Murdoch Mysteries is a worldwide brand. With it comes expectations, so a spinoff associated with it leads to extra scrutiny. Thankfully, Macy Murdoch not only meets but exceeds those expectations.
Available now on CBC Gem, the Murdoch spinoff web series Macy Murdoch stars Canadian Screen Award winner Shailyn Pierre-Dixon as Macy, the great-great-great granddaughter of Detective William Murdoch. Set in the present day, Macy and her pals Zane (Beau Han Bridge) and Billie (Raffa Virago) travel back in time after a villain uses a time machine to frame William for murder, the trio goes back to 1910 to find the real perpetrator of the crime. Along for the ride in 1910 are Murdoch Mysteries‘ Constable Henry Higgins-Newsome (Lachlan Murdoch) and Mrs. Violet Hart (Shanice Banton), who help the kids with the case.
Initially developed by JP Larocque and Jessica Meya, we spoke with executive producer/showrunner Jennifer Kassabian (Frankie Drake Mysteries, Carter) and co-executive producer Robina Lord-Stafford (Frankie Drake Mysteries, Moonshine) about the project.
Jennifer, can you tell me how Macy Murdoch came to you?
Jennifer Kassabian: JP and Jess developed it with Shaftsbury before my time. I finished working with Jennifer McCann, who’s one of the series executive producers on Ruby and the Well. Around July, she reached out to me to say that Jess and JP were moving on to other opportunities and would I be interested in this project that she had because we had worked so well together. I said, ‘Well, let me just read everything,’ because I didn’t know if I wanted to keep my foot in the kids’ world, but then the bible that Jess and JP created blew me off my feet. I’ve never read a bible that good. It was so rich, and it was so interesting. I said yes, I’m in. I want to run the show. We didn’t have the money for a writers’ room. It was freelance scripts that were half assigned and half to be assigned, but I could have a No. 1, someone to help me shepherd the show through.
Robina was the only name on my mind from the time we met on Frankie Drake. Sometimes those relationships on a show make you friends off a show. We were friends in real life, I already had a shorthand with her and I said, ‘Would you come on as the No. 2, and will we do this together?
Obviously, anything with the word Murdoch in it is going to come with extra scrutiny. Robina, any nervousness on your part about it having the Murdoch name and William Murdoch involved in it?
Robina Lord-Stafford: I didn’t really have enough time to think about it. I was on Pretty Hard Cases and Jen was like, ‘You’ve got to come and do the show with me.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ Once I was in it, it was like, ‘OK, we really have to make sure we’re doing the Murdoch world justice. We were lucky enough to get two characters from the world, so that was super exciting. Getting to shoot on the Murdoch lot was super exciting and that all kept elevating the production value of the show. We did consult with Murdoch writers to make sure that when we were going back into 1910 and creating a world for our characters to be in, that seemed authentic and real. We also binged a ton of Murdoch because we wanted to make sure that Henry Higgins-Newsome and Violet Hart’s voices were really authentic to what the Murdoch world has created already.
Robina, when it came to the writers’ room, is it different to write for the web as opposed to an episode of broadcast television? Does each web episode represent story beats in a larger project?
RLS: Great question. We did have all those beats already. When Jen and I got onto the project, there were already, I think, two scripts written by previous writers. And so it was like, ‘OK, let’s continue this on,’ and then we had another writer that joined us. One of the things that we did maybe a little bit differently than what I’m used to doing in one hour is that we knew what the beginning, middle, and end of the whole series was going to be. We could then break it down into different episodes on how we were going to then achieve all of that to make sure that we were getting all the juice that we needed and the great cliffhangers at the end of each episode.
You really pack a lot into each 11-or-so-minute episode.
JK: I think there is a misconception that when you hear 11 minutes it’s easy peasy and not that much content. You can get the story in when it was our primary goal and character development for sure.
The young cast was simply amazing.
JK: We had a full day of chemistry reads between people’s favourite casting picks. We had already had Shailyn cast when we went out to cast Billie and Zane. Raffa and Beau sparkled in their solo auditions and then when we partnered up Raffa and Beau we had the magic of the Billie and Zane friendship right off the bat. This is Raffa’s first thing that she’s ever been on screen. She’s such a special talent. They did become fast friends on set, just good people who just really wanted to bring their A-game.
Macy Murdoch is available now on CBC Gem.
Images courtesy of Shaftesbury.