Tag Archives: Muse Entertainment

The Murders’ Jill Carter: “The highlight of my career so far”

It’s been almost two years since I spoke to Jill Carter. Back then, it was a podcast to discuss her directing work on Spiral, a creepy web series. We also talked about her experiences directing episodes of Murdoch Mysteries and how she got into the Canadian television industry in the first place.

I caught up with Carter last week for her latest project, The Murders. Created by Damon Vignale, the series stars Jessica Lucas as Kate Jameson, a rookie homicide detective whose mistake on Day 1 leads to tragedy. And, unlike directing on an established series like Murdoch, Carter was on the ground level for The Murders, meaning she collaborated with Vignale on how Citytv’s Monday night drama would look and feel for four episodes, starting with the pilot. It is, as she says, “the highlight of my career so far.”

How did you get involved in The Murders? Had you worked with Damon Vignale before? 
Jill Carter: I’d actually never met Damon. My agent was dogged about pursuing this for me. The producers and Damon and Rogers were interested in discussing the show with me, and so they sent me the bible and the pilot episode, and I read it a couple of times, and did some homework in terms of what kind of police homicide detective shows I thought were interesting and maybe kind of relevant to the type of show that they were discussing. Damon had mentioned the show Marcella to me. So, I looked at that and then I looked at a couple of others that I also liked. Actually, they were all British shows.

And then, I let my imagination run wild and had a good conversation with the Muse producers and Damon and they, in the end, obviously, we’re happy with how that conversation went and were interested in hiring me and then they asked me to do one more thing before it could become official. They wanted me to do a look book, which was to basically create a document that represented what my thoughts and visual ideas would be in terms of how I would approach the show.

What was in your look book? 
JC: I pulled some reference stills from the shows that I was inspired by, and also the show that Damon had talked about, and ones that I liked the framing of or the colour palette of. We had also talked about wanting to have a very different take on a police station. I’m really pleased because I think we ended up achieving that. I had pulled some references for police stations, but not specific to that. I actually found, in Dwell magazine, an old post office that this digital company had repurposed, that looked really cool. I thought could be an interesting space or reference for a space for a police station. And then just shots of Vancouver and the diversity in culture and the diversity in landscape, and sort of the beautiful, soft colours of the west coast. But also the sort of darkness and rich colours of the mountains and when you get those rainy grey days, that kind of colour palette.

I basically pooled all of that and then hired a graphic designer to work with me on creating a pleasing book that would represent the show’s feeling. At the end of the day, you want to create something that people can really get a sense of the feeling and the tone and the style that you want to embody.

Is this the project where you had the most input?
JC: I never had that much input on a show before. And obviously, every show that you direct, they’re hiring you for a reason, so you try, within the sandbox that you’re given, to infuse your own taste and style and artistic value to that show. But you’re dealing with, as the director that followed me on The Murders, was they had to sort of follow what we had set out to be the tone and the style of the show. Which is fun, and it’s you trying to find a way in on something that already kind of exists, so it’s a different sort of challenge.

But, obviously, the most fun is when you can really have a hand in creating something and having the most ability to weigh in on what the sets are gonna look like, what locations you have. You always have that when you’re directing, but if you’re directing a show that’s already in place, you haven’t picked any of the original locations, you’re just handed whatever doctor’s office or police station you’ve been given.

I really got to, with Damon, go and decide. We saw a bunch, and there was a couple that we saw that was already dressed as police stations, and I’d look at him immediately and be like, ‘Nope,’ and he would agree. The two of us were very much on the same page about it. And we’re excited to find something different that we hadn’t seen before. And I think we really did that.

One of the things that I loved about our police station is that it’s right at street-level, and you see traffic passing by. I think it adds a real authenticity to the fact that they’re working in a location that they’re also servicing for their job. You feel like they’re in the thick of it, and it just adds another layer and sort of nuance to the scenes that are in the bullpen, and also give a buzz almost, like an extra something to every scene that’s there, and just life that you don’t often get a chance to see when you’re in those type of sets. I loved that element.

What are some of the unique challenges of filming in a city, on location, at night?
JC: The biggest challenge is time because you have restrictions in terms of the hours that you can be shooting. So that, I’d say, is kind of the biggest factor, because how you’re shooting or where you’re shooting really kind of remains the same in terms of like whatever situation you’re gonna have to deal with. It’s really just the restriction on how long you can shoot in that location.

A question about Jessica Lucas. People know her as an actress, but she’s also a producer on The Murders. What was it like working with her? 
JC: As an actress, she’s incredible. She really carries the show. Her character is quite stoic and very internal. Everything’s sort of kept close to her chest, and you know she’s very protective and very serious about what she’s doing. And Jessica is very expressive as an actress, and her face says a lot. Her style and ability as an actress really lends itself well to this character and was wonderful and really killed it, I think.

As a producer, she was open and collaborative and really, I think for her, was an opportunity to get her feet wet in an area that she’s interested in and would probably like to do more of. It was starting out in a space that she’s comfortable, meaning a show that she was working on as an actress as well, I think helps pave the way.

It was an opportunity to have a larger voice in terms of weighing in, especially on the script and in the story in terms of in pre-production and production, on what she felt was working or needed to be maybe adjusted for her character. But, also, the script as a whole, and wanting to make sure that we were all moving forward in the same direction, in the right direction, and having discussions about wardrobe and things like that. Getting more into the nuts and bolts of stuff that you maybe don’t normally get a chance to do as an actor for hire, when you’re not producing as well.

What can viewers expect as they get into the second episode and the meat of the season?
JC: If you saw the first episode and the preview of Episode 2 coming on Monday night, you’ll know that it’s a bank heist, and I had a ton of fun directing that. I’d never done one before, and that was super fun to do. All of my episodes have been different and fun. We learn more about Kate’s past and her family relationship.

And also you start to understand the dynamic of the group of detectives that are working together. If you’ve seen Episode 1, you know that we don’t shy away from presenting images that are difficult or challenging. That stays through the entire season, so I think people can be looking to be gripped and excited and presented with entrusting ideas and also just get to know our characters a little better.

The Murders airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Taro PR.

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Serinda Swan on her CBC series Coroner and why Canadian actors in L.A. should come home

The last time I spoke to Serinda Swan, she was co-starring in A&E’s excellent and cancelled-too-soon Breakout Kings. Filmed in Toronto, Swan played one of a handful of criminals who worked with the U.S. marshals to collar prison escapees and have time taken off their own sentences.

Now Swan is back in Toronto, on the other side of the law in CBC’s new drama Coroner. Debuting on Monday at 9 p.m., the drama—based loosely on the books by M.R. Hall—stars Swan as Dr. Jenny Cooper, a recently widowed new coroner who investigates suspicious, unnatural or sudden deaths in Toronto. Created by Morwyn Brebner (Saving Hope) and produced by Muse Entertainment, Back Alley Films and Cineflix Studios, Coroner features Roger Cross as homicide detective Donovan McAvoy; Lovell Adams-Gray as pathologist Dr. Dwayne Allen; Tamara Podemski as Alison Trent, Jenny’s assistant; Kiley May as River Baitz, Dr. Allen’s assistant; and Ehren Kassam as Ross, Jenny’s son.

I chatted with Swan and Cross during CBC’s winter media day in November.

How did you get involved in Coroner, Serinda? Were you looking to come back to Canada?
Serinda Swan: I’ve had my eye on projects, Canadian projects, for a while because I feel there’s this new face of Canadian television that’s coming up or new perception of Canadian television that I think, as Canadian actors, we need to come back. We need to come back to Canada and we need to stop this archaic idea that in order to make it, we need to go to the U.S.

I think that dilutes the Canadian talent pool because we all leave, and then our team and our managers and agents don’t want us to come back, and I think this is a time that’s really exciting for Canadian television because we’re having these shows come out, and they’re becoming more specific. We’re not making Canadian television for American markets anymore. We’re making Canadian television for Canadian markets, and in that specificity, it becomes more universal.

Roger Cross: It’s making quality television, and it translates universally.

SS: I read a script a few years ago [for] Bellevue. And I loved it, I absolutely loved it, I thought it was incredible. And we got very, very close to actually doing it, and it didn’t end up working in the end, and so I had my eyes on [the production companies]. I was like, ‘OK, this is a pretty incredible group of humans that are orbiting around some really interesting material.’ They called me when this role came up, and said, ‘Would you be interested?’

And they sent me the bible for it, and it just was such an interesting perspective, the imagery that they used in it, the way that they described the character. The fact that she was more human than she was coroner … And so when I read it, I was like, ‘Oh this is some character work. I’m gonna be able to physically, emotionally and mentally change.’ And they were all for it. I was like, ‘I want my character to cut off her hair, I want to be able to put on weight, I want to be able to change my physicality, I want to be able to have a minute and a half panic attack on television. I want to show mental health issues, I want to show a diverse cast. I want to be able to have gay, straight, trans, black, white, First Nations on our show and not exploit it, but celebrate it. Show what Canada really is.’

And they literally went, ‘Yeah, of course.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, my people.’ This is exactly where I want to be, and I want to stop being a part of the problem, and just doing what I think cool American TV is.

A show like Dark Matter, just thinking most recently Roger, it’s just good TV regardless of what country it’s from.
RC: Yeah. And that’s the thing, you want to get rid of those labels. Let’s forget about, ‘It’s good for this,’ or, ‘You’re good because you’re a woman.’ And hopefully we evolve to that point where we can do that one day, and that will be great.

Jenny has her world ripped apart, and you see her struggle at times, but evolve and grow throughout it.
SS: To show the bad and the ugly. She makes good choices, bad choices and then some lovely choices.

I love the chemistry that Jenny and Donovan have. They have a really good repartee.
SS: I think that comes from both of them not really giving a shit about the other one. To be honest, she doesn’t care if he likes her, he doesn’t care if she likes him, and so there’s this relaxed sense of just being who you are, that is really interesting when it comes to two different characters. Because, normally, it’s two people don’t like each other and they’re fighting to make each other like each other, and that’s not it. I’m after the truth here, with or without you, I’m going after the truth. And so it’s this breaking down and figuring it out.

RC: One of the things that homicide detectives have is a consultant we talk to. We had real pathologists, real detectives, we had real SWAT members come out … We had some great people to lean on, and ask them, ‘When you are cutting a body out, would you do this? How would you handle evidence? How would you do things?’ We had these great people to lean on. And one thing this homicide detective said to me was, ‘Listen, we’re the main thing, it’s our world. They all serve to assist us to find the murderers and find these other people.’ And so, Donovan’s been used to that world where, ‘OK, we need you, coroner. We need you over here, we need these other people. But we run the show and we know what’s going on.’ He’s been used to doing things his way and had a coroner that would sign off on things, saying, ‘Yes, that’s how it’s done.’ ‘Yeah? OK good.’ [Jenny] comes in and she’s like, ‘Nah, ah, ah, ah, ah. I’m not signing off until I’m absolutely sure that that’s right.’ He’s like, ‘What’s wrong with you? Just stay in line, do your thing.’

SS: He started as Jenny, and then slowly it dulled out, based on the constant rubbing of people just trying to get the quick fix. And so eventually, it’s that knife, he comes in very sharp and by the end, you’re like, ‘I’m worn out, man.’ She’s coming in strong, and so there is that friction of, ‘Don’t mess up my life,’ on both sides.

With Morwyn Brebner as the creator, it’s no surprise Coroner is a roller coaster of emotion. It just came across like it’s a cable show. Yes, it fits on CBC, but it also very much as a cable show where you can have those moments, those long moments to really let a scene breathe and let those emotions come out.
SS: That was something that was really important to me because that’s how I act. I don’t react, I act, and in order to act, you have to hear, you have to listen, truly listen and you have to process and then you have to figure out how you want to act. And it could be a reaction, but there is that moment of processing.

Coroner airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Additional casting confirmed as Muse, Back Alley and Cineflix start production on CBC original drama Coroner

From a media release:

With production now underway in Toronto, Ontario, Muse Entertainment, Back Alley Films and Cineflix Studios today revealed additional casting for new CBC original drama CORONER (8×60), set for a winter 2019 broadcast and streaming premiere on CBC, the CBC TV app and cbc.ca/watch. Inspired by the best-selling series of books by M. R. Hall and created by Morwyn Brebner (Saving Hope), the series centres on newly appointed coroner Jenny Cooper as she investigates suspicious deaths in Toronto.

CORONER stars Serinda Swan (InhumansBallers) as Jenny Cooper, a brave, determined yet vulnerable coroner, former ER doctor, and recently widowed mother, driven by an intense desire for the truth. She loves her son more than life itself and strives to support him while also trying to take care of herself. The passing of Jenny’s beloved husband has unlocked a primal connection to death, tied to a secret in her past that is only now coming to the surface.  With storylines based on real-life cases, Jenny is a coroner for our time, an advocate for the dead even when it’s inconvenient for the living, and a defender of those who are powerless or in peril.

Joining the series are Roger Cross (The X-Files) as Donovan “Mac” McAvoy, a police detective who partners with Jenny; Éric Bruneau (Blue Moon) as Liam, Jenny’s new neighbour; and Ehren Kassam (DeGrassi: Next Class) as Ross, Jenny’s 17-year-old son. Also joining the cast are Tamara Podemski (Rabbit Fall) as Alison Trent, Jenny’s eccentric colleague; Allison Chung (UnReal) as Taylor Kim, a smart, junior homicide detective; Lovell Adams-Gray (Second Jen) as Dr. Dwayne Allen, an idealistic young pathologist; and Saad Siddiqui (Madame Secretary) as Dr. Neil Sharma, Jenny’s insightful psychiatrist.

A CBC original series, CORONER is produced by Muse Entertainment, Back Alley Films and Cineflix Studios. Morwyn Brebner is creator, executive producer and showrunner, Adrienne Mitchell (Durham County, Bellevue) is lead director and executive producer for Back Alley Films, Jonas Prupas is executive producer for Muse Entertainment with Peter Emerson and Brett Burlock executive producers for Cineflix Studios. For CBC, Sally Catto is General Manager, Programming; Helen Asimakis is Senior Director, Scripted Content; and Sarah Adams is Executive in Charge of Production. Cineflix Rights has the exclusive worldwide distribution rights to CORONER.

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