Cineflix Media is teaming up with award-winning showrunner Morwyn Brebner and TV executive Andrew Akman to launch Husk Media, a new television production company.
Toronto-based Husk Media will develop and produce programming for broadcasters and streamers worldwide. With Brebner spearheading creative efforts and Akman leading commercial affairs, the company will focus on projects created by Brebner, as well as projects in partnership with emerging and established writers and showrunners.
Cineflix will provide Husk Media with start-up financing and operating support, and has a first-look to distribute the shingle’s content internationally. The new production company joins Cineflix’s growing joint venture lineup which includes Mirage producer Connect3 Media and International Emmy® Award-winning Marcella producer Buccaneer Media.
Most recently honoured as 2021 Showrunner of the Year by the Writers Guild of Canada, Morwyn Brebner has produced premium scripted television for networks and platforms around the world, and is behind some of the longest-running, most successful dramas ever produced in Canada. Brebner’s credits include creating global hit Coroner (CBC/The CW Network/NBCUniversal International Networks), as well as co-creating supernatural medical series Saving Hope (CTV/ION) and police drama Rookie Blue (ABC/Global Television).
Andrew Akman brings more than 20 years of experience in production, distribution, and broadcasting. He has held senior management positions at some of Canada’s largest media and entertainment companies and will be transitioning out of his current role as COO at Cineflix Media.
Sherry White and Meredith MacNeill are no strangers to CBC. White’s most recent project for the network was as director, executive producer and writer for Little Dog. MacNeill, meanwhile, has just come off five seasons as co-creator, writer, producer and star of Baroness Von Sketch Show. Now the two have paired for one of the most entertaining new series on the network, Pretty Hard Cases.
Debuting Wednesday at 9 p.m. on CBC, MacNeill stars as Sam Waszowski, a guns and gangs detective—and single mom—who finds herself teamed with drug squad detective Kelly Duff, played by Adrienne C. Moore (Orange Is the New Black). Together, the pair are trying to take down a neighbourhood gang dealing drugs and weapons. Co-created by White and Tassie Cameron—who previously worked together on Rookie Blue—Pretty Hard Cases is notable not only for its tone but its focus: telling the stories of two women in their 40s.
We spoke to Sherry White and Meredith MacNeill about the first season of Pretty Hard Cases.
Sherry, can you give me the background on how the show came about? Did you and Tassie Cameron keep in touch over the years and say ‘Let’s try and find something together’? Sherry White: Tassie and I worked on Rookie Blue together and I was on that from the first season until the end. We got really close during the making of that. We moved on to do other things and there was a couple of times when people approached me with, ‘Could I take on some young writer’s cop show and try and help elevate it.’ Somebody came to Tassie and said it, and I’m like, ‘If there’s a demand for this, why don’t we do this ourselves?’ and really reflect more where we are now in our career. Rookie Blue is more about the early days of these characters and their careers.
This show is more about women who are in their 40s, who had given it all to their career and are finding themselves a little wanting for a full life. They’ve sacrificed a lot of their own personal goals in order to have their career, which is totally where Tassie and I were. We wanted to reflect our friendship and we wanted to reflect where we were in our careers and that sort of, what next? How else do we get a full life? We also wanted to have fun. We wanted it to be more in this sort of Paul Feig kind of… the ways he can celebrate women and be really raw and honest and funny about whatever situation they’re in, and I think we accomplished that with the show.
Meredith, did Sherry or Tassie come forward and say, ‘Hey, listen, we’ve got this character for you.’ How did you end up playing the role of Sam? Meredith MacNeill: I was approached by Sherry and Tassie for the role, so I didn’t have to audition. When I was talking to Sherry about the role, I remember the absolute shock and pleasure and being completely thrilled.
How did you decide how you were going to play Sam? Did you have to learn how to rein her in a little bit? MM: I was really fortunate to have Sherry and Tassie, who knew my work from Baroness. Actually, there was a lot of freedom on the floor. When I got the part, we talked a lot about, in terms of the physicality and the part, and the part was really on the page. I didn’t have to deviate much from that. In terms of feeling free to do whatever I wanted to bring to it, Sherry and Tassie, I would say, they were my rein-ers. Sherry directed some episodes and because she knew my work so well and we had such a great trust I’d be like, ‘I’m going to do this.’ And she’s like, ‘Great. Do it.’ In terms of reining in my physicality, Baroness and Pretty Hard Cases are such different shows, so the way it used my physicality was a bit different.
Sherry, how tightly scripted is Pretty Hard Cases? SW: That was one of the major questions we had going into this because we knew we wanted them to find their way and all that stuff but as everyone knows, improv can get unwieldy and we didn’t want to have 65-minute episodes. We found a really good system where we mostly stuck to the text and certainly, for all the procedural stuff, there’s not a lot of improv room in that. You need just the facts, you need what that content was. In the more personal scenes, there was a lot more play and we would always allow for [Meredith] to, once we nailed it, just go. Just do something else if you wanted to play. I would say it was mostly not improvised, but definitely, enough to bring a special flavour that Meredith and Adrienne would bring themselves.
The relationship between Sam and her son is fascinating. Can you talk about how complicated this relationship is going to be as we see this first season roll out? MM: It’s going to be extremely complicated. Sam is desperate for attention and the love and respect of her son. I’m a single mom and my daughter’s only 10 and I’m starting to feel like she would rather be with her friends. So imagine that amplified. And then Percy [Hynes White] is incredible to play opposite of. We had good chemistry as well, so we were finding a lot about the relationship as it was going. One of Sam’s big storylines for the show is her relationship with her son. It gets pretty exciting.
SW: And again, because loneliness is a theme in this show, there is nothing more lonely than being a single mother about to be an empty nester.
MM: I was so grateful because it’s been my therapy because it’s going to happen to me. I used to call Sherry and sometimes I’d just start crying at the thought of it.
Sherry, what can we expect to see in Season 1? SW: The core of the series is Sam and Kelly building a friendship, finding a friendship despite their differences and relying on each other, and finding this common ground as they are working together. They’re dealing with the main neighbourhood gang. But then, through that, they have personal stories that develop and challenge their professional life and vice versa. It’s a lot of fun. I think every episode brings a lot of laughs and also it can get pretty sad sometimes.
Pretty Hard Cases airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.
Four schoolkids get in trouble on purpose so they can explore the tunnels under their school in search of a secret laboratory that holds mysterious treasure. That’s the premise behind Detention Adventure, one of dozens of projects seeking Independent Production Fund assistance to bring Season 1 to life.
Co-created by Joe Kicak and Carmen Albano, written by Kicak, Albano and Karen Moore, executive-produced by Moore, Lauren Corber and produced by Ryan West, Detention Adventure summons Goonies, Stand By Me and the Harry Potter franchise in its tone. Legend says inventor Alexander Graham Bell built a secret lab under a school attended by three nerds. Raign (Simone Miller), Joy (Alina Prijono) and Hulk (Jack Fulton) are determined to find the entrance, which is supposed to be located somewhere in the old library that now serves as a detention room. The trio’s plan? Get into trouble, go to detention and find that entrance. The problem? Raign, Joy and Hulk have to include the school bully, Brett (Tomaso Sanelli), in their plans.
“We really tried to get at something that was more cinematic and dynamic than a studio school show,” Moore says. “The series is full of adventures in these tunnels and the scientific experiments that are part of it. This shows how exciting science can be and the adventures the kids can take.” Each 11-minute instalment of the potential 10-episode first season finds the sixth-grade students calling upon their scientific and problem-solving skills to tackle and break through a series of puzzles, traps and riddles to find the elusive lab.
Detention Adventure is a departure for Moore. Most recently a writer on decidedly adult projects like Workin’ Moms, Rookie Blue and What Would Sal Do?, she’s written and produced two BravoFACT short films in Must Kill Karl (alongside Kicak) and Your Place Or Mine, and Frozen Marbles. Moore was looking for a progression from writing shorts and felt this was a natural move. Her time in the writing room under showrunners in Catherine Reitman and Tassie Cameron has given Moore the experience to write the serialized episodes Detention Adventure boasts; she, Kicak and Albano made up the writer’s room.
“It was me telling Joe and Carmen what to do,” Moore says with a laugh. Every episode of Detention Adventure contains themes of overcoming differences, empathy, cliffhangers and a lot of fun. The potential series is aimed at 6-12-year-olds, the pre-teen audience where stories of friendship and insecurity are relatable.
“This is the time when kids are still up for more wholesome fun,” Moore says. “But they also have the tools and the independence to have some life skills to draw on and be at the level of these science experiments and problem-solving.”
Support Detention Adventure by clicking through to the show’s YouTube page and liking it! And check out more projects seeking IPF funding.
K.C. Williams (Enuka Okuma) is a take no guff kind of gal. A successful DEA agent tired of not getting the credit for taking down bad guys, she teamed with RCMP officer Roy Patterson to chase down Slaney (Allan Hawco) and Hearn (Eric Johnson) on Caught.
Okuma, who most recently starred in the web series Spiral, Season 1 of Slasher and almost 80 episodes of Rookie Blue, sat down with us last year during a break in filming Caught in downtown Hamilton, Ont., to discuss her K.C. and what it was like to play the only character who was not in the source material.
Allan told me that K.C. Williams is a character he created specifically for the TV series.
Enuka Okuma: Yes, and that’s something I was unaware of when I bought the book! [Laughs.] I was three-quarters of the way through the book and I was like, ‘There is no such woman!’ For me, this is actually really exciting because I feel like this character is speaking to something that we’re talking about in the world today: female equality and diversity. She is a very modern character. I feel very lucky that they included her.
Looking at the characters in the book from my perspective and getting to know what the other characters were thinking, going after and what their desires are … it felt like a little bit of cheating because I had more information than I would visually.
What’s her background?
She’s the DEA agent in the mix and, I think, is the only American in the story. She is coming at this case differently than the RCMP and how they are trying to catch the bad guys.
What is their relationship like? Do they get along?
Paul and I have been trying to figure out who these two people are to each other. Roy is a little curmudgeonly and I am a little acerbic, so together it could be combustion, or if we decide to work together there can be a little magic.
What did you take away from reading Caught?
With a book, you always get the layers no matter what the project is. Being immersed in the world was really interesting. And, theatrically, they needed to do some things to move the story along. It works. I feel like everything that they changed makes perfect sense. But the book really lets you know, for Slaney and especially for Patterson, what is going on in these guys’ heads. Plus, for me, just delving into what they were going through at the time just puts you in that headspace.
The wardrobe on Caught is fantastic. Michael Ground has really knocked it out of the park with this stuff because a lot of it has been built for us. You want to get vintage stuff to make it look realistic, but if you’re doing stunts and you have doubles you need more clothing. These boys have been rocking their looks. Eric and Allan, in their flashback scenes … it’s a little Hall & Oates inspired. Eric sent me a picture of the two of them in the makeup trailer and they literally looked like Hall & Oates.
With the first episode of Caught under our wide, leather belts—catch up on “The Break” here—Monday night’s new instalment “Old Wounds” promises to dig more into Slaney (Allan Hawco) and Hearn’s (Eric Johnson) past. I can’t help but wonder if that will include Jennifer.
As played by Charlotte Sullivan (Rookie Blue, Mary Kills People), viewers have gotten a taste of what Jennifer is all about. She has a daughter Slaney thinks of as his own even though the infant is not his. And Jennifer hates the fact Slaney got roped into Hearn’s drug boat purchase. Of course, she had a right to be upset; Slaney got caught and put into prison.
I spoke to Sullivan during a break in filming last summer in downtown Hamilton, Ont., about Caught, adapting a novel for the screen and saying goodbye when a project wraps production.
Had you worked with Allan Hawco on anything before? Did you ever guest-star in an episode of Republic of Doyle?
Charlotte Sullivan: No, I had never met him. He’s so sweet.
What can you tell me about Jennifer?
It’s a bit of a tragic story. Without giving away too much—because there is a major twist coming—she has a secret and she has been keeping it from Slaney to keep him. And she has to make a choice between Slaney and her daughter. And you know how that’s going to go. It’s a horrible decision. They have a very passionate love affair that’s very intense and I think it’s based solely on tragedy.
What were your thoughts on this miniseries after reading the book?
It’s a little bit different. There’s a lot of pressure to take a book that is so critically acclaimed and then turn it into a TV or film project. I always say that it’s a bit of a poison chalice because it’s an honour to get to do it, but there will be people who are pissed off.
What was your takeaway of the story after reading Lisa Moore’s novel?
If there is a book, I always want to read it before I watch the film. I love to see how close they got it, or how off the mark they were. You also pick up on little nuances that maybe you wouldn’t have picked up on before. But it is tough to take something like this but from what I’ve seen of the esthetic so far, it’s going to be stunning. It’s the 70s and you get to play with that time period. I just love esthetics. I mean, look at these clothes. We went to a couple of stores and didn’t find Jennifer in there. And then we went to a vintage store and said, ‘Jennifer is in there!’ That’s the creative collaboration.
Did you audition for the role of Jennifer?
Oh yeah. I put myself on tape and sent it in. I was in the middle of shooting something else and I needed the time to take away from that before I could send them a tape because I get so emotionally caught up in [the current role].
Does a short-run project like Caught excite you because it’s not an 18-episode season?
I find it kind of tragic, actually. Just because I don’t want it to end. Even with the longer seasons, you’d be amazed at how fast they go. Filming is tragic for actors because you’ve built your own community and connection with people and it’s wonderful and magical. And then it completely dissipates. I actually go through a little bit of depression when I’ve had a really great experience. I come home and I’m like, ‘Ah, that was so beautiful and lovely.’ And you feel so lucky because you were able to do it. After Rookie Blue it took me a month to get over it. I just moped around.