Tag Archives: Canadian TV

Director Brett Morris showcases the drama in ‘The Real Housewives of Toronto’

Filmmaking started out as a hobby for a young Brett Morris. He was a child actor, and became exposed to movies in a different way than most other kids. The Toronto-native began making films with his sister, and it became his favorite past time. This same passion continues in his work today, and Morris is an in-demand director and producer.

Having worked on several large productions, Morris has taken the Canadian television industry by storm. Shows such as Big Brother Canada, Top Chef Canada, Hockey Wives, and So You Think You Can Dance Canada may not have achieved the success they did without him as the mastermind behind the scenes. He constantly aims to make the best product possible, and ensures all he works with do the same.

“I like to make the on-set experience an ‘idea meritocracy’ where the best idea wins.  Structuring your set this way makes for the experience to be enjoyable for everyone, and always delivers the best content. I don’t care if you’re responsible for catering, if you have an idea that will make our final product better, I’m all ears. You never know where the best idea will come from, and you have to be open and secure enough in role to listen,” he said.

Morris carried this mentality with him during his work on ten episodes of The Real Housewives of Toronto, a show that follows six of the city’s most privileged, powerful and glamorous women as they navigate the elite social scene of Canada’s largest city. This first season introduces Kara Alloway, Roxy Earle, Gregoriane (Grego) Minot, Ann Kaplan Mulholland, Joan Kelley Walker and Jana Webb. Toronto is their playground and they have the real estate, cars, and the diamonds to prove it. The show is part of the widely popular Real Housewives franchise, and when the opportunity came up for Morris to pioneer the Toronto series, he was all for it.

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Ann Kaplan and Brett Morris on the set of Real Housewives

“Working on The Real Housewives is really like working on a soap opera in the 21st century,” Morris described. “What I love about The Real Housewives is that everything is heightened.  Heightened reality television. The hair is bigger, the money is bigger, the personalities are bigger, the fights are bigger. It’s a show that seems so fabricated it has to be real, because the characters are always so magnificent.”

When the showrunner, Grant Greschuk, was looking for a director to make the Toronto version of Real Housewives a success, he reached out to producer Lara Shaw for a recommendation. Shaw instantly thought of Morris, as the two had worked together on Big Brother Canada. Once the two had a chance to talk, they instantly hit it off, and knew working together would be a triumph.

The role of director for Morris demanded a swift technical directorial eye, with a keen sense of how to arc the story to engage audiences. He led a field team of a director of photography, one assistant director, a camera operator, and a production assistant. Each one of them were extremely impressed with Morris’ directorial and leadership skills.

“Brett brought a level of camaraderie to our team that I haven’t experienced in my 14 years in the industry, and I can say I have never had such a good experience working on a show, as I did on the time spent working on Brett’s team. He had a way of raising team moral, bringing a level of levity and enjoyment to each shooting day, while working with the team to get results that brought constant positive feedback from the production management. Brett creates an extremely collaborative environment, instills confidence with his leadership and raises the confidence in his team members by constant feedback and encouragement. Brett is the kind of leader that makes you want to do your absolute best work for him. I would jump at any opportunity to work with Brett in the future as much and often as possible,” said Chris Sherry, the Director of Photography on Real Housewives of Toronto.

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Kara Alloway (Left), Ann Kaplan (Right) with Brett Morris on the set of Real Housewives

Each day, Morris and his crew would arrive two hours before the cast. They would spend this time figuring out how they would film each scene, and he says these were often his most creative hours of the day. Once the cast arrived, filming would begin. The ladies, Morris says, did not require any coaching on his part, as they were very professional, giving him more time to focus on making the best possible product.

As the director of the show, Morris’ first priority was storytelling. At the beginning of each day, he was given just the location and the cast members that would appear in the scenes. At any given time, each character had five different plots to follow, because they all have relationships with different characters. Those relationships would change on any given day and Morris always made sure to keep his head around the story despite such a challenge.

“The best part of working on The Real Housewives of Toronto was how we got to spend the summer. Sometimes in film and TV, the shooting locations and conditions aren’t the most glamorous. I’ve worked in freezing cold ice rinks, on dairy farms, dirty basements – not the most desirable of conditions.  The best part of Real Housewives was that we lived like the cast for three months. We dined at the best restaurants in the city, traveled on yachts, filmed on golf courses, even took the whole shooting crew to Barcelona for a week. The show definitely had its perks,” said Morris.

Morris is immensely proud of the work he did on the first season of The Real Housewives of Toronto. It was a small team, and with him as the leader the show championed as the number one show on the W Network where it premiered. He credits his previous work in reality television to help him bring a fresh perspective to the Real Housewives franchise. He always makes the cleanest and most efficient show he can; he aims to have the locations look as glamorous as possible; he makes sure to photograph the cast in flattering ways. Lastly, he beautifully showed his home city of “The 6” to the rest of the world.

“One of the best part of working in this industry is being able to talk with people who have seen your work. It’s the best ice-breaker to say, ‘I worked on The Real Housewives of Toronto’ because it instantaneously gets a reaction out of someone. They’ll always have an opinion about it, and always want to learn more. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to a big jock, or an actual housewife – everyone has seen the show and everyone wants to know what it’s really like behind the scenes…. of course, though, I’ll never tell,” Morris concluded.

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Canada’s Olivia Scriven talks ‘Degrassi’ and becoming Maya Matlin

Acting is more than just portraying a character. It is embodying another person and becoming someone else. It is about connecting to a part of you that may have always been there, or discovering a new aspect of yourself. Canadian actress Olivia Scriven understands the nuances to the craft. She knows what it is to transform on stage or in front of a camera, creating a sincere connection with her character that captivates audiences.

At twenty years old, Scriven has soared to the top of the Canadian film and television industry. Her portrayal of Patti in the HBO film The Yard six years ago introduced the world to the outstanding talent she is, and the role earned her a Young Artist Award nomination with the rest of the cast for Outstanding Young Ensemble in a TV series. Shortly after this, she played Bailey Martel in the Hallmark Christmas film Mistletoe Over Manhattan, where she secured yet another Young Artist Award nomination, this time singled out for Best Performance in a TV Movie, Miniseries or Special – Supporting Young Artist. At the time, she was only fourteen, but she understood exactly what it was to act.

“I think that when you are doing it, acting that is, that it is just part of who you become, or maybe who you always were. I think what resonates with me, with actors that I am drawn to, and in my own performances, is honesty. I strive to make a character real. Humans are so wonderfully complicated and layered and as an actress, I feel that my performances reflect that. I want to embody beauty and lightness and at the same time be able to draw on the darker, more troubled aspects of my nature, to create characters that are full and complex, and thus, real,” said Scriven.

After her tremendous success in The Yard and Mistletoe Over Manhattan, Scriven’s reputation made her one of Canada’s most sought-after young actresses, something that remains true to this day. It was only a matter of time before she was cast on the hit show Degrassi: The Next Generation. The Degrassi series is arguably one of the most successful Canadian television shows of all time, leading to the fame of artists such as Drake and Nina Dobrev, making it the goal for many young actors in the country.

Degrassi is iconic. It really has been, for a while, one of the only coming of age television shows that merges drama with comedy in a very real way, to talk about major social and psychological issues that go on within a high school, all while using real teenagers to portray the characters. because of this, I felt it was a very important project for a Canadian teen actor to be a part of,” she said.

Working on Degrassi: The Next Generation for four years, until it ended in 2015, Scriven’s character of Maya Matlin became a fan favorite. Yet again, her talent did not go unnoticed. She was nominated for multiple Young Artist Awards her role in Degrassi: The Next Generation in the Best Performance in a TV Series (Comedy or Drama) – Leading Young Actress for two consecutive years. Despite such success, the actress remains humble, crediting the writers for giving her a character with a lot of depth.

“It was an invaluable learning experience working on Degrassi. I am so appreciative of the opportunities the writers and directors gave me within the show. My character goes through so many changes, she has so many terrible experiences and so many wonderful happy ones, and I really got to challenge and demonstrate my range as an actor thanks to them,” she said. “I also got to work with some really inspiring directors. In my opinion, directors can really make or a break an actor’s performance, and I have been blessed to have made such a good connection with those who I worked with on this show. With directors like Bruce McDonald, Phil Earnshaw, and Eleanor Lindo, I was given the freedom and confidence to make both bold and subtle choices. I have the entire crew and cast mates to thank for things like award nominations and praise, and the knowledge that I have gained along the way.”

As Maya, Scriven says the role allowed her to explore different things that she had never done in any other role before. She had to break down in tears, sing and play guitar and cello, and kiss passionately on-screen. Such experiences allowed her to become a mature actress even at a young age, giving her the skills that many years older than her do not possess. It is one thing for an actress to portray their character, it is another thing for them to become it, and this is exactly what Scriven achieved.

“I worked many days on set, and the writing for Maya’s character was very undeviating, so as soon as the words were coming out of my mouth, I felt like Maya. She is this very, dedicated, emotional person, who cares so much about things to the point that it causes her anxiety, so there was this tune she had that I would always try to tap into. Physically, I feel like she always has this strained look of stress, an intensity even in her voice, which tends to pitch higher than mine does in real life. She is different from who I am and what my personality is like as a whole, but we do bear some similarities. I definitely brought a bit of myself into the role partly because as a young actor, it was the first time that I was required to portray such charged emotions, and it needed to come from someplace genuine in order for me to reach the desired performance,” Scriven described.

When Degrassi: The Next Generation came to an end, its popularity did not. The saga returned to Netflix and Canada’s Family Channel with a new series titled Degrassi: Next Class last year. Once again, Scriven stepped into Maya’s shoes, and continues to do so with new episodes. The fourth season hit Netflix earlier this month.

Her portrayal caught the eye of Philip Kalen-Hadju, a Canadian Screen Award nominated producer and writer. He has worked in various capacities since 1997 and has produced, line produced, and associate produced on features, TV, and award winning digital series for many Canadian and international companies, including Oxygen Media (NBCUniversal), Canal Evasion, Radio-Canada (CBC), and his most recently produced feature is getting its world premiere at the SXSW 2017 Film Festival. He worked with Scriven on the new series Skal. The show recently premiered on the new mobile platform Blackpills, which is currently working with stars such as James Franco, and filmmakers such as Luc Besson. Kalen-Hadju was impressed with the Degrassi actress’ abilities from the very beginning.

“In order for Skal to shine, we wanted to ensure that our series would have only top talent. We auditioned dozens of women for the role of Emma, but none held a candle to Olivia’s interpretation of the character. The second our executive producers saw her, the reaction was unanimous and fast: she was the only choice for the role. There wasn’t even a close second,” said Kalen Hadju. “Olivia delivered a nuanced and personal performance and was a professional in every respect. While still young, she has vast experience. She learned her trade from years being the star of Degrassi, and she brings this knowledge to every part she plays. She lights up the camera and draws in the audience. She makes subtle and smart choices and she brings her characters to life. It was a pleasure to watch her make Emma real; the director and I could not have been more pleased.”

No matter what she is working on or the continued accolades she receives, Scriven stays entirely committed to what she does best: acting. With such an established career already behind her, audiences around the world can continue to watch out for what is ahead for this extraordinary young talent. There was never a question for her about what she wanted to do, and evidently, her passion led to enormous success.

“At a young age, I knew that I couldn’t wait until I was an adult for my chance to begin my career. I loved the stage and the immediacy of performing live, but it is film, with its magical ability to create whole worlds within which the exchange between actors is integrated, that has always by far been my passion,” she concluded. “For me, it has always felt so natural and satisfying to slip into the mode of another person, to be able to convincingly act as someone other than yourself was and still is a thrill.”

Featured Actor: Canada’s Nathan Mitchell!

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Canadian Actor Nathan Mitchell shot by Rebecca Eady

 

For Canadian born actor Nathan Mitchell, who is known for his roles in an impressive list of hit films such as “Twist of Fate,” “Newlywed and Dead” and Lifetime’s “The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story,” as well as the multi-award winning series “Arrow” and “Motive,” the acting bug bit at a young age, and he hasn’t turned back since.

Mitchell says, “What’s appealing about acting for me is that it’s an art form that requires genuine connection with other people. You really have to listen; you really have to let yourself be affected by the other person to create something dynamic. When you’re that tuned into someone else you have this fun, meaningful experience.”

Starting out in the industry nearly a decade ago, Mitchell skyrocketed to the top of the Canadian TV scene almost immediately when he took on the recurring lead role of Jeffrey on The CW’s comedy “Aliens in America.” Mitchell’s character Jeffrey is the on-and-off boyfriend of lead character Claire Tolchuck, played by Lindsay Shaw from the multi-award winning series “Pretty Little Liars.”

A coming of age comedy about a Pakistani exchange student who moves to America to live with the Tolchuck family and attend high school in a foreign country, “Aliens in America” was an immediate fan favorite thanks to the way it wove together relatable storylines about the dramatic experiences of being a teenager in a way that left viewers feeling good.

One of Mitchell’s funniest and most unforgettable moments in the series was in the second episode when Claire tries to break up with him. Instead of fading out, he stands on her front lawn with a boombox on his shoulder blasting ‘In Your Eyes,’ an icon and effective move on his part.

While “Aliens in America” was the perfect venue for Mitchell to show off his comedy side, but what audiences have come to know the actor best for is his unparalleled skill in drama.

Over the years he’s given numerous memorable performances on hit TV series such as the Golden Globe nominated crime series “Covert Affairs,” the two-time Primetime Emmy nominated sci-fi series “Falling Skies,” the Gemini and Canadian Screen Award winning series “How to Be Indie,” the Joey Award winning series “The Tomorrow People” and more.

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Nathan Mitchell in a dramatic moment as Russell Bowman in “Motive”

In season 4 of the dramatic crime series “Motive” Mitchell took on a starring role as famed BC Furies quarterback Russell Bowman, a distraught husband mourning the loss of his murdered wife.

“There was a weight to this character because he is dealing with the most monumental loss of his life. We get to see some of the happy times they had as a couple. But then you’re dealing with the heaviness of going through such a deep loss,” recalls Mitchell about playing Russell Bowman on the series.

“He has to deal with losing the most important person in his life. Seeing how he handles that is just as interesting as solving the murder itself. Those two parts of the narrative keep you on your toes.”

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Kristin Lehman (left), Nathan Mitchell (center) & Brendan Penny (right) in “Motive”

Mitchell’s riveting performance as Bowman is emotional, honest and impossible to peel our eyes away from, the actor definitely has a gift for bringing challenging and multi-layered characters to life on screen.

With the craze of comic book inspired blockbuster films and hit television series that have swept the entertainment industry over the last few years, it’s not at all surprising that Mitchell is a part of that world too, the DC Universe to be specific.

In season 3 of The CW’s “Arrow,” Mitchell guest starred as Isaac Stanzler, a key character in the developing plot between Oliver aka Arrow, played by Stephen Amell (“The Flash,” “Legends of Tomorrow”), and Roy aka Arsenal, played by Colton Hayes (“San Andreas,” “Teen Wolf”).

The abandoned protege of Wildcat (J.R. Ramirez), Isaac appears on the scene embittered from the betrayal and ready to make Wildcat pay by framing him for a string of mysterious murders.

Mitchell explains, “I came out of the shadows to frame Wild Cat for giving up on me and leaving me in the hands of criminals. It was exhilarating getting to be a part of the DC Comics Universe and bring comic book lore to life.”

A critical subplot in “Arrow’s” overall story arc, the relationship between Isaac and Wildcat reveal what could happen to Arrow if he were to be abandoned by Arsenal in the future; but only time will tell how that plays out.

Nailing the mark with his performance in “Arrow,” Mitchell brings his character to life seamlessly by tapping into the hurt and resentment Isaac has towards Wildcat. In the heart pumping fight scene where Isaac takes on Arsenal, Mitchell makes it’s clear that what’s driving his character is the need for vengeance, which makes him a relatable villain that we hate and feel sorry for at the same time.

As an actor, Nathan Mitchell brings a rare level of diversity to the table thanks to his ability to find the root of what drives each of his characters, an asset that has allowed him to play a wide range roles across practically every genre.

He explains, “The more I truly explore my roles the more I become aware of different facets of myself. There’s a huge psychological component to it. You’re taking the script and deducing how one would act based on the circumstances. You’re always learning about human nature. It’s very fulfilling.”

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Rose McIver (left), Nathan Mitchell (center) & Malcolm Goodwin (right) in the season 2 finale of “iZombie”

Up next for Nathan Mitchell is season 3 of the TV series “iZombie,” which airs in 2017, as well as the upcoming sci-fi film “Scorched Earth,” where he takes on the critical role of Zee. Audiences will also be able to catch him in the upcoming film “The Marine 5: Battleground,” where he takes on the key role of Cole.