What would Detective William Murdoch say? And would he be able to solve the crime? Those were the first two thoughts when I watched screeners of the first two episodes of Slasher: Ripper.
Returning Thursday at 9 p.m. ET to Hollywood Suite, Slasher: Ripper is the latest instalment of the gruesome, gory whodunit from creator-executive producer Aaron Martin and fellow executive producer Ian Carpenter.
Set in the late 19th century, and partly filmed on the backlot where fellow Shaftesbury project Murdoch Mysteries is created, Ripper catches up with a Toronto galvanized by fear. There is a vengeful killer on the loose slaughtering the city’s elite in horribly creative ways. Charged with solving the case is Detective Kenneth Rijkers (Gabriel Darku), who becomes increasingly desperate to connect the deaths before the body count gets any higher.
Toplining this tale is Eric McCormack, who dons 19th-century garb to play Basil Garvey, a supremely nasty tycoon who holds Toronto in his greedy grip. Easily the evilest character McCormack has ever played, Martin and Carpenter were positively giddy with his performance.
“Not unlike last year, when we brought David Cronenberg in [for Slasher: Flesh & Blood], we were looking for that type of person for that and [executive producer] Christina Jennings said, ‘I wonder if we can get him?’ He told me that as soon as he read one of his first lines of dialogue he said, ‘I have to do this part.'”
Complementing McCormack is Martin and Carpenter’s stable of Slasher performers in Paula Brancati as heiress Viviana Botticelli, Jefferson Brown as pimp Horatio Dixon, Lisa Berry as physician Dr. Melanda Israel, Jo Vannicola as newspaper editor Enid Jenkins, Steve Byers as man of God, Andrew May Jr., Sabrina Grdevich as Viviana’s sister, Venetia, Christopher Jacot as brothel owner Terrence Crenshaw and Salvatore Antonio as sex worker Salomé. And while all are familiar faces to the franchise, Martin and Carpenter ensure their characters are always unique.
“We like to give them a chance to play outside of the roles they are usually cast in,” Martin says. The result is performances that are mesmerizing and truly memorable. That goes for the acting chops provided by new faces alongside McCormack. Murdoch Msyteries‘ Clare McConnell goes against type as Regina Simcoe, Frankie Drake Mysteries‘ Sharron Matthews as housekeeper Gladys and Killjoys‘ Thom Allison as Georges Rondeau.
Written by Martin, Carpenter, Shelley Scarrow and Lucie Pagé, the eight-episode scripts are taut, enthralling, exciting and deliciously over-the-top. And, thanks to director of photography Scott McClellan and director-executive producer Adam McDonald, the setting is disturbing and very un-Murdoch.
“That backlot is beautiful,” Carpenter says. “We set some visual goals, and Scott and Adam shot the hell out of it. We wanted to get the dirt, the animals, the feces, the blood … it was really exciting.”
Slasher: Ripper airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on Hollywood Suite.
Welcome back to another bi-weekly chat about the latest news in Canadian TV! First, Greg and Amy go through debuts and returns on the Canadian TV calendar.
Then, we cover the latest Canadian TV news, which includesthe cancellation of CBC’s Pretty Hard Cases, Shelved to debut on CTV, Corus wants more Pamela Anderson, and another season of Shoresy on Crave.
Adam MacDonald is a busy guy. When he’s not acting on series like Tribal and Rookie Blue, he can be found behind the camera, writing and directing his own projects, like the horror films Backcountry and Pyewacket.
MacDonald’s latest directing gig has been for TV’s Slasher: Flesh & Blood. Airing Mondays on Hollywood Suite, Flesh & Blood reunited him with series creator Aaron Martin and showrunner Ian Carpenter.
We spoke to MacDonald about directing Flesh & Blood, his career and his next film, Out Come the Wolves.
You first came onto my radar on Rookie Blue and Being Erica, but it’s been a real blast over the last few years to see you writing and in the director’s chair. I’ve gotten a chance to see Backcountry and Pyewacket, so congratulations on writing and directing those. Adam MacDonald: Thank you so much. Bruce McDonald gave me the advice, ‘Go write something, because someone’s not going to hand you a feature film to direct.’ It’s just very rare if it’s not impossible. And then attach yourself to that script. That proved to be very sage advice. I gave it my all and then, yeah, it worked out.
Slasher: Flesh & Blood reunites you with Ian Carpenter and Aaron Martin. Take me back to Slasher: Solstice. How did that all come about? Did Aaron have you in mind for directing? AM: I found out from Enuka Okuma, who’s a good friend of mine who was in Rookie Blue. She was in the first season of Slasher. I knew Aaron Martin from Being Erica. I’ve always liked him, always been a fan of his work. I loved working with him and I love his writing, as an actor. And, so I knew of Slasher, and I went to the premiere with Ian at a theatre when they premiered Season 1 and we were in the audience. I remember Ian and I looked at each other like, ‘We’d love to work on a show like this.’ And we meant it, and Ian’s really close with Aaron. So it wasn’t a jealousy thing, it was more like, ‘This is really good. This is cool, man. It’s just like a perfect fit.’
But going back to Enuka, she told me that Aaron saw Backcountry and was talking really highly of it and he really liked it, and that meant a lot to me. We met after that and he just expressed how much he liked Backcountry. When Season 2 came around, he asked if I was interested and I was blown away. I was like, ‘Yeah, this is amazing,’ but I was shooting Pyewacket at the time. And then Season 3 came around and I got another chance to come in and pitch and all that stuff to be part of the team.
I was so excited, and I drew up some storyboards, got really jazzed, went over, pitched in front of them and it just worked out. Working with the writing, I can see these visuals and it’s just really fortunate.
So, when you’re reading through a script, do those images pop right into your mind? AM: Oh yeah, right away. I was the kid in class daydreaming constantly. And I’m a very voracious reader, so my imagination is pretty visual anyway. I’d read the script and I could see it in my mind, and I would be like, ‘Oh that’d be great if I could do that.’ And Ian, being very supportive, we’d try some things. I’d say, ‘This is what I want to do here.’ And he’d be like, ‘Yeah, go for it.’
And certain scenes, certain emotions, would be written and some things would be a certain angle. I would go for that to try to accentuate what’s already written there by Ian and Aaron. When it works, it’s just the best feeling.
I can’t ask a director question without asking you about working with David Cronenberg. What was it like to work with him and direct him? AM: Wow. Just hearing that from you almost seems surreal. It was pretty incredible. It was very satisfying because he came on set as an actor and I treated him like an actor. I think he appreciated that, but I was just, of course, this is natural to do that. This is what he’s coming in for. So I’d give him notes and all that stuff. You’re telling them where to go, what to do and all that stuff, you just hope it jives with everybody. And he was great.
And I remember the second day shooting with him, it was a big scene and I was nervous, but it went away within five minutes. I never really get nervous directing, but it was one of the only days I was ever a little nervous because of him. It was definitely a memorable experience.
Last question. What’s the status of Out Come the Wolves? AM: That’s going to camera next year. It takes a while and certain things have to come into place, but we’re finally at that finish line and we are scheduled to go to camera in 2022, finally, after nine years of development. We’ve got Missy [Peregrym to star] and Enuka wrote the script.
If someone reading this is an aspiring director or just wrote a script and things are taking longer than they think they should, just hang in there, man. Hang in there, because sometimes things just need to blossom in their own time. And when they do you’ve just got to be ready. Sometimes it takes a year. Sometimes it takes 10 years. It’s about perseverance.
Slasher: Flesh & BloodÂ airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Hollywood Suite.
If you’re a fan of the Slasher franchise, you’re already aware of the unique casting around it. There are, from season to season, a handful of actors who check in, usually playing very different characters from the seasons before. That’s certainly the case for Paula Brancati, who returns to Slasher: Flesh & Blood playing a very different role from Violet, the social media addict on Slasher: Solstice.
On Flesh & Blood, airing Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Hollywood Suite, Brancati portrays Christy, who has married into the Galloway family, a group currently battling each other for the family fortune while dodging a killer called The Gentleman.
We spoke to Brancati, who is currently prepping her first project as a director with Junior’s Giant, written by Deb McGrath, about her experiences this season.
When Aaron Martin and Ian Carpenter reach out to you and say they’ve got you in mind for a new season of Slasher, are you all in no matter what? Paula Brancati: Oh, yeah. It’s no question. I love them as people and as creators. And it generally starts with Aaron and Ian and I over a Bellini at Milestones, which is where we like to take our creative meetings. And they often lead with one of our more graphic scenes. They’ll tell me something wild that they’re thinking of for the character. So the pitches are always so colourful. And it’s a very easy yes for me.
It’s very rare that you get to come back and work with people that you trust again and again, who keep writing for you and continue to challenge you as an actor. Because I think, a lot of times, with the Slasher series, I get to come back and act in roles that I don’t think I necessarily would be auditioning for. So they see something, I think, in all their casting choices. They really trust their actors and push them. Christy, this season, cannot be more different from Violet in Solstice.
From the first two episodes that I have seen, Christy is more low-key, part of a somewhat dysfunctional family unit. So what was it like playing her? PB: I really loved Christy from the get-go. It was the first time I was playing a mother. And [director] Adam [MacDonald] and I, who are old friends and worked together last season as well, of course, we had really great conversations about her early on.
She is levelheaded. But as you can imagine with this show, nothing is ever what it seems. And a lot unravels very quickly. We talked a lot about Jennifer Lawrence’s character in Mother. That was somebody that Adam really took to early on as a reference for Christy. And I think we really held onto that, because I think she is this sort of grounding centre, and she really operates as eyes in for the audience. She really is a moral compass. And I think she’s fully aware of the dysfunction of the Galloways and has been married into that family for so long. But as you might have been able to see from the first two episodes, if you aren’t a blood relative, you are never fully accepted. And even when you are a blood relative, nothing is off bounds with those family members.
You said something interesting about talking to Adam about Christy. Do you like to do that with your characters, talk them out with the director? Or is that the case of you’ve known Adam, and so there’s that comfort level? PB: That’s such a good question. I love working with all kinds of directors and really love to kind of adapt to what their process is too. But I think what’s really special about Slasher and about Adam as a director is that he’s taking on something that really is Herculean. His relationship with Ian and what they bring in leading that set is really special.
We are block shooting all eight episodes out of order for many months. So we do have the advantage of coming in with all the scripts prepared and arching that together. And I know Adam, we just love every character so much and have a full life for them. So I know that he spoke to everybody really, about different references I think. And that is the joy of the show. It really is. It feels like we’re building it all together.
And then add to that, the chemistry of the cast that doesn’t get to meetâ€”unless we’ve known each other previously, we don’t get to meet before we start shooting. So a lot sort of evolves on the floor as well. And especially in some of those bigger group scenes, which you’ll see a lot more of in this season until people start dying. We are all sort of together a lot and absorbing a lot of the madness together. And I think Adam is so great at seeing what chemistry pops up on the day and really running with that.
I’ve really enjoyed the big, family meeting scenes. As an actor, do you like that too, the bigger the group, the more people to play with in one spot? PB: I love it. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I feel like I should be more jaded or something, but I do really enjoy it all. I do. I really relish in some of our quieter, two-hander moments myself and Breton [Lalama], myself and Chris Jacot got to do some stuff in the first couple of episodes together that was on the sort of more intimate side. And I love acting opposite those two actors and opposite our entire cast.
And then something like a big dinner scene, where we’re all sparring, and David Cronenberg is at the centre. Those are so exciting to me. And I think it does feel like theatre. I find those really long scenes, where the pace is quicker, and we’re jumping on top of each other, I find it really thrilling. I like it when I feel a little nervous and have butterflies for the scenes that we’re doing, which I think happens a lot on our show, because we are doing scenes that are pitched very high, and the stakes are very high. So that’s kind of the thrill of it as well.
With this cast of familiar faces, if I start crossing faces off the list, and I haven’t seen a particular face yet, am I on the right track as to who’s behind that mask? Or do you think I’m going to be surprised? PB: I see what you’re saying there. Very tricky way of wording it there, Greg. I will say, that I was very surprised.
I scare easily, but I tend to be inherently suspicious, so I love a whodunit. Every season, you have a cast of characters that are all so, so rich. I would watch shows about all these characters, honestly, on their own. So we have all these people in one room now, all these characters that have very full lives, that all have a lot of secrets. And I think once those secrets come undone, you’ll see that it really could be anyone behind that mask. And also, you can’t really predict what these characters are going to do to each other. And I think that’s actually possibly even more terrifying, honestly.
Slasher: Flesh & Blood airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Hollywood Suite.
Featured image courtesy of Salvatore Antonio. Series images courtesy of Cole Burston.