Tag Archives: John Reardon

Hudson & Rex Showrunner Derek Schreyer: “We’re all craving connectivity in these crazy times”

In my first interview covering the third season of Hudson & Rex, I spoke to show co-stars Mayko Nguyen about how emotionally draining the season debut was. Showrunner Derek Schreyer believes he knows the reason why.

“I think these times have shown us not just how much we love our animals, but how much they love us,” he told me in an email. I agree. I certainly have spent a lot more time bugging my cat, much—I’m sure—to his chagrin. But enough about me; here is my email chat with Derek Schreyer about the challenges of running a TV series during a worldwide pandemic.

How challenging was it for you, as showrunner, to create this season during COVID-19?
Derek Schreyer: I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t much of a factor. We started rolling into Season 3 just as the world began to shut down, and the pandemic panic was at its absolute high (even though we’re actually much worse off now). Getting into a groove on a new season is challenging enough, but here was this added complexity of being forced to work on Zoom, and oh yeah, the world is burning. So those first few days were spent musing about life while figuring out the software (we use Miro to replicate a whiteboard) and all the new rhythms of a virtual room.

So yes, there were bumps. In a physical workspace, we can pace and move around and scrunch up the bad pitches (which will inevitably become ammunition). Sometimes we’d take group walks to stretch the legs or have a coffee break in a park, which is where some of the best ideas are formed. None of that possible in a virtual room, so we had to figure out new ways to spark our imagination. Complicating things further is everyone has a life, which can’t help but spill onto the zoom screen—there are the kids and the ferrets and the delivery men and the partners and the barking dogs, not to mention the technical glitches and different time zones.

But here’s the funny thing: I learned to love all that stuff. Distractions create amusing bonding moments, which can actually generate ideas. It really didn’t take our team long to gel. Of course, it’s not like we had a choice—our development window is much shorter than most one-hour shows, so we had to learn how to work together fast. That we’re not a massive room worked to our advantage, and we have a nice mix of new faces with returnees. There’s really only four of us—Vivian Lin and Joseph Milando from last season, and Sonja Bennet coming in fresh. We also had Cal Coons do the heavy-lifting on some of the earlier episodes, it would have been near impossible to slide right into Season 3 without him. And we were blessed with some strong outside writers, a number of whom have already written for the show.

And yes, COVID was certainly a factor in how we told our stories. We chose not to depict the pandemic in our fictional world, but production still had to manage it in real life, which meant fewer crowds and more two-handers and outdoor scenes. So there were definitely more barriers for the storytelling this season. But sometimes barriers breed innovation, and I’m very proud of the places we took our scripts. I honestly believe it’s our strongest season yet.

Mayko mentioned a lot more filming outdoors this season. Was this because of the pandemic, or was that just the nature of the storylines?
DS: It’s actually a bit of both. Newfoundland has some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, which is one of the reasons we now air in over 100 territories—that rugged landscape is an appealing draw for places like Italy, France, and Germany. Some of our strongest episodes from previous seasons took advantage of that. And of course, with this year and COVID, it’s just easier and safer to shoot outdoors, so we definitely leaned more that way at first.

Luckily the outdoors is a natural fit for our world, given the Rex factor. There is something appealing about a man and his dog in the wild, that Jack London call to adventure is innate and universal. One episode finds Charlie and Rex venturing deep into the forest to a small nomadic civilization living off-the-grid. Another takes place under the ocean and involves Charlie strapping on a SCUBA suit in the search for clues on the ocean bed (both ideas inspired by our star John Reardon, who is a Master SCUBA diver in real life). The point is that this season often our story obstacles came from the elements, as opposed to complex set-pieces requiring a large cast, which is true to the DNA of our show.

The one down side to shooting outdoors is that Newfoundland does not have a very long summer. That can be difficult on the actors, who sometimes have to pretend it’s warmer than it is. Watching them in some of these dailies makes me realize how incredibly devoted they are to their craft and this show. Luckily, we plan our stories according to the elements, so the last three episodes shooting in the new year feature worlds that are largely indoors.

Did you have to alter anything in the planning and/or production because of COVID-19?
DS: Absolutely, both on the page and on the floor. Production did an incredible job tapping down on COVID—employing working pods and zones, sanitizing stations, strict quarantining of out-of-province cast and crew, essential mask-wearing, and of course constant testing. All of this costs money and time, so almost every department, including Story, had to make concessions. So sometimes, if a test result wasn’t ready, we’d have to adjust a scene or write someone out. Re-inventing on the fly is not unusual during production, but COVID took it to another level.
Having said that, as crazy as it sounds, the limitations didn’t hurt the episodes. At times they even helped them. Smaller scenes can become more visceral and intimate, allowing Rex and the cast to really shine. Crowds were certainly a casualty this season, but we quickly discovered we didn’t always need them. For instance, one episode is set at a dog show. We could never replicate the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, so we developed a fictional version that felt truer to St. John’s. And we’re working on an episode involving magic, which usually involves spectacle and an audience, but the more interesting things happen behind the scenes.

I’ve told both Mayko and John that there is a groove to the first episode of this new season. It feels like everyone “gets” their characters and there is a confidence/swagger to the show. Have you felt that?
DS: Absolutely. Our four human leads really have found their groove this season, hitting new heights in clarity and depth. I strongly believe that any of them could anchor a U.S. show. But as good as they are individually, they’re even better as a team. I like to think it’s because of the brilliant writing, but it’s more likely that chemistry generates over hardship and time, and after two seasons and 32 episodes this cast has had plenty of both (epic reshoots, snowmaggedon, a pandemic … and I’m only scratching the surface!)

The other factor is, now that we’re deep into the third season, we really have figured out what makes each of these characters unique. We’re not a soapy show, and don’t go too deeply into the personal lives of our characters. So we can’t rely on shortcuts like bringing in a parent or girlfriend or brother or following anyone home (except Charlie and Rex). This means we need to define our characters through nuance in dialogue and work style. It helps that everyone works together to ensure their voices are clear and consistent, including the cast themselves.

Hudson & Rex is able to provide light and dark moments. The scene of Rex and his dead partner in the season premiere, and the closing scene at her tombstone, was emotional for me. Can you talk about the joy of bringing those moments to the screen?
DS: Our opening episode was an idea that had been kicking around for a while, but was felt too early in the series arc for an origin story. But now that 30-plus episodes have been filmed, and given how crazy 2020 has been, I cannot think of a more perfect season kicker. It’s obviously a heavy episode that deals with loyalty, loss, and renewal. Jackie May did a lovely job capturing the raw emotion, and I don’t think you’re the only one who felt moved by the episode.

In many ways, that opener is very 2020. We’re all craving connectivity in these crazy times, and that is especially true with the animals we love. My parents had to put down their German shepherd not long before COVID hit, and they’re missing that dog every day. And I had to put down my best pal Cooper, our Portuguese water dog, the day we went into lockdown. We’ve learned to appreciate the bond we have with our animal companions. For this season’s opener, we’re telling that same story, except from the dog’s POV, which is even more wrenching.

I think these times have shown us not just how much we love our animals, but how much they love us, which is why our opener packs such an emotional punch. But the ending alludes to renewal, hope, and purpose—something we all could really use these days.

Hudson & Rex airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Diesel and Derek image courtesy of Derek Schreyer. Show images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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Hudson & Rex: John Reardon and Mayko Nguyen discuss Season 3

The third season of Hudson & Rex returns on Tuesday with an episode new and veteran fans will love. Entitled “The Hunt,” the instalment serves as the show’s origin story, revealing how Charlie (John Reardon) and Rex (Diesel vom Burgimwald) became partners. Charlie recalls the story to Sarah (Mayko Nguyen) and we view the emotional adventure through flashbacks.

It’s a powerful episode of television, and the perfect kickoff to Season 3. We spoke to stars John Reardon and Mayko Nguyen about the evolution of Hudson & Rex, and what fans can expect this season.

How did COVID-19 affect production on Season 3?
Mayko Nguyen: I’m not going to lie, coming out of strict isolation and then being out in the world which you could be out here at that time and then being on set, being around people, it was a bit jarring for sure. But I felt confident in the measures that we were taking. We’ve shot outside a lot more this year. You know, the adjustment of wearing the masks. It’s funny. It’s just like anything else, it takes a bit, and sometimes you have people who are like, ‘Ugh,’ but then it’s like, you’re just wearing a mask. It’s not a big deal. And then you get used to it. Like now I feel weird when I don’t have the mask on. I feel like I’m missing something. So, I think it’s, again, it’s just like any transition, you just get used to it and I think we’re all happy to be there and happy to do it for the sake of getting to work.

John Reardon: I feel very fortunate that we’re able to be working right now. We’ve been working since July, I think one of the first productions in North America to come back. It’s something that we don’t take for granted because the situation in so many places is very tough for people right now. So, it’s pretty special to have people wanting to see the show and being able to keep it going. I’m definitely excited to get it on the air.

The first episode of this third season really, really well done. It was enjoyable to get the true origin story of how Charlie and Rex became partners, even if it was a tragedy that brought them together.
MN: We had a screening for the cast of that one episode. I think we do really well with this show because there’s a lot of heart, and I feel like that’s unavoidable when you have a dog who is working to help people, that’s just unavoidable, but that episode in particular … oh man, it’s just gut-wrenching. And you see how Rex and Charlie develop the start of that relationship and that also is … oh, it’s such a good episode and I was really excited when I read it for the first time because it is a departure from the standard structure of our show and it’s a special episode and I’m really glad because of course, of course, we want to know how Charlie and Rex started out, right?

JR: I remember reading that episode for the first time about a month before we went to camera and just thinking how much I felt the audience would enjoy it because they’re going to see the sneak peek of how Rex and Charlie meet and how everybody interacted before Rex was there and then sort of see where that relationship starts. I’m really happy with how it turned out and I think everybody is and so I hope people really respond to it well.

Watching the first episode, I feel like the show has confidence going into Season 3. Do you feel that?
JR: Yeah, I do. I definitely feel like I learn more about Charlie every year and I think what’s great is when we have an episode like this and we also have a few other episodes later in the season that has sort of personal stakes or alludes to our characters’ history. I think when we add that stuff in, it helps build the character even more. Things that we might not have known as the actor comes to light and then that adds an extra layer to them. In our very first episode, ‘The Hunt,’ we allude a little bit to how Charlie and Rex met, but when you infuse it with all the heart from that episode and all the scenes that we shot and you create that history, then that I feel that lives on in the future episodes as well. I think it just adds to the DNA of the show.

There are 10 directors during this season of Hudson & Rex. One of them is Tracey Deer. She’s an amazing person and director. What was it like working with her?
JR: I hadn’t worked with her before, but she’s fabulous and I really enjoyed working with her. She’s a very intelligent, very thoughtful director, and puts a lot of thought into how really small things can make a huge difference in the tone of the story. She looks at it not just at the macrocosm, but also the microcosm of everything and that’s great because it just gives you more and more stuff to play with. She’s a lovely person and I really, really enjoyed working with her. She’s very talented.

Mayko, what can you say about Sarah’s journey this season?
MN: There’s stuff going on in Sarah’s life for sure. I think that that first episode is an example of it, sort of cementing this friendship with Charlie and the rest of the team. But, you know, in that first episode, Charlie lets her in on this very special, private thing that he does, this annual thing that she gets to be part of that, and I think I feel very honoured to get be, to have that shared with me. I feel like every season we’re deepening that friendship and deepening those relationships, I feel and maybe this is what you’re picking up on, but the team does feel that much more cohesive this year and I don’t know how to articulate why or what that is, but it feels much more tight-knit and we’ve got some episodes for sure where we’re working even harder as a team to figure out some of these cases.

Hudson and Rex airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Shaftesbury.

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Hudson & Rex showrunner Derek Schreyer teases Season 2

After a break of only a few months, Hudson & Rex returns for its second season on Citytv. We couldn’t be happier. The crime drama, based out of St. John’s and starring John Reardon, Mayko Nguyen, Kevin Hanchard, Justin Kelly and German Shepherd Diesel vom Burgimwald is a must-see for anyone that enjoys their mysteries lighter in tone and with a great ensemble cast.

In Tuesday’s debut—at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv—Charlie (Reardon) and Rex (Diesel vom Burgimwald) discover a wanted criminal has been living in St. John’s under a false identity for 20 years and end up in the crosshairs when the man’s past catches up with him. Along for the ride are the capable Doctor Sarah Truong (Nguyen), Superintendent Joe Donovan (Hanchard) and Tech Analyst Jesse Mills (Kelly). And, with David Hewlett, Shiva Negar, Janet Kidder and Noam Jenkins in guest roles, it makes for a fast-paced and highly enjoyable first instalment.

We spoke to showrunner Derek Schreyer—who took over for Season 1 showrunner Ken Cuperus—about what’s to come, including a visit to France.

How’s filming been going?
Derek Schreyer: It’s been going great. It’s been really fun. For Season 2, we really pushed to get some scripts done in time for the summer, which relies on some of the amazing, amazing summer scenarios of St. John’s. So that’s been really a lot of fun.

I sort of jumped on board this as a showrunner about two-thirds of the way through Season 1. I’d never been there before, so it was like I just got thrown into the fire. It was two months of absolute pain because we were way behind and I had to do a lot of stuff. But I knew it’s the first year of the show, and every time there’s the first year of a show, there’s a lot of cooks and a lot of people really care about it, and want to make sure that it’s right. And this show’s been developed for 10 years. I mean, there’s a lot of different voices and whatnot.

I just started to really connect with the environment. I just loved St. John’s, and I love the area, and I love Diesel and the crew.

You were filming in Saint Pierre and Miquelon. What can you say about that storyline?
DS: My first episode, the one I co-wrote with my friend Alex Pugsley, is going to be set there. It’s kind of a Bon Cop, Bad Cop thing where the climax takes place in Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

Two men, a woman and a dog stand next to a parked car.One of the things about Hudson & Rex that I like is that everybody’s on an even keel, human and canine, and I love this team that you guys have established with this group of police officers that are solving these crimes.
DS: Yeah, I think it’s definitely interesting because this is obviously based on Inspector Rex. That had a certain model, and that was basically a man and his dog, which meant that there was always one of those two POVs. We’ve gone more with an ensemble feel with the dog at the mix. I just love being on a show where the No. 1 on the call sheet is a dog. It really lessens egos. They all really love just to interact with a dog. It really changes the chemistry of the set, I think.

One thing I wanted to do before we started season two is just to bring in Sherri [Davis, Diesel vom Burgimwald’s trainer] just to have her talk about the kind of things that Diesel can do. She’ll mention that she has a dog that can play as a wolf. And all of a sudden, there comes an episode right there. It could be an episode where we’re in the forest with a wolf, and plots appear, and then maybe Rex can do this, he can balance on a rope as he crosses. All of a sudden, plots ignite from that.

You already mentioned Saint Pierre and Miquelon; what are some themes and a couple of storylines that you follow in Season 2?
DS: We’ve got one that’s delved into the Insta celebrity culture. It’s kind of a comedy from Bridesmaids meets the Instagram culture. We have one called ‘The Woods Have Eyes,’ where this woman goes missing after she sees something, and the mother comes in and believes that she … we actually track her to the forest somewhere, and Rex and the team ended up discovering a sort of a shady, almost a Stranger Things-type organization, and try to figure out what they’re doing. That’s kind of neat.

Then we have one set which is super fun, it’s called ‘Game of Bones.’ It’s going to be set in the world of LARPing. It’s a completely eccentric cast of characters of LARPers who portray these characters on this battlefield. There’s a character that dies and has sort of a death rune carved in his body, and that’s symbolic of something in the sort of medieval Viking lore, and we have to explore that. So that’s kind of a really fun world.

We have one called ‘Rex in the City,’ which explores the dating culture. It’s a real bunch of mixed, fun stuff. Some of it’s a little heavier handed, and some of it’s lighter. But I think we’ve sort of figured out our tone, so we’re a fairly grounded show. We have a little bit of heart, a little bit of humour, and hopefully some really cool stories.

Hudson & Rex airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Hudson & Rex showrunner Ken Cuperus: “I read it, and I actually turned it down”

I’ve been writing about Canadian television for years and thought I’d heard every story possible both on and off the record. But Ken Cuperus shocked me when we spoke about Hudson & Rex.

He initially turned it down.

“When I came into the show, it was kind of a grim and grey kind of procedural,” Cuperus said recently. “And I read it, and I actually turned it down. I said, ‘I feel like the material is too dark.’ I’m more of a comedy guy. I’m more of a heart guy. I feel like a show with a dog, you’ve got to have fun with it.” Executive producer Christina Jennings agreed with his assessment and told him to make the series he wanted.

In Monday’s new episode, “Fearless Freaks,” written by Cuperus and directed by Felipe Rodriguez, Charlie (John Reardon) and Rex (Diesel vom Burgimwald) unravel a conspiracy surrounding the death of a thrill-seeking daredevil.

We spoke to Cuperus about developing the series, the writing room and being allergic to his canine co-star.

How’s production been going? 
Ken Cuperus: It’s been really great. We’ve had some challenges throughout because we’re trying to do more of a spring and fall show. But we’re in Newfoundland for the winter, so it’s been a little tricky with the weather there, and getting rid of snow and all that stuff. So that’s kind of an added challenge, but other than that, it’s been great.

How did the show all come about in the first place?
KC: I actually came onto the show pretty late in the process considering. I believe that Shaftesbury has had these rights for this show for at least a decade. They’ve been trying for the last 10 years to get somebody to bite on it, so to speak. I think they were really close about five years ago, and that didn’t quite work out. Christina Jennings just really strongly believed in it, held onto it. And finally, they called me in about a year and a half ago and said, ‘Listen, we have this show. We really, really think it can work. We want to do a lighter touch.’

When I came into the show, it was kind of a grim and grey kind of procedural. And I read it, and I actually turned it down. I said, ‘I feel like the material is too dark.’ I’m more of a comedy guy. I’m more of a heart guy. I feel like a show with a dog, you’ve got to have fun with it. It’s a cop who has a dog for a partner. There’s an inherent lightness to that concept that I didn’t think was being utilized. So I said, ‘No, thanks.’

When Christina found out the reasons why I turned it down, she called me directly and said, ‘Listen, that’s the take we want. We want to see what you can do with that.’ And I couldn’t turn that down. I probably took it too far at first in more of a comedic like direction, and so we just kind of wrangled it into a shape that more strongly resembled what would be ultimately a Citytv show.

You didn’t want this to be Cujo.
KC: Yeah, exactly. But it was True Detective. The tone was just wrong. It wasn’t an 8 p.m show, which is what a dog and a cop show really could be. We got there, I think.

I like the tone of how serious things were. You jumped right in with the action with this kid being kidnapped. You get an idea of this is a serious show, but it’s going to have light moments as well.
KC: Yeah, that was the idea, the stakes have to be real or the concept is also not going to work. It was a balancing act.

Do you find that difficult?
KC: Not really. I’ve done a lot of procedural and if the stakes aren’t high, even in a lighter procedural, you’re just not going to engage the audience. The stakes have to be high. The stories have to be a little twisty. There have to be surprises. Then you layer everything else into that. You layer in the lightness. You layer in the heart and the comedy on top of that.

I know you are largely from children’s programming, from Mr. Young and The Stanley Dynamic. Do you feel as though working in the children’s genre has changed the way that you write?
KC: Well, I actually started in preschool. I think preschool writing is the hardest writing, and it trained me to take on those challenges in a way that made everything else I’ve done much easier, strangely. You’d think it would be the other way, but it is a very difficult genre. I get bored easily, so I’ve never wanted to just do one thing. I love going back and forth. I love going from an animated half hour to a laugh track, a multi-camera comedy, to a high stakes procedural. I love bouncing around like that. That’s something that only Canadian writers really get to do.

How many folks did you have in the writer’s room with you?
KC: We were a very small staff because we started with a smaller order of eight episodes. We did a couple of scripts before we were picked up. When our show was picked up, we already had two scripts. We only needed six more, so we started with a staff of four writers. And by the time it came time to move production and get it down to Newfoundland, there were only two writers. What happened was they added a back eight and we had to, basically, build the writing staff from scratch again. It was kind of like doing Season 1 and Season 2 at the same time and overlapping. It was quite a challenge, but it was a thrill to get more episodes.

Who did you have in the writer’s room?
KC: When we started, it was myself and Avrum Jacobson. We had Jessie Gabe and a writer named Celeste Parr, who is terrific. We had a writer named Kate Melville who only stayed with us a short time. She moved on quickly because she got a Netflix series. We were excited for her. And then [Murdoch Mysteries‘] Simon [McNabb] and Paul (Aitken] had come into the development room and done a script as well. We couldn’t keep them because Murdoch keeps coming back and stealing all the writers.

What about the experience filming in Newfoundland? It’s a beautiful part of the world. How has it been for you logistically and everything? You already talked about the weather a little bit. What’s it been like working with the crew?
KC: Oh my god, the crew is an A-plus crew there. They only have really one crew. You have to stagger your production with anything else that’s going on there. But man, you couldn’t ask for a better, stronger crew. You can throw anything at them. They’re so hardened from the difficult shooting conditions and the weather. Nothing phases these guys. I’ve worked with a lot of Toronto crews, and with no disrespect to them, they don’t hold a candle to how efficient the crew in St. John’s is, for a lot of specific reasons that are related to the environment.

Are you a dog person, a cat person? 
KC: I’m actually allergic to animals. I’ve found this show is great because when we’re outside, the dogs don’t bother me or anything like that. I have a quite mild allergy to dogs. If this was a cat show, I probably would have had to turn it down. Because of my allergies, I never thought in a million years I’d work on a dog show. I was a little bit fearful of it. I discovered that it didn’t bother me at all because the studio is so big that it’s not like you’re contained in a box with all that dog hair or anything. We keep it clean, and I’ve never had one single problem. I feel like up until now, I’ve wasted a lot of opportunities to work with animals because of it. And now, I think moving forward I won’t have that fear. So it’s actually been great for me.

What’s it been like working with this canine co-star?
KC: I think we were incredibly lucky with Diesel. He was a very young dog, so he was being trained specifically for our needs about a year in advance because we were already preparing for our pilot. I feel like he was very specific to us. He is just such a spectacular dog. I can’t believe the number of things he wants to do. He’s excited every day to come to set.

I can’t prove this because I don’t speak dog. But I could swear he gets jealous when we bring in the other dogs to do the distance work or the stunts. I think he’s got a look in his eye like, ‘Why are you bringing in that other dog?’ He’s been a joy. I can’t believe it. I honestly think we were just very lucky in that regard because like they say, it’s very difficult to work with dogs. If they don’t cooperate, your whole day is shot. We didn’t lose one hour to a dog misbehaving this entire shoot.

Hudson & Rex airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

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Citytv’s Hudson & Rex takes a bite out of crime

An age-old adage says that you should never work with kids or animals in the entertainment business. But for actor John Reardon, it’s been a dream being part of Hudson & Rex … and a case of coincidence or maybe fate.

“My wife and I, we just had a little boy named Hudson,” Reardon says with a laugh from St. John’s. “He was probably about 10 months old when I first received the script.” The actor, a Halifax native who has appeared in shows like Arctic Air, Continuum and Van Helsing, stars alongside a German Shepherd named Diesel vom Burgimwald.

Debuting Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv, Hudson & Rex follows the partnership between Major Crimes detective Charlie Hudson (Reardon) and his partner, Rex (Diesel vom Burgimwald), a canine with heightened senses. Based on the Austrian drama Inspector Rex, the drama also stars Mayko Nguyen, Kevin Hanchard and Justin Kelly. In the premiere, Rex proves himself as a member of the Major Crimes team when he tails a kidnapper. We spoke to Reardon during a break in production.

How has production on Season 1 been going so far?
John Reardon: It’s been going great. We are just finished up our twelfth episode right now of 16. We had a nice long break over Christmas and I got to go back and see my folks in Halifax. We’ve been having a great time filming in St John’s. We’ve shot a lot of the famous locations here, like Signal Hill and along the row houses. And we’ve been really lucky with some amazing locations, the landscape here is really unique and beautiful. We’ve been braving the winter elements, as well.

I think you also ran in that little park just by the Terry Fox statue as well, in Episode 1.
JR: That’s right. That was actually one of our very first locations. Episode 1 was actually the third episode that we shot. But yeah, it was one of our first locations down there, it was beautiful.

The classic adage is not to work with kids and not to work with animals. Despite that, here you are with a canine co-star. How did Hudson & Rex all come about? 
JR: I got a script … my wife and I, we just had a little boy named Hudson. He was probably about 10 months old when I first received the script. And my wife and I had just bought a place in L.A. We’d been living at Venice Beach for a lot of years and then we bought a place more in the suburbs when Hudson was born. We were in the process of moving the bags into our house, we had been there for I think maybe two days when I got the script. And I remember my wife read the script first because I had to run out and do a few errands and I came back and she said, ‘I think you have to do this show because your character’s name is Charlie Hudson.’ There was definitely a little bit of—I don’t know if serendipity’s the right word— but it definitely got my attention and then I read the script and I loved it.

And yeah as you say, people say working with animals definitely can be a challenge but that actually was a huge plus for me, because I love dogs, I grew up with them. But I’m just so impressed with what he’s capable of doing and what the trainers are capable of having him do. He keeps you on your toes a little bit because, you know, he’s a dog and he will sometimes do things that you just completely don’t expect. It makes it fun, it makes it a lot of fun.

Can Diesel only work a certain number of hours and then you have to shut things down, or he has to take a break? 
JR: I’m not sure what the restriction is. They make sure that he has plenty of rest during the day. There are actually three dogs, so they make sure that Izzy or Ico, who are the other two dogs who are actually his nephews. They will come in at times to make sure that he is having breaks, that he’s not on set for too long. That he’s getting rest, and often times they’ll do a lot of the more stunt type stuff, just to protect him to make sure because he has been trained the most thoroughly. They’re very careful about that, they take really good care of him and we very often see him in his downtime having a little nap over in his trailer. [Laughs.]

He’s got a better life than the actors.
JR: Yeah, he lives well.

What I found very interesting and very different, is that the show just starts with the crime, and you don’t learn about how Rex and Hudson got together until midway through the episode. I enjoyed the wait.
JR: That’s exactly what I think the writers were going for, something where the action kicks off right away, and the relationship component of the story I think is much more interesting once you do know the characters a little bit. It’s kind of nice that we get into the story, we see the characters working together at the police station and Rex, and then as you get to know us you start to get the backstory and people care about it. We like to have a large component of action and then a large component of the relationship stuff, which we call action with heart.

I was also surprised at how quickly we’re introduced to the rest of the team. Again, I was expecting that the focus was going to be Charlie and Rex when the reality is in the first episode they spend very little time together.
JR: It’s really a show about a team and everybody has their strengths and brings something unique to the team. You see all the people that you’re going to start to get to know and have them be together and see their relationships from the start.

The showrunner for Hudson & Rex is Ken Cuperus. I know him mainly from children’s programming. What’s he been like to work with?
JR: He’s great, I love working with Ken. One of the things I love is he’s very collaborative and he likes to get to know us actors, and he watches us on set to see how we interact with each other. And then he will often write to that a little bit, so he likes to find little things in our relationship that we have in real life. Not a lot, but he will just add little things here and there. And it’s nice because then you’re like, ‘Oh this character has more and more of me in it each time I read the script.’ And he’s a great a writer and mixes action and more of the relationship stuff really well.

Going through this guest cast, you’ve got Greg Bryk and Jeremy Ratchford and Tamara Duarte in Episode 1, I know that Lauren Lee Smith is in an episode later, as well as Anastasia Phillips, Tony Nappo and Kristin Booth. This is a who’s who of Canadian talent that’s dropping by to play in your sandbox.
JR: Every single episode, every single character, we were so fortunate to have these great actors come in. First of all I feel very thankful to have the opportunity to work with them. And then it’s just fun because we have been based on the West Coast for so long, I haven’t had an opportunity to work with a lot of these actors. I know them so well but I hadn’t had a chance to work with them personally because so many of them come from Toronto. It’s great to meet the actor behind the characters, and the great thing too is that all the actors that come in are obviously very talented but they’re great people.

Hudson & Rex airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.

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