Tag Archives: The Stanley Dynamic

Hudson & Rex showrunner Ken Cuperus: “I read it, and I actually turned it down”

I’ve been writing about Canadian television for years and thought I’d heard every story possible both on and off the record. But Ken Cuperus shocked me when we spoke about Hudson & Rex.

He initially turned it down.

“When I came into the show, it was kind of a grim and grey kind of procedural,” Cuperus said recently. “And I read it, and I actually turned it down. I said, ‘I feel like the material is too dark.’ I’m more of a comedy guy. I’m more of a heart guy. I feel like a show with a dog, you’ve got to have fun with it.” Executive producer Christina Jennings agreed with his assessment and told him to make the series he wanted.

In Monday’s new episode, “Fearless Freaks,” written by Cuperus and directed by Felipe Rodriguez, Charlie (John Reardon) and Rex (Diesel vom Burgimwald) unravel a conspiracy surrounding the death of a thrill-seeking daredevil.

We spoke to Cuperus about developing the series, the writing room and being allergic to his canine co-star.

How’s production been going? 
Ken Cuperus: It’s been really great. We’ve had some challenges throughout because we’re trying to do more of a spring and fall show. But we’re in Newfoundland for the winter, so it’s been a little tricky with the weather there, and getting rid of snow and all that stuff. So that’s kind of an added challenge, but other than that, it’s been great.

How did the show all come about in the first place?
KC: I actually came onto the show pretty late in the process considering. I believe that Shaftesbury has had these rights for this show for at least a decade. They’ve been trying for the last 10 years to get somebody to bite on it, so to speak. I think they were really close about five years ago, and that didn’t quite work out. Christina Jennings just really strongly believed in it, held onto it. And finally, they called me in about a year and a half ago and said, ‘Listen, we have this show. We really, really think it can work. We want to do a lighter touch.’

When I came into the show, it was kind of a grim and grey kind of procedural. And I read it, and I actually turned it down. I said, ‘I feel like the material is too dark.’ I’m more of a comedy guy. I’m more of a heart guy. I feel like a show with a dog, you’ve got to have fun with it. It’s a cop who has a dog for a partner. There’s an inherent lightness to that concept that I didn’t think was being utilized. So I said, ‘No, thanks.’

When Christina found out the reasons why I turned it down, she called me directly and said, ‘Listen, that’s the take we want. We want to see what you can do with that.’ And I couldn’t turn that down. I probably took it too far at first in more of a comedic like direction, and so we just kind of wrangled it into a shape that more strongly resembled what would be ultimately a Citytv show.

You didn’t want this to be Cujo.
KC: Yeah, exactly. But it was True Detective. The tone was just wrong. It wasn’t an 8 p.m show, which is what a dog and a cop show really could be. We got there, I think.

I like the tone of how serious things were. You jumped right in with the action with this kid being kidnapped. You get an idea of this is a serious show, but it’s going to have light moments as well.
KC: Yeah, that was the idea, the stakes have to be real or the concept is also not going to work. It was a balancing act.

Do you find that difficult?
KC: Not really. I’ve done a lot of procedural and if the stakes aren’t high, even in a lighter procedural, you’re just not going to engage the audience. The stakes have to be high. The stories have to be a little twisty. There have to be surprises. Then you layer everything else into that. You layer in the lightness. You layer in the heart and the comedy on top of that.

I know you are largely from children’s programming, from Mr. Young and The Stanley Dynamic. Do you feel as though working in the children’s genre has changed the way that you write?
KC: Well, I actually started in preschool. I think preschool writing is the hardest writing, and it trained me to take on those challenges in a way that made everything else I’ve done much easier, strangely. You’d think it would be the other way, but it is a very difficult genre. I get bored easily, so I’ve never wanted to just do one thing. I love going back and forth. I love going from an animated half hour to a laugh track, a multi-camera comedy, to a high stakes procedural. I love bouncing around like that. That’s something that only Canadian writers really get to do.

How many folks did you have in the writer’s room with you?
KC: We were a very small staff because we started with a smaller order of eight episodes. We did a couple of scripts before we were picked up. When our show was picked up, we already had two scripts. We only needed six more, so we started with a staff of four writers. And by the time it came time to move production and get it down to Newfoundland, there were only two writers. What happened was they added a back eight and we had to, basically, build the writing staff from scratch again. It was kind of like doing Season 1 and Season 2 at the same time and overlapping. It was quite a challenge, but it was a thrill to get more episodes.

Who did you have in the writer’s room?
KC: When we started, it was myself and Avrum Jacobson. We had Jessie Gabe and a writer named Celeste Parr, who is terrific. We had a writer named Kate Melville who only stayed with us a short time. She moved on quickly because she got a Netflix series. We were excited for her. And then [Murdoch Mysteries‘] Simon [McNabb] and Paul (Aitken] had come into the development room and done a script as well. We couldn’t keep them because Murdoch keeps coming back and stealing all the writers.

What about the experience filming in Newfoundland? It’s a beautiful part of the world. How has it been for you logistically and everything? You already talked about the weather a little bit. What’s it been like working with the crew?
KC: Oh my god, the crew is an A-plus crew there. They only have really one crew. You have to stagger your production with anything else that’s going on there. But man, you couldn’t ask for a better, stronger crew. You can throw anything at them. They’re so hardened from the difficult shooting conditions and the weather. Nothing phases these guys. I’ve worked with a lot of Toronto crews, and with no disrespect to them, they don’t hold a candle to how efficient the crew in St. John’s is, for a lot of specific reasons that are related to the environment.

Are you a dog person, a cat person? 
KC: I’m actually allergic to animals. I’ve found this show is great because when we’re outside, the dogs don’t bother me or anything like that. I have a quite mild allergy to dogs. If this was a cat show, I probably would have had to turn it down. Because of my allergies, I never thought in a million years I’d work on a dog show. I was a little bit fearful of it. I discovered that it didn’t bother me at all because the studio is so big that it’s not like you’re contained in a box with all that dog hair or anything. We keep it clean, and I’ve never had one single problem. I feel like up until now, I’ve wasted a lot of opportunities to work with animals because of it. And now, I think moving forward I won’t have that fear. So it’s actually been great for me.

What’s it been like working with this canine co-star?
KC: I think we were incredibly lucky with Diesel. He was a very young dog, so he was being trained specifically for our needs about a year in advance because we were already preparing for our pilot. I feel like he was very specific to us. He is just such a spectacular dog. I can’t believe the number of things he wants to do. He’s excited every day to come to set.

I can’t prove this because I don’t speak dog. But I could swear he gets jealous when we bring in the other dogs to do the distance work or the stunts. I think he’s got a look in his eye like, ‘Why are you bringing in that other dog?’ He’s been a joy. I can’t believe it. I honestly think we were just very lucky in that regard because like they say, it’s very difficult to work with dogs. If they don’t cooperate, your whole day is shot. We didn’t lose one hour to a dog misbehaving this entire shoot.

Hudson & Rex airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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Spiral, Anne, Letterkenny and Cardinal top 22nd Annual WGC Screenwriting Awards

Writers for Spiral, Anne, Letterkenny and Cardinal were among the winners at the 22nd Annual Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Awards in Toronto on Monday night.

The event, held at the Telus Centre for Performance and Learning’s Koerner Hall, celebrated the country’s screenwriting talent in television, web series and film. Spiral writer Karen McClellan (pictured above) won in the Shorts & Webseries category for her script “The Girl in the Dream.”

“Writers don’t get here on their own,” McClellan said. “I want to say a special shout-out to some writers who have taken a chance on me in the past: Susin Nielsen, Shelley Eriksen, Bruce Smith and a dear friend who is not here tonight but always in my heart, Denis McGrath.”

Letterkenny‘s Jared Keeso and Jacob Tierney won the TV Comedy category for their Season 2 script, “Relationships,” while Cardinal‘s Aubrey Nealon took home the TV Drama trophy for the Season 1 episode, “John Cardinal.”

Gavin Crawford, comedian, writer and host of CBC Radio’s Because News hosted, starting the night off with a surprise appearance by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne a.k.a. Crawford. As Wynne, Crawford extolled the virtues of Canadian television and film writers while taking a jab at recent adaptations of Anne of Green Gables and Alias Grace.

“I’m particularly excited about Kale & Prune, a six-hour CBC miniseries adapted from a Margaret Atwood’s Whole Foods receipt,” he joked.

Alison Lea Bingeman, Marsha Greene, Rachel Langer, Joseph Kay, Cynthia Knight, Adriana Maggs, Elize Morgan, Jiro Okada and Sugith Varughese presented the night’s categories.

Mark Ellis was the recipient of The Denis McGrath Award for his service to the Writers Guild of Canada, Michael MacLennan was given The WGC Showrunner Award, Sarah Dodd the Sondra Kelly Award and Sherry White the Alex Barris Mentorship Award. WGC president Jill Golick, whose term has ended after eight years, had the final say of the night with an impassioned plea to the group’s members.

“Stories are the best way to change hearts and minds,” Golick said. “Keep writing my friends. Keep finding ways to bring truth to light. ”

The category winners are:

Shorts & Webseries
Spiral, Episode 101 “The Girl in the Dream,” written by Karen McClellan

Children’s
Mysticons, Season 1 “Sisters in Arms,” written by Sean Jara

Movie of the Week & Miniseries
Alias Grace, written by Sarah Polley

Best Script from Season 1
Anne, Season 1 “I Am No Bird, And No Net Ensnares Me,” written by Moira Walley-Beckett

TV Comedy
Letterkenny, Season 2 “Relationships,” written by Jared Keeso and Jacob Tierney

TV Drama
Cardinal, Season 1 “John Cardinal,” written by Aubrey Nealon

Tweens & Teens
The Stanley Dynamic, Season 2 “The Stanley Cheer,” written by Matt Kippen

Feature Film
Entanglement, written by Jason Filiatrault

Documentary
The Hundred-Year-Old Whale, written by Mark Leiren-Young

 

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Link: Kids’ TV alums set up new Canadian production company

From Joanna Padovano Tong of WorldScreen:

Link: Kids’ TV alums set up new Canadian production company
Michelle Melanson, former president of Radical Sheep Productions, has established a new full-service development and production outfit in Toronto called Headspinner Productions with Ken Cuperus (The Stanley Dynamic). Continue reading.

 

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Link: An animated chat with Ken Cuperus, creator of YTV’s The Stanley Dynamic

From Robert Ballantyne of Pop Journalism:

Link: An animated chat with Ken Cuperus, creator of YTV’s The Stanley Dynamic
“But the advice I would give is to just keep writing, and just keep making relationships with other writers, producers, directors, anybody working in the business. It is not easy to get that first contract — it took me several years of trying — but perseverance pays off. It’s a marathon, not a 100-meter dash.” Continue reading.

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TV Eh B Cs podcast 60 — The Hewlett Dynamic

Kate Hewlett is a Toronto born writer and actor.

In addition to playing lead on The Stanley Dynamic, Kate has played a variety of recurring roles, including Sarah on The Girlfriend Experience, Mrs. Matlin on Degrassi, Paramedic Nicole on Remedy, Jeannie Miller on Stargate: Atlantis and Andrea on The L.A. Complex. Kate also played the title role in the pilot Fancy (nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award).

Kate is the co-executive producer and writer of the hit drama series Backstage.

Kate is an accomplished screenwriter and playwright. Her stage play, The Swearing Jar, was nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award, and her film adaptation won first runner up at the Harold Greenberg Screenplay Competition in 2016. Kate wrote and acted in the acclaimed BravoFACT She Said Lenny, which received the Worldwide Short Film Festival’s screenplay award and a spot on Bravo’s Top Ten Short Films. TV writing credits include The L.A. Complex, Seed, InSecurity and Turning Point. As a playwright, Kate’s credits include: The Swearing Jar, Humans Anonymous (Bridge Theatre New York), Malus Domestica (Sound Plays, Soulpepper Theatre), Use My Babies Well and Without (TAC grant). In 2017, she will be adapting the beloved children’s book What Katy Did into a musical for Carousel Players.

She is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada, Queen’s University (BA), the Tarragon Playwrights’ Unit and the Canadian Film Centre’s Prime Time Television Programme. Kate lives in Toronto with a dog, two cats and an American.

The Stanley Dynamic returns Monday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m. ET/PT on YTV.

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