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Canadian Screen Award nominees: Joseph Kay and Roger Cross

It’s Canadian Screen Awards week and we’re celebrating all week long in a very special way. We’ll feature exclusive interviews with the actors and creative folks who are nominated in the television and web series categories.

Today, it’s Joseph Kay, nominated for Best Writing, Drama Series for Transplant, which is also nominated in the Best Drama Series category; and Roger Cross, nominated for 2021 Best Lead Actor, Drama Series for Coroner.

Joseph Kay, nominated for Best Writing, Drama Series for Transplant, which is also nominated in the Best Drama Series category

Congratulations on your Canadian Screen Award nominations!
Thanks so much!

How do you feel the Canadian TV industry is faring during these pandemic times?
We’ve found ways to make production work despite the restrictions. A shout out to the resiliency of our cast and crew on Transplant’s second season for working in such different ways than we were all previously accustomed. Hopefully in the coming months we hear news across our business of more and more new shows being ordered.

How have you fared during these pandemic times?
Thankfully, I’ve been able to take my pandemic angst and channel it into the writing of a medical series. Although we’re not factoring COVID into the second season of Transplant, we’ve explored themes relevant to the experience which has helped all of our creative team contemplate the way we’re feeling about the year we’ve had.

Do you think Canadian TV is stronger than ever when it comes to telling our stories?
Definitely. It’s been exciting to watch our audiences expand. And while there is still plenty more work to be done to foster this, our creative community is widening to include new voices and points of view.

Does an award nomination/win serve as validation for you or is it just a nice nod that you’re on the right track, career or choice-wise?
I’ve always said that the work is its own reward, and I have to stick to that now or I’ll have been lying all these years! But seriously, the most rewarding part for me is that, win or lose, the nominations help our whole team (cast, crew, networks) feel excited and proud of the work we’re doing together.

What will you wear during the Canadian Screen Awards?
Either a tuxedo or my pajamas. Still deciding.

What will you eat/drink/snack on during the Canadian Screen Awards?
Bourbon and chicken wings, no doubt about it.

Is there someone who served as a mentor when you were starting out in this industry that you’d give a special shout-out to in your acceptance speech if given the chance?
My first mentor in this industry was George F. Walker and I’d be thrilled to get the chance to give him a shout out!

Roger Cross, nominated for 2021 Best Lead Actor, Drama Series for Coroner

How do you feel the Canadian TV industry is faring during these pandemic times?
The Canadian TV industry seems to have recovered and is thriving since the pandemic began.
 
How have you fared during these pandemic times?
Like most, the first few months were a bit uncertain, but I was blessed to spend that quality time with my family! And we’ve since filmed Season 3 of Coroner. I’m currently finishing a feature film Heatwave, I’m about to go shoot A Christmas Letter with my friend David Lipper, then film a great indie film Uniting with a wonderful cast. So, I’ve been blessed during this time.
 
Do you think Canadian TV is stronger than ever when it comes to telling our stories?
Most definitely. Schitt’s Creek is definitely leading the way, and shows like ours are also making great headway in the U.S. and around the world.
 
Does an award nomination/win serve as validation for you or is it just a nice nod that you’re on the right track, career or choice-wise?
I think true validation only comes from within. But of course, this nomination is an honour, and it feels great to be recognized by your peers and the Canadian Academy!
 
What will you wear during the Canadian Screen Awards?
Hmmmmm….Tux up top, boxers down below.
 
What will you eat/drink/snack on during the Canadian Screen Awards?
Pizza and beer. Maybe a glass of wine as well.
 
Is there someone who served as a mentor when you were starting out in this industry that you’d give a special shout-out to in your acceptance speech if given the chance?
Though I’ve never met the man, Sidney Poitier is someone I’ve always looked up to and admired. The dignity and joy with which he carried himself and the kind of roles he chose to do during such troubling times, spoke volumes to me.

Stream the Canadian Screen Awards on the Academy websiteTwitter and YouTube.

Check out the list of nominees.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021
7 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – Children’s & Animation, Presented by Shaw Rocket Fund (Narrator: Eric Bauza)

8 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – Digital & Immersive, Presented with the participation of the Independent Production Fund (Narrator: Donté Colley)

Wednesday, May 19, 2021
7 p.m. ET: CTV presents the Canadian Screen Awards – Creative Arts & Performance (Narrator: Tyrone Edwards)

Thursday, May 20, 2021
7 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – Cinematic Arts, Presented by Telefilm Canada, Supported by Cineplex (Narrator: Nahéma Ricci)

8 p.m. ET: 2021 Canadian Screen Awards (Narrators: Stephan James and Karine Vanasse)

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Executive producer Virginia Rankin breaks down Transplant’s origin story

Virginia Rankin has executive-produced some of the most compelling series in Canadian television. From 19-2 to Bad Blood and This Life she, and the folks at Sphère Média Plus, have brought unique characters and compelling stories to primetime TV.

The latest is Transplant. Airing Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, Rankin’s newest project debuted to strong ratings in Canada. Starring Hamza Haq as Dr. Bashir “Bash” Hamed—a Syrian doctor with battle-tested skills in emergency medicine—it appears she’s got another success on her hands.

We spoke to Virginia Rankin about how Transplant was created, and how the TV market has changed for a company like Sphère Média Plus.

Take me back to the beginning. How did Transplant come about?
Virginia Rankin: I work very closely with Tara Woodbury, who’s our head of development, and Tara really wanted to do something around immigration and refugees. Her family, her extended family, sponsors a Sudanese refugee, so she has firsthand experience with it and so she wanted to do something around that. And my experience, in 20 years of television, is that it’s incredibly hard to tell those stories because mainstream networks are like, ‘Ah, it sounds like an issue. We don’t do issues.’ So, I sort of a little hesitant, but she was really passionate about it. And at first, we were bouncing around ideas like rom-coms and comedies and this kind of thing.

At the same time, we knew that [CTV] was looking for a medical show to replace Saving Hope. And we also knew that we wanted to work with Joseph Kay. I had had a great experience working with him on This Life. We sort of cornered him. We all kind of sat around and threw ideas around and then one night, in the middle of the night, they kind of all came together and the title Transplant came to me and that was some debate about whether it should be The Transplant, by the way, or Transplant. But for me, it was just Transplant and I saw the poster and on the poster was Hamza Haq.

We knew from working with him what a great guy he was and that he’s the full hero package. He’s charismatic, he’s handsome as anything, he’s got the acting chops and he’s a wonderful human being. My job was done and then it was over to Joe and Joe just took those simple elements and he went away and he did a lot of deep diving, a lot of research and he came back and he pitched us this beautiful story of Bash and his sister Amira as Syrian refugees and their new lives in Canada.

It was really all created by Joseph.

Just to clarify, Hamza was not attached. We didn’t say it has to be this guy and we hadn’t attached him in any way. We actually went through a full audition process before we attached him, but he did come on as a consultant. So he read the draft and gave Joe his thoughts.

He actually had to audition and we did audition a number of Syrian actors. We looked quite extensively at Arab actors. And when it came down to it, he was still the guy who we really thought could bring an audience to the show.

What is it about Joseph Kay that ticks the boxes when it comes to a showrunner?
VR: It’s how seriously he takes his job. It’s the research that he does. He has to really know his characters in a deep way. And he does that. He does that work. He’s a wonderful collaborator. I’ve worked on two shows with him now and I just love the creative conversation with him and how he listens and he thinks and he takes everything on board. And then he comes out with beautiful work. So, I can’t say enough good things about working with him.

As you said, Hamza is fantastic. You can’t help but cheer for this guy.
VR: He’s a leading man. He’s Omar Sharif and you don’t see that that often either. And frankly, I think we’re incredibly lucky that we kind of discovered him when we did. I mean, he already had it long CV, but certainly, this is his first major, major leading role. And I feel like a year or two from now we wouldn’t have been able to get him. So, I feel like he’s going to break out. But luckily for us, he loves the show. He’s really, really, really passionate about it and he works so hard and put so much of his heart and soul into it.

When you see NBCUniversal International Studios attached to this, I can’t help but think about the way that the market has changed and how it’s become truly international. As a producer, has there been a seismic shift in the way that you go about making television shows here in this country and how you shop them around?
VR: It’s interesting. It is quite different working with NBC than it has been working with the other international distributors we’ve worked with in the past. NBC sees itself as a studio. We don’t have a studio system in Canada. In Canada, we, the production company, sees ourselves as a studio because we own the copyright and the cashflow and we do all that stuff. But NBC does see themselves more like a studio. Their participation is on a level that they’ve earned that. And so they are much more actively involved than the experience I’ve had with other international distributors, which is great because you do want your show to sell around the world and they obviously know how to do that. So, we really appreciate their perspective and we really hope that the show does succeed in significant markets around the world.

What can you say about Bash’s journey through the first season of the show?
VR: The journey of Bash is, to a certain extent, to allow himself to release some of his secrets because some of his secrets are kind of killing him. He’s carrying guilt and trauma as any refugee will have, any survivor will have. And he’s sharing those things and he perhaps needs to share them more for his own sake, for his own survival. So that is his character journey, which is to learn to let some of those secrets go.

The first episode ends with Bash sitting down with Jed Bishop and Jed saying, ‘Let’s have that job interview over again.’ Is this going to be a mentor-mentee type of relationship, a father-son relationship between these two?
VR: Yes, yes, absolutely. There’s the father-son dynamic there and like any father-son or parental relationship, it’s not always nice. It’s not always pretty. So on both sides, there’s rebellion from the son figure and there are disappointments from the father figure, it’s all of those variations of the father-son relationship.

Transplant airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Joseph Kay returns to TV with a new family in CTV’s Transplant

A part of me will always miss This Life. Created by Michael MacLennan—from an adaptation of Radio Canada’s Nouvelle Adresse—and taken over by Joseph Kay when MacLennan departed for Los Angeles to co-executive-produce The Fosters, the story of a single mother raising her two daughters while battling cancer was cancelled far too soon. I feel like Kay was just getting the story going before it came to an end.

Thankfully, Kay is back with a brand-new primetime family, albeit with a different style of story. Debuting Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, Transplant follows Dr. Bashir “Bash” Hamed (Hamza Haq, The Indian Detective), a Syrian doctor with battle-tested skills in emergency medicine, makes the difficult decision to flee his country with his younger sister Amira (Sirena Gulamgaus, Orphan Black).

With the hope of returning to his career in medicine, Bash and Amira build a new life in Canada while managing the struggles that come with a new country. Bash works in a new environment after earning a residency in the Emergency Department at Toronto’sfictional York Memorial.

Alongside Bash at the hospital are Dr. Jed Bishop (John Hannah), Dr. Mags Lablanc (Laurence Laboeuf, 19-2), Dr. Theo Hunter (Jim Watson, Mary Kills People), Dr. June Curtis (Ayisha Issa, Dark Matter) and head nurse Claire Malone (Torri Higginson, This Life).

We spoke to Joseph Kay about his road to Transplant, the learning curve of writing a medical drama and Hamza Haq’s superstar potential.

How did Transplant come about? What was the origin story?
Joseph Kay: I started developing it way back in 2016 right as This Life was ending actually. At the time I had been reading a lot about really skilled professionals from different parts of the world who come here and then can’t qualify and can’t do their jobs. It occurred to me that that could be a novel take on the genre. I was always a fan of the medical genre. And when I started thinking about it on those terms also in 2016, Syria and the conflict was in the news a lot. It still is, but it was in it quite a bit then. And there were a lot of refugees and newcomers and immigrants coming to Toronto specifically.

Two sort of jumped into my mind together, the idea of building a show around a refugee coming from Syria who was amazingly skilled at something and then wasn’t able to do the thing that he could do. I started researching pretty heavily both sides of that, particularly the Syrian side and immediately got connected and found a lot of different Syrians who were here and different kinds of immigrants and newcomers to get people’s lived perspectives and trying to figure out whether I could write that and sort of went from there.

Was the name of the show always Transplant, or was it something else?
JK: It was always Transplant. It’s just a very evocative, I love single word titles.

Let’s talk a little bit about some of the other research you had to do. Was that a bit of a slog for you or do you like doing that kind of research into medical terminology or do you pay somebody to do that for you?
JK: Both. I love it, Greg. I actually love it. I found, very early on, a doctor who is a trauma team leader at St Mike’s hospital in Toronto. So, by the time the show was up and running, we had a lot of consultants. But in the early days, I was very fortunate to come across a guy who was willing to give a lot of his time to just take me through everything and read the scripts and help me with the dialogue and all the medical-ese.

Hamza is great as Bash, a very expressive face. I’m cheering for him and fell in love with him. Was Hamza, when he walked in the room or when he supplied his casting tape, was he the guy right from the get-go?
JK: Definitely. Hamza and I knew each other because of the second season of This Life. He was sort of a foreign student in his little arc and he was nominated for a CSA for his role. And at the time Hamza and I talked a lot. Hamza’s an immigrant and part of his background formed the character he was playing on This Life. We get along well creatively. So as soon as I started thinking about this show, Hamza was the guy I started thinking about very, very, very early on in the process. Of course, we looked at every available actor all along because you always have to do that. But Hamza was very prominent in my mind and in the minds of the people at Sphere Media from the beginning. And then when he did finally start reading for it: he’s a star.

He’s charming, he’s got great energy, he is very expressive. And the character was always meant to be the kind of person who doesn’t say that much, so you want a specific actor who can pull that off. And I had written this thing about the character in one of the series documents, which is that Bash is the kind of guy who you tell all your secrets to and then you realize that you don’t know a single thing about him and you told him everything.

Can you tell me about some of the themes and storylines that you cover in the first season?
JK: When we started really digging into the creative we quickly realized that the storytelling lends itself to this idea of starting over. Starting over of second chances, so everything systematically would flow from that. I mean, it’s Bash’s opportunity to start over. And so in that way, the stories that we tell over the first season are, what are the challenges there both at work and the kinds of conflicts he’s going to find himself in at work? He’s the kind of person who is all instinct and a bit of a rule breaker. He acts before he thinks. So we’re trying to look at sort of the challenges he faced in an environment being an outsider combined with the sort of the nature of his personality.

And then also to see the other side of him. We’re fortunate in that we’re able to go home with him and see a little bit of his family life. And so we’re telling his story of starting over and we’re also at the same time wondering who this guy is and where he came from really and what happened to him and what he left behind. So as we encounter present-tense conflicts and challenges at work and in his personal life, we start to unpack what happened to him and what are the sort of major events of his life that have led him right now. We let those trickle out in ways that keep it interesting and mysterious.

Transplant airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Exclusive photo gallery: First-look photos at CTV’s Transplant

Clearly, we here at TV, Eh? were good boys and girls last year because Bell Media has given us one heck of a cool belated Christmas gift: an exclusive first-look at CTV’s newest original series, Transplant.

As previously announced, Transplant stars Hamza Haq, John Hannah, Laurence Laboeuf, Jim Watson and Ayisha Issa.

 

Here is the official synopsis for Transplant direct from Bell Media:

Dr. Bashir “Bash” Hamed (Hamza Haq), a Syrian doctor with battle-tested skills in emergency medicine, makes the difficult decision to flee his country with his younger sister Amira. With the hope of returning to his career in medicine, together Bash and Amira strive to build a new life in Canada while managing the struggles that come with a new country. With life experiences and a medical background unlike his Canadian counterparts, Bash works to navigate a new environment and forge new relationships after earning a coveted residency in the Emergency Department of one of the best hospitals in Toronto, York Memorial.

Transplant debuts this spring on CTV.

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CTV and NBCUniversal International Studios partner on new medical procedural The Transplant from Montréal-based Sphère Média Plus

From a media release:

Canada’s leading television network CTV, together with NBCUniversal International Studios, today announced THE TRANSPLANT, a new, one-hour, primetime medical procedural slated for CTV’s 2019/20 broadcast season. Developed by CTV, the series is from award-winning Montréal-based producer Sphère Média Plus (19-2). NBCUniversal will have distribution rights outside of Canada. The announcement was made from the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) Prime Time conference in Ottawa.

When a truck plows into the busy street café where he works, Bash, a struggling Syrian refugee, draws on bold skills and warzone instincts from his former life as a doctor to save multiple people. Among these victims is the chief of the busiest trauma centre in Toronto and the one person who can give Bash the opportunity to return to a career in emergency medicine that he so deserves.

THE TRANSPLANT tells the story of this charismatic man with an elusive past as he joins a team of doctors, challenged to make a place for himself in a new hospital and country. The drama blends a modern immigrant tale with an ensemble medical procedural, offering audiences a fresh take on a beloved genre. The first cycle consists of 13 episodes, with production set to begin in Summer 2019.

The series is created and written by Joseph Kay (FRONTIER, LIVING IN YOUR CAR). Executive producers are Jocelyn Deschenes, Bruno Dube, Virginia Rankin, Jeremy Spry, and Tara Woodbury of Sphère Média Plus, the producers behind Bell Media’s multiple award-winning drama 19-2.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail