Tag Archives: Mary Pedersen

Murdoch Mysteries: Mary Pedersen breaks down “Operation: Murder”

Murdoch Mysteries showrunner Peter Mitchell promised several Season 12 episodes would focus on other members of the series. He wasn’t kidding. Monday’s latest, “Operation: Murder,” saw Julia step into the spotlight as she investigated a series of deaths at the University of Toronto’s School of Medicine.

Meanwhile, George was smitten by a young Florence Nightingale Graham (Kathryn Alexandre) before she left town in favour of a career in New York City. As for William? Well, his latest creation seemed intent on gobbling him up. We spoke to the writer of “Operation: Murder,” Mary Pedersen, all about what went on inside and outside Station No. 4.

I had no idea Florence Nightingale Graham was Canadian. How did she come up in the Murdoch Mysteries research?
Mary Pedersen: Every season we like to feature real historical figures, so we’re always keeping an eye on what important Canadians were doing around our time, and what famous international people might have been in Toronto then. Elizabeth Arden was on that list, and since she had actually attended nursing school in Toronto, it happened to dovetail nicely with the idea of a mystery set at the hospital where Ogden is completing her training to be a surgeon.

Were there other facts about Florence/Elizabeth that didn’t make it into the episode?
MP: What I find really fascinating about her is that she was the daughter of immigrants in small-town Ontario, her mother died when she was in her teens, and she went to nursing school to help support her family. So for her to go to New York City and go on to build her own cosmetics empire—really one of the first such businesses, with her name on the products—strikes me as a story of such bravery and determination. I would love to have been able to get into more of that, but of course we’re dealing with just a small moment in her life, really before she knew what she would become. I hope we were able to depict a little bit of what was to come through George’s enthusiasm for her dreams. He has a special skill for giving talented women a nudge in the right direction and I love that about him.

Peter told me that other characters would get more screen time this season. That started tonight with Julia doing the investigating. How refreshing was it for you to write a mystery where William took more of a back seat?
MP: I’ll tell you, I loved it. I got a little cocky writing the first draft; I was telling everyone I could totally write a medical drama if I had to! That’s from years of being a devoted fan of ER and Grey’s Anatomy. Of course, you wouldn’t actually want me doing a tracheotomy! Luckily, I have friends and family in health care who coached me through the medical stuff, and we have a terrific consultant to make the medical stuff look and sound good. So that was fun, to bring us into a different world, get to know Julia’s new workplace and the people there, and make her the primary detective on the case. I’ve always appreciated that Murdoch Mysteries has that latitude to make room for the actors to do what they do best, to explore different worlds and tones, and we hope that quality will help keep things fresh in Season 12 and beyond!

Yet another woman enters George’s life ever so briefly. Will he ever find love?
MP: He really comes up against his essential problem in this episode, doesn’t he? He loves ambitious, complicated women. He’s such a special character and I think he deserves someone who’s one in a million like him. But if he finds his true match, will she accept that he’s ‘just’ a constable, and will she want the same life that he does?

I was so glad to see the incredible set for William and Julia’s house has stuck around for another episode. Is it as impressive in person as it is on-screen?
MP: It is. Bob Sher and the art department did such an amazing job on it, really making it feel like a home that expresses who Murdoch and Ogden are. It’s become my favourite set to visit, and it’s much cozier than the morgue, so there have been a few times this season when I’ve snuck down and put my feet up on one of those built-in sofas to read a script. And there have been a few more great scenes shot in the house already this year.

Next week Higgins and Ruth are scheduled to marry. [Preview picture above.] What can fans expect from the episode?
MP: The Newsome family episode has become really one of the highlights of every season for the writers, and you can imagine that with a wedding, the extended Newsome family coming to stay, Ruth determined to find George a girlfriend, and of course a murderer on the loose, that Murdoch, Brackenreid, Crabtree and Higgins will really have their hands full next week.

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

Images courtesy of CBC.

 

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Murdoch Mysteries: Showrunner Peter Mitchell, writer Mary Pedersen and Hélène Joy tease Season 12

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched the Season 11 finale, “Free Falling.”

Well Murdoch Mysteries fans, are you feeling a little better? After last week’s episode, “Shadows are Falling,” viewers were left reeling. Not only did Julia lose her baby to a miscarriage, but she and William had a major falling out. Julia had instructed Rebecca on how to perform an abortion, which led to a dramatic conclusion: William left the hotel and was last seen walking down the street.

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed. William, working the case of a missing woman alongside her supposedly distraught husband meant he could reflect on the things he’d said to Julia. And she spent several moments, with help from Inspector Brackenreid, recalling her own remarks. By episode end the pair had tearfully reunited.

But not all is well. Nina and Crabtree broke up and—as many of you suspected—Violet is up to no good. I spoke to showrunner Peter Mitchell, writer-producer Mary Pedersen (who co-wrote the finale with Simon McNabb and Dan Trotta) and actress Hélène Joy about “Free Falling,” and a peek at what’s to come in Season 12.

Peter, was the episode title, “Free Falling,” a reference to the Tom Petty song as well as what our characters were going through?
Peter Mitchell: I think so. The Tom Petty song is a little bit about breaking up with the girl who is perfect for you and feeling kinda good about it. And also about all of the characters because they don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Why was it important to keep Julia and William apart for the entire episode?
Peter Mitchell: To establish some tension in the story. We’re often more willing and more able to talk to strangers about things that we’re thinking about than those who are closest to us.

Of course, it was wonderful to have William and Julia reunite. But, you tore another couple apart: Crabtree and Nina. Why, Mary?
Mary Pedersen: I think that was really natural. We love Erin Agostino. She has been wonderful and has really won over the fans which is really something because the character, on paper, doesn’t look like someone Crabtree should end up with. That’s really a credit to Erin’s work. That was the truth of their situation. Nina doesn’t want the things that he wants. They tried to fit that square peg into the round hole and it’s not going to work. He really would have had to sacrifice so much not only by leaving Toronto, but then what does his life look like in Paris? It was definitely a sad thing because we’ve all grown to love that character and Erin, but there wasn’t really a way to turn that ship around and have her be the person that Crabtree is ultimately the person he’s meant to be with.

Peter Mitchell: George could try to abandon his core principles but I don’t think he has it in him. I think he does want whatever the turn of the century version of the white picket fence is. I didn’t want to compromise the Nina character and have her roll over on her core beliefs to make George happy. Sort of like Ogden and Murdoch, but in a different way.

By the end of the episode, Violet is plotting with Horace McWorthy to take over the morgue? How did you feel about that twist Hélène?
Hélène Joy: I thought it was great. I know the audience loves to hate some characters and this character is on that hit list for sure. That’s what’s fun about Murdoch. We try to keep it surprising. You can’t love everyone all of the time. I think it’s great that it’s happening this way and makes it far more interesting for the character and for the actress playing the character. I’m really intrigued to see where it goes. How evil is she going to get? I feel for Shanice because I know what it’s like to be hated. If you remember back to Julia’s first husband, Darcy, there were whole Facebook pages that were just about hating Darcy.

What excites you about Season 12?
Hélène Joy: I get excited because the writers always blow me away. I hear little rumblings about what Julia these things that Julia will be doing this year and I’m like, ‘Oh! Who would have thought?!’ Of course, I can’t tell you!

Peter, will there be a time jump between Season 11’s finale and Season 12’s debut?
Peter Mitchell: Yup. Normally, we pick it up three or four months later and I think that’s so we can start off on a fresh foot while doing some housekeeping as to what happened last year.

Any storylines you’re working on that you can talk about?
Peter Mitchell: We have an idea that Julia and Murdoch might be writing a book together, which could be fun. We might actually find George’s girl of his dreams this year. There might be some interesting developments in the Brackenreid household and the wedding bells will indeed ring for Henry Higgins. I think we might have Alexander Graham Bell back—he’s a fun character—and introduce the architect Frank Lloyd Wright … a couple historical figures we haven’t seen yet and a couple we’ve seen in the past. We’re just getting started.

What did you think of Murdoch Mysteries‘ Season 11 finale? What do you hope for Season 12? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

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Murdoch Mysteries: Mary Pedersen, Peter Mitchell, Yannick Bisson and Hélène Joy discuss what’s next for William and Julia

Spoiler alert! Do NOT continue reading until you have watched Episode 17, “Shadows are Falling,” of Murdoch Mysteries. I’m serious.

I know a lot of you are upset. I understand that. So many Murdoch Mysteries fans have wanted William and Julia to be parents of their own baby. Sadly, that’s not going to happen. At least, not in the near future. That was the sad reality during “Shadows are Falling,” when Julia lost the baby to a miscarriage, leaving the couple in tatters. By episode end, emotions were running high and William walked out.

The reality is, Murdoch Mysteries is—as always—about the mysteries. The murders. The crimes. Anything else is just extra stuff we get to enjoy. Murdoch‘s showrunner, Peter Mitchell, and his writing staff know what they’re doing. I trust them and have for years. They know these characters better than we do and also know what’s best for them. So, while I understand some folks being angry with Monday’s storyline, I’m in for the long haul. I love all of these characters, their experiences and their lives. But I’m also in it for the mysteries, especially now that Season 12 has been announced!

With that in mind, here’s my chat with episode writer Mary Pedersen, showrunner Peter Mitchell and actors Hélène Joy and Yannick Bisson.

Yannick, Season 11 of Murdoch Mysteries has been fantastic. Great, funny, storylines, creative mysteries and wonderful new characters. You must be thrilled.
Yannick Bisson: It’s been another great season and for the folks that have stuck with us, and for the new viewers, it’s been a pretty great season for them. We’ve been able to have some really light-fare episodes that the fans have really responded well to. I think our highest-rated episodes this year was one of the more, sort of, light ones with ‘Crabtree a la Carte.’ It’s fun to see how things flow and change and the show keeps building.

That said, Monday’s episode has shocked and upset many fans.
Yannick Bisson: Absolutely. When you’re talking about big strains on relationships and stuff like that, these are universal themes that hit home with people. And I think there is a sense of ownership and investment with a lot of fans. When they are confronted with some of the stuff that’s coming, there are going to be some upset people.

Do you think Julia and William should have a baby?
Hélène Joy: I think they should have one if they want one, yes. I think they should be able to make that choice if they want and be free to change their minds and go another way, like adoption. We discovered from the adoption process earlier that it made them just as happy. I feel like, in the end, they will and should find a child to love.

Mary, I was reading through Facebook and you were referred to as “the writer of doom,” because you wrote “The Accident” and were the credited writer on “Shadows are Falling.” 
Mary Pedersen: I love it! I’ve demanded that everyone in the writer’s room call me that from now on.

These storylines go through so many approvals—from Pete Mitchell to Shaftesbury and CBC—one person cannot be blamed.
Mary Pedersen: A year ago we arced out what we wanted for Murdoch and Ogden this season and that started with something the fans have also been saying, ‘Oh, they’re married now. What’s going on, it’s boring? When are they going to have a baby and get a house?’ The thinking was that if we went back to the time when there was a lot of excitement, tension, curiosity and questions about what was going on in their relationship before that actually got together, how could we bring back some of that tension into their lives? Not the miscarriage itself, but the overall taking them into a new experience was really the goal of the whole thing. We knew it was going to be something that would create some difficulties for them and some questions for them and their relationship in a way, that I hope, is a natural thing that happens in any relationship. You’re always going to come up against challenges and difficulties and, of course, we confidence in Yannick and Hélène’s abilities to really portray that.

Peter, why was it important to take William and Julia on this journey?
Peter Mitchell: I wanted to do a story of consequence for both the characters and the actors. They are so at ease with their characters that people sometimes forget the fact these two can really act. I wanted to give them a story that both the actors and the characters could sink their teeth into. Plus, it’s a story that is true for a lot of couples. And I hope the fans can accept that. Sometimes in a series, the stories of the most emotional consequence are carried out by the guest characters. The guest character gets the wrenching story and the main character is an enabler or solver of problems.

Do you enjoy putting these characters through an emotional roller coaster and getting feedback from the fans?
Mary Pedersen: Yes. We know that it’s a gift. Sometimes we get comments that are not that great, but ultimately at the end of the day, every day, the fact that the fans care this much is a gift. And we don’t take that lightly. It’s really meaningful. I’ve worked on other projects where you don’t hear a thing. It’s completely different at Murdoch. The woman at the store where I get my pet food is excited. My neighbours are excited. It really changes the experience and it’s really wonderful. The passion that the fans have for Murdoch and Ogden and I think the joy that they felt for the pregnancy and the sadness and empathy they have for their loss is the same that they might have for a family member and that’s a great thing. Being able to do that with the viewers is a gift and one of the things you go into writing or acting for.

Hélène, how have you felt about Julia’s journey this season?
Hélène Joy: I think it’s great. First and foremost, this is a show about mysteries and we like to make sure that’s true. But it’s undeniable that the audience is in love with this couple and their journey. We’ve had all different incarnations of that but it’s been really nice. Obviously, the journey of wanting to have children is so personal and I think a lot of women have responded to her real desire to do this and the joy of it. What happened tonight is devastating but it’s so, so, common. It’s an incredibly common experience, trying to have children. It doesn’t mean they can’t have one again, but it happens a lot. It’s been really brave of the writers to go there and for me, it’s been fun to have such highs and lows to play.

Everything came up in the argument between William and Julia. God, guilt, punishment, faith and then the hot-button topic of abortion. You didn’t leave anything out.
Mary Pedersen: At the beginning of the episode when William is there at her bedside … if they were able to go home then and just be alone together none of this would have happened. But, because they are interrupted and spent time apart, they start to spiral into their own bad places. Because they weren’t able to process their grief together, they were in different places and it brought up all of those things. In any marriage, there are some big issues that are unresolved and you put it in the closet and hope it won’t come up. But it always, always, always will come up. This felt like a natural place to go with them.

The scenes between William and Julia are so raw and emotional. Was it difficult to get into that mindset for filming?
Yannick Bisson: Yeah, the subject matter is dark and difficult and in any given scene you have to sustain an emotional place for hours and hours—sometimes an entire day in order to get all of the coverage—and it sucks to go to work on those days, especially when you’re talking about some tough stuff like loss and betrayal.

Hélène Joy: Yannick and I were like, ‘Is it over yet?’ You have to, as an actor, dredge it from somewhere. It has to come up. It can be kind of exhausting. The scene where I’m lying in the hospital bed and I wake up. There are no words, just a lot of grief. That was at the end of the day and I knew it was coming. So the process begins, unconsciously, at the beginning of the day that you begin to think of the things that make you feel that bad. What happens with me throughout the day is that I get sadder and sadder. It was hard. Yannick and I both hated it.

A lot of folks, including myself, don’t trust Violet Hart. What kind of impact has Violet had in the writer’s room this season?
Mary Pedersen: It’s been great. We miss Mouna but it’s been nice to go in a different direction and try something new with the Violet that we weren’t doing with Rebecca. It’s an opportunity that’s going to pay off for a while.

What can you tell those upset folks that will help them cope until next week’s episode?
Yannick Bisson: Hang in there. There are ups and downs in life and we’re trying to mirror that with the show. The biggest thing to keep in mind as that you have two very strong characters and they have certain points of view. That’s what we’ve come to enjoy from the writing, so we have to stick it out and see them come out the other side.

Mary Pedersen: This is a quote that I like that I keep coming back to, somehow, for this: ‘Everything will be OK in the end.’ Not meaning Episode 18, but Murdoch and Ogden overall.

Will fans be happy by the end of the Season 11 finale?
Yannick Bisson: There is some resolution but I think we’re going to leave some room for people to tune back in for Season 12.

Murdoch Mysteries‘ Season 11 finale airs next Monday at 8 p.m. on CBC.

What did you think of the episode? Can William and Julia turn it around for the season finale? Are you happy Murdoch Mysteries will be back for Season 12? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

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Murdoch Mysteries: Mary Pedersen discusses the show’s latest death

Spoiler alert: Do not continue reading until you have watched Murdoch Mysteries‘ Season 11, Episode 7: “The Accident.”

Murdoch Mysteries writer Mary Pedersen’s goal was to make fans cry with Monday’s newest episode, “The Accident.” I say mission accomplished. Dilton Dilbert (David Hewlett), city clerk, became the latest victim of a murder plot when he was pinned between a car and carriage while on his morning walk to the office. Unable to move him because he’d die, Dilbert professed his love to Mildred Ash (Angela Vint) moments before he expired.

“The Accident” was unique on a couple of fronts. First, in confined all of the major and supporting characters within the Murdoch Mysteries backlot. Secondly, it was set in real time, adding to the strain of the situation. We spoke to Pedersen about the episode and the inspiration behind it.

This was a killer episode!
Mary Pedersen: Thank you so much. It was really, really fun to do and I’m really proud of it.

It’s kind of a twist on the bottle episode. Not everyone is stuck in the same room, but everyone is in the same place and that made the episode really unique.
Yes, and also having a very short timeline was part of the original idea and that brought a lot of energy and a fresh challenge to writing that episode that was really fun. It’s not our normal plot.

How did the story originally break in the writer’s room?
When we were prepping for our development room in the winter, I watched, with Murdoch in mind, a few Alfred Hitchcock movies. I watched Rope and came to the room saying, ‘Let’s do a dinner party and the killers are trying to catch Murdoch out … essentially let’s do Rope.’ Pete came up with the accident part of it, really with the thought in mind that if it was out there on the street then there is some pressure on the situation. People need to get where they’re going. And one of my favourite early episodes of TV was the ‘Subway’ episode with Vincent D’Onofrio in Homicide: Life on the Street. [Editor’s note: That Homicide episode is entitled “Subway,” but is often referred to as “The Accident.”] Those things came together and started writing itself.

And then, when we were trying to figure out which character to have standing there crushed between two vehicles for five days [of filming], somebody came up with David [Hewlett] and it was genius. He was fantastic; it was such a dream to watch him make that story happen.

I was wondering how you decided on Dilton Dilbert to be the one trapped there. You needed a character that fans already knew and cared about rather than someone no one had met.
Right. And that was sort of my idea going into it, that it would be all new people, but someone in the room came up with David’s name and once they did there was no other conversation. And then we were lucky to get Angela [Vint] as well. I’ve been a fan of hers since Traders way back when so watching the two of them do scenes together was a dream.

Let’s talk about the challenges surrounding this episode. There was such a large cast of characters to juggle alongside our regulars. Was that tough to write?
By the time it gets to [production] that’s the challenge of the director. I had envisioned going around and around and around the accident and making it work inside of our backlot. [Director] Alison [Reid] and the assistant directors and the art department had to make that work. The art department had to come up with streetcar tracks in our backlot. At one point it seemed like an impossible task and Bob [Sher] was like, ‘Well, let’s give it a go,’ and that was fantastic. I did get dirty side-eye from the ADs for sure. And, when we wrote it we thought it might be a bit shorter of an episode for filming because it was all in one location but I don’t think we wound up saving any time on it. And it also wound up being one of the hottest weeks of the summer so the crew and cast were out on the backlot just broiling the entire time. But they’re total pros and troopers.

The other cool thing about this episode was when Alison pulled back it allowed viewers to see not only the full backlot but the CGI work to show the growth of Toronto.
I love that, and being able to walk down the street to where the streetcars are parked. It was a real team effort.

Those were quite the emotional scenes between Dilbert and Brackenreid.
If you’re going to care about the murder and spend an hour with the guy, we had to feel something. What is that like? You know now that your time is limited. One of the reasons that I gravitate towards Murdoch and shows like it is they’re not typically focused on the tragedies and the sadness and the loss. For the most part, you’re able to focus on the puzzle and the mystery and what the detective is doing to solve the crime. It’s really a part of the show that we don’t normally see and that’s on purpose because we want to focus on Murdoch’s own detective work.

This story required some emotional bang.

You certainly get the emotional bang when Dilbert is speaking with Mildred Ash. They flirt a bit when he says he’s admired her shorthand. Him viewing himself as just a cog in the machine. It’s heartbreaking, Mary! How could you do this?
[Laughs.] If you were dying too soon, at least I would reflect on the great thing that I thought that I would accomplish. And it is kind of heartbreaking.

Mary, people will have cried watching this episode. Are you happy with this knowledge?
I am so happy! This is one of my great accomplishments as a writer. [Laughs.] After we did the read-through and we were walking down the hall back to the writer’s room, Paul Aitken turned around with tears in his eyes. And I was just, ‘Yes, everything is going to be all right.’

That was a very patient pig that you had John Brackenreid holding.
We had the pigs and the chickens and the fire hydrant. The fire hydrant was on the bubble several times and Pete just kept rescuing it from getting cut. It was great that we were able to keep all of the farm animals and people were so delighted with that pig. It was a pretty rough week shooting but the pig really brought people’s spirits up.

Despite all of the difficulties, this episode really helped to expand the world of Murdoch Mysteries in my mind. Even the off-hand comment about the Gooderham & Worts building being a flatiron building helped me place where in Toronto we’re set.
That’s awesome and I’m so glad. It was so interesting looking up things like traffic accidents at the time. The boy whose cart rolls over in the street it was originally written as a 13-year-old with a little motor van because, of course when you think of it, there were no regulations at the time. You could drive at any age, it was all so new. And, I think, there had only been one car fatality at the time and it was kids playing in the street and man ran over a kid and was like, ‘OK, I need to be on my way.’ There wasn’t the same protocol for an accident that we have today. Or even Murdoch going, ‘Wait a second, I think there is some fishy business going on here,’ would have been very unlikely for the time.

What did you think of “The Accident”? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? And confess: did you cry? Let me know in the comments below.

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

 

 

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