Tag Archives: Jonny Harris

Preview: Murdoch Mysteries, “Prodigal Father,” features Colm Feore

It’s hard to believe that Colm Feore hasn’t appeared on Murdoch Mysteries before. According to the veteran actor of both stage and screen, he’d been ready and willing. Check out Melissa Hank’s great story on how Feore ended up on Murdoch Mysteries, as well as some additional story information.

Here’s what the CBC says about Monday’s episode, “Prodigal Father,” written by Simon McNabb and directed by Yannick Bisson.

A death at an investment event leads Crabtree to the father he never knew.

And here are more tidbits from me after watching the episode.

Colm Feore is fantastic
After wondering what George’s father looked like and what kind of man he was for 13 seasons, we finally find out. He’s dashing, well-spoken, charming and loves a good scotch. He’s also a big thinker, something his son has obviously inherited—and has big plans for Toronto. And how George finds out who his father is, well, it’s classic Simon McNabb fun. As for Feore, the actor? He commands every scene he is in.

Crabtree is puzzled
But is George ready for a relationship with his dad? He seeks Murdoch’s advice, but William has had his own complicated relationship with his father. Of course, Higgins has opinions on what George should do too.

Guest stars galore
In addition to Mr. Feore are appearances by Nabeel El Khafif (Ransom, Private Eyes) and Janine Theriault (Bellevue) in great little roles.

Murdoch’s crime scene mental walkthrough … with a twist
I won’t spoil it; I will say I laughed out loud.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Preview: Five seasons later Still Standing is still going strong

Back when Still Standing debuted, I remarked that Jonny Harris was becoming the next Wayne Rostad. Now, five seasons in, he really has. Like Rostad—who spoke to Canadians from regions of the country from 1987 to 2007—Harris has the wit and charm to win over strangers and get them talking, and a genuine warmth. You can’t help but like him.

Returning Tuesday at 8 p.m. on CBC, Season 5 follows Harris to a little part of the country I’d never heard of: Campobello Island. The New Brunswick community’s only year-round and direct access to the mainland is a bridge to the U.S. This, of course, makes for a unique Canadian/American cultural blend and many challenges.    Including, as Harris points out in the first minute, worrying about having your passport. If the ferries are running, you catch one from mainland New Brunswick to Deer Island and another to Campobello Island. If they aren’t you have to go through Maine.

It’s a unique trait not shared with the rest of the country. And, like the places showcased in Still Standing, makes Campobello Island’s 850 citizens unique. And, like those other communites, this one has fallen on hard times. A decline in fishing has seen the population drop; children are reluctant to stay if the area isn’t prosperous.

But while times are tough on Campobello Island, there’s lots to laugh about. And that, of course, is what Harris helps them do, whether it’s over outlandish border import rules or a wayward brining shed that made international new. Over the course of their visit in each episode, Harris and his writers craft fresh material based on the community and the people in it before entertaining them with a stand-up performance. The result? A funny, folksy look at smalltown Canada.

Future episodes include stops in Schreiber, Ont., and Harrison Hot Springs, B.C.

Still Standing airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Image courtesy of CBC.

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Still Standing and The Amazing Race Canada among the winners at Night 1 of the Canadian Screen Awards

From a media release:

This evening, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television kicked off 2019 Canadian Screen Week with the Canadian Screen Awards: The CTV Gala Honouring Non-Fiction Programming. Comedian Aisha Alfa (CTV’s THE BEAVERTON) hosted the Gala, which was held at Heritage Court, Exhibition Place in Toronto and streamed on CTV.ca.

The television and film industry’s finest left tonight’s Gala with several accolades, including James Duthie (Best Sports Host, sponsored by MLSE); TSN’s Reborn – Basketball & Reconciliation in Rwanda (Best Sports Program or Series); CTV National News with Lisa LaFlamme (Best National Newscast); Dawna Friesen (Best News Anchor, National); Adrienne Arsenault (Best Host or Interviewer in a News or Information Program or Series); HGTV’s Property Brothers (Best Lifestyle Program or Series, sponsored by Corus Entertainment); The JUNO Awards (Best Live Entertainment Special); and TVOKids’ Science Max: Experiments at Large (Best Children’s or Youth Non-Fiction Program or Series).

Niobe Thompson and Caroline Underwood won the Rob Stewart Award for Best Science or Nature Documentary Program or Series for Equus: Story of the Horse, receiving $25,000 in addition to being honoured with the Canadian Screen Award.

Producer and visual researcher Elizabeth Klinck received the Academy Board of Directors’ Tribute.

The CTV Gala Honouring Non-Fiction Programming was supported by event partners Crave, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), and VICE Studios.

2019 Canadian Screen Awards: The CTV Gala Honouring Non-Fiction Programming Winners

Best Host or Interviewer in a News or Information Program or Series
CBC News: The Royal Wedding: Harry & Meghan

Best News Anchor, Local
CTV News Toronto at 6, Michelle Dubé

Best News or Information Segment
CBC News: The NationalThe Ruins of Raqqa

Best News or Information Program
CBC News: MarketplaceFake Degrees

Best Local Reporter
CBC Winnipeg News at SixMinister Tickles, Katie Nicholson

Best Local Newscast
CTV News Toronto at 6

Best Sports Analyst
Raptors Basketball on TSN, Jack Armstrong

Best Sports Host
Free Agent Frenzy, James Duthie

Best Sports Play-by-Play Announcer
2017 Grey Cup, Chris Cuthbert

Best Writing, Factual
Still StandingCarcross, Jonny Harris, Fraser Young, Graham Chittenden, Steve Dylan

Best Writing, Lifestyle or Reality/Competition
The Great Canadian Baking ShowBread Week, Elvira Kurt

Best Writing, Documentary
the fifth estate: The Truth Smugglers, Gillian Findlay

Rob Stewart Award for Best Science or Nature Documentary Program or Series
Equus: Story of the Horse, Niobe Thompson, Caroline Underwood

Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program
Quiet Killing, APTN, Michèle Rouleau

Best Biography or Arts Documentary Program or Series
Jumbo: The Life of an Elephant Superstar

Best Factual Series
The Detectives, CBC

Best History Documentary Program or Series
The Nature of Things: Ice Bridge, CBC

Best Documentary Program
You Are Here, HBO Canada

Best Children’s or Youth Non-Fiction Program or Series
Science Max: Experiments at Large, TVO

Best Variety or Entertainment Special
Gord Downie’s Secret Path in Concert, CBC

Golden Screen Award for TV Reality Show
The Amazing Race Canada, CTV

Best Lifestyle Program or Series
Property Brothers, HGTV

Best News or Information Series
the fifth estate, CBC

Best Host in a Program or Series
Still Standing, CBC, Jonny Harris

Best News Anchor, National
Global National, Global, Dawna Friesen

Best National Newscast
CTV National News With Lisa LaFlamme, CTV News

Visit www.academy.ca to view a full list of winners.

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Murdoch Mysteries: Charles Vandervaart discusses the Season 12 finale

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched the Murdoch Mysteries Season 12 finale, “Darkness Before Dawn, Part 2.”

Wow, what a season finale! After worrying John Brackenreid would never walk again, his second surgery was a success and, it appears, Margaret and Thomas Brackenreid’s marriage may be on the mend. But there are still a few niggling questions left remaining. William knows Miss Hart planted evidence in the murder case and in doing that scored the coroner’s job. Meanwhile, Dr. Dixon has made it VERY clear he’s interested in Julia. Here’s hoping we get answers when Murdoch Mysteries is renewed for Season 13.

To close out my season-long Murdoch Mysteries interviews, I spoke to Charles Vandervaart, who has been playing John Brackenreid for a handful of seasons now, about how he got on the show in the first place and the evolution of John over the years.

Let’s get your origin story. How did you end up on Murdoch Mysteries in the first place? Did you go through the traditional means, an audition? 
Charles Vandervaart: Yeah, I auditioned. I actually originally auditioned for the role of Bobby Brackenreid, funny enough, way back when. I did the scene where he’s playing in the sandbox and he gets abducted. But that didn’t work out. So about two years later, I auditioned for the role of John. You know, I didn’t think it would last this long, this many seasons. But I’ve been very fortunate that they keep writing me in and developing my character. I’m a happy camper.

You have literally grown up onscreen, on Murdoch Mysteries. That must be a little bit mind-blowing to think about.
CV: Yeah. It’s hilarious. And I love watching reruns. It’s like watching old home movies. I’ve been really lucky. This and The Stanley Dynamic was the other show that I was on when I was younger … both of these shows have really helped me get comfortable in front of the camera. I’m definitely a believer that the best of kind of acting lesson is just being on set and being with all these other actors and getting directions from all these directors. I’ve been so fortunate to get all of these acting lessons and to help improve my craft over the years. So it’s been such a blessing at the end of the show.

What made you decide to get into acting in the first place? Is it something you always wanted to do? 
CV: The thing that I said when I was a little kid was, I wanted to be a theoretical astrophysicist in the area of nanotechnology because it was just the longest thing I could think of. I didn’t actually know what it meant at the time. I was just like, ‘This will impress the old people.’ I grew up in a small town about an hour and a half away from Toronto and I went to go see a play there. I was so immersed in it and I thought it was such a magical experience. And I asked my parents if I could try it out and act at the local theatre.

My first role ever as an actor was Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol. It just kind of grew from there. I did a couple of plays here in Toronto, and then I got an agent and auditioned. And I couldn’t have done anything without my mom because we live so far away from Toronto. She drove me back and forth to auditions together. She’s just as much a part of it as I am. But I think, maybe at 14, I actually started really committing to it and saying, ‘This is what I love. This is my passion. I want to do this for the rest of my life.’

You mentioned about learning your craft over the years. What have you learned? 
CV: What’s really helped me at being on sets all the time is just getting myself out there. It can be quite a nerve-wracking thing, being in front of a camera and being in front of a camera crew. So, I’m still working on getting those nerves down. But I think it’s also a good thing to have nerves because it means that you care about what you’re doing, you love what you’re doing. I also think that a lot of the times I obsess about the craft. When you’re doing a season, you could be three, four, five months working all day, every day. And then on the weekends you’re obsessed with what you’re doing and you’re constantly memorizing the lines and things like that. And then the season ends and you have a lull because you’re waiting for the next season and you’re waiting for your next project. I’ve had some great talks with some fellow actors about this. It’s really important to keep living your life and to not obsess about what the next thing is. And actors, their whole profession is based on drawing from your experiences. And you do have those lulls. You’ve got to go out with your friends and you’ve got to read some books and go out and watch some movies. So I’m getting better at just kind of putting it aside and using my onset experience and then also my offset experience to draw from.

We’ve really seen this character of John Brackenreid grow up, especially in Season 12. Here’s a guy who is coming into his own as a constable. And now he goes through this season, before even getting shot, his parents divorcing. 
CV: John has always been kind of this character, I think, that’s been on the brink of adulthood. He’s almost there. And this season especially because, before we’ve always seen John as this quintessentially innocent character. And then, all of a sudden, he has all this baggage. His parents and he may not walk again, he’s been sleeping around. It’s a John that we’ve never seen before. It’s great because everyone makes mistakes and has crazy days when they’re just growing up and they’re on the brink of adulthood. And John is really going through some stuff right now. And it’s been a pleasure to play that because I love all the crazy, messy things as an actor.

What was your reaction to the fact that John was going to be shot and maybe not walk again? Did Peter Mitchell pull you aside and say, ‘It’s OK, by the end of the episode you’re going to walk? Did they make you wait? How did that work?’
CV: Apparently, for quite a while, the writer’s room knew that I was going to get shot. And, a few of the crew knew that I was going to get shot. One day I made a joke about me getting shot. And everyone was just kind of like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s funny.’ Even though all of them knew that that was actually going to happen in the season finale. So I think that was a pretty predetermined thing. But, yeah, Peter took me aside and he said, ‘This is what’s going to happen. You’re going to be fine, though, don’t worry about it.’ But I think he knew for a few seasons that he was going to do this.

It must be some of the easiest acting you’ve had to do. You got to lie down. You didn’t have to wear the uniform or anything.
CV: Yeah. For two episodes I had to sit down and lie down. [Laughs.]

A big part of John’s life this season has been the effect of seeing this family break up. How have you felt about seeing your onscreen parents split?
CV: I think it was a great little storyline from the writing perspective and from the perspective of the show. Because they’re both two characters that are very feisty and they’re very opinionated and I really hope that they pull this together. I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next season. As a watcher of the show, I’m really hoping that they just come out of this stronger than ever and as a couple, together. It was crazy and it kind of felt a little bit out of body because you have these two fake parents, these two parents that I’ve had for six years. And then they’re going through this divorce and sometimes you catch yourself, you’re like, ‘Oh, this isn’t real.’ I’m really eager to see what happens in the next season.

What have you thought of Season 12 of Murdoch Mysteries? What would you like to see happen in Season 13? Let me know in the comments below!

You can stream past episodes of Murdoch Mysteries on CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Jonny Harris takes flight in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory on Still Standing

For a quartet of seasons on Still Standing, host Jonny Harris has been crisscrossing Canada visiting small communities of people eking out a living despite tough times. Some towns are reeling over the loss of a key industry that left town. Other burgs are finding their footing thanks to budding tourism. Many of the communities Harris has visited are First Nations territories.

The latest is featured in Tuesday’s episode when he drops by Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, down the road a piece from Toronto. It’s a part of the province I’ve driven by many times on the way to and from Ottawa and Montreal—there are signs marking the area on Highway 401—but I’ve never made the turnoff to do some exploring.

Now I plan to, especially after watching Harris’ latest episode, which celebrates not only the tradition of the people in the area but the future too. I had no clue there was an aviation school there as part of the First Nations Technical Institute.

“We’re always interested in visiting First Nations communities,” Harris says over the phone. “The flight school was definitely something that caught our interest. A flight school that is, first and foremost, for Aboriginal kids. That was pretty neat.” It sure is. To see Harris behind the controls of a Cessna for just a few minutes is a sight to behold, as is his chat with the instructors and students at the school. Harris has made a career out of the gift of gab and it’s the high point for me during episodes of Still Standing, especially when he’s chatting and listening to stories told in Tyendinaga by Turtle Clan Mother Janice Hill, tanner Randy Brant or learning the intricacies of floorball from goalie Madison Brinklow.

Aside from celebrating Canadians eking out a living outside of the large cities, Still Standing revels in inclusivity: what connects us and what makes us different. That can be reflected in geography, livelihood and culture. And, as always, a shared laugh through Harris’ wry observations and teasing during his standup performance.

“It’s got to be a little bit saucy and cheeky,” he says. “But it also has to be respectful. I’m not there to make anyone feel uncomfortable.”

Still Standing airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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