Mary Pedersen and I go way back. We first connected when she was a story editor on Murdoch Mysteries. After five seasons as a writer on Murdoch, Pedersen moved to Frankie Drake Mysteries where she was a writer and co-executive producer. These days, the Canadian Screen Award nominee can be found writing, co-executive producing (and directing her first-ever episode of TV) on Hudson & Rex.
Returning for Season 5 on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv, Hudson & Rex has become not only a Canadian hit but an international one too. The tale of St. John’s Detective Charlie Hudson (John Reardon) and his capable canine partner Rex (Diesel vom Burgimwald) have resonated since it was adapted from the original German series.
In the season debut, “Lost in the Barrens,” Charlie, Rex, Dr. Sarah Truong (Mayko Nguyen), tech expert Jesse Mills (Justin Kelly), Superintendent Joe Donovan (Kevin Hanchard) and new forensic pathologist Karma Poole (Bridget Wareham) are on the case of a missing woman, and suspicion quickly falls on her boyfriend (played by Murdoch‘s Daniel Maslany).
We spoke to Mary Pedersen ahead of Sunday’s return.
We have a lot to talk about! One of the great things about Hudson & Rex is that you know you’re going to get a solid hour of entertainment.
Mary Pedersen: Yes, and for all those dog lovers out there, there’s dog action. Anytime I see the dog on screen, I’m happy. So I’m one of those people.
Is there a major difference in writing for a TV series set in the modern day as opposed to a period drama like Murdoch Mysteries or Frankie Drake Mysteries or is story just story?
MP: Story is story. [Co-executive producer and writer] Keri Ferencz and I both came from Frankie onto Hudson & Rex and the main thing we noticed that we were delighted about was, ‘Ooh, cell phone calls, ooh, Internet!’ You can get your clues from a different place and sometimes it speeds up the action a little bit so that people can make calls and things like that.
And [showrunner] Peter Mitchell wanted to try to show more police procedural than mystery, so that also was an adjustment for us. But I’m constantly harassing the writing room with my love of NYPD Blue, so it appeals to me, and that’s been really fun.
It’s still a mystery. We’re still often meeting all our suspects pretty early on in the story. It’s a bit of a tweak mentally in terms of more of the action and discovery feels like it’s happening in the present, as opposed to we’re unravelling something in the past. There’s also the focus on how our cops figure out what they figure out, which is also true in Murdoch Mysteries. William Murdoch has a very specific way of solving crimes and of course, Charlie has a specific way of solving crimes with his trusty dog.
When you’re writing a script and you’re referring to something that Rex is going to do, do you write, ‘Rex looks this way,’ or ‘Rex whimpers’?
MP: We always feel his presence and all the directors on the show, most of our directors have been on the show before and they’ll know that you want to find Rex action as much as you can in every scene that he’s in, even if it is a matter of listening and reacting to the conversations that are happening.
So yes, we write it in to make sure we always feel his presence and that we, as writers, are thinking about him, [executive producer and dog master] Sherri Davis, and all of our cast. Our cast elevates what’s on the page and Sherri does the same thing. So she’s also so in tune with the dogs and knows what they can do and she will often look at the action we’ve written and suggest, ‘Oh, if we do it this way, that’ll be more exciting,’ or ‘This is something that we haven’t done on the show before and why don’t we?’ I think she also loves the stunt work as well as working with the dogs, so she’ll really elevate a lot of the Rex action as well.
What a place to be filming. The Murdoch Mysteries backlot is cool and everything, but man, St. John’s, Newfoundland, you can’t beat that.
MP: I first went out there, a year ago in May for Season 4 and I had never been before. I am from Nova Scotia, but I’d never been to Newfoundland before and it is just spectacular. Even now when I go, you can’t look anywhere that’s not gorgeous.
I love it a lot and I’m really glad that we’re getting more and more of St. John’s and the landscape around it onto the show. I think that’s just such a wonderful world and I love that we can put it on the show.
In addition to the key cast of characters we’ve gotten to know over four seasons, we’ve got the new addition of Bridget Wareham playing forensic pathologist Karma Poole.
MP: One of the main motivations for me, when we were talking at the beginning of the season about possibly bringing on another regular, semi-regular, was that Sarah—we saw this last season in one of the episodes, she goes on a retreat with some other professionals—and it really sort of drove home to both Mayko and I that Sarah doesn’t really get to talk to other women a whole lot. That was a big thing, to have somebody that Sarah could talk to besides the boys. She obviously fits in very well with the boys, but female relationships are really important in life, so that was a big part of the motivation for me in terms of getting another character onto our regular roster.
Hudson & Rex continues to welcome a whos who of Canadian talent to its episodes. Daniel Maslany kicks it off in Episode 1, but people stopping by include Paul Bronstein, Jake Epstein, Stuart Hughes, Matthew MacFadzean, Mary Walsh, K. Trevor Wilson, Steven Lund and Carlo Rota… how fun is it to write for guests of this calibre
MP: We’re so lucky. I think people love to come to Newfoundland. People have just been really game to come out and play with us.
This is the third show that you’ve worked on that is not only a critical hit, but also done very well internationally. Obviously, as a professional writer, you’re happy to have a gig, but do you ever sit back and pinch yourself?
MP: Every day. So much credit to Shaftesbury for making that happen and for making shows that appeal to so many people and Pete. Pete’s always, always, always had an eye on what is going to be entertaining. You don’t get a story past Pete if he thinks something is boring about it or too earnest. It’s all about having fun and entertaining people and yeah, I feel incredibly lucky to have stepped onto that boat.
Hudson & Rex airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Citytv.
Images courtesy of Shaftesbury.