Tag Archives: Murdoch Mysteries

Interview: Murdoch Mysteries’ sealed with a kiss

Well, Murdoch Mysteries fans, what did you think of that kiss? Were  you upset that George and Edna have officially become and item? I have mixed feelings about the situation myself–I’d love nothing more than to have George and Emily reunite–but as writer Jordan Christianson pointed out, it could still happen. Eventually. Maybe.

We chatted with the Canadian Film Centre graduate about the importance of the institutions’ TV-writing course, and Monday’s vaudeville-inspired murder mystery that featured a gut-busting scene with Higgins and Crabtree impersonating Murdoch and Brackenreid.

Was W.C. Fields really in Toronto at this time, or was that just some fun on the part of you and the other writers?
Jordan Christianson: That’s a liberty we decided to take. There wasn’t anything to suggest that he had been in Toronto. We know he was working primarily in the New York area. We portrayed him as a struggling juggler in the episode which sort of helps set him up as a murder suspect although, of course, it wasn’t going to be W.C. Fields. In reality, W.C. Fields is considered to be the best juggler in the vaudeville circuit throughout the United States when he was only 21 or 22. He was fairly famous as a juggler before he made that shift and adopted the personality that we now know.

Let’s talk about Bert Grady and his stand-up act. Where did his jokes come from?
I wrote Bert Grady’s monologue. Some of them are mother-in-law jokes that go back decades and I re-wrote them so we could tailor his monologue to serve the plot of the story. The other monologues that we hear throughout the course of the episode I found doing some research at the Toronto Reference Library. Those are actual monologues of the period. They weren’t attributed to any particular performer but those are real monologues.

You mentioned the Toronto Reference Library. Had you been there before for work on Murdoch?
This is my second season on the show and I did spend some time there last season when I wrote the episode about the bicycle races that ended up dealing with human blood types. The Reference Library is great when you’re trying to get a sense of what people knew at the time. For this particular episode, I was able to find a book with the monologues that we hear and it also gave me a sense of vaudeville. To be honest, going into this episode I didn’t know much about vaudeville and had a certain amount of indifference towards it. [Laughs.] It was kind of like my grandparents’ thing. So I really needed to sort of dig in and the library was helpful in showing just how popular it was at the time. It was the entertainment for everyone.

Crabtree’s line about ‘too early’ rather than ‘too soon,’ was great.
All credit has to go to Jonny Harris on that one. It’s always amazing what Jonny in particular is able to come up with on the spot and it certainly makes us writers look good. I hope it was a fun episode not just for Jonny but for the whole cast. Yannick had a lot of fun with it, especially in that scene where he first talks to Ed Ward. They do a bit of a ‘Who’s on first?’ schtick. If there is one thing I don’t think Yannick gets enough credit for is that he plays humour really well. Really subtly. I was tickled with what he did.

Who came up with ‘flatulence sack’?
I would like to take credit for it, but when I decided the Whoopie Cushion would be part of the episode I did my due diligence and looked into the advent of the Whoopie Cushion to see if it could be used and if it existed. It did, and at one time was known as a flatulence sack.

Let’s get to the controversial part of last night’s episode, the kiss between George and Edna. Are you prepared for the backlash?
It’s so interesting. I think Edna is a very likeable character and she draws something out of George that is an inherent goodness. I think it’s a really sweet and appealing relationship and although we appreciate that George and Emily made a great couple and a lot of people want to see them together, we see them as being at a point in their lives where maybe they’re looking around at other options. I know there were some people on Twitter last week who seemed to perceive a moment between Emily and Lillian Moss. We hope that people like George and Edna as a couple because that’s the direction they’re heading in slowly and cautiously.

Higgins and Crabtree impersonating Murdoch and Brackenreid was hilarious. Lachlan Murdoch did a great job as William.
Lachlan did a great job and hair and makeup did a great job with the exaggerated eyebrows and sideburns. I was on set that day and it was surreal to see Lachlan as Murdoch beside Jonny as Brackenreid across from the real Murdoch and the real Brackenreid as they are trying to carry out a scene in all seriousness.

Your resumé includes time on Mr. D. How did you get from there to here?
About four years ago I had done the Canadian Film Centre TV writing program and myself, Simon McNabb and Michelle Ricci who are all on Murdoch were all in the program together and Peter Mitchell was our mentor in residence. Pete took the job on Murdoch shortly after the program and took Michelle with him. At that point in time Simon and I were both aspiring comedy writers. That class was sponsored by CBC and they had taken a liking to a script I had written and told me about this show they had called Mr. D. I knew who Gerry Dee was and thought he was hilarious and he was actually who I envisioned as the Bert Grady character. I wrote Bert Grady with Gerry Dee in mind.

CBC got me an interview and I was lucky enough to be hired on Mr. D as a script coordinator in the first year. It was a great, great experience and after my two years on Mr. D, Pete called Simon and I up and said he had a couple of openings at Murdoch. I can’t speak for Simon but for me it was a no-brainer. Murdoch allows for humour, so I didn’t feel like I was giving up comedy altogether and it meant I was working with Pete, who is widely regarded as one of the best showrunners in the country. It’s been a fantastic journey.

I can’t recommend the CFC enough for people who are interested in getting into TV writing, particularly in this country. I owe the very fact that I’ve had jobs over the last few years to the CFC. Not only do they take care of you while you’re there, but they really care about you afterwards and they keep tabs on you. They really helped me find an agent and get that first job on Mr. D. I highly recommend it to everybody and I do think that more people need to know about it.

Murdoch Mysteries returns Monday, January 12, at 8 p.m. on CBC.

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Video: Making Murdoch – “High Voltage”

From CBC:

In this edition of Making Murdoch, go behind the scenes with the cast and crew on location at the historic WalperHotel in Kitchener, Ontario. Also, learn more about Thomas Edison’s conflicted relationship with his son, and explore how props master Craig Grant masterminded the Medical Emporium inventions featured in this episode. The cast and producers of Murdoch Mysteries’ talk about how passionate and devoted the show’s fans are and how they inspired this episode. And fans from around the world share what they love most about the series at the annual Murdoch Mysteries studio open house. Watch Murdoch Mysteries Mondays at 8pm on CBC Television!

 

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Interview: Monkeying around on Murdoch Mysteries

I couldn’t have picked a better episode to chat with property master Craig Grant. Grant, who has been working on Murdoch Mysteries since its first season, is the dude who creates and builds all of the funky things featured on the CBC drama. During Monday’s “High Voltage,” he manufactured everything from Thomas Edison Jr.’s Vital Motion Plus–the episode’s deadly weapon–to the robotic arm, that odd, nose-plug contraption and the electric wheelchair (who else caught Grant’s cameo as the driver of that wheelchair?).

Turns out Edison Jr. really did use his famous father’s name to sell weird items to folks back in the day, including the items featured during Monday’s instalment. We got Grant on the phone to chat about his gig and an intriguing storyline about Brackenreid’s painting.

Let’s use Monday’s episode, “High Voltage,” as an example of a week in your work life. How far in advance do you get a look at a script and know what you have to manufacture?
Craig Grant: It’s a hard question to answer. Technically, we get the script two weeks in advance. We shoot 13 days per block–two episodes per block–and we usually get the scripts for the next block at the end of the two weeks. So, the next day we meet the new director and have concept meetings. Because of some of the things that I need to procure, the writers usually sneak down to my office and give me a little, ‘Hey, we might need this!’ or ‘We might be doing that.’ Technically I get them two weeks in advance. Realistically it can be a couple weeks to a month in advance.

‘High Voltage’ was written by Carol Hay, so she had told me early on that she was writing this episode about Thomas Edison Jr. and one of the reference photos we had was this wacky medical device that Edison Jr. had flogged. At the Edison booth, there was this guy with a leather pad on his chest and in another scene he had this weird contraption on his head and in his nose. Those we built based on photos based on a real Edison device. I found photos of those and–because they were leather and I’m not a sewer–I took them to a shop to have them built. They weren’t functional but they were identical to the real Edison devices that we had in the day. With Edison Sr.–people used to see the name Thomas Edison and think it was him and would send the pieces back to him because they didn’t work–he would send letters to them saying, ‘It wasn’t me.’

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So all of that part of the storyline was true.
Right down to Edison forcing his son to change his name so that he didn’t do that in the future.

Was the Vital Motion Plus an actual item too, or did you create that for the storyline?
That was something that we came up with. And in one of the original scripts it was more of an upright, strap yourself in type of thing, and I thought it would be a lot of fun if we could do a chair because if you could have the springs, it would have that vibrating motion. Make it an electric chair, but make it more fun. The original script had that there were these electrodes attached and I said, ‘When you find the dead body, is it more fun to have him standing up, strapped to something, or slumped over in a chair?’ That was actually a wheelchair that I took apart and modified to end up with the look that we got.

When it comes to turning the wheelchair into a device, does the idea just pop into your head? Do you get any feedback, or are you left to your own creativity?
I’m lucky enough on this show that the powers that be just let me go. I pretty much get to design and build all of the props that you see on the show from the airplane a couple of years ago, to the electric car to this chair with almost no interference. Sometimes there will be a little back and forth, but most of the time I’ll show them what it looks like as it’s being built. It just flows out of me. I can’t draw, so I don’t do sketches or schematics. I will just start building, and I’ll drive around to places like Lee Valley and look at what they’ve got. There were some lovely little brass bits on the chair that I 3-D printed, and other pieces as got as surplus parts that I thought looked like they looked like electrodes. It just kind of comes.

And sometimes they come up with ideas that are better. I was going to mount the control box on the arm of the chair and it was decided that it would be better if it was separate so that you could walk around with it. It’s a collaboration.

You mentioned a 3-D printer. Are you using that technology a lot now?
I built a 3-D printer between seasons 7 and 8 and started to learn how to use it. The first thing I was building for myself was a life-sized human robot. Just because I could. In ‘High Voltage,’ as we move down the block, you end up at the prosthetics booth. The arm that is in front of them, moving up and down, was 3-D printed and it has six or seven servo-motors inside it. I was off-camera, operating that by remote control. That was just something I happened to build in the off-season and then when they were writing the episode they said, ‘It would be great to have a robotic arm.’ I said, ‘I’ve got one guys.’ I reprinted parts in black so that they looked like cast-iron, added brass and wrapped the arm in leather and put a glove on it. I hope you can’t tell that it was 3-D printed, but it was an incredibly high-tech piece.

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I was the guy driving the electric wheelchair and that was something from back from Season 1. I told them it would be nice to update it a little bit and see it again in the medical convention and they said it would be nice if it could be driven so I did that. In the shot with the arm moving, I had to drive the length of the hall and as soon as I was out of camera I had to jump out and whip around a corner, grab the remote control and start controlling the arm. It was a little bit of fun sleight of hand. I have printed a number of other items that will be seen in future episodes.

You must have a lot of fun.
I love the show because of the freedom they give me, because of the builds I get to do. That aspect is a lot of fun and there are very few shows that would give a prop guy the freedom that I have here. On the other hand, our budgets are tight and manpower is tight. It makes the show harder every year.

Who painted Brackenreid’s painting?
Brackenreid’s painting will figure heavily in an upcoming episode. We have a whole episode around Brackenreid and Tom Thomson. It’s a really funny little bit between Brackenreid, Ogden and Tom Thomson.

Our scenic painters painted that piece and they did a whole bunch of versions of it. We ended up needing four copies of it. In the very first episode he was painting it at his house and if you watch the episodes carefully it has progressed. More has been added to it and we end up with a finished product.

We’ve talked about the big-ticket items that you build, but what about the small stuff? Are you responsible for everything from the medical stuff in Emily’s morgue to, say, the ledger at the Windsor House Hotel?
Yeah, a prop is anything they handle. Now, I get the ledger and then I talk to our graphics department and tell them I need 20 pages that we can flip through and need stuff written on the pages. We have a graphics guy who will do the graphics or depending on what is required and our timing sometimes we’ll do the graphics. I have a guy I work closely with named Steve that does all of Murdoch’s handwriting on the blackboard. He’s always there and Yannick doesn’t really have the time to write that stuff, so we do it. In the morgue, I do all of the bodies and the body parts and all of the instrumentation. All of those things fall under my domain as well.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

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Comments and queries for the week of Nov. 28

Despite being a “bottle episode” designed to save production budgets from going overboard, this week’s episode of Murdoch Mysteries garnered a lot of praise from fans, especially for lead actor Yannick Bisson and guest star Nigel Bennett (above).

Yannick is a very underrated actor. We have not yet seen how good he can be. I look forward to the writers giving him something he can “get his teeth into” and really shine but still not lose the essence of Murdoch. I have no doubt that years from now we will be talking of the amazing things that he has done. As they say, the best is yet to come.—S

This episode was a showcase for the vast talents of the cast. It is, so far, my favourite. Nigel Bennett will be missed on the show even if for his contribution to a great tension simmering between he and Yannick Bisson. Brian Kaulback played his role superbly. I would like to see his character re-emerge in some capacity. In all, I would like to see more of this type of drama as opposed to bringing the “archvillan” back who torments Julia and William. I have never missed an episode and this show is only getting better!—Diehl

I believe that the interrogation scene between Giles and Murdoch will go down as one of the top moments in this series. For me it was a battle of wits and minds, as Murdoch tried to nail Giles, only for him to sly out of the way and strike back.—TJ

Meanwhile, a few readers reached out with their opinion regarding Bachelor Canada‘s Tim Warmels choosing April to be his bride-to-be.

I can see why Tim chose April (she’s beautiful) but looks don’t last forever. Trish seemed much more genuine, grounded and mature and she is also gorgeous. Often with men, their hormones make the decisions, not their minds. From what I can tell, that’s what happened in regards to Tim choosing April.—Joy

Got a comment or question about Canadian TV? greg@tv-eh.com

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Interview: Murdoch Mysteries loses two characters

No one could have seen that conclusion coming. Monday’s episode of Murdoch Mysteries, “What Lies Buried,” featured the return of William Murdoch’s nemesis, Inspector Giles (Nigel Bennett). He, along with Brackenreid, were among the suspects after the body of a fellow police officer, Constable Finch, was discovered buried under the station house.

Fun facts from Brackenreid’s first days on the job as a copper–he met future wife Margaret when he arrested her and his nickname was “Tommy Two Cakes”–took a decidedly dramatic turn during Murdoch’s interrogation of Giles. It was there–under sparse lighting–that the two men exchanged secrets: Murdoch confirmed he’d helped Constance Gardiner escape from the jail and Giles revealed he was gay. That was shocking enough, but the uppercut to Giles’ initial jab was the realization Constable Hodge (Brian Kaulback) had killed Finch out of loyalty to Giles.

Giles’ outing meant he’s off the force and will no longer be part of Murdoch Mysteries. As for Hodge, well, we may see more of him yet according to the episode’s writer, Paul Aitken.

Why did you decide to cover homosexuality in this episode?
We’ve actually dealt with homosexuality several times throughout the series mostly because it existed. Even people at the time knew it was a thing and it existed. How they dealt with it then is very different with how we deal with it today and it’s always interesting to see the differences between now and then in terms of how homosexuality was understood.

Monday’s episode was what we call a bottle show. It was an episode that had to be filmed quite cheaply because we find ourselves in a situation–at least once or twice a season–where we have overspent or are concerned about overspending, so the whole episode was contained within the station house. To do that, of course, you need to have a mystery that is absorbing enough, so we came up with someone being buried beneath the station house and we had to build a mystery on that. I can’t remember who it was but someone came up with the very bright idea of Giles be very much involved in the original crime. There was always a suspicion amongst the writers that the character of Giles was possibly homosexual, and it could be just the way in which [Nigel Bennett] played him. It was a natural fit and once you introduce that into a character–him being a homosexual–then you become aware of the challenges that they face. You can build a whole twist on them wanting and needing to keep it a secret. We came up with that idea because it served the function of the episode.

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The scene between Giles and Murdoch was very powerful. Two men admitting secrets to the other with just two spotlights over them in the darkened interrogation room. It was very effective.
At the end of Season 4, Murdoch has the secret of Constance and Giles knows about it. He can’t catch Murdoch at it so you have this cat and mouse thing and I’ve always wanted the confrontation scene. We were very happy with the idea of having these two things come together. Giles’ guilt caused him to do things by the book and defined him because of this great secret that he carried, and from then on he became very rigid in his adherence to how things should be done. That was why he was so hard on Murdoch. We see that come completely undone in the scene and I was very happy we were able to do that.

It was a very difficult scene for the actors because that was the first scene shot for that episode. There was very little preparation time, you couldn’t build up to it and it was a lot to ask, especially of Yannick, who is in most scenes in most episodes and doesn’t have a lot of time to prepare. I think Yannick was a little peeved at me before that scene was filmed, but everybody realized after it was filmed that it was an exceptional scene.

How will this affect Murdoch’s Roman Catholicism in the coming weeks?
We don’t know. I think this has been evolving since the series began. Over the seasons we’ve seen the effect Dr. Ogden has had on him. I think he is less rigid than he used to be and he is more forgiving. Obviously that exists within Catholicism, there is a capacity for forgiveness. I think we’re constantly seeing the clash between his faith and his scientific impetus and we’re seeing a different side of him when it comes to the law with Constance Gardiner.

Does this mean Constable Hodge is no longer going to be on the show?
Well, we don’t know. We gave ourselves an out at the end of the episode. Giles is gone because he is a homosexual and will pay the price for that. But Hodge … it could be argued that it was an unintended killing and it’s possible he won’t do much time. He’ll never be back as a constable but maybe he’ll have a bar. We don’t know. Brian gave a standout performance. We were very happy with it and I think he was happy too.

Talk about the Brackenreid’s back story. Last night was the first time we learned he and Margaret met when he arrested her. Was that in important piece to put in there to tie in more revelations about Margaret?
It was a completely fun addition, but you’ve just given me an idea. [Laughs.] Every time you do it you create a bit of history and hopefully you remember it so you can build on it later. We never thought about it before this episode and I kind of liked the idea that he was attracted to her because she was a spark plug.

How do you go about your writing process? Do you shut yourself off in a room and write? Are you superstitious and use a certain pen or have a certain drink?
Everyone has their different writing style preferences and I like to write in the room with everyone else. I don’t like to miss anything, so I’ll often write the script while I’m in the office. One thing that’s nice about writing in the room at work is that I can always try out different lines with people or ask the room if it’s working. It’s very helpful. I don’t think anybody writes a script totally by themselves, least of all me. I’m always seeking outside help in just about every scene I write.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

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