certain characters in the show, like Lord Benton, or we have a new character that we are introducing this season by the name of Lord Fisher, played by Jay Simpson. These guys, of course, are aristocratic, well-born, and well-learned men, so of course, they speak differently. They speak more formally. Then, of course, you have our Scottish guys, who use all kinds of great colloquialisms and stuff.
For me, I find tapping into my voice as a Newfoundlander is one of my strongest points in terms of voicing. Newfoundland is an incredibly unique place, and therefore my voice, my experience, my family, the place I grew up, all of that sort of informs how I write. It’s a really fun show to write. The characters are all so different, and all so rich, and all have such different voices that I embrace that challenge of that sometimes.
Not only are the characters rich, but the wardrobe and the sets are just incredible. It’s one thing to write those scripts, but I would imagine as the actors and actresses get into their clothing and get into those sets, man, it just really helps them get into their characters.
KMD: Oh, yeah, 100 per cent. Our costumes are magnificent and they’re hand-sewn, and they have weights, and function, and all of those things that would help anybody sort of step into another time. Absolutely. We have an incredible crew of people, and the people who make those decisions, Michael Ground and Gord Barnes, just like really spectacular work.
How many were there in the writers’ room, aside from yourself and the Blackies in Season 3?
KMD: It was me and the Blackies and Sherry White and Chris Roberts and Russ Cochran and Michelle Latimer.
After you spent time in the room, you’re batting around ideas, you’ve worked out the beats for the episode and that type of thing, and then you go off by yourself to write an episode, are you the type where you can go to a coffee shop and write or do you need a room that’s quiet to write?
KMD: For me personally, I am a real creature of habit. I find when I’m writing a script, there’s sort of levels to it. There’s the stuff that if I’m feeling challenged on that day I’ll write the easy stuff, or if I’m really digging into it, I can write the difficult stuff. I find that not everywhere is easy to write sometimes, but my favourite place to write is literally on my couch in my basement in front of my television. Like everything I write, I say to my friends all the time, it’s quite funny, that anything I’ve ever written has basically been in a four-foot square space in my basement.
Is the TV on or is it off?
KMD: Oh no, it’s on. I always have the TV on. I’m an only child. I was raised partially by television, so it’s not unusual for television to be always on in my house, even if I’m not.
One of the characters that I’ve been fascinated with is Cobbs Pond, played by Greg Bryk. I spoke to him last year, and he just loved talking about playing this twisted character, this crazy character, and just being able to unleash the inner madman in him.
KMD: Pond is one definitely of our most interesting characters on the show. He’s in some ways … he’s boundary-less in a lot of ways, so for that, he’s a really fun character to write, because he’s really unpredictable and kind of all bets are off with him.
Something that sort of happened this season is that some of the storylines have broken away from this main thrust of Harp, so that’s allowed us to open up the world and cross over the characters in interesting sort of new dynamics, so this season you’ll see Pond in a bit of a different position, and you’ll see him from a slightly different angle, but that doesn’t mean you should settle into him being anything different than you know.
Is there a character that you particularly find that you’re able to find their voice for quickly? Is it Pond? Is it Harp? Is it another character that you really like to write for?
KMD: One of my favourite characters to write for is Malcolm Brown [played by Michael Patric]. Malcolm always says what’s on his mind, and he’s never really hiding anything, he’s kind of blustery and old, and it’s kind of fun that way because there are certain characters that have certain levels of restraint in this show, and sort of societal boundaries, but Malcolm doesn’t really, and he’s fun to write that way. He’s a bit of an id.
Writing for the female characters on the show is a treat. History wasn’t kind to women during that period, and being able to bring to life these ladies who are such survivors, who maintain their agency at any cost while remaining at the mercy of the men around them, is an exquisitely fun job. And when you’re lucky enough to have the extraordinary talent of the actresses we have on our show, it’s thrilling to see these badass ladies kicking Frontier ass all over the place. They are so inspiring.
What can you say about working with Jason Momoa?
KMD: Jason’s great. I haven’t had a lot of close interaction with him really. It’s just sort of a here and there, but I had the chance last season to kind of work with him a little bit more, and he’s a terrific collaborator and really genuinely excited about that character, so when you write for him, all you wanna know is whether or not he really likes it.
He knows what he wants. Nobody knows Declan Harp really more than Jason Momoa, and he brings him to life in a way that I certainly couldn’t, to be honest. He and Pete work really, really closely on his character, and I sort of defer to whatever the guys want, because they know that character, they know how to tell that story really, really well.
I just really, really liked working with Jason. It was a really awesome treat.
Frontier airs Fridays at 10 and 11 p.m. ET on Discovery.