The verdict is in! Today, Global announced that Season 3 of hit Canadian legal drama Family Law has been greenlit for an all-new 10-episode season. Produced by SEVEN24 Films and Lark Productions, and created by Canadian award-winning author Susin Nielsen, Season 3 is set to begin filming in Vancouver on May 24. The principal cast including Jewel Staite, Victor Garber, Zach Smadu, Genelle Williams and Lauren Holly all return for the new season. This renewal comes ahead of the show’s Season 2 premiere, which will be announced at a later date.
Family Law is a witty, heartfelt look at the trials and tribulations of an imperfect family. The one-hour legal drama follows Abigail ‘Abby’ Bianchi (Jewel Staite) as she navigates her new life with her family including Abby’s father Harry Svensson (Victor Garber), her half-brother Daniel Svensson (Zach Smadu), and half-sister Lucy Svensson (Genelle Williams). Season 3 will follow Abby and her dysfunctional family as they help other dysfunctional families – all while navigating their own personal dramas. Guest stars for the new season will be announced soon.
Lauded as “the unexpected drama worth bingeing right now,” viewers can catch up on Season 1 of Family Law with STACKTV and the Global TV App.
Family Law is produced by SEVEN24 Films (Heartland, JANN) and Lark Productions (Motive, Fortunate Son). It was created by Susin Nielsen (Robson Arms, Cedar Cove), who also serves as executive producer and showrunner. The series is executive produced by Jordy Randall, Tom Cox, Erin Haskett and Andy Mikita. This season’s writers include Sarah Dodd, Ken Craw, Sonja Bennett, Corey Liu and Jordan Hall, and directors include Andy Mikita, Jordan Canning, David Frazee and Alysse Leite-Rogers.
The folks at Family Law are in a pretty sweet position. With Episode 7 set to air this Friday at 9 p.m. ET on Global, a second season has already been filmed and in the can; we’re just waiting to find out when they’ll be broadcast. Having a second season already completed is rare in television and led to some nerves for Jewel Staite.
Staite—who has starred on Canadian projects like The Detectives, Motive and Stargate: Atlantis and U.S. projects like Blindspot, The Magicians, The Killing, Wonderfalls and, of course, Firefly—was nervous about how viewers would take to the show and her character, Abby.
When we first meet Abby, she is at her lowest point. A recovering alcoholic, Abby has moved out of her family’s house and moved back in with her mother. As a condition of her probation to return to her legal duties, Abby works at the firm owned by her estranged father, Harry (Victor Garber), alongside half-brother Daniel (Zach Smadu) and half-sister Lucy (Genelle Williams), leading to plenty of drama and laughs.
We spoke to Jewel Staite about filming Family Law and crafting a complicated character like Abby.
We’re getting near the end of Season 1 of Family Law, and a second season has already been shot and in the can. That’s a pretty unique position to be in. How does it feel? Jewel Staite: It’s pretty amazing. It shows that the network has a lot of faith in the show and is very behind it. We have felt supported, and the writers have felt supported by them and it’s great. Now, obviously, because it’s now on the air, things are a little bit more real. [Laughs.] We are open to public opinion now and it’s not just a show that we made in secret for us. Now, all we really want is a Season 3.
Are comedic performances in your background? From the eye rolls to physical comedy, your performance is a joy to watch. JS: Thanks, I appreciate that. I don’t get to do a ton of comedy, so when I do I like to have a lot of fun with it. Luckily, the people around me on the show, including [creator] Susin Nielsen, really like the idea of going for the humour in scenes.
In the audition process, I tried to stand out by making it funny and making Abby a little quirky in how she was written. I’m grateful that they appreciated that and agreed with me that that was the route to go with her. Some of her behaviour is a little unlikable, and I thought, ‘How can I make this person more acceptable to the audience in her actions and the things that she says?’
Making a lead character tough to cheer for is a tall order. JS: Exactly. I think, in the beginning, I was concerned that she wouldn’t be likable. I remember having this conversation with my husband where I said, ‘I just hope people like her.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, but if you go that route, you’re never going to approach it with honesty.’ I thought, ‘That’s completely right.’ It shouldn’t matter, and I should stick to making her as honest as possible, even if it means that, sometimes, she’s unlikeable and her behaviour is a little ugly.
Comedic moments aside, Family Law doesn’t shy away from tough conversations and scenes. When we meet Abby, her daughter, Sofia, is so embarrassed by her mother’s behaviour, and the larger themes of the show are dysfunctional relationships. JS: Yeah, it is. And it’s real. It’s an entertaining show in that there are a lot of fun, shocking moments and some laughs, but the reality is these people are going through hard times, especially Abby. It’s a heartbreaking time for her; she misses her kids a lot, she has screwed up her life and sometimes feels like she’s never going to get it back on track. She is so desperate to get her family back. There are a lot of sad moments.
And then the cases that we deal with are really sad. There is a lot of tough subject matter in these episodes, but it’s a great juxtaposition. The goal was to make the audience laugh and cry in every episode. [Laughs.] It’s beautifully written and tugs at the heartstrings.
The dialogue and conversations these characters have are very believable. Susin Nielsen chalked a lot of that up to the relationship between the writers and the cast. JS: As an actor, it’s so much easier to prepare and to remember the lines when it feels naturally conversational. Our writers are very gifted in that respect because we’re not improv-ing any of that stuff; everything is on the page and it flows beautifully. The characters surprise you with the things that they do and the things that they say but, at the same time, the way the characters are written and fleshed out, you feel like you are getting to know them very quickly.
The chemistry on this show was there from the very beginning. I don’t know if that was because the casting director [Maureen Webb] is amazing—because she is—or if it was just luck because we all just get each other. We’re on the same page and we have the same work ethic. We don’t rehearse a ton—we move very fast when we are shooting this show—and it keeps us on our toes and the day interesting. My favourite scenes are with the family because it feels so natural.
Family Law airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Global.
The old adage “write what you know,” certainly applies to Susin Nielsen’s latest creation, Family Law. She admits that she didn’t know anything about the law, but knew plenty about family. In fact, what happens to her lead character happened to Nielsen.
Debuting Friday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Global (with a special preview of the premiere episode on Thursday at 10 p.m. ET/PT), Family Law stars Jewel Staite as Vancouver lawyer—and recovering alcoholic—”Abigail “Abby” Bianchi. As a condition of her probation to return to her legal duties, Abby must work at the firm owned by her estranged father, Harry (Victor Garber), alongside her half-brother Daniel (Zach Smadu) and half-sister Lucy (Genelle Williams). Throw in Abby’s husband Frank (Luke Camilleri), mother Joanne (Lauren Holly), daughter Sofia (Eden Summer Gilmore) and son Nico (Brenden Sunderland), and there is plenty to mine for drama and laughs.
With legal dramas a popular genre, what truly sets Family Law apart is sharp writing and stunning performances by the cast, led by Staite.
We spoke to Susin Nielsen about about the road to making Family Law, which has already shot its second season.
How did Family Law come to be? Susin Nielsen: I actually first came up with this idea about a decade ago, and brought it to SEVEN24 — they’ve always been my partners with it — and we got it into development at another network, but they didn’t move forward with it. And then flash forward I guess about, five years and Jordy Randall at SEVEN24 called and he said, ‘We’ve never stopped thinking about Family Law and we see another opportunity to pitch it.’
So I went to [the] Banff [World Media Festival] and I pitched it to Susan Alexander and Rachel Nelson at Corus in 2018, and I think it was a lot of serendipity, it was right time, right place. I think I had made the idea stronger and better as well, and they put us into development and then they gave us more development, and then eventually they green-lit us.
In terms of the creative origins, when I first came up with the idea, there was a part of me that was trying to be shrewd. I’m not usually very shrewd when it comes to my writing, but it seemed like what was selling were procedurals, and I knew that for me and my sensibilities, I was probably never going to do a cop show. A hospital show just felt so out of my area of expertise. And certainly, I also really know nothing about law, but I knew a lot about family. I know a lot about family function and dysfunction, and my own family background somewhat mirrors Abby’s in that I didn’t meet my father until I was a teenager. At which point, I also met my half-brother and my half-sister.
I think that’s kind of always informed, probably, a lot of my writing. It just felt like a premise that I got really excited about. What if there was this woman who had been estranged from her father for all of these years, carried a huge chip on her shoulder, is almost disbarred because of her alcoholism and the only lawyer in town who will take her on is her dad? What I really loved about it was that I could explore family on three levels. I could explore the cases. I could explore Abby having to work with these people who she’s really just getting to know, and at the same time she’s trying to salvage her marriage and her relationship with her children.
The cast that you’ve got is incredible. Victor Garber, Jewel Staite, Zach Smadu, Genelle Williams, Lauren Holly. You must be pinching yourself every day that you got to work with these folks. SN: Thank you for bringing all of them up. I do pinch myself. What’s interesting is that not only are they obviously exceptional actors, they’re also incredibly lovely people and Jewel really sets the tone on set for all of our actors coming in. They all hang out all the time during the season, like every single weekend they were doing things together, doing dinners, it was hilarious. They don’t have to do that, they could just say, nice to see you, see you on Monday.
What was so interesting about Jewel was that she could just elevate whatever was in a scene. She could take a comedic scene and just — with a look — make it that much funnier. And a heartfelt scene, again, just with a look, and make you tear up even more. The three siblings, they got their rhythm together so fast and the looks that passed between Abby and Daniel all the time, they all just add all sorts of layers that are obviously not there on the page.
And then Victor. I, in a million years, never ever thought we’d get Victor Garber. Like he was like my dream Harry, but I just thought, ‘Well, that’s fantasy, but you’re never going to get Victor Garber.’ And it’s just been such a pleasure working with him, he’s just a consummate professional. I think he’s had two questions for me about script. He just comes in and he delivers.
Let’s switch over to the writer’s room. In addition to you, we’ve got Corey Liu, Damon Vignale, Sarah Dodd, Ken Craw and Sonja Bennett. What’s your writing process with the team? SN: I knew I wanted, if I could, a 100 per cent a Vancouver-based room because we have a lot of really talented writers here. Everybody in that room had a story of their own, and certainly when we were developing Season 1, there was no such thing as a worldwide pandemic yet, so we were able to do all of it in person.
We would meet at Lark Productions, which is our producer here on the ground in Vancouver. We would just meet in this big, open boardroom and start hammering out ideas. First, we would talk about character arcs for the season and I had initial documents with things that I had been thinking about and case ideas that I had had since 2011, and the writers brought their own ideas to the room. Then we just started talking about case ideas and what excited us, and how could a case relate back to the family?
What do you look for in a writer? SN: You’re looking for a group that are going to compliment each other for sure, and different people bringing different strengths to the table. The one commonality I was looking for were people who could write believable, compelling dialogue, people who could do both drama and comedy, comedy coming out of character. I felt very blessed to get Sarah Dodd because Sarah has, frankly, a lot more experience than I do, particularly with procedural. She’s done a lot of procedural. So it was fabulous to have her there just to make sure that we were structurally sound as well. Sarah is all those other things as well, but she brought oodles of procedural experience.
Sonja Bennett is so funny and she can make it look effortless with her lightness of touch with her dialogue; her dialogue’s fabulous. And then Cory Liu … I have a real soft spot for Corey. Seeing him grow over the last two seasons has just been exceptional. He is so talented and he will rule the world one day, I am sure. It’s been such a pleasure to watch him grow into his own confidence, because I don’t think he understood just quite how talented he was.
Family Law airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Global.