tV: You're moving into the second season of the show. Tell us a little about season one.
DA: Season one was a journey. Every first season of every show you're going to be confronted with hurdles. We had our fair share but I'll be honest with you, we handled them very well due to the professionalism of the cast, crew, producing team, writing team, etc. Everyone did the best they could. Evidently CBC is happy with the content they ended up receiving and here we are ready for season two.
tV: This is a show that tackles some pretty contemporary and prominent issues such as mental health. Can you talk a little about that?
DS: I'm noticing there's a lot of attention being paid to first responders, police officers and other emergency professionals, and their issues and Post-traumatic stress. It's great to play a character who is in that role and has those issues. I think it's great for the show to be tackling the issue of mental illness directly with people in the streets, in society, who have mental illness, and dealing with it in an honest way, as honest as we can in the format of televison. I'm proud to be a part of that conversation and proud of the show that's facilitating that conversation.
tV: What have been some of the biggest challenges in taking on these characters?
DA: I think with the array of different illnesses that we dealt with in season one there has been some personal growth for us all. Like David was saying, the stories have opened up the doors: we're humanizing the whole mental illness topic and making people feel like it's okay to actually talk about this because it's more relevant than people are willing to acknowledge. We all have a friend, a familt member, a co-worker or somebody within our immediate circle who's dealing with some form of mental illness yet when the topic is brought up everybody wants to sit back in their chair and be very shy and docile about actually speaking about the topic. Like David said, I'm proud to be a part of a show that is bringing it to the forefront and shining a big light on it an dhumanizing such a relevant topic. We all deal with it and it's something that needs to be discussed.
BN: Also, what Cracked has done is it's painted a broader picture of the idea of good guy/bad guy, and criminal/victim. I think the lines get blurred because life is more complicated than that and sometimes people can have good intensions but the way they go about something can be distructive or unintensially hurtful to other people. I think that with each episode you're going to see a great arc of a high-stakes crime drama but you're also going to see the lines blurred in terms of the reverberations of a crime when somebody is dealing with mental health, and how that affects people in many different ways.
tV: Have you been surprised by any of the material?
DS: I think we're all going through a process of being educated about some of the stuff because the scripts have to explore mental illness in a very specific way. She (indicates Niven) is a psychiatrist that the unit is dealing with so we're classifying these illnesses in a very particular way and seeing how they manifest themselves. I think they [CBC] are doing their best to be responsible and not sensationalize and not use these as devices to tell stories.
We talk to police officers or mental health professionals about how prevelent and common these illnesses are and then you start to walk around the streets of Toronto with that awareness and you realize there are a lot of people dealing with this on the streets. You start to think about what's going on with them, how they got there, and how they ever manage to get help. Many are not just homeless people who are in a bad spot, they have real mental health issues. How do they overcome it? How do we deal with that as a society? Are we really willing to look at that? All these things become part of the converstation and they're difficult things to talk about.
For me, it makes me feel sad. To go back to your question about Aidan (Sutcliffe's character), when I watch the first season I see that Aidan seems very sad. That surprised me. I wasn't intending to make him a sad character but I think that that is him carrying the weight of his personal issues but also everything he sees day in and day out. I know this from talking to cops: it weighs on you and is a heavy burden to bear.
BN: The writers are actively writing for the second season right now so they do have the season planned out and the arcs for he characters and we just received a draft for script one.
tV: And when do you go to camera?
BN: Three weeks.
tV: That's not a lot of time.
DS: Usually you get the script and start shooting the next day. The writers are generally one day ahead of you.
BN: Sometimes you get a re-write for a scene.
DS: Yes. You sometimes get a re-write for a scene the night before. There's no time to look at future scripts. I'm trying to learn my lines for tomorrow. You're kind of picking it up as you go which is great because you can't over-think it. I do occassionally look back and think, “what was I thinking there?” but you have to rely on the directors and writers to help you if you get a little bit lost. Once that machine is going, you're just going.
tV: How do you keep in character when you are getting things so late?
DS: You're in it. It's like life. You don't know where it's coming from or what's coming next. In a way that's kind of exciting. That's one of the reasons I like TV: because you have to surrender to the unknown. It's not like a movie where you know you can plot out every moment and control it and your performance. With this you don't know where it is going and you don't know what the other people are going to do in a scene. You can read it and think they're going to do this and that but then they show up and they do something different and you have to react to that.
tV: Are you able to ad-lib at all?
BN: In television it's more about choices on how to play something. There are many different ways a scene can come to life based on an actor's choices. What I'm excited about this season is the research involved because I've got to sound like I know what I'm talking about. Going beyond what's on the page and having a deeper understanding of some of the ailments or mental states or afflictions I'll be talking about.
tV: What do you like most about your characters?
DS: For me I think a lot of it is going to come off the dynamic that exists between Brooke and me, which we're both starting to feel into: our own natural chemistry, that naural dynamic as individuals but then also as the characters are written. I'm looking forward to being affected by her and the things that she does and surrendering to that.
BN: I think we're a good match because I like it when my co-stars choose to surrender. I think we're starting off on a really good footing here (laughs).
DS: He's a year into this so I also think that Aidan is more appreciative of the psychiatrists and what they have to bring, than what he was when he first started out in the unit. I think he's open to then and he's listening. He's more part of the unit than in the first season. He sees their value, he likes the unit and so I think that's going to be a shift for Aidan.
DA: I think that as far as Leo (Ade's character) is concerned I think that in the first season he was used more in a physical aspect which is counter-productive to how Leo wants to be perceived. He sees himself as a healer and wants to be a healer: that's why he took on this profession. I think that going into season two he might run into a couple of hurdles or conflicts where he might have to choose which traits and skills to use. There's going to be a bit of a struggle and I think that our characters will be confronted with who they are, who they're perceived to be, and who they want to be. It's going to be very interesting TV going into season two, very well-put-together and compact, and very nicely-knitted stories that are going to keep you on the edge of your seat.
tV: Can you tell us a little about the new and returning shows?
SC: In terms of what's new that I'm excited about is the adaptation of Terry Fallis' wonderful book, Best Laid Plan, which will be a six hour mini-series and it's written by two really talented writers Jason Sherman and Susan Coyne and that's a commentary on politics but it's certainly a comedic drama set in the political world of Ottawa. We have our ongoing series but our event programming will often reflect our culture in different ways. I think literary adaptations are really important to us so to take a book that has been that acclaimed and known to Canadians and do an adaptation of it always excites me.
We have another movie premiering that is also an adaptation, Still Life, which is based on Louise Penny's novel of the same name. It is a mystery set in Quebec and I don't want to say too much about it because I want people to watch it.
In terms of our new programming it really is more of the movies and mini-series. Our series are returning series with the exception of one foreign acquisition called, Crossing Lines, which is also going to be spectacular.
tV: I have a question about what you generally look for as far as content. You have a new, successful series called, Cracked that deals with mental health issues, a topic which is prominent in the media these days. Do you often go for content that reflects current issues?
SC: When it makes sense we do. Every project is so different. We look at them and say, “do we think this is something that is different from what our competitors would be doing?” With our scripted programming our primary goal is to entertain but also enlighten.
What I love about Cracked is it's not an easy challenge to take on because it really is a procedural but it does delve into those issues that I don't think we have seen explored in any kind of depth, certainly in scripted programming in Canada, so that was appealing to us. The show is incredibly well researched and we have experts working with us in the the field of mental health. We strive to show the multifaceted aspects of mental illness and what I love is the fact that Aidan Black, played by the wonderful David Sutcliffe, is a character who has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and speaks to the fact that we're all “cracked” a little: that in all of us we have issues we grapple with, and so mental illness shouldn't always be seen as something that happens to other people. We want to make people understand and make it a little more relatable and I like that about this show.
tV: Who are some of your favourite writers and what inspires you in writing?
SC: (laughs) Oh, what an exciting question. I never get asked that. Well I especially love authenticity of voice. I love it when writers bring a character to the screen that feels like they are familiar to us and yet absolutely new to us. A character who we feel very comfortable and at ease with yet is still really fresh, like Allan Hawco's character, Jake Doyle (Republic of Doyle).
What I love, especially with a lot of our CBC programming, is when writers bring a balance of comedy and drama. I think that with some of the most dramatic moments leading into the most comedic moments, they give you that catharsis but don't allow you to think too deep. They bring you back up with the lightness of the comedy but allow you to go to places that you might not want to stay in for an hour, but do want to explore. They make you feel something in that range of emotion and I think great writers on great shows bring both those elements out.
tV: Can you talk a little about Crossing Lines?
SC: Yes. That's a little different from our Canadian dramas at this point. We've had huge cuts in our financing and we want to make sure we have a really strong schedule so we usually make room for one foreign acquisition a year. Last year we did The Titanic. Financially we literally would not be able to afford to do another original drama series, though we want another original drama series on the air, and an acquisition for us is financially better.
Crossing Lines is phenomenal. I saw it and met with the producer and some of the talent when I was at NetCom and our programming department had recommended it. It is something that didn't originate in Canada but really feels to us that it's a great CBC show and it speaks to Canadian audiences. It's about an international crime team. It's not an American show on the CBC: that's not how we see it. We see it as very global in its reach and it stars the amazing Donald Sutherland, who is such a prominent Canadian actor.
tV: There seem to be a number of filmmakers who are hesitant to make their films too Canadian. How Canadian do you consciously make the shows?
SC: Yah, and what is Canadian? I think it might be different for every broadcaster but for us I think that what you would see if you dissected our shows is an incredible sense of location character. For example in The Republic of Doyle, St. Johns (Newfoundland) is really a character and is showcased as such. In Heartland it's Alberta, with Arctic Air it's the Northwest Territories. They really are showcasing these locations that are very much integrated into story-lines and are truly part of character. For us, we're not out there waving a maple leaf and pouring maple syrup on everything (laughs), but we tell stories about Canadians and showcase the lives of people across the country. That's what I love about it.
tV: Those are my questions.
SC: Oh, you're lovely. Thank you, and you asked me about writers!
tV: Can you tell us a little about the concept of your new show, Four Rooms?
JP: There are four buyers of art, memorabilia, and artifacts and have money to spend. These buyers sit in four separate rooms. The sellers come in and they are the Canadian public who have prized possessions that they'd like to sell for the best price. They take their possessions into the first room, have a negotiation and an offer is made. The catch is that they have to decide in that moment whether to take the offer the buyer has put on the table or say no to it. If they say no to it, they leave and the deal is off the table. It really is high-stakes gambling with these negotiations around these Canadian objects.
We're really excited about it because we think we're going to get some great objects that have some great stories behind them that tell a little about our history and who we are. We'll get some fun things I'm sure.
tV: Do the artifacts have to be specifically Canadian?
JP: No, they don't have to be specifically Canadian. I think we just want to make sure each thing has a story behind it but probably more likely to be Canadian. We were haveing a conversation about the show and someone in the room was saying that a relative of theirs had Engelbert Humperdinck's toilet in their garage (laughs). I'm sure that that's the sort of thing we will see coming through. There'll be some interesting stories and some fun stories and some that really tell a bit about our Canadian history. It's an amped-up Antiques Road Show.
tV: It sounds like it's a cross between a couple of different shows.
JP: Yes. And potentially greed plays a little into it because you have to ask yourself whether you could get more [money] for the object and if this is the best that you can get. We really think there'll be some story telling that will happen in the exchanges between the buyer and the seller as they negotiate. The seller will make the case for why this prize possession is worth what he or she is asking, and the buyer will be saying yay or nay.
I think that on top of that it provides value because lots of people have things that are sitting around in their basement and it's an appraisal for them also, from top end buyers in Canada.
tV: What happens to the artifacts after they are purchased? Is there any guarantee where they will go?
JP: Well it depends on who we will have as out buyers. Sometimes buyers buy for other people, sometimes they buy for a museum, sometimes they buy for themselves: there is a whole number of things that could happen with the artifacts after they're bought.
TV: And will the seller be aware of that in advance?
JP: I'm not sure if that will be part if it. Maybe that could be a question they could absolutely ask if it's an important thing to them. I think what's really great about it too is that for lots of people it will be that they found a thing at a garage sale, that possibly has value. I think we're going to have some good stories where there is an emotional attachment to the item. They may ask what they are going to do with the thing afterwards but it may just be that they don't want to part with the thing unless they hit them with the price they are asking. I think we'll get a whole range of responses.
We're happy because we have a big chunk of the team who produce Dragon's Den behind the scenes for us. They really know how to produce this type of high-stakes entertainment television. It's all going very well and they're casting for buyers ...
tV: That was going to be my next question: How you choose they buyers.
JP: We've been doing some research just to see who's out there. We want it to be authentic so we want it to be people who really have an interest in this world and and who play in this world. We've got casting going and will soon be making decisions about that. We're also starting to go across Canada to get some of the sellers. We'll be moving across Canada meeting up with people, seeing whatever objects they have.
tV: Will you have a set cast of buyers or will they rotate?
JP: We'll set our cast, similar to Dragon's Den, so you'll get to know their personalities. The seller decides which room they're going to go into first so as the buyers become more distinct characters you'll start to wonder why the seller chose buyer X first instead of another buyer. You'll start to get a sense of what their interests are and how they negotiate.
tV: Is there anything in particular you are hoping you'll see on the show?
JP: Great stories for sure and a range of stories. It really isn't going to be granny's old teapot unless there's something that's really spectacular about it: we want to shoot higher than that. Anything from art to Engelbert Humperdinck's toilet and everything in between.
tV: So it's going to have to be something connected to a good story.
JP: That's going to be critical. I think that through this show we will have the possibility to learn about our Canadian history. We'll want to know why you have Engelbert Humperdinck's toilet and how you got it (laughs). I think we will be looking for passion in the sellers as well: people who have this prize possession and feel quite strongly about its value.