Tag Archives: Murdoch Mysteries

The Wedding Planners’ Michael Seater: “It speaks to themes I think everybody can get”

Frequent visitors to this site know I cover Murdoch Mysteries extensively. That means fans of the show know the name Michael Seater intimately. The veteran Canadian writer, director, producer and actor may very well be best-known for his portrayal of serial killer James Gillies on the period drama. But Murdoch isn’t his only acting gig.

Aside from Life with Derek, 18 to Life and Bomb Girls, Seater can be seen every Friday night on The Wedding Planners. There, he co-stars as James Clarkson—alongside Paige (Kimberly-Sue Murray) and Hannah (Madeline Leon), who take over their mother’s wedding planning business after she passes away suddenly.

We spoke to Michael Seater about The Wedding Planners, being an independent producer and … yes … playing James Gillies.

You’ve got a production company going. I know you’re making feature films. How did you end up playing James on The Wedding Planners?
Michael Seater: Beth Stevenson, who runs the show, was at Decode Entertainment, which did my first series back when I was a kid. She and I had a meeting earlier this year to talk about different things, sort of a general meeting and different things out there, from directing to acting. The Wedding Planners came along a couple of months later, which seems like good timing. It’s a really fun show. It speaks to themes I think everybody can get, which are loss and family and love.

James has a really interesting story. What’s the journey for him this season?
MS: Well, I think it’s interesting in that he’s left and there’s the appearance that he has figured it all out and doesn’t need this small-town life anymore, and I think the big city is more his speed. But bright lights, big city, things aren’t always as they seem. What happens to a lot of people in a big, giant metropolis like that, you quickly are living beyond your means. In how we operate today in an Instagram culture, we have this pressure, which I think has always existed but never more than now, to present like you are living a certain way that maybe you can’t afford.

I don’t think he plans on staying for long, but that might change because circumstances change. I think when you suffer such a great loss, you realize how important and valuable family is. Even if on the surface James plays sarcastic often, that he doesn’t really care that much about being there, I think that’s all a deflective veneer that he uses so people don’t see that he’s lost his mom and he’s hurting and he needs to be around his sisters right now.

Can you speak to any of the input you had into this character?
MS: There is a lot of dialogue in finding the voice, and a lot of figuring out the nuanced nature of, especially, a queer character. Making it feel that it’s honest and not put-on. I’m a queer person myself. I watch a lot of Drag Race. I want the language to be authentic. Then, there’s the story aspect of making sure that when we promise something in a story that we deliver on it.

You have a production company with Paula Brancati. Is working in somebody else’s sandbox, in your view, an exercise in not flexing producer’s muscles and getting back into the acting? 
MS: Yes and no. I give myself a talk sort of before I do a project where I am hired solely as actor. I am not shy with my opinions, and so I need to make sure that I’m not stepping on too many toes.

The three siblings are sort of the head of the department, and we are very inherently involved in stories. So, I think, from actors I’ve known throughout the years who when I was young, I kind of looked at as examples. Peter Outerbridge on ReGenesis is somebody who was a really magnificent lead on a show and how he works on how he pushed for the script to always be the best it could be. He looked out for younger or guest actors who don’t have a voice the way that he did.

But then, on the other hand, I tell myself, ‘OK, you’re not the director of this. Don’t try and get involved and say, ‘Well, what are you doing with the cameras?’ You’ve got to let somebody else do their job.’ And I hope I do that. Making a TV show, making a film is always such a collaborative endeavour anyways. Lots of people wear different hats, but even if you only ever wear one hat, your department affects another department. So, it’s always about communicating with one another and the best idea wins. That’s how I try and operate.

Murdoch Mysteries fans know you play James Gillies, perhaps the ultimate villain on that show. What was that like playing that character?
MS: I have the best time going to play on that show. I mean, a bunch of crew on that show was from shows I had done previously. I knew a lot of the cast, especially the longer I did the show. So, I would go back every summer and it was like visiting your favourite aunt and uncle for a week in the summer. It was family. We had such a good time and just got to play.

Gillies is so much fun because he’s one of those wonderfully truly classically evil characters. And by the later episodes, everyone knows he’s evil. So, it’s not like, ‘Oh, I need to hide this and play nice till the very end and we get the reveal at the end.’ I get to come in guns blazing and hold needles to babies’ necks and hairpins to women’s throats and all this fun stuff and get my face mangled. It was so good.

Also, I wouldn’t ever say that we’ve seen the last of Gillies. I’ve always said that was just his good twin and see, the evil twin used that weird brain thing that made the guy do the talking, use that on his good twin and the evil twin’s still alive and kicking. That’s just my opinion.

The Wedding Planners airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

The Wedding Planners brings much-needed nostalgia to primetime TV

In a world full of turmoil and seeking comfort, Beth Stevenson’s creations couldn’t be more timely.

If you’ve tuned in to a Harlequin or Hallmark holiday movie, you’ve likely seen her stuff. Stevenson’s IMDB page is chockfull of such seasonal fare as Snowbound for Christmas, A Christmas Recipe for Romance, Twinkle all the Way or Christmas with a Prince. They’ve quickly become holiday classics. Now Stevenson, Brain Power Studio founder and executive producer, jumps into primetime TV with a new series.

The Wedding Planners, debuting Friday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv, introduces us to the Clarkson Wedding Essentials, a family-run business that is a one-stop spot for wedding planning. The business is headed up by Marguerite (Michelle Nolden), who hopes her children—Paige (Kimberly-Sue Murray), James (Michael Seater) and Hannah (Madeline Leon)—will one day carry on the business. When that day comes suddenly, the siblings are forced to work together to pull off the perfect wedding.

We spoke to Beth Stevenson about The Wedding Planners, and why shows like it are the perfect salve for uncertain times.

How did The Wedding Planners come about?
Beth Stevenson: Some of Marguerite is actually a lot to do with my mom was such a big part of my life. The reason I’m in the film and television business is because she was actually studying to go into the film and television business after she had raised all of us. I come from a family with siblings and Brain Power is actually a family company and a lot of my siblings do work in the company. My stepsons work in the company. We have that familial connection together with the fact that we’re building something and we’re working on something together. There’s a lot of comparison to how Marguerite has grown the business and expropriated bedrooms. We thought, ‘This will be a really nice location to base a series out of.’

What about the partnership with Rogers?
BS: Nataline Rodrigues, who’s the director of original programming, has this beautiful timeslot that’s called Fall In Love Fridays. We were doing many Harlequin films and most were Canadian content productions that we were doing for various Canadian networks. But predominantly, we were exporting them. She found me and said, ‘Hey, I see you’re doing romcoms and things that would work really well for our network.’ And we said to her, ‘We’re working on this nice limited series that is going to be about a family of wedding planners.’ We continued to talk and then we started to quickly move it through development and she believed in the concept and we went into production.

When it comes to putting together a project like this, a limited series as opposed to a two hour TV movie, it would seem there would be more space to play around. 
BS: It’s definitely nice to build worlds and to look at maybe a dynasty of characters that are together that can continue on. It’s good to do that two-hour movie to make sure you get the chemistry right in the casting, that you’re bringing these worlds together. With The Wedding Planners, we get the best of both worlds because we have this definitive storyline which is the bride and groom that we’re following that episode. And then you have this beautiful enriching family drama that’s flowing underneath it.

The TV-movies you have made have quickly become kind of go-to programming during the holidays. What is it that we love about these so much? Is it escapism?
BS: I go towards more of the word nostalgia. The holiday season has grown to a place of we want this comfort, we want this nostalgia, we want to have these moments where it’s that Christmas tingle people get. The nice thing from our adaptations is they’re coming from Christmas novels in many instances.

A lot of our movies are on Amazon Prime where we get the analytics every week. And it is phenomenal. It doesn’t stop in January I will tell you. Because I think again, people need that in these times. I think the barrage and the digital world can be very exhausting. So if you can get that comfort to come back and to follow a family or to follow a couple and to root for them and to have a little bit of a break, that’s, I think, making a big difference right now in the world.

The Wedding Planners airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Link: Yannick Bisson talks reaching his 200th episode of Murdoch Mysteries

From Heather M. of TV Goodness:

Link: Yannick Bisson talks reaching his 200th episode of Murdoch Mysteries
“The fact that it’s gone beyond just being my job to being part of the Canadian culture that we represent [to the world] is certainly not lost on me. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and I think that’s the magic ingredient.” Continue reading.

From Megan Elliott of Cheat Sheet:

Link: ‘Murdoch Mysteries’ star Yannick Bisson says he had ‘No Idea’ the show would be such a hit ahead of milestone 200th episode
“At the end of the day, he’s going to do his duty. Though as the years have gone on, I think that’s been chipped away a little bit, like the layers of an onion, just a little bit at a time. Things are not all black and white. And sometimes there are judgment calls that have to be made. And that’s been the biggest evolution for him.” Continue reading. 

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Murdoch Mysteries showrunner Peter Mitchell looks back on Season 13

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched the Season 13 finale of Murdoch Mysteries, “The Future is Unwritten.” 

Well, Murdoch fans, what did you think? After a week filled with comments about Julia’s smooch with Dr. Dixon, George’s kidnapping by Amelia and thoughts on Ms. Hart, it all came together quickly on Monday night. By the time the dust had settled, George had talked his way out of a calamity (I honestly thought he might meet a grisly end), Dixon revealed himself to be a silly boy looking to add notches to his bedpost, and we understood a lot more about Violet Hart.

We also saw William and Julia reconcile and reveal some true honesty. That’s something that has been missing a tad with our favourite couple and just one of several questions I asked of showrunner Peter Mitchell.

Before we get to that, here’s what he had to say about the title of the episode: “The title of the episode, ‘The Future is Unwritten,’ comes from a documentary about Joe Strummer. Because Joe was such a positive life force, I always think of it as meaning the world in front of you has limitless possibilities.”

Congratulations on 13 seasons.
Peter Mitchell: Oh, thank you.

Violet Hart’s storyline has evolved from this somewhat wide-eyed person that was brought into the morgue by Julia. Has this evolution been organic?
PM: Well I mean we had Rebecca, who was super sweet like Mouna Traoré. But when Shanice comes in, I think the very first thing she says to Julia is, ‘I don’t expect to be working for you for very long.’ She comes in as a vitamin salesman, and sort of off the very top says, ‘You ain’t the boss of me.’ A character who you could never really nail down. I mean she shows up, she tells Ogden she doesn’t believe in God, she tells Murdoch she does, and then she shows up at the funeral of a strange baby, and is either crying or pretending to cry. We’ve always tried to keep her a bit elusive.

You must love it when you’re reading people that absolutely hate Violet Hart, or love Shanice in her portrayal.
PM: A million years ago I worked on a show, and one of the actors was a guy called Cedric Smith, who’s a well-known older Canadian actor. And he was always like, ‘It’s more fun to be the bad guy.’ It’s often more fun to write for the bad guy.

OK, let’s talk about Watts. His storyline this season has been fantastic. He’s gay. Again, was that an organic storyline? Was that feedback from Daniel? 
PM: That was probably a bit more organic. And I think that the way that Daniel portrayed the character, it was with the writers easy for us to go, ‘Yeah, that wouldn’t be a surprise.’ I don’t think we plotted out a three-year arc that would uncover a secret, other than it seemed like although some of the fans had a hard time accepting that this could indeed be possible, it never seemed to us that it was a huge leap. And Dan was super pumped to do it, sort of like off to the races.

Why the decision to have Julia kiss Dixon? It felt as though she was instigating it.
PM: I think it’s incredibly attractive to have somebody attracted to you. And at certain times in your life, I think you just feel like you need that. Her views about lust versus love might be completely different than William’s. This might be water off a duck’s back to her. Or it might be something she’d never would have gone through with. I think, probably in my heart of hearts, that if it had have progressed much further, she probably would have said, ‘I can’t do this.’ But I don’t think she was opposed to a little first base action. I don’t think it makes her cruel. I mean I’ve already stated my case that I don’t think it makes her evil or unredeemable.

And I think if the fans were honest with themselves, I think they would admit to certain urges in their lives they may have had.

William hasn’t been the most attentive this season.
PM: I would also argue if I had to, it wouldn’t have mattered how well or poorly William had treated her. I don’t think it’s like a deficit on William’s character because Julia got momentarily interested in another guy. I don’t think it’s punishment, I don’t think it’s any of that stuff.

Regarding the 200th episode, was there a special kind of pressure that you felt as a showrunner and as a writer when you’re reached that landmark number?
PM: Oh yeah. Yeah, 200 was an opportunity to get some kind of oomph. And I think 200 was also significantly long enough to celebrate the show in its totality. So that’s why we wanted to have guest stars that spanned all the way back to the first season. We wanted to have shout-outs hidden in the script that referenced the balloon ride from like eight-gazillion years ago, the bellman from the honeymoon on the heels of the 100th episode.

We wanted to populate it with Easter eggs, and we wanted to sort of, as opposed to being sombre, or serious, or any of that shit, we just wanted to celebrate kind of the zaniness that Paul Aitken and the rest of the writers bring to the show, so we had a fucking death-ray. There was a lot of hat-tipping going on. And we just wanted to populate it with that other aspect of the Murdoch thing, the historical guest stars. Allow Murdoch to be surrounded by his peers, i.e. the smartest people in the world, which he is one.

Season 14 has not been announced. Anything you can tease in case it happens?
PM: The little tramp might make an appearance. Not Julia, but Charlie Chaplin. Hopefully the same as last year, and hopefully we’ll do it a little bit better.

 

What did you think of the Season 3 finale? Which storyline was your favourite of the whole season? Let me know in the comments section below!

Images courtesy of CBC.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Murdoch Mysteries’ Shanice Banton: “I hope that you understand Violet a little bit more”

Violet Hart is perhaps the most galvanizing character on Murdoch Mysteries. Facebook feeds have been devoted to her conniving and plotting, with many comments simply stating, “I hate the character, so congratulations to the actress!”

That’s music to Shanice Banton’s ears. The actress, who has previously starred on Degrassi: The Next Generation and Lost Girl, has portrayed Violet Hart for a mere 33 episodes but has made a huge splash on a show celebrating 200 instalments. When we first met Ms. Hart, she was selling vitamins. Now she’s a coroner accused of murder. With Monday’s Murdoch Mysteries season finale upon us, we spoke to Banton about the brouhaha surrounding Ms. Hart.

Give me your origin story. How did you end up playing this character of Violet Hart in the first place?
Shanice Banton: I was shooting another project and this opportunity had come up, just like a regular audition, and I ended up putting myself on tape for it, I believe. Same old audition style, regular audition style and they told me they wanted to have me on, and that was it.

What were your initial thoughts? Coming off a show like the Degrassi or Lost Girl, you’re coming onto Murdoch Mysteries, which is a period drama. Was your initial reaction, ‘Yeah, get me into some of that old clothing!’
SB: Yeah. It kind of took me back to high school, ‘Ooh, this feels like theatre.’ This is exciting, but you’re doing it for film. It’s amazing because I’ve done a lot of older plays and stuff like that in high school.

Obviously hair, makeup, costumes, all that helps make this character.
SB: Yeah, absolutely. Well, we have Deb [Drennan] who does makeup and she is just super amazing at transforming me so that I would fit absolutely perfectly for that time. Exactly knowing what to do. And with Joanna [Syrokomla] as well, she’s been doing some amazing, amazing things like pulling things from these New Age stores, like Zara and cutting things together, building things for the character and it’s amazing. They even collage and such and without those things, until I stepped into my costume, until I step into makeup, that’s when I really feel like, ah, I’m Violet Hart now.

They really help shape your character. So I’m so glad that we have a team that’s amazing at that. Really awesome.

It was interesting to see how Violet was introduced. She was at a show and she was selling vitamins. Julia took her under her wing and, right from the get-go, we knew that Violet was different, that she was ambitious. How much of the character was described to you in those first few episodes of those first few scripts? 
SB: A lot of it was just taking it, what I’d been told what she would be like and reading the scripts. [She] was just really pushing the ambition and wanting to get something out of life and get to the next level.

You don’t see Violet as an evil person. She’s an ambitious person, right?
SB: Yeah, absolutely.

How do you feel about playing one of the evilest characters on Murdoch Mysteries?
SB: I feel good about it. I feel great actually. It’s fun. No, honestly, it’s always fun to play these characters. I’m glad that she’s stirring all the other’s troubles in the end. And, you finally get to see who is Violet Hart. We’ve all been wondering. And I think what’s happening here in this last little bit is really going to show that. It is exciting.

Showrunner Peter Mitchell has always said it’s a lot more fun to write for a character like Violet Hart. You’ve already hinted at the fun you’re having.
SB: Yeah, that’s super fun.

On the Facebook pages, the compliment that I see the most is, ‘hate the character because the actress does such a good job.’
SB: I love that. That’s amazing.

What’s it like working with Hélène and Yannick?
SB: They’re really great. When I first stepped onto the show and even up to now, it’s like I’m settled more into my character now than I was in the beginning. But working in the early stages, they were just so planted in their characters and scene actions. It’s really been great to watch them work together and have scenes together and it’s funny, off-set we’ve made a lot of jokes, it’s always great. And the crew is really awesome.

What do you want to say to the fans about this character and how they feel about her?
SB: Well, first of all, I want to say thank you for all the great comments on people hating her. I hope that after this episode you can get to understand her a little bit more and see where she’s coming from and have a little bit of a change of heart.

 

Have you changed your tune on Violet Hart? What do you think will happen in the finale? Let me know in the comments below.

The Season 13 finale of Murdoch Mysteries airs Monday at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail