First, its cast is top-rate. From John Reardon, Mayko Nguyen, Kevin Hanchard and Justin Kelly to Diesel vom Burgimwald on down, everyone on the call sheet is enjoyable to watch. Secondly, the writing team is truly gifted. Led by showrunner Peter Mitchell, they craft stories that are believable, have real dramatic stakes and a pinch of humour thrown in. And third, that stellar Newfoundland setting and the crew that works it. Every episode is a love letter to that part of Canada, no matter how dark the crime may be.
Returning Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern on Citytv, here’s the official synopsis for “Sid and Nancy,” written by Peter Mitchell and directed by Gary Harvey:
When two hikers are discovered murdered near a remote coastal trail, the team is on the hunt for a fugitive duo wanted in a series of grisly campsite murders.
And here are some non-spoilery notes from me after watching a screener of the episode.
A new setting… As I mentioned above, all the main players are back in Season 4. But, there is a big change within minutes of Episode 1. The Major Crimes team is on the road and reporting out of a mobile unit.
â€œIt keeps all of us together and takes us out into the field more and in the office less,” Reardon says in the Season 4 press kit. “Having the team together adds a new element of storytelling and it showcases Newfoundland even more than we have in the past. I think it makes the show more dynamic because we’re all in communication with each other, we’re responding in real-time, and solving the case in real-time instead of regularly coming back to the office to regroup.â€
… and a new vibe I totally agree with Reardon’s statement. There is an energy, sometimes frantic, in Thursday’s return, that has been added to Hudson & Rex. It just feels like there is more at stake and more opportunity for conflict between local police forces that don’t appreciate the big-city unit rolling onto their turf.
A little spark? Over the past three seasons, Hudson & Rex has faintly hinted at an emotional connection between Charlie and Sarah. Judging by a scene on Thursday, the needle may be headed into “strongly hinting.”
Hudson & Rex airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.
Images courtesy of Derm Carberry for Shaftesbury and Pope Productions.
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, muchâ€”I’m sureâ€”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: Iâ€™d be lying if I said it wasnâ€™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 weâ€™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 weâ€™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 canâ€™t help but spill onto the zoom screenâ€”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 hereâ€™s the funny thing: I learned to love all that stuff. Distractions create amusing bonding moments, which can actually generate ideas. It really didnâ€™t take our team long to gel. Of course, itâ€™s not like we had a choiceâ€”our development window is much shorter than most one-hour shows, so we had to learn how to work together fast. That weâ€™re not a massive room worked to our advantage, and we have a nice mix of new faces with returnees. Thereâ€™s really only four of usâ€”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 Iâ€™m very proud of the places we took our scripts. I honestly believe itâ€™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: Itâ€™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 territoriesâ€”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, itâ€™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 itâ€™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 COVIDâ€”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 wasnâ€™t ready, weâ€™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 didnâ€™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 didnâ€™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 weâ€™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, theyâ€™re even better as a team. I like to think itâ€™s because of the brilliant writing, but itâ€™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 â€¦ and Iâ€™m only scratching the surface!)
The other factor is, now that weâ€™re deep into the third season, we really have figured out what makes each of these characters unique. Weâ€™re not a soapy show, and donâ€™t go too deeply into the personal lives of our characters. So we canâ€™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. Itâ€™s obviously a heavy episode that deals with loyalty, loss, and renewal. Jackie May did a lovely job capturing the raw emotion, and I donâ€™t think youâ€™re the only one who felt moved by the episode.
In many ways, that opener is very 2020. Weâ€™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 theyâ€™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. Weâ€™ve learned to appreciate the bond we have with our animal companions. For this seasonâ€™s opener, weâ€™re telling that same story, except from the dogâ€™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 purposeâ€”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.
The third season of Hudson & Rex returns on Tuesday with an episode new and veteran fans will love. Entitled â€œThe Hunt,â€ the instalment serves as the showâ€™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.
Itâ€™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. Itâ€™s funny. It’s just like anything else, it takes a bit, and sometimes you have people who are like, â€˜Ugh,â€™ 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. Itâ€™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 â€¦ oh man, it’s just gut-wrenching. And you see how Rex and Charlie develop the start of that relationship and that also is â€¦ 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, â€˜The Hunt,â€™ 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. Sheâ€™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. Sheâ€™s a lovely person and I really, really enjoyed working with her. She’s very talented.
Mayko, what can you say about Sarahâ€™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.
The film and television business is truly a unique one. A project can seem dead in the water and then, suddenly, months later it’s up and running. Likewise, an audition that seemed to go nowhere can just as easily return.
The latter occurred with Mayko Nguyen. After having what she felt was a great audition for Hudson & RexÂ led to, well, nothing. Then, out of the blue, a screen test and a jaunt to St. John’s to play Doctor Sarah Truong, Head of Forensics on the police force and helping Charlie and Rex catch criminals.
We spoke to Mayko Nguyen after she’d completed a long day of rehearsals for her latest project, the play Beautiful ManÂ running from May 4-26 at Toronto’s Factory Theatre, and some ADR work on Hudson & Rex.
How did you get the role of Dr. Sarah? Did you audition, did they seek you out, how did that work out?
Mayko Nguyen: I auditioned. It was an interesting process in that. In January 2018, I think, they started the first rounds of auditions. And I did that. And I actually felt good, like decent about the audition, because that never happens. And then I never heard back. And I think it was like months later, I found out that the project had been shelved for a little bit.
And then it wasn’t until sometime in the summer, I think, Â just got a call and they wanted to screen test me with some people, which was really bizarre, because it was just one audition, and then I never heard anything about it, and then to jump from that into a screen test, seemed a bit crazy.
I guess the gap was because Ken Cuperus came on board, and they re-jigged the show because he thought that it would fit better the way that it exists now.
MN: Yeah, yeah. It’s funny because I actually didn’t even know that that was exactly what it was. But that makes sense. But it is funny though, it’s just like this business is so bizarre in that way, where you can do this thing and thenÂ you might know nothing about it. And then, half a year later, it pops up and you have a job.
How much of a lapse then was there on production from Killjoys to Hudson & Rex? It might have been a pretty quick turnaround for you.
MK: It was a very quick turnaround. I think I moved out to Newfoundland while they were still finishing up the final season. So I got out of Killjoys, and then yeah it was October I think they were still just, they were just finishing up. So yeah, it was a very quick turnover.
What’s the experience been like being in St. John’s?
MN: Actually my very first real kind of big gig that I booked out here in Toronto started shooting in St. John’s. And that was in 2003, I think it was. So I had spent a tiny bit of time. But shooting, so not hitting the tourist spots. And that was so long ago. So I didn’t really remember it. And then this past little bit, we were out there for about six months.
And it was … I mean listen, it was great. It was great. Because it’s gorgeous, and it’s a landscape and a beauty that I’m actually not accustomed to, here in Canada. It’s different, you know? But in the winter time, it’s also ferocious. The wind is insane. And the show’s supposed to be a summer show. So the snow was definitely an impediment, and it was a challenge constantly. It would be really lovely if the show came back, and we shot at a different time of the year. But I hear that their summers are not very long. So I don’t think we really get away from the inclement weather, regardless.
One of the things that I really like about Hudson & Rex so far, and I said this to Ken Cuperus, is the fact that yeah, there’s a dog on the show, but you’ve got this core group of humans as well. And they all get along. I really like that.
MN: I think that’s actually one of the things that I was most surprised by. When you’re shooting it, you don’t know how much the dog becomes the focal point of the show. And it’s really nice because it feels like it’s equal parts dog, and equal parts us. Sometimes when an animal is the focus of a show, it changes the tone and the nature of the show and this doesn’t feel that way. I love it. And Diesel’s so great. It’s shocking what he’s able to do.
According to the press kit, Dr. Sarah is motivated, she keeps a schedule of late nights in the lab, and early morning forensic sweeps. She has the discerning eye for forensic evidence. Nothing gets past Sarah. Are we going to find out a little bit more about her as the season goes on? What can you say about this character?
MN: The one really great thing you pointed out with the show is that it does really focus on the four of us, and I think a lot of the season is spent just establishing that group dynamic. Establishing those relationships. We definitely learn more about the characters as the season goes on. But I think, again, this season has really focused on establishing this ensemble, including the dog, and this unit, this team. You do get to meet my boyfriend for a quick little bit. But we’re still leaving things … we’re not saying too much about anybody just yet.
Give me an update on the play Beautiful Man, that you’re a part of. You’ve been doing auditions, so what can you say about that?
MN: Well, I’m in the throes of auditions. I’m very stressed out. We start our technic next week, and it’s at the Factory Theatre. It’s a show that sort of looks at gender reversals in a really interesting and provocative way. To watch it is a little bit of a mindfuck. It’s a really interesting show and I’ve had very many really great conversations that have come out from this rehearsal process.
Watch Hudson & Rex online at Citytv.com, on Rogers on Demand, or on the Citytv app.
Hudson & Rex returns with new episodes Thursday, June 13, at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.
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?Â
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 ofâ€”I don’t know if serendipity’s the right wordâ€” 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?Â
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.