Tag Archives: John Reardon

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.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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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.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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Production begins on new original drama, Rex – coming to Citytv in 2019

From a media release:

Shaftesbury, Pope Productions, and Citytv announced today that production has begun on new drama series REX (wt). Centred on the partnership between a police detective and his hardworking dog, REX is a procedural drama with a twist. Starring John Reardon (Van Helsing, Continuum), Mayko Nguyen (Killjoys, Fahrenheit 451), and Enrico Colantoni (Bad Blood, Flashpoint), the eight-episode, 60-minute series is based on the long-running, international hit series Rex, a Cop’s Best Friend. Executive produced by Christina JenningsScott Garvie, and Paul Pope, the series has begun shooting in St. John’s, Newfoundlandand will continue through December 2018.

Set in St. John’s, NewfoundlandREX is an action-packed police procedural drama focused on the partnership between a dedicated detective and his extraordinary former K9 dog. Rex and Charlie are a detective team that combine their individual skills to solve the most puzzling crimes. This is the first English-language adaptation of the highly successful European format that has aired in 125 countries around the world for 18 seasons.

Starring John Reardon as Detective Charlie Hudson, Rex’s partner; Mayko Nguyen as chief of forensics Sarah TruongEnrico Colantoni as Superintendent Joseph De Luca; and Diesel (a Canadian Kennel Club Grand Champion) as Rex.

Shaftesbury and Pope Productions Ltd. produces REX in association with Citytv, a division of Rogers Media, and Beta Film GmbH. Beta Film GmbH holds worldwide distribution rights. Produced with the participation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation, the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit, the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit and the Rogers Documentary and Cable Network Fund.

REX is executive produced by Christina JenningsScott GarviePaul PopeKen Cuperus, and Avrum Jacobson, followed by Laura Harbin as Supervising Producer, Julie Lacey as Producer, and Lisa Porter as Associate Producer. Friedemann Goez and Oliver Bachert are Executive Producers from Beta Film GmbH. Episodes are written by Showrunners Ken Cuperus, Paul AitkenJohn CallaghanJessie GabeAvrum JacobsonSimon McNabb, and Celeste Parr. Episodes are directed by Felipe RodriguezAlison Reid, and John Vatcher.

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