Tag Archives: Meredith MacNeill

Pretty Hard Cases: Sherry White and Meredith MacNeill preview Season 1

Sherry White and Meredith MacNeill are no strangers to CBC. White’s most recent project for the network was as director, executive producer and writer for Little Dog. MacNeill, meanwhile, has just come off five seasons as co-creator, writer, producer and star of Baroness Von Sketch Show. Now the two have paired for one of the most entertaining new series on the network, Pretty Hard Cases.

Debuting Wednesday at 9 p.m. on CBC, MacNeill stars as Sam Waszowski, a guns and gangs detective—and single mom—who finds herself teamed with drug squad detective Kelly Duff, played by Adrienne C. Moore (Orange Is the New Black). Together, the pair are trying to take down a neighbourhood gang dealing drugs and weapons. Co-created by White and Tassie Cameron—who previously worked together on Rookie BluePretty Hard Cases is notable not only for its tone but its focus: telling the stories of two women in their 40s.

We spoke to Sherry White and Meredith MacNeill about the first season of Pretty Hard Cases.

Sherry, can you give me the background on how the show came about? Did you and Tassie Cameron keep in touch over the years and say ‘Let’s try and find something together’?
Sherry White: Tassie and I worked on Rookie Blue together and I was on that from the first season until the end. We got really close during the making of that. We moved on to do other things and there was a couple of times when people approached me with, ‘Could I take on some young writer’s cop show and try and help elevate it.’ Somebody came to Tassie and said it, and I’m like, ‘If there’s a demand for this, why don’t we do this ourselves?’ and really reflect more where we are now in our career. Rookie Blue is more about the early days of these characters and their careers.

This show is more about women who are in their 40s, who had given it all to their career and are finding themselves a little wanting for a full life. They’ve sacrificed a lot of their own personal goals in order to have their career, which is totally where Tassie and I were. We wanted to reflect our friendship and we wanted to reflect where we were in our careers and that sort of, what next? How else do we get a full life? We also wanted to have fun. We wanted it to be more in this sort of Paul Feig kind of… the ways he can celebrate women and be really raw and honest and funny about whatever situation they’re in, and I think we accomplished that with the show.

Meredith, did Sherry or Tassie come forward and say, ‘Hey, listen, we’ve got this character for you.’ How did you end up playing the role of Sam?
Meredith MacNeill: I was approached by Sherry and Tassie for the role, so I didn’t have to audition. When I was talking to Sherry about the role, I remember the absolute shock and pleasure and being completely thrilled.

How did you decide how you were going to play Sam? Did you have to learn how to rein her in a little bit?
MM: I was really fortunate to have Sherry and Tassie, who knew my work from Baroness. Actually, there was a lot of freedom on the floor. When I got the part, we talked a lot about, in terms of the physicality and the part, and the part was really on the page. I didn’t have to deviate much from that. In terms of feeling free to do whatever I wanted to bring to it, Sherry and Tassie, I would say, they were my rein-ers. Sherry directed some episodes and because she knew my work so well and we had such a great trust I’d be like, ‘I’m going to do this.’ And she’s like, ‘Great. Do it.’ In terms of reining in my physicality, Baroness and Pretty Hard Cases are such different shows, so the way it used my physicality was a bit different.

Sherry, how tightly scripted is Pretty Hard Cases?
SW: That was one of the major questions we had going into this because we knew we wanted them to find their way and all that stuff but as everyone knows, improv can get unwieldy and we didn’t want to have 65-minute episodes. We found a really good system where we mostly stuck to the text and certainly, for all the procedural stuff, there’s not a lot of improv room in that. You need just the facts, you need what that content was. In the more personal scenes, there was a lot more play and we would always allow for [Meredith] to, once we nailed it, just go. Just do something else if you wanted to play. I would say it was mostly not improvised, but definitely, enough to bring a special flavour that Meredith and Adrienne would bring themselves.

The relationship between Sam and her son is fascinating. Can you talk about how complicated this relationship is going to be as we see this first season roll out?
MM: It’s going to be extremely complicated. Sam is desperate for attention and the love and respect of her son. I’m a single mom and my daughter’s only 10 and I’m starting to feel like she would rather be with her friends. So imagine that amplified. And then Percy [Hynes White] is incredible to play opposite of. We had good chemistry as well, so we were finding a lot about the relationship as it was going. One of Sam’s big storylines for the show is her relationship with her son. It gets pretty exciting.

SW: And again, because loneliness is a theme in this show, there is nothing more lonely than being a single mother about to be an empty nester.

MM: I was so grateful because it’s been my therapy because it’s going to happen to me. I used to call Sherry and sometimes I’d just start crying at the thought of it.

Sherry, what can we expect to see in Season 1?
SW: The core of the series is Sam and Kelly building a friendship, finding a friendship despite their differences and relying on each other, and finding this common ground as they are working together. They’re dealing with the main neighbourhood gang. But then, through that, they have personal stories that develop and challenge their professional life and vice versa. It’s a lot of fun. I think every episode brings a lot of laughs and also it can get pretty sad sometimes.

Pretty Hard Cases airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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CBC and NBCUniversal International Studios partner on Cameron Pictures’ Lady Dicks

From a media release:

CBC and NBCUniversal International Studios, a division of NBCUniversal Content Studios, today announced new original drama series LADY DICKS (10×60, Cameron Pictures), starring Meredith MacNeill (Baroness von Sketch Show) and Adrienne C. Moore (Orange Is The New Black).

Co-created by Tassie Cameron (Mary Kills People, Ten Days in the Valley, Rookie Blue, The Robber Bride) and Sherry White (Little Dog, Frontier, Ten Days in the Valley, Rookie Blue), LADY DICKS is a fun and honest portrayal of two radically different female detectives in their early 40s. Critically-acclaimed director, Holly Dale (Batwoman, Mary Kills People) will direct the premiere episode. The series is currently in pre-production and will begin shooting in Ontario this spring.

The action-packed series follows Guns and Gangs detective, Samantha (MacNeill) and Narcotics detective, Kelly (Moore), who by day are true action heroes in their own particular way: skilled, tough, determined, and ruthless. But by night, they’re both grappling with loneliness, dysfunctional families, screwed-up love lives, and a sense that their professional ambitions may not be totally in line with their personal needs. Their friendship could help to balance each other out, if only they didn’t drive one another utterly insane.

A CBC Original Series, LADY DICKS is produced by Cameron Pictures in association with CBC and NBCUniversal International Studios. The series is created by Sherry White and Tassie Cameron, who also serve as Co-Showrunners. Sherry White, Tassie Cameron, Amy Cameron and Alex Patrick are Executive Producers.

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Aurora Browne dishes on Baroness Von Sketch and Great Canadian Baking Show

There are three big changes viewers will notice when they tune in to The Great Canadian Baking Show on CBC this Wednesday night.

Gone is judge Rochelle Adonis, replaced by Kyla Kennaley. And co-hosts Dan Levy and Julia Chan have been swapped out in favour of Aurora Browne and Carolyn Taylor. Browne and Taylor are also, as legions of fans already know, the writers, stars and executive producers of Baroness von Sketch Show, which returns this Tuesday night to CBC.

And while I will miss Levy and Chan’s roles on Baking Show, I was immediately smitten by Browne and Taylor’s witty cold opening and their natural rapport with the 10 new contestants.

We spoke to Browne ahead of both programs’ debut.

How did yourself and Carolyn Taylor end up hosting The Great Canadian Baking Show in the first place?
Aurora Browne: The Great Canadian Baking Show approached us, at the beginning of this year. Carolyn and I have known each other for a very long time, obviously. Long before Baroness, even. It worked out in our schedule to be able to do it with only minimal overlap. Why not? It’s such a fun show. It’s fun and lovely and to be honest, being paid to taste things is like a dream come true. I don’t think that was difficult for either of us.

We actually spoofed it on Baroness. There’s a scene in the third season with Jen and Meredith. The patient is talking about her existential angst and how she can’t let go of any of her anxiety. The psychiatrist advises her to watch a gentle British baking show. We had a little, 10-second insert. Of course, it takes two hours to film, so Carolyn was like the Mary Berry character and I was a contestant. On the day that we were doing that, we were saying, ‘Oh gosh, I could do that all day,’ just talking about food and looking at food.

Two women smile into the camera.Was what you did as hosts scripted?
AB: They do have a very talented writer Elvira Kurt who has been our friend for a long time. She has actually worked on Baroness as well. A bit of the show is scripted. We don’t come up with all those puns on our own, that’s the job of a talented person. We were doing the cold opens of the show. That kind of stuff is scripted. Also sometimes, to be totally honest, there is so much technical stuff for some of the baking things, especially the French patisserie, I really needed that in the script. It’s like texty sci-fi shows you are remembering all these things. Thank goodness for the script on those parts, but the rest of it is just us interacting with the bakers. I think the best training that Carolyn and I could have had for the show is just attending a bunch of parties because it’s a party in a way.

Starting off with 10 people and then fewer as weeks progress you just have to be comfortable going in and chatting to them, it’s just like that part in the party where you wander into the kitchen and the host is trying to get something done or trying to get something in the oven and you ask them questions. Except here on the show they must answer our questions.

They were very easy to get to know, they were just such lovely, lovely people. They are in the middle of this very stressful situation with cameras in their faces and we were just there to encourage them and Carolyn and I didn’t find it hard at all. We were just encouraging them to do what they loved and to sometimes have a good laugh with them, and occasionally commiserate with them if they were having a stressful moment, which of course happens.

Let’s switch things up and let’s talk about season four of Baroness von Sketch Show. What was it like having Jennifer Whalen as the showrunner this season?
AB: Jen Whalen is exceptional. I mean it’s a massive job because you’re the one person who goes between all the departments. All four of us worked very closely on the creative and talking with each other about everything. Jen Whalen, I see her being the CEO of something, before very long. But we also have been doing this for several years now, so we have how we handle the editing and that’s in place, how we work out the sketches that are in place. I’m always just like thankful and in awe of Carolyn and Jennifer being showrunners and how willing they are to just always take those calls and emails. I personally need a little bit of time at the end of the day where I just won’t pick up the phone. I need to not answer emails. I’m always very grateful that those two have been willing to helm such a busy, busy show because we are all so involved.

But they are both fantastic at it and I hope someday that Jen Whalen is captaining the starship and I get to be her XO, I would happily be her second in command for anything.

Two women on a climbing apparatus.There are some great sketches in the first episode. Binge-watching television and translating that into kids’ years. Tony Nappo in the sketch where he uses his kind words to make women smile. The blood pressure cuff. All great relatable stuff. The end credits featured a large group of writers and story editors.
AB: We have a structure that really allows us to welcome in voices and ideas even for a short amount of time because we have a core group of four of us are always there. Then we have some staff writers who are with us all the way through. For Season 4 we had Jen Goodhue who has been with us for every season. We had Monica Heisey in and then Allison Hogg, who had also written for us before. Then with the other people sometimes they will only come in for say three days or four days. That fresh set of eyes is really invaluable and it makes for a really fun room. I don’t think there was one person that came in that one of us didn’t know already.

It’s a pretty joyous thing. Even though it’s a large group it was manageable and it just means that you have these really funny, really talented people who are really thoughtful and interested in the world and are really ready to sit and roll around an idea to get at what’s the essence of this, what’s the funniest take we can take on it. And we were so happy always to be able to offer a paycheque at the very least to our talented colleagues who live and work in this city and the country.

We are very happy to be able to make this show where we live, and other people can too.

Baroness von Sketch Show airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on CBC.

The Great Canadian Baking Show airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Preview: Baroness von Sketch Show deals more hilarity in Season 3

Hot on the heels of Baroness von Sketch Show‘s well-deserved Canadian Screen Award wins and continued kudos from American attention thanks to IFC picking the program up, the funny Canadian ladies are back for Season 3 on Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Once again, writers, stars and executive producers Carolyn Taylor, Meredith MacNeill, Aurora Browne and Jennifer Whalen simply nail it with hilarious characters and dead-funny views in sketches both timely and evergreen. While some Canadian periodicals write lazy columns decrying a lack of funny at the CBC, I say the network has never been stronger because of Baroness, Still Standing, Schitt’s Creek, Mr. D and Kim’s Convenience. (The jury is still out on 22 Minutes, thanks to behind the scenes shakeups.)

The return episode, “Is that you Karen?” bursts out of the gate with immediate laughs, as two ladies who haven’t seen each other in 20 years reconnect in the oddest and most ludicrous of ways. And that’s before the revamped opening credits roll. Then, in the rat-a-tat roll out of sketches, viewers get reflections on the rites of spring (with three of the four ladies dressed as dudes), the dangers of accepting a ride home from a co-worker, rogue cops and what could happen when the barista gets the name wrong on your coffee cup.

Whenever I speak to folks about the television shows Baroness von Sketch almost always comes up. There’s a reason for that. With tight writing, stellar performances (MacNeill’s over-the-top physical comedy is a standout) and truly relatable topics, the baronesses are hitting a comedy home run every week.

Baroness von Sketch Show airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Baroness von Sketch Show lands on CBC

“We didn’t want to make a thing that would sit on a shelf. We wanted it on TV as soon as possible.” Carolyn Taylor certainly got her wish: after being greenlit last March by CBC, Baroness von Sketch Show is hitting the air, a rocket ride by Canadian TV production standards.

Debuting Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. on CBC, Baroness von Sketch Show stars Taylor and fellow sketch comic veterans Meredith MacNeill, Aurora Browne and Jennifer Whalen, who turn a lens on society and present a satirical take on life. Like City’s cancelled-too-soon Sunnyside, Baroness is shot on-location, though the settings are everyday spots like restaurants and office cubicles rather than the Third World War.

“We wanted the characters and situations to feel relatable,” Taylor explains during a break filming in an empty corner of CBC’s Toronto headquarters. “There is no laugh track and it has a single-camera vibe.” Taylor took her series pitch to Frantic Films over two years ago; after bringing on MacNeill, Browne and Whalen, a sizzle reel was shot and shopped around. Taylor always envisioned Baroness broadcast on CBC, saying the aesthetic fit best there. Production moved at a quick clip, with guerrilla-style filming across Toronto in locations like Woodbine Racetrack, Queen St. West, Trinity Bellwoods Park, Dundas St. and Scarborough. They’ve also had to make changes on the fly: a wedding chapel was converted into a massage parlour for one skit.

“It’s all been a bit of a blur,” Whalen recalls. “We had a great writers’ room with air and light and shelves and snacks. And then we’ve had wonderful, funny people that we admire come in and play with us. I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Would you like to come and put on your space suit now?’ ‘Yes, I would like nothing more than to do that!'” She notes Jon Dore, Ennis Esmer, Craig Brown, Ann Pornel, Alex Tindal and Toby Burner among those guest-starring in sketches.

How did the quartet come up with the title of their show?

“A baroness is not even the lowest level of aristocracy,” Browne says. “You can actually buy it for yourself. There is a whole swath of women who might have been widows and it gave them a license to go a little kooky. It seemed to have a nice mix of self-entitlement and weirdness. It just felt right and it’s a nice contrast to the stupidity that occurs on the show.”

Baroness von Sketch Show airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on CBC.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail