Tag Archives: Michael Amo

Pure: Creator Michael Amo on the return of Season 2 and a favourite character

Spoiler alert: Do not continue reading unless you have watched the first episode of Pure, Season 2.

Pure‘s second season premiere was notable for a few reasons. It introduced Hector Estrada (Victor Gomez), the drug dealer who demanded Anna Funk re-start the Mennonite cocaine pipeline. And, just to give her the little push Anna needed to do that, took Isaak (Dylan Everett) as collateral. When we last saw Isaak, he was naked, caged and (rightfully) screaming for his mother. Last Tuesday’s return also brought a favourite character back from the grave. It turns out Noah’s (Ryan Robbins) brother, Abel (Gord Rand), suffered merely a flesh wound when Eli Voss shot him; the siblings shared an emotional reunion.

With so much going on not just with the characters but the show itself, we got Michael Amo on the phone to discuss it.

What were your thoughts when you were told by CBC that the second season of Pure wasn’t going to be happening with them?
Michael Amo: [Laughs.] I remember being surprised because I think we averaged over 700,000 viewers per episode which, for a freshman drama on CBC, is pretty good. But, I guess it wasn’t on brand for them. I did move on to other things and developed some other shows. It was really Cineflix. It was Brett Burlock and Peter Emerson, who are our Ontario production partners, were the ones who said, ‘You know what? It’s not going to die so easily.’ They’re the ones who engineered the deal between WGN America and Super Channel and put their own kind of equity into it as well.

Three people, dressed in black, stand next to each other.Was there a phone call to you to say it had been greenlit?
MA: For me, it was me talking to Brett about some things I was working on and him saying, ‘Not so fast, Pure isn’t dead yet.’ But I’ve got a family to feed and said, ‘I welcome the opportunity to do more of Pure.’ I hung up the phone and went about my business. Months went by and, behind the scenes, Brett and Peter were working feverishly to make it happen. So, when you get the call and are told your baby has been brought back to life, it’s a happy day indeed.

You’ve spent at least one full episode keeping Noah away from his family. What was the thinking behind that?
MA: Actually, we keep Noah away from Anna until Episode 3 because I don’t want to make it easy. [Laughs.] The audience should be rooting for this family to get back together and they can’t do that if they’re together from the get-go. It was challenging to keep them apart for so long, but I did put them on a collision course to tie in with the law enforcement angle of the show. It was a challenge to do that. Season 1 was all about their fall from grace and expulsion from paradise and Season 2 is about them, all in their own way, trying to get back to paradise and the innocence they lose along the way.

How has being on Super Channel Fuse changed the tone of the show? What have you been able to do that you couldn’t on CBC?
MA: There were fans of the show, to begin with, so when they took it on, they said, ‘We’re a premium cable network, so feel free to play in that space.’ I didn’t go too crazy because I, personally, am not a huge fan of vulgarity and the show really never had the creative bandwidth for sex. But we could push the elements that were already in the show a little harder.

Hector Estrada is, literally, taking no prisoners. What’s it been like to create this guy?
MA: In Season 1 we had Eli Voss, who had very specific spiritual views that were in opposition to Noah’s. In Season 2, I really wanted to do something different, from a character point of view for the villain, so Hector is all about the here and now. He does not believe in an afterlife, he does not believe there are any consequences for his actions in this world whatsoever. He is all about the material pleasures, but he’s sort of lonely too. So, he bonds with Isaak and that’s his Achilles heel in a way. [Actor] Victor Gomez is both extremely charming and when he wants to be, ice cold.

I was surprised to see Gord Rand returned to Pure. In Season 1, Abel was shot by Eli and left for dead. Were you always intending to bring the character of Abel back?
MA: [Laughs.] I’m going to be honest and say perhaps not. What happens is, you fall in love with these characters, and the actors who play them, and you say, ‘Oh my goodness, I have to find a way to keep Gord in the picture.’ I’m glad I did.

Pure airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Super Channel Fuse.

Images courtesy of Super Channel.

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Preview: Pure deals a second season on Super Channel Fuse

When we last left Pure, its characters—and the show itself—were in disarray.

Eli Voss, the Season 1 villain who had forced Noah Funk (Ryan Robbins) and his wife, Anna (Alex Paxton-Beesley) into ferrying cocaine through Mexico into the United States, was killed by Noah. But the Funk’s actions led to them being excommunicated from their Ontario Mennonite community. Noah, despondent and feeling like he had failed his family—and gotten his brother, Abel (Gord Rand), killed—left the community altogether.

As for the show, CBC opted not to renew Michael Amo’s creation for a second season. Thankfully, Super Channel stepped in and ordered six more episodes. In the U.S., Season 1 was broadcast on Hulu and then picked up by WGN America; the American superstation will also broadcast Pure day and date with its Canadian counterpart.

A woman stands, facing two men who are walking towards her.When we catch up with the Funk family on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on Super Channel Fuse, Noah is nowhere to be found. It’s a year since the events of the Season 1 finale, and Anna and her children Tina (Jessica Clement) and Isaak (Dylan Everett) are still on the outs with their community. In danger of losing her home, Anna pleads to the elders for help. Of course, the colony knew what Voss was doing at the time but still blame the Funks for the sins brought among them. Anna was forced to pick up the pieces after her husband left and has shown great strength in doing that. She’s very different from the woman we first met in Season 1.

Meanwhile, Det. Gates (Cory Bowles) has been searching for Noah at Anna’s request. And it’s while he’s doing it that Gates stumbles upon a crime scene introducing viewers to Hector Estrada (Victor Gomez) and his hitman Orff (Conrad Pla), two dudes that are just as evil as Voss and intent on getting the cocaine pipeline going again. We’re also introduced to Det. Valerie Krochak (Zoie Palmer), a former hockey player turned forensic accountant who becomes embroiled in the case.

After over a year since Super Channel announced a sophomore season, it’s good to jump back into Amo’s world. For such dark subject matter, Pure is rife with humour and heart. The scenery is stunning (Nova Scotia stands in for Ontario) and while much of the dialogue amongst the Mennonite characters are spare, a lack of words is made up in facial expression, body language and eye movement. And, when they do speak, it’s to say something truly important, heartfelt and with conviction.

Pure airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Super Channel Fuse.

Images courtesy of Super Channel.

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The WGC announces new president, council

From a media release:

The Writers Guild of Canada is pleased to announce that showrunner Dennis Heaton is the WGC’s new president, elected by WGC council to serve the 2,200 members of the Guild from May 1, 2018 to April 30, 2020. Dennis is an award-winning screenwriter based in Vancouver; currently showrunner of the upcoming Netflix show, The Order.

“We’re very excited to work with Dennis,” says WGC Executive Director Maureen Parker. “His showrunning experience will hold us in good stead as we go into Independent Production Agreement bargaining within the next year.”

Dennis has been a member of the WGC since 2001 and has served on the Guild’s council since 2012. He was showrunner of the internationally renowned police procedural Motive (CTV/ABC seasons one and two), and has written for The Listener and Blood Ties, among other shows.

“It’s great to be the new WGC president,” says Heaton. “I’m looking forward to building on the Guild’s past successes, as well as facing the challenges ahead.”

In addition to electing a new president, the Guild also has a new council, responsible for setting policies and overseeing Guild activities. The 2018-20 WGC council is made up of experienced screenwriter members from across the country: Vice President Andrew Wreggitt (Mayerthorpe), Treasurer Mark Ellis (X Company), Marsha Greene (Mary Kills People), Alex Levine (Orphan Black), Anne-Marie Perrotta (Max & Ruby), and Michael Amo (Pure).

The WGC’s new council, along with Executive Director Maureen Parker, is ready to move ahead in a time of industry flux, and to continue the Guild’s ongoing work on behalf of Canadian screenwriters.

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Mennonite mafia adds Pure drama to CBC’s midseason

St. Jacobs, Ont., is a mere 90-minute drive from Toronto, but it can feel like a world away. It’s where a large community of Mennonites live surrounded by small towns and rolling farmer’s fields. It’s also the setting of CBC’s new—and unique—drama, Pure.

Created by Michael Amo (The Listener) and debuting Monday, Jan. 9, at 9 p.m., the premise sounds laughingly outrageous: Mennonite communities in Mexico use communities in Canada to transport drugs over the border into the United States and vice versa, as a way to keep their farms going. The reality is, it’s happening.

“It amazed me,” Amo says during a set visit for media in Halifax. “I was always interested in doing a story about the Mennonites and I love to use any project that I have as an excuse to do research and learn stuff.” Amo’s grandparents on his mother’s side were Mennonites, the first of their community to move into the city and stopped using low German as their language. Pure represented as much an opportunity to visit part of his family’s history as it did to tell the tale of drugs being run into the U.S. via small-town Canada. Amo first read about the Mennonite mob in a magazine article and renewed the option on it for years before writing the pilot on spec. No networks in Canada or the U.S. were interested in his six-episode one-hour drama until True Detective and Fargo came along. Pure then spent over two years in the works at Shaw before the CBC picked it up.

Pure stars Ryan Robbins (Continuum) as Noah Funk, a newly-elected Mennonite pastor who rids his community of drug traffickers … and then comes under the scrutiny of mob leader Eli Voss (Peter Outerbridge, Orphan Black). This pulls Noah and his family—wife Anna (Alex Paxton-Beesley, Murdoch Mysteries), brother Abel (Gord Rand), son Isaac (Dylan Everett) and daughter Tina (Jessica Clement)—into a dangerous web with seemingly no way to escape. That is, until Noah finds an unlikely ally in Bronco Novak (AJ Buckley, Justified), a washed-up cop whose investigation into a burned-out car leads him to Noah, and DEA agent Phoebe O’Reilly (Rosie Perez), who has been tracking Eli for years.

“The Mennonite people speak their own language, Plautdietsch or low German,” Robbins says during a break in filming. “So, even if the police were on to somebody they don’t have anybody to translate those conversations. That’s how people were able to get away with it for so long.” Noah, Robbins explains, is an old-school Mennonite, with no electricity and a horse and buggy to get around in. A pious man, he’s challenged to keep his faith while betraying members of his colony and justifying his decisions in the name of God.

“Michael writes his characters very differently,” Robbins says. “They’re not cookie-cutter archetypes. Each character has quirks and they cast accordingly so that strengths will be brought to those characters.” The Vancouver-based actor “blasted through” Season 1’s six scripts quickly and marvelled at how he’d never heard or read anything like it before.

“I think a show like Pure could change the game for the CBC and for Canadian television,” he continues. “There is nothing like this on TV. I hope this show wows people. It wows me.”

Pure airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Photo gallery: First look at CBC’s Pure

CBC has unveiled its winter schedule (see our calendars for days and dates), outlining the return of X Company, Schitt’s Creek and Michael: Every Day and the debut of Workin’ Moms, Bellevue and—a show we’re particularly excited about—Pure.

Created by Michael Amo (The Listener)—and based on real events—Pure tells the story of Noah Funk (Ryan Robbins, Continuum), a Mennonite pastor whose life is upset when he attempts to drive drug dealing out of his community … and finds himself drawn into it. Along for the dramatics in the six-episode first season are Alex Paxton-Beesley (Murdoch Mysteries) as Noah’s wife, Anna; AJ Buckley (Justified) as cop Bronco Novak; Peter Outerbridge (ReGenesis) as Eli Voss; Jessica Clement as Noah and Anna’s daughter, Tina; Gord Rand (Orphan Black) as Noah’s brother, Abel; and Rosie Perez (Fearless) as DEA Agent Phoebe O’Reilly.

We were lucky enough to score a set visit to Halifax to chat with everyone involved in Pure—look for stories closer to broadcast—but in the meantime, here are a few photos to get you prepped for the series debut.

 

Pure debuts Monday, Jan. 9, at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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