Tag Archives: Peter Mitchell

Preview: Murdoch Mysteries gets spooky with “Sir. Sir? Sir!!!”

I’ve been excited about the Murdoch Mysteries Halloween episode ever since showrunner Peter Mitchell teased it during our chat earlier this year. There won’t be a Christmas-themed TV movie in Season 12, but he did say this Monday’s instalment is a worthy replacement.

“There is going to be an out-of-the-box Halloween episode,” Mitchell said late last month. “It’s certainly a standalone episode. And it is probably unlike any Murdoch you’ve seen.” So, is he right? Here’s what the CBC has revealed regarding “Sir. Sir? Sir!!”

Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) investigates an astronomical phenomenon with a strange impact on his colleagues’ behaviour and dire implications for Toronto.

And here’s what I can tell you after watching a screener of the episode, written by Mitchell and directed by Craig David Wallace. Don’t forget: because this is a standalone episode, there won’t be any Season 12 storylines involved.

It all starts right away
I love it when an episode of my favourite show shakes things up and really lets you know you’re in for something special. That happens right out of the gate with Murdoch. And look closely at the men Higgins speaks to in the alleyway. I swear the one who doesn’t say a word looks eerily familiar. As for Higgins, well, the astronomical phenomenon affects him in a unique way. Lachlan Murdoch is at his outrageous best.

What is the inspiration for “Sir. Sir? Sir!!”
A long-running animated program that features special instalments at this time of year seems to be the main culprit, but there are plenty of nods to iconic horror and science fiction films in the mix.

All hands on deck!
This special episode features all of our main and recurring characters involved in the story. A sweet treat for sure. Additionally, look for veteran comedian Darren Frost in a memorable guest role.

For once, George was right about something
However, this landmark event isn’t welcome news.

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

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Murdoch Mysteries: Showrunner Peter Mitchell talks “Murdoch Mystery Mansion”

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched Episode 1 of Season 12, “Murdoch Mystery Mansion.”

It’s been a long, hot summer here in Southern Ontario. Thankfully, the cooler air has arrived and with it the super-cool season première of Murdoch Mysteries. There was a lot to like about “Murdoch Mystery Mansion.” In particular, I enjoyed little things like William not being sure where to hang his hat upon coming home to a jam-packed house, Miss Hart’s unhappiness at Julia still being in charge of the morgue and Sophie McShera’s guest-starring role. I also liked the bigger story steps, including Higgins and Ruth’s upcoming nuptials.

Thanks to showrunner Peter Mitchell for taking time out of his busy day to discuss Monday’s episode as well as a look forward to future weeks. And, he gave me an answer to the question, “Is there a holiday movie this year?” This season, in addition to speaking with members of the Murdoch writing team, I’ll be chatting with members of the cast and crew too. I’m looking forward to bringing you exciting behind-the-scenes insight into our favourite show.

Congratulations on Season 12. You joined during Season 5 of Murdoch Mysteries; has the ride been a fun one?
Peter Mitchell: I think that would be an understatement. It’s been a pretty fun ride.

Not only did you have Frank Lloyd Wright in the first episode but also quite the gory death with a room dripping with body parts. Great job!
PM: Thanks! We also threw in a bit of the Me Too Movement in there and a little bit of Tinder. It’s got a couple of historical characters in there, allusions to the future and a nice, fun little mystery. I liked having the actress from Downton Abbey on, and I thought the actor who played Frank Lloyd Wright was true to what I could learn of him.

Aaron Poole was very good as Frank Lloyd Wright.
PM: It was surprising. I had to keep going back to Frank Lloyd Wright houses circa 1905 because they are so modern. The Murdoch’s house would fit into today’s world. [The set] is based on existing Frank Lloyd Wright houses of the period. It was [almost] completely accurate.

The set design was beautiful.
PM: The exterior was a house that was built along the same lines as a Frank Lloyd Wright house even though Mr. Wright never actually built a house in Canada. He certainly built a bunch in upstate New York and places like that. The exterior was a pretty good match to a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright houses that I researched. And Bob Sher and the art department did a great job with the interior. We added a few Murdoch gizmos, like the potato cooking room and the retractable bed just for fun.

How did the casting of Sophie McShera from Downton Abbey happen? Is that a deal with the UK?
PM: It’s not so much a deal as much as we try to endeavour for the last few years to open up the season with somebody recognizable to our UK audience. They submit a list of people they would like to see on the show and we pursue them. Anybody from Downton Abbey is on the list. The UK broadcaster knows their market and if they’re not from Downton Abbey they’ll probably be from EastEnders.

Gary Harvey directed this episode. Not only has he directed a lot of episodes of Murdoch Mysteries, but you’ve been friends with him for years. What does he bring to the table as a director?
PM: I’ve known Gary for most of my professional life. He has a fairly comprehensive understanding of what I like to see in a show. He’s very good with story and usually captures all of the moments. We can communicate with very few words. He generally knows what I’m hoping to get, even if it’s a sly allusion to Tinder, he knows what matters in the scene and hopefully what matters in the story. He has the experience to get eight out of 10 things with the amount of time we have to shoot.

You already have that shorthand.
PM: Of course. He’s a very efficient director and the actors like him and trust him. The crew likes him and he gets the job done in the time we give him to do it. I don’t have to spend much time on set when Gary is shooting unless I want to go down and make fun of him. [Laughs.] So I’m down there quite a lot. [Laughs.]

We saw William and Julia in a very good place in Episode 1. Lots of loving looks and humour. Will that last for a while?
PM: Oh yeah, I think so. We’ve dialled down on the soap elements a little bit this year. We do a little more work with cases. Julia has yet another new job. We have a few episodes that highlight our secondary characters a little bit more strongly maybe, than in the past. A couple of episodes in a row feature Brackenreid in a very big way. An episode that features Watts in a big way.

Watts is great and has been getting a lot of screen time. Should I be reading into that?
PM: I don’t think so. He’s got a considerable amount of talent so it’s a shame not to use him when we can. Higgins has got more airtime this year too.

I just got ‘My Big Fat Mimico Wedding’ in my Inbox. Episode 3 for the wedding. You’re not stretching it out all season?
PM: That’s right. The Newsomes are in full bloom. The wedding: will they or won’t they? And who dies? [Laughs.] It’s a nice, fun comedy.

What can you say about Miss Hart and her plans for taking over the morgue?
PM: She may get what she wants. And I think it’s nice to have a character who is not a true villain, but a bit flinty. It keeps our other characters on their toes and she has ambitions of her own. She’s maybe not as much of a team player as the rest of them.

Is there going to be a holiday movie?
PM: There isn’t going to be a holiday movie this year but there is going to be an out-of-the-box Halloween episode. It’s certainly a standalone episode. And it is probably unlike any Murdoch you’ve seen.

What did you think of Monday’s season return? Have you got questions for Peter Mitchell or anyone else on the cast and crew? Let me know in the comments below and I will ask them in the coming weeks.

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

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Murdoch Mysteries: Showrunner Peter Mitchell, writer Mary Pedersen and Hélène Joy tease Season 12

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading until you have watched the Season 11 finale, “Free Falling.”

Well Murdoch Mysteries fans, are you feeling a little better? After last week’s episode, “Shadows are Falling,” viewers were left reeling. Not only did Julia lose her baby to a miscarriage, but she and William had a major falling out. Julia had instructed Rebecca on how to perform an abortion, which led to a dramatic conclusion: William left the hotel and was last seen walking down the street.

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed. William, working the case of a missing woman alongside her supposedly distraught husband meant he could reflect on the things he’d said to Julia. And she spent several moments, with help from Inspector Brackenreid, recalling her own remarks. By episode end the pair had tearfully reunited.

But not all is well. Nina and Crabtree broke up and—as many of you suspected—Violet is up to no good. I spoke to showrunner Peter Mitchell, writer-producer Mary Pedersen (who co-wrote the finale with Simon McNabb and Dan Trotta) and actress Hélène Joy about “Free Falling,” and a peek at what’s to come in Season 12.

Peter, was the episode title, “Free Falling,” a reference to the Tom Petty song as well as what our characters were going through?
Peter Mitchell: I think so. The Tom Petty song is a little bit about breaking up with the girl who is perfect for you and feeling kinda good about it. And also about all of the characters because they don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Why was it important to keep Julia and William apart for the entire episode?
Peter Mitchell: To establish some tension in the story. We’re often more willing and more able to talk to strangers about things that we’re thinking about than those who are closest to us.

Of course, it was wonderful to have William and Julia reunite. But, you tore another couple apart: Crabtree and Nina. Why, Mary?
Mary Pedersen: I think that was really natural. We love Erin Agostino. She has been wonderful and has really won over the fans which is really something because the character, on paper, doesn’t look like someone Crabtree should end up with. That’s really a credit to Erin’s work. That was the truth of their situation. Nina doesn’t want the things that he wants. They tried to fit that square peg into the round hole and it’s not going to work. He really would have had to sacrifice so much not only by leaving Toronto, but then what does his life look like in Paris? It was definitely a sad thing because we’ve all grown to love that character and Erin, but there wasn’t really a way to turn that ship around and have her be the person that Crabtree is ultimately the person he’s meant to be with.

Peter Mitchell: George could try to abandon his core principles but I don’t think he has it in him. I think he does want whatever the turn of the century version of the white picket fence is. I didn’t want to compromise the Nina character and have her roll over on her core beliefs to make George happy. Sort of like Ogden and Murdoch, but in a different way.

By the end of the episode, Violet is plotting with Horace McWorthy to take over the morgue? How did you feel about that twist Hélène?
Hélène Joy: I thought it was great. I know the audience loves to hate some characters and this character is on that hit list for sure. That’s what’s fun about Murdoch. We try to keep it surprising. You can’t love everyone all of the time. I think it’s great that it’s happening this way and makes it far more interesting for the character and for the actress playing the character. I’m really intrigued to see where it goes. How evil is she going to get? I feel for Shanice because I know what it’s like to be hated. If you remember back to Julia’s first husband, Darcy, there were whole Facebook pages that were just about hating Darcy.

What excites you about Season 12?
Hélène Joy: I get excited because the writers always blow me away. I hear little rumblings about what Julia these things that Julia will be doing this year and I’m like, ‘Oh! Who would have thought?!’ Of course, I can’t tell you!

Peter, will there be a time jump between Season 11’s finale and Season 12’s debut?
Peter Mitchell: Yup. Normally, we pick it up three or four months later and I think that’s so we can start off on a fresh foot while doing some housekeeping as to what happened last year.

Any storylines you’re working on that you can talk about?
Peter Mitchell: We have an idea that Julia and Murdoch might be writing a book together, which could be fun. We might actually find George’s girl of his dreams this year. There might be some interesting developments in the Brackenreid household and the wedding bells will indeed ring for Henry Higgins. I think we might have Alexander Graham Bell back—he’s a fun character—and introduce the architect Frank Lloyd Wright … a couple historical figures we haven’t seen yet and a couple we’ve seen in the past. We’re just getting started.

What did you think of Murdoch Mysteries‘ Season 11 finale? What do you hope for Season 12? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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Murdoch Mysteries: Mary Pedersen, Peter Mitchell, Yannick Bisson and Hélène Joy discuss what’s next for William and Julia

Spoiler alert! Do NOT continue reading until you have watched Episode 17, “Shadows are Falling,” of Murdoch Mysteries. I’m serious.

I know a lot of you are upset. I understand that. So many Murdoch Mysteries fans have wanted William and Julia to be parents of their own baby. Sadly, that’s not going to happen. At least, not in the near future. That was the sad reality during “Shadows are Falling,” when Julia lost the baby to a miscarriage, leaving the couple in tatters. By episode end, emotions were running high and William walked out.

The reality is, Murdoch Mysteries is—as always—about the mysteries. The murders. The crimes. Anything else is just extra stuff we get to enjoy. Murdoch‘s showrunner, Peter Mitchell, and his writing staff know what they’re doing. I trust them and have for years. They know these characters better than we do and also know what’s best for them. So, while I understand some folks being angry with Monday’s storyline, I’m in for the long haul. I love all of these characters, their experiences and their lives. But I’m also in it for the mysteries, especially now that Season 12 has been announced!

With that in mind, here’s my chat with episode writer Mary Pedersen, showrunner Peter Mitchell and actors Hélène Joy and Yannick Bisson.

Yannick, Season 11 of Murdoch Mysteries has been fantastic. Great, funny, storylines, creative mysteries and wonderful new characters. You must be thrilled.
Yannick Bisson: It’s been another great season and for the folks that have stuck with us, and for the new viewers, it’s been a pretty great season for them. We’ve been able to have some really light-fare episodes that the fans have really responded well to. I think our highest-rated episodes this year was one of the more, sort of, light ones with ‘Crabtree a la Carte.’ It’s fun to see how things flow and change and the show keeps building.

That said, Monday’s episode has shocked and upset many fans.
Yannick Bisson: Absolutely. When you’re talking about big strains on relationships and stuff like that, these are universal themes that hit home with people. And I think there is a sense of ownership and investment with a lot of fans. When they are confronted with some of the stuff that’s coming, there are going to be some upset people.

Do you think Julia and William should have a baby?
Hélène Joy: I think they should have one if they want one, yes. I think they should be able to make that choice if they want and be free to change their minds and go another way, like adoption. We discovered from the adoption process earlier that it made them just as happy. I feel like, in the end, they will and should find a child to love.

Mary, I was reading through Facebook and you were referred to as “the writer of doom,” because you wrote “The Accident” and were the credited writer on “Shadows are Falling.” 
Mary Pedersen: I love it! I’ve demanded that everyone in the writer’s room call me that from now on.

These storylines go through so many approvals—from Pete Mitchell to Shaftesbury and CBC—one person cannot be blamed.
Mary Pedersen: A year ago we arced out what we wanted for Murdoch and Ogden this season and that started with something the fans have also been saying, ‘Oh, they’re married now. What’s going on, it’s boring? When are they going to have a baby and get a house?’ The thinking was that if we went back to the time when there was a lot of excitement, tension, curiosity and questions about what was going on in their relationship before that actually got together, how could we bring back some of that tension into their lives? Not the miscarriage itself, but the overall taking them into a new experience was really the goal of the whole thing. We knew it was going to be something that would create some difficulties for them and some questions for them and their relationship in a way, that I hope, is a natural thing that happens in any relationship. You’re always going to come up against challenges and difficulties and, of course, we confidence in Yannick and Hélène’s abilities to really portray that.

Peter, why was it important to take William and Julia on this journey?
Peter Mitchell: I wanted to do a story of consequence for both the characters and the actors. They are so at ease with their characters that people sometimes forget the fact these two can really act. I wanted to give them a story that both the actors and the characters could sink their teeth into. Plus, it’s a story that is true for a lot of couples. And I hope the fans can accept that. Sometimes in a series, the stories of the most emotional consequence are carried out by the guest characters. The guest character gets the wrenching story and the main character is an enabler or solver of problems.

Do you enjoy putting these characters through an emotional roller coaster and getting feedback from the fans?
Mary Pedersen: Yes. We know that it’s a gift. Sometimes we get comments that are not that great, but ultimately at the end of the day, every day, the fact that the fans care this much is a gift. And we don’t take that lightly. It’s really meaningful. I’ve worked on other projects where you don’t hear a thing. It’s completely different at Murdoch. The woman at the store where I get my pet food is excited. My neighbours are excited. It really changes the experience and it’s really wonderful. The passion that the fans have for Murdoch and Ogden and I think the joy that they felt for the pregnancy and the sadness and empathy they have for their loss is the same that they might have for a family member and that’s a great thing. Being able to do that with the viewers is a gift and one of the things you go into writing or acting for.

Hélène, how have you felt about Julia’s journey this season?
Hélène Joy: I think it’s great. First and foremost, this is a show about mysteries and we like to make sure that’s true. But it’s undeniable that the audience is in love with this couple and their journey. We’ve had all different incarnations of that but it’s been really nice. Obviously, the journey of wanting to have children is so personal and I think a lot of women have responded to her real desire to do this and the joy of it. What happened tonight is devastating but it’s so, so, common. It’s an incredibly common experience, trying to have children. It doesn’t mean they can’t have one again, but it happens a lot. It’s been really brave of the writers to go there and for me, it’s been fun to have such highs and lows to play.

Everything came up in the argument between William and Julia. God, guilt, punishment, faith and then the hot-button topic of abortion. You didn’t leave anything out.
Mary Pedersen: At the beginning of the episode when William is there at her bedside … if they were able to go home then and just be alone together none of this would have happened. But, because they are interrupted and spent time apart, they start to spiral into their own bad places. Because they weren’t able to process their grief together, they were in different places and it brought up all of those things. In any marriage, there are some big issues that are unresolved and you put it in the closet and hope it won’t come up. But it always, always, always will come up. This felt like a natural place to go with them.

The scenes between William and Julia are so raw and emotional. Was it difficult to get into that mindset for filming?
Yannick Bisson: Yeah, the subject matter is dark and difficult and in any given scene you have to sustain an emotional place for hours and hours—sometimes an entire day in order to get all of the coverage—and it sucks to go to work on those days, especially when you’re talking about some tough stuff like loss and betrayal.

Hélène Joy: Yannick and I were like, ‘Is it over yet?’ You have to, as an actor, dredge it from somewhere. It has to come up. It can be kind of exhausting. The scene where I’m lying in the hospital bed and I wake up. There are no words, just a lot of grief. That was at the end of the day and I knew it was coming. So the process begins, unconsciously, at the beginning of the day that you begin to think of the things that make you feel that bad. What happens with me throughout the day is that I get sadder and sadder. It was hard. Yannick and I both hated it.

A lot of folks, including myself, don’t trust Violet Hart. What kind of impact has Violet had in the writer’s room this season?
Mary Pedersen: It’s been great. We miss Mouna but it’s been nice to go in a different direction and try something new with the Violet that we weren’t doing with Rebecca. It’s an opportunity that’s going to pay off for a while.

What can you tell those upset folks that will help them cope until next week’s episode?
Yannick Bisson: Hang in there. There are ups and downs in life and we’re trying to mirror that with the show. The biggest thing to keep in mind as that you have two very strong characters and they have certain points of view. That’s what we’ve come to enjoy from the writing, so we have to stick it out and see them come out the other side.

Mary Pedersen: This is a quote that I like that I keep coming back to, somehow, for this: ‘Everything will be OK in the end.’ Not meaning Episode 18, but Murdoch and Ogden overall.

Will fans be happy by the end of the Season 11 finale?
Yannick Bisson: There is some resolution but I think we’re going to leave some room for people to tune back in for Season 12.

Murdoch Mysteries‘ Season 11 finale airs next Monday at 8 p.m. on CBC.

What did you think of the episode? Can William and Julia turn it around for the season finale? Are you happy Murdoch Mysteries will be back for Season 12? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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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.

 

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