Tag Archives: Saving Hope

Cardinal: Writer Shannon Masters breaks down “Lemur”

Alas, poor Lemur. Perhaps the strongest all-around survivalist aside from Mama (Rya Kihlstedt) herself, Lemur (Nick Serino) met and untimely, and messy, end at the hands of Jack (Alex Ozerov). Jack took advantage of Lemur being on the run from the police during a botched ATM robbery and killed his “brother.”

Thursday’s newest instalment of Cardinal, “Lemur,” also opened the door on what horrors Jack endured when he was younger and shaped who he is today. Finally, after very much looking to Cardinal (Billy Campbell) for guidance during the past two cycles of Cardinal, Lise (Karine Vanasse) has officially read her partner the riot act. We spoke to the episode’s writer, Shannon Masters—who has written for Burden of Truth, Mohawk Girls and penned her feature film Empire of Dirt—about Jack, Lise and killing off Lemur.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions and congratulations on being part of Cardinal. I love the franchise and am enjoying Season 3 immensely.
Shannon Masters: I’m glad you’re loving watching it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Before we get into specifics about the series and your episode, how did you get into the Cardinal writer’s room in the first place?
SM: Two words: Patrick Tarr. We’ve been friends for well over a decade and I think he got tired of watching me bang my head against the wall trying to break into television so took a chance and gave me a shot in the room. Plus, I’m cheap so didn’t break the budget. Ha ha.

This past week has been all about your work. I watched Empire of Dirt the other day on Super Channel and your latest episode of Burden of Truth was on CBC. You’ve taken over Canadian TV over the last 10 days!
SM: Finally. Seriously though, someone has to pinch me because I still can’t believe I get to do this job.

I imagine working on Cardinal has been very different from Burden of Truth and Mohawk Girls. How have you grown as a writer through the Cardinal experience?
SM: Every writing experience is unique, just as each show and showrunner are unique and all provide the opportunity to evolve in different ways. But my growth as a writer on this show specifically was exponential because Patrick trusted (and expected) me to do the job well. That gave me a new confidence in both my ability and my voice. Plus, there is something to be said for having a showrunner who comes in with a rock-solid vision. Lesson: being prepared and having a plan gives you freedom.

It’s been hard to feel anything but anger at Jack and the way he’s been acting. But in the opening moments of ‘Lemur,’ we discover he’s endured something horrifying in his past, including his relationship with this father, and how that connects him to Mama. How do you tackle writing a character like him?
SM: I believe the key to writing bad guys, whether they have a difficult past or not, is to write them as though they believe in what they’re doing, that they don’t think their actions are wrong or bad. In general, people have no idea what they are truly capable of until they find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and are faced with hard choices. That holds true for fictional characters as well. So trying to get into their heads and seeing things through their eyes often lends those characters an intriguing level of depth.

I’m not sure if you’ve seen the rough cut for ‘Lemur’ yet, but there is a moment before Cardinal goes into the apartment to talk to Roger, the ex-con-turned-accountant. John pauses at the top of the stairs, loosens his neck and takes a deep breath. He wants to keep it together and not wring Roger’s neck. Do you remember if that pause was written in the script, or something Billy ad-libbed?
SM: It’s been such a long time since I wrote the episode so it could have been on the page, an acting choice or something that came from our director. What I do remember is going into Cardinal’s story this episode with the feeling that he knows he’s skidding down the rabbit hole but just cannot stop himself. His cop instincts are too strong and his GUT is telling him that his wife did not kill herself. So while he knows that every moment he pursues these men he’s put away, Roger Felt included, his grip on the situation slips a bit more, but he’s gonna do it all the same. So he’s kind of stealing his nerves here before he dives in yet again.

You killed Lemur! Now there is nothing stopping Jack from taking advantage of Nikki. How could you?!
SM: Lol. Nikki is tougher than she looks.

Lise has taken a fierce stand against Cardinal. It’s been fascinating to watch her gaining confidence and taking command. Has it been fun, as a writer, to explore their relationship in Season 3?
SM: Their relationship is fantastic and it’s been incredibly rewarding to get to flesh it out even further this season. In this episode specifically, Delorme’s ferocity is born from her desire to help Cardinal. She and Cardinal have morphed from colleagues into friends with a mutual deep respect, so she doesn’t want to see him torture himself or torch his career. And she’s also got a job to do. She’s been given a lot more responsibility this season and she takes it very seriously.

Cardinal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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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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Link: Why Wynonna Earp came along at the best time for writer/co-exec producer Noelle Carbone

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: Why Wynonna Earp came along at the best time for writer/co-exec producer Noelle Carbone
“I like genre TV and I watch quite a bit of it. That being said, I don’t think I uttered a word for the first two weeks I was in the Wynonna room. I just stared at the board, and the other writers, with a blank look on my face. And then I’d go home and wait for my agent to call me and tell me that Emily had decided to consciously uncouple me from the story room.” Continue reading.

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Killjoys: Shaun Benson guest-stars in a memorable, murderous role

Shaun Benson may play a memorable, villainous character in this week’s episode of Killjoys, but he’s anything but in person.

On Killjoys he plays, well, I don’t want to give it away. But suffice it to say that Benson’s gig—which finds him decked out in black and sporting a blonde hair reminiscent of a certain movie villain—is truly memorable. And this from a series that dropped a rapidly aging baby in our laps last Friday.

We spoke to Benson during a break in filming “Baby, Face Killer,” earlier this year and learned a bit about his character and a lot about acting.

What can you reveal about this character?
Shaun Benson: He’s a protector. So that gives him a real coldness, almost like a snake because he’s sort of like from an evolutionary line of protectors.

The last character you played that I saw was Lane on Saving Hope. Not a great guy.
SB: The transition from good guy to guy who does something wrong, for me, is a very small leap. And I think for some people, and I don’t know if they haven’t danced with the dark side as much as I have, truly, or if they’re not willing to go there, even if they have, for me it’s a paper-thin distance between me being a good person and me being a bad person. So if you put a camera on me, and again, I haven’t been a gangster or murdered people, but I spent years like delving into the darkness, and it makes it tougher to book the lead in a Hallmark movie. Because you put a camera on me and a girl says to me, ‘Hey, you look good, and I look back and I go, you look good too, it’s very loaded.’

Greg Bryk told me that those types of roles means he explores that dark side in a safe way.
SB: What’s very interesting is that when I was in my 20s I played a lot of really good guys, the lead, handsome, whatever. My face was very soft and unwrinkled, I still had some baby fat. And honestly, the roles were pretty uninteresting, not bad, and a great privilege to be able to play them, but it was always like he’s the good guy and he’s trying to solve the case or whatever. But at the time I was really busting at the seams as a young man, out partying and not being too forthright or standup. Then, in my early 30s, I just said ‘I don’t want to be that guy.’ So I can’t remember the last time I consciously told a lie. Like, people know who I am, but now I play the mean guy all the time when I’m the least, you know, that I’ve ever been in my life.

So I get what Greg’s saying because there’s a safety to it so that you can go all the way with it because it’s actually not what’s happening. You know, I can go home … and by the way, it takes its toll. I did a movie of the week for Lifetime and it was keeping women locked in a basement, and it’s all fun and I’m playing it and the director and I talked about it along the way. We talked about this like it’s a bit of a dance.

That’s been my background as an actor. When I was younger I started dancing. So how do we put the joy in the body? And Jack Nicholson even talked about it, for The Shining. Like, he treated that like a ballet and I really understand what he’s talking about. Because, if it’s about the movements in my body, then it elevates the sense of, not only art but spirit and joy, even if it’s a tragedy.

Killjoys airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET on Space.

Image courtesy of Bell Media.

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The Detail’s Wendy Crewson on “mysterious” Fiona and the show’s “unapologetically female-focused” approach

Wendy Crewson knows a thing or two about the entertainment industry. Over a four-decade career, the widely-respected actress has appeared in over 130 TV shows and films in both Canada and the U.S., including recent credits Saving Hope, Room and Kodachrome. So when she says the industry is undergoing a major transformation in the way it treats women—both onscreen and behind the scenes—you can believe it’s true.

“I think it’s been a very telling time for women,” she says. “It’s a real sea change.”

And Crewson is proud that her latest project, CTV’s new detective series The Detail, is part of that wave. The series explores the complicated personal and professional lives of three female homicide detectives at Toronto’s Metropolitan Police Service. The Hamilton, Ont., native plays Staff Inspector Fiona Currie, the formidable—and somewhat secretive—boss of crime-solving duo Jack Cooper (Shenae Grimes-Beech) and Stevie Hall (Angela Griffin).

“To have a show like this, where the women, without fanfare, just happen to be the focus of the series makes it very different than most shows,” she says. “It’s not a token female in a male environment, it’s all women with men in the secondary roles, which you never ever see.”

She believes that dynamic offers something new—and necessary—to audiences.

“People really want to see this on their screens now,” she explains.

To prepare us for this Sunday’s new episode, “The Long Walk,” Crewson joined us by phone to tell more about The Detail, give the scoop on what’s coming up for Fiona and talk about the importance of onscreen representation.

We recently spoke with The Detail’s co-showrunners, Ley Lukins and Adam Pettle, and they said they always had you in mind to play Fiona. At what point did this role come on your radar?
Wendy Crewson: Well, I must say that years ago, just after we started Saving Hope, Ilana Frank, our executive producer, who has done a lot of female-led series with Rookie Blue, Saving Hope, and now The Detail, came to me talking about this idea that she had. She said, ‘Doesn’t this sound great?’ and I said, ‘It sounds fantastic. Count me in.’ So I did know that it was on the radar, but a million things can happen between someone being interested in you and the project actually coming to fruition and you actually being offered a role. It can go sideways in a lot of different ways, and I’m so glad that it didn’t, and I’m so glad that we managed to actually get it on the air.

Could you tell us a little bit about makes Fiona tick?
She’s a career professional in a paramilitary organization, so she’s spent a lot of time in a male-dominated world, making her way to the top, which as we know now, is so difficult to do in those male-dominated industries. She really, like Ginger Rogers, had to dance backwards in heels to make it happen. And you don’t have to be tougher than the guys, you just have to be smarter than the guys. I think she’s always taken that professionalism to a different level, and it’s made her into a great leader. And she really wants to make sure, most importantly, that she mentors other females to take those leadership positions. Which is why she is so concerned with and tight with the two younger detectives.

I think the fact that Fiona, Stevie and Jack are all at different stages in their lives and careers is one of the best things about the show. It gives viewers an opportunity to see a wide-ranging mosaic of women’s lives that isn’t available on many shows. Was that something that really appealed to you?
Of course, it’s a great feeling. As we say, representation matters. You can’t be what you can’t see. So until women start seeing themselves in these leadership positions, it’s hard to imagine what that might be like. To have a show like this, where the women, without fanfare, just happen to be the focus of the series makes it very different than most shows. It’s not a token female in a male environment, it’s all women and with men in the secondary roles, which you never ever see. I mean, how many years have I played the girlfriend, or wife, or the sidekick, or secretary to a man’s story? But we are unapologetically female-focused. From Ilana Frank, our executive producer, through Ley Lukins, our showrunner and writer, through several female directors that we’ve had on the show. It’s really been a remarkable experience, and I think the audience is hungry for female-led dramas. Women want to see themselves reflected back in these positions, and they like to see their lives and all the flawed messiness of it, and the compromise of family and work and how difficult it is to support your family and get ahead in your career. People really want to see this on their screens now. I think it’s been a very telling time for women. It’s a real sea change.

Ley and Adam also mentioned that you thought it was important for Fiona to hold back many of the personal details about her life in the early part of the series. Why was that?
I think, like the leaders in any kind of industry, Fiona keeps her cards pretty close to her chest. I think she feels she’s had to do this, in a way, to protect herself in an industry that is ready to sabotage her at every turn. And I think she’s found that the less people in her job know about her and about her life, the better. I think we’ll begin to see more and more, but I like the idea of keeping her out of the fray of what the other two women were going through—the boyfriends, the children, the husband, the affair. That’s all stuff that happens truly in your white-hot years. We get tidbits about things that are happening in her life, but I like keeping her a little mysterious and rolling it out a bit slowly. In the end, it’s more surprising when we start finding out things about her.

Are we going to learn more before the end of the season?
Yes. We start to learn a little more. Of course, she’s divorced. Her ex-husband is with the police force. He’s her superior, which makes things very difficult at work. We see her as boss now, and she’s formidable, but when he comes in, we see all the ways women can be diminished and belittled in a workplace through their superior. So we start to understand her and the way she has to manoeuvre her relationship with her ex-husband and her daughter and how women protect men after divorce because they are the father of their children because they don’t want to disappoint their children. [We also see] the ways in which some men do not always step up in the ways that they need to after divorce, and the way that women cover up for them. And I found that very interesting.

A pathologist, Rita Moretti (Elizabeth Whitmere), hit on Fiona earlier in the season. Does she appear again?
She does! I like the idea of questioning your sexuality at a certain point in your life and seeing, as you change through the years, how challenging the recognition of something like that is in somebody’s life. And I loved the idea that we are looking at that in Fiona, who is very buttoned down, who is not really open to personal change, and looking at how that might affect her life.

You are a vocal advocate of Canadian television. How do you think the industry is faring right now?
I think the domestic industry is still struggling, and I think that as we look to the new methods of broadcasting—as in over the top through Netflix and various organizations like that—I think the government and the CRTC struggle to find the right balance for supporting domestic industry. I mean, Netflix is a broadcaster, no doubt about it, and of course they should be contributing to our domestic industry the same way CTV does and Global and other private networks. It needs to contribute.

You know, we live beside this huge producer of cultural content, and it’s always important to leave some space for our own stories. I mean, this is a communication of storytelling that joins us as a nation, and it needs to be protected. And I will always be a big advocate of that. And as the idea of supporting our industries sort of wanes in popularity, I think it’s very important to keep that voice loud that these stories are meaningful.

And speaking of Canadian TV, you also play Nora on CBC’s Frankie Drake Mysteries. Are you going to be back for Season 2? 
Yes, I am in Season 2 of Frankie Drake, and I can’t wait!

The Detail airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

 

 

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