Tag Archives: Paul Aitken

Production begins on new original drama, Rex – coming to Citytv in 2019

From a media release:

Shaftesbury, Pope Productions, and Citytv announced today that production has begun on new drama series REX (wt). Centred on the partnership between a police detective and his hardworking dog, REX is a procedural drama with a twist. Starring John Reardon (Van Helsing, Continuum), Mayko Nguyen (Killjoys, Fahrenheit 451), and Enrico Colantoni (Bad Blood, Flashpoint), the eight-episode, 60-minute series is based on the long-running, international hit series Rex, a Cop’s Best Friend. Executive produced by Christina JenningsScott Garvie, and Paul Pope, the series has begun shooting in St. John’s, Newfoundlandand will continue through December 2018.

Set in St. John’s, NewfoundlandREX is an action-packed police procedural drama focused on the partnership between a dedicated detective and his extraordinary former K9 dog. Rex and Charlie are a detective team that combine their individual skills to solve the most puzzling crimes. This is the first English-language adaptation of the highly successful European format that has aired in 125 countries around the world for 18 seasons.

Starring John Reardon as Detective Charlie Hudson, Rex’s partner; Mayko Nguyen as chief of forensics Sarah TruongEnrico Colantoni as Superintendent Joseph De Luca; and Diesel (a Canadian Kennel Club Grand Champion) as Rex.

Shaftesbury and Pope Productions Ltd. produces REX in association with Citytv, a division of Rogers Media, and Beta Film GmbH. Beta Film GmbH holds worldwide distribution rights. Produced with the participation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation, the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit, the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit and the Rogers Documentary and Cable Network Fund.

REX is executive produced by Christina JenningsScott GarviePaul PopeKen Cuperus, and Avrum Jacobson, followed by Laura Harbin as Supervising Producer, Julie Lacey as Producer, and Lisa Porter as Associate Producer. Friedemann Goez and Oliver Bachert are Executive Producers from Beta Film GmbH. Episodes are written by Showrunners Ken Cuperus, Paul AitkenJohn CallaghanJessie GabeAvrum JacobsonSimon McNabb, and Celeste Parr. Episodes are directed by Felipe RodriguezAlison Reid, and John Vatcher.


Murdoch Mysteries: Author Maureen Jennings discusses “Game of Kings” and her latest Murdoch novel

Spoiler alert! Do not read this until you have watched the latest episode of Murdoch Mysteries, “Game of Kings.”

It’s always a pleasure to speak to author Maureen Jennings. After all, she created the character of William Murdoch that we’ve enjoyed first in her novels and then on television. Monday’s newest episode, “Game of Kings,” contained several noteworthy moments and storylines, among them a history of Poland, the intricacies of chess and how everyone in Station House No. 4 knows Julia is pregnant.

I spoke to Jennings about writing Monday’s instalment and what fans can expect from her latest Murdoch novel, Let Darkness Bury the Dead.

This was a fascinating episode that contained a lot of Polish history, including the hussars—the winged calvary—and the coronation sword, Szczerbiec. Where did the inspiration for this episode come about?
Maureen Jennings: I was invited to Poland as part of a writer’s festival, so I learned a little bit of the language. Then I came across the story of the husaria, the winged horsemen, and the ceremonial sword. I thought it all was a great possibility for an episode. Then I came upon the real story of a chess tournament that had happened in the United States—I think it was in 1904—and thought it was a great combination, especially these days, to have an international chess tournament and have all of this other nationalism going on with the Polish husaria. At the time, Poland was occupied by Russia and it was a difficult time. Through this tournament, some of these ancient conflicts would show themselves.

It’s amazing that, as reflected in this episode, the coronation sword really was brought to Canada for safe-keeping, though that was during the Second World War.
All of that came afterwards, so I thought it was great. I fiddled a little bit but it was not at all implausible that there would be this sword here. It was a great connection.

How did you go about fleshing out the chess storyline, regarding Crabtree, Higgins, Watts and Nina?
Initially, I pitched a blindfold chess tournament that I got very attached to. Again, this was all based on true events. One man played, I think, 22 boards at once. He had his back to the boards and had to keep all of those games in his mind which I think is phenomenal. But when we talked about it, Peter thought it would be a bit difficult to do it that way and that the more traditional tournament that ended up in the show would be a bit easier to film. Chess is a funny game because it’s very quiet and formalized conflict and I really enjoyed trying to depict that.

The history of chess goes back far in Canadian history. At least as far back as 1872 with The Chess Federation of Canada.
I’m always finding out interesting information like that. I like chess and I did a lot of study on it for this episode. I was so impressed with these chess geniuses.

There was that wonderful moment when it was revealed that Nina and Karina were the truly skilled chess players and the men were just making the moves as instructed.
Yes. Again, women were not playing as much but there was a women’s league and they were fantastic as well.

How does it work with regard to which episode you’ll write in a season?
I’ll present four or five stories that I’m interested in, we’ll talk about it and they’ll say, ‘Why don’t you work on this one?’ They’re all stories that I’m interested in which I’m lucky to have. No one just tosses me a story and says, ‘Write a script.’

What has been the most challenging transition when you go from writing a novel to writing a television script?
I had to constantly be aware of my words. In the beginning, Paul Aitken was always telling me I was writing too many words. I had to really keep it in mind that this was a visual medium and to cut that down. That wasn’t so hard. What was challenging and fun to learn more of the mechanics of a TV show. It’s not just the script as such. In the first episode I wrote, for example, that there was a big thunderstorm. That’s not a big deal for me—I just write ‘big thunderstorm’—but in fact on a set, rain and snow are very difficult to do. Nobody wants to do rain because you ruin the cameras, never mind the cast. It’s things like that that I had to think through.

It was revealed, in very funny fashion, that Julia is pregnant and everyone knows. How do you feel about her being pregnant?
I like that thread. It’s been going on for a while and set up quite well.

Finally, let’s discuss your latest novel Let Darkness Bury the Dead. This is your first Murdoch novel in years. What’s it about?
I advanced the story to 1917 and it turned out to be a fabulously interesting time period. I often say that sometimes writing a novel changes your life and I think that’s the case with this. It was so amazing to study that time period. Because it’s 1917, Murdoch is 56 so I had to think about that. Is he physically different? What has happened to him in that amount of time? That was a bit easier than I thought, but it’s a bit like reconnecting with an old friend. I liked going back to Toronto because it had changed but not dramatically so. I’ve currently just done another jump to 1936 and that is very, very different because it’s post-War and things were very different in Toronto after World War I.

Get the latest news on Maureen Jennings from her website. What did you think of “Game of Kings”? Let me know in the comments below!

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




Murdoch Mysteries: Graham Clegg and Paul Aitken break down “The Great White Moose”

The Day of the Jackal, For Your Eyes Only and Predator are the three movies Graham Clegg drew on while co-writing Monday’s newest episode of Murdoch Mysteries. I’m always fascinated to hear what inspired a particular story, so it was fun to hear Clegg recount how he and co-executive producer Paul Aitken broke the story for “The Great White Moose” and then fleshed it out.

Monday’s newest instalment was a rollicking adventure involving fan favourites Allen Clegg (Matthew Bennett) and Terrence Meyers (Peter Keleghan) trade barbs—and bullets and crossbow bolts—in a tale involving President Teddy Roosevelt (Marty Moreau).

The duo discuss the inspiration for the episode, which cartoon characters Clegg and Meyers resemble and what makes Aitken jump off his couch.

Graham, you were a writer on Murdoch Mysteries a few seasons ago. What have you been up to?
Graham Clegg: I worked on a show called The Pinkertons and that was a great load of fun. We had enough money for one-and-a-half horses and one gun. I think we did quite a good job and it, unfortunately, lasted one season. Then I went off and started working on some of my own projects and they continue. One of them is a feature film and one of them is, hopefully, an upcoming series that will be shot in England.

Marty Moreau as Teddy Roosevelt

How did you end up co-writing this episode?
GC: Peter Mitchell and Paul very kindly came back and asked me if I’d be interested in working with them again and doing another Murdoch script. Of course, I jumped at it and said, ‘Yeah, let’s go!’ [Laughs.] They came up with the premise of the episode and then Paul and I were set loose to crack the story. As we have done five or six times on Murdoch scripts, it’s a process and we hit some of those moments. [Laughs.] Paul will play the guitar and think about things. He has this great whiteboard in his upper office and past that is his balcony. We would do the writer’s thing, pacing back and forth, going ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what if?’ Paul also has a huge screen downstairs and we were able to project where we were going with the story, whether it be ideas or story beats.

I remember when we were breaking ‘The Great White Moose,’ we were trying to figure out what the personal connection would be between Clegg and Roosevelt. I’m a research junkie and I’d found that he was at Harvard and in the navy. Paul and I came up with the idea of, ‘Of course! This is fantastic. Clegg and Roosevelt knew each other at Harvard and they almost came to blows—some of the dialogue was cut—what it meant for the United States to extend their power. I remember Paul jumping off the couch and then jumping up and down saying, ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes!’ We found the emotional link between the history of Clegg and Roosevelt and that was a fun moment.

I remember talking to Paul, saying ‘You have to watch The Day of the Jackal!’ because we have a foregone conclusion. We know Roosevelt is not going to be assassinated. That’s not the emotional thread to the story. What we don’t know is, throughout the thriller, who could die? What we have, really, on the plate is [Meyers] and we also know that Clegg could die.

Sam and Ralph a.k.a. Meyers and Clegg

Paul, how often do you jump off the couch when a story is broken? Does it happen a lot?
Paul Aitken: Yes. I think I do but I’m not fully aware of it. I do get excited. When you’re breaking story you’re looking to solve problems.

GC: If he gets up off the couch, you know you’ve got something.

PA: If someone suggests something that opens a path to solving a problem I do get excited. That’s part of the fun in the whole business of writing.

Paul, how did it end up that Graham and yourself were teamed for this episode?
PA: This was an episode that we thought Graham would be good for. I think it was because it was the action-adventure part of it that we thought he was well-suited for. He also knows the characters. Clegg was named after him, for God’s sake!

GC: This has to be said! Seasons ago, when I was on staff, we were coming up with an American spy character. We came up with different character traits. He’s wily, he’s covert. What do we call him? Paul said, ‘Clegg!’ [Laughs.] What was a joke in the story room then made it to script and I said, ‘Please guys, don’t.’ And they said, ‘Nope, it’s Clegg.’

The Bolograph. Image courtesy of Craig Grant

There were a couple of things that I fought for and Paul said, ‘Whatever.’ I’m so thankful and massive kudos to director Leslie Hope. She just nailed it. One thing I fought for and it was kept in was the final shot of the legendary great white moose alive on its own. I said, ‘We’ve got to have that’ and Paul said, ‘OK.’ In terms of Clegg using a crossbow, I didn’t want any muzzle flare coming from anything, so it’s creepy. And that partially came from my love of the film For Your Eyes Only, the James Bond film, where Melina uses it in the first act. The other thing is, and Paul helped me out greatly with this, is the bolometer [Editor’s note: The script refers to it as a bolograph.]. Paul and I were talking and trying to figure out how to get some Murdochian technology in. I sent Paul a link to Predator, the 1987 film with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I said, ‘I want Predator technology when you see heat registry.’ Paul came back and said, ‘Well there is something,’ and it could see up to 400 yards through the darkness. It couldn’t see heat registry but it could sense something. That’s the way the bolometer came in and it was so fun to work with. Craig and the visual effects people in post-production nailed it.

Paul, the relationship between Clegg and Meyers is an interesting one.
PA: I always thought the relationship was a working relationship, kind of like the sheepdog and the coyote, Frank and Ralph. One of them is charged with saving the sheep and the other is interested in killing the sheep. They respect each other and, deep down, some fondness for each other. But they exist to take each other down and we’ve done several incarnations where they try to do that quite directly. It’s a fun relationship and it’s fun to write for because of these inherent complexities. At the same time, we don’t take either character too seriously. As a writer, I am very fond of both of them.

Murdoch Mysteries returns with new episodes on Monday, Feb. 26, at 8 p.m. on CBC.




Murdoch Mysteries: Paul Aitken breaks down “8 Footsteps”

Spoiler alert! Do not read unless you have already watched Monday’s newest episode, “8 Footsteps.”

After 11 seasons on the air, Murdoch Mysteries is still coming up with unique settings for murder. Monday’s newest episode, “8 Footsteps,” involved a particularly interesting one: a pitch-black room. Under suspicion? None other than Helen Keller (played by Amanda Richer), guest of honour at the dinner hosted by Alexander Graham Bell. We’ve seen John Tench in the role of Bell before, but never Keller, the deaf and blind American author, lecturer and political activist.

We spoke to longtime Murdoch producer Paul Aitken, who wrote the episode, about how the storyline came about, what’s happening to the morgue now that Rebecca has left and romance for Henry Higgins!

You had a lot of characters to juggle in this episode, including Alexander Graham Bell, Helen Keller, Ralph Fellows and Ruth Newsome. Did so many guests present a challenge for you?
Paul Aitken: We knew we were going to do a Helen Keller episode and that brings with it certain ideas naturally. She’s deaf and blind and that meant the plot had to turn on that. It had to turn on sound, from our perspective, because we decided to do a blind banquet. Alexander Graham Bell fits in because he was an advocate for the deaf and his wife was deaf and he seemed like a natural to include. And we like him. Of course, you bring back his various inventions, in this case, his version of the graphizer and stereoscopics.

As for Ruth Newsome [Siobhan Murphy], I think she’s great. I love Ruth Newsome as a character and the actress who plays her just drops into that role. It’s quite remarkable to see because if you talk to her, she’s a normal person, but she’s a spot-on Ruth Newsome. And we just devised a way for her to fit and we wanted this to be the episode where Higgins and her would get together. So, at the very end, we wanted Henry Higgins to win the day. Score one for Henry Higgins!

Having Henry bend Ruth back to kiss her was fantastic.
It’s my favourite scene in the episode.

Amanda Richer plays Helen Keller, and she is really deaf. Was it important to have a deaf actress play that role?
I had no prior perception of who should play the role. I thought it would be helpful to have someone who was deaf because they would have an understanding of how to articulate as someone who was deaf. Helen Keller spoke, but she didn’t speak well, and we had to find someone who would find the performance as well as to see that the deaf person didn’t speak well when she spoke. I thought Amanda nailed it.

As a television writer, were there any particular challenges to writing for a character who is deaf and blind?
I needed to get the emotion out. I didn’t want Helen Keller to speak perfectly normally. I wanted it to be difficult to understand, so I didn’t put too many words in her mouth, which is why I had Alexander Graham Bell translate. But when I wanted to punctuate the moment, I had Helen Keller herself speak. Writing for a deaf person is like writing for anyone, but I guess the challenge with that is how do you use the fact that she’s deaf and blind to change the plot? How do I work Helen Keller into the plot in a way that she isn’t just someone who is sitting there while stuff is happening around her? She might not solve the crime but she’s instrumental in solving the crime. That was a challenge, and that’s the fun of writing for this show; finding a way to make things work.

Colin Mochrie was hilarious as Ralph Fellows, hotel detective.
Yeah, it was fun. He’s this hotel detective who wants to be more. [Laughs.] He didn’t max his potential and it bothers him.

Rebecca James left Toronto in the last episode; how long will it be until a replacement is found?
I believe that happens in the next episode and plays out from there. There is a woman that is introduced and it takes a couple of episodes until she actually finds herself in the morgue.

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

Images courtesy of CBC.