Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bomb Girls: Facing The Enemy


Global - March 27

The Final Chapter

Those Feisty "Bomb Girls" Wrap Up 
Their Saga With A TV Movie

By Eric Kohanik

The setting is a mostly empty, 114-year-old building that once housed a fabric mill known as the Imperial Cotton Company in the industrial north end of Hamilton, Ont. On one of the upper floors, part of the vast space has been transformed into a grimy old gymnasium, where a boxing ring is ensconced in plumes of smoke. Inside the ring, two women are duking things out as throngs of beer-swilling, fedora-wearing men cheer them on.

If it all looks like a moment plucked from some bygone era, that's because it is.

Welcome to Bomb Girls – The Movie, a two-hour production that continues – and wraps up – the storyline of the once-popular Canadian TV series.

Originally designed as a six-episode drama in 2012, Bomb Girls ended up growing to 18 episodes that continued into a second season. The series revolved around a core group of four women – played by Meg Tilly, Jodi Balfour, Ali Liebert and Charlotte Hegele – who worked in a Canadian munitions factory during the Second World War.

The series attracted a dedicated following of fans who cried foul when Global cancelled the show last year. Protests eventually led the network to greenlight a TV-movie to wrap up the saga.

This particular day of filming finds the tomboyish Betty McRae (Liebert) as one of the two females in the boxing ring. When the stylish Gladys Witham (Balfour) makes an appearance in the crowd and spots Betty, it causes a bit of a distraction, in more ways than one.

For Balfour, the chance to revive the role of Gladys was one she eagerly awaited.

“It feels great,” she says during a break. “We're obviously dealing with a bunch of new subject matter, but it still feels like coming back to familiar territory. There's an element of comfort in coming 'home' and there's a sense of community to the show, which is part of what I love so much about it.”

Born and raised in South Africa, Balfour graduated from the University of Cape Town in 2009 before she and her family moved to B.C. Her list of credits includes various TV projects, including a role this season in CBC's political comedy-drama, The Best Laid Plans. Nevertheless, Balfour is still best known for her work as Gladys.

“She's kind of the role of a lifetime, particularly in the way they keep writing her and developing her,” Balfour says. “Every year, I get to tackle a real sense of growth in her. She has so many colours I get to play with – like vulnerability and fear and sensitivity and insecurity. And then I also get to play with a sense of courage. It's a really cool range of things that I get to play, so I count myself lucky.”

Written by Donald Martin and directed by Jerry Ciccoritti, Bomb Girls: Facing The Enemy picks up the storyline six months after the events at the conclusion of the series. There have been changes in all of the women's lives. In some cases, the changes are significant.

“It's bit of a tricky time for Gladys,” Balfour explains. “She is longing to see her best friend. And, you know, the central theme of Gladys' life is this inescapable loneliness that she deals with a lot of the time.”

While the primary purpose of Bomb Girls: Facing The Enemy is to tie up loose ends from the series, it also takes the show's plot a bit further. And that thrilled Balfour and her castmates.

“We were obviously all really sad when the show was cancelled but very aware of how lucky we are to get to do this,” Balfour points out. “I think many shows see themselves being cancelled and don't get this opportunity.

“It not only serves us an opportunity to tell the story some more, but also serves us an opportunity to get a little bit of closure, for us as well as for the audience. It's a nice opportunity to get to see everyone one more time.”

Bomb Girls: Facing The Enemy – Global – March 27

(A portion of this story was published in Channel Guide Magazine - April 2014.)

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Enrico Colantoni is back in Remedy


Global -- Mondays

Finding Middle Ground

Enrico Colantoni Straddles The Fence Between 
Comedy And Drama In "Remedy"

By Eric Kohanik

Enrico Colantoni admits he sometimes feels out of place when it comes to his career.

“I am still a man without a home,” the 51-year-old actor half-jokes inside his dressing-room trailer in downtown Toronto. “I have kids in Los Angeles. I have parents in Italy. But right now, there's nothing more rewarding than feeling appreciated by the people that I was born into. I was born in Canada. There's something huge about that. I don't think I would have done it any differently.”

Born in Toronto, Colantoni graduated from the Yale School of Drama in the U.S. and carved out a career in American television, from such comedies as Hope & Gloria and Just Shoot Me! to dramas including Veronica Mars and Person of Interest. But it was his five-year stint back in Canada, as tactical-police-squad sergeant Greg Parker on CTV's Flashpoint, that added another twist.

“Parker was fantastic. He was wonderful to play,” Colantoni recalls. “But after leaving that show, all I yearned for was something a little lighter.”

Longing for stuff on the other side of the fence isn't new for Colantoni. “I like exactly what I'm not doing in the moment,” he concedes. “A day didn't go by on Just Shoot Me! where I wouldn't go, 'I want to do something dramatic, single camera.' The good thing is I always get what I ask for.”

Colantoni figures he has found a good compromise in a new Global series called Remedy. The show revolves around fictional Bethune General Hospital, where the adventures of those interacting on the upper floors of the hospital occasionally intersect with the misadventures that occur in the basement of the building. Colantoni tops the ensemble as Dr. Allen Conner, the chief of staff who spends most days on the upper decks of Bethune General. At the opposite end is Frank Kanaskie (Patrick McKenna), who works in the basement as the supervisor of transport and housekeeping.

“There's a lot of an Upstairs, Downstairs dynamic to this show,” Colantoni says. “That's the tone of the show when those two worlds meet. Allen is constantly battling two worlds. I think that's what's going to set it apart from other medical dramas.”

The interactions often have comical consequences, which appealed to Colantoni. “The biggest reason I wanted to do it, from an acting perspective, is that there is comedy in it,” he explains. “It really is a hybrid. It's not the comedy of Just Shoot Me! It's not the drama of Flashpoint. It's right in the middle.

“There's an undertow to this show that makes me laugh. It's either built in with the dynamic of the relationship of the family members or, sometimes, it's just blatant comedy. That's what intrigued me.” Colantoni is also tackling other chores on Remedy; he is directing the sixth episode.

“To be able to see something from that perspective, it turns the light bulb back on,” Colantoni says. “Doors that were closed to me at one time are now open for me on this show. That just makes me feel like I'm welcome, that my opinions have value, that I have a stake in it. It's the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

“That's why I came back to Canada. I've gotten to play historic figures, heroic figures and, now, I'm allowed to direct an episode of a television show in its first season – in its first season! – which is unheard of and generous beyond everything I've ever experienced. That's what I love about being home.

“I'm Canadian again. I'm here. I want to stay,” Colantoni says, and then adds with a smile, “unless somebody wants me back in the States.”

Remedy – Global – Mondays

(First published in Channel Guide Magazine - March 2014.)

Canadian Screen Awards / Juno Awards


CBC - Sunday, March 9 

CTV - Sunday, March 30

Move Over, Oscar!

Canada Gets Set To Roll Out Red Carpets 
For The Junos And The "Screenies"

By Eric Kohanik

Down in Hollywood, the Oscars will get the usual lion's share of attention when they hit the tube on March 2. North of the border, though, the lights are shining on two Canadian spectacles striving to stake out their own claims on the airwaves.

The 2014 Canadian Screen Awards return to CBC on March 9. Nestled inside Toronto's Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, the awards are still in their relative infancy, this being only their second foray into the densely populated arena of televised award shows.

Already nicknamed the “Screenies” around Canadian industry circles, the Canadian Screen Awards were born last year, after the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television merged its existing prizes for Canadian movies (the Genie Awards, launched in 1980) with the accolades handed out for English-language Canadian television (the Gemini Awards, launched in 1986). The merger was accentuated by the launch of Canadian Screen Week, an annual celebration leading up to the award show.

Veteran actor/comedian Martin Short is back to host the CSAs again this year, thanks in part to his energy-filled turn at the helm of last year's inaugural broadcast.

The 2014 Juno Awards are set to grab their own chunk of the Canadian TV spotlight. This year's awards return to CTV on March 30. This time around, the setting is Winnipeg.

Juno Week celebrations will include another Juno Cup celebrity-hockey game, a two-day JunoFest music showcase and several other attractions. Capping off the week, of course, is the award ceremony at Winnipeg's MTS Centre.

In addition to saluting the year's top Canadian music achievements, the show will pay tribute to this year's Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees: Blair Thornton, Fred Turner, Randy Bachman and Robin Bachman, better known for many years as Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

While the Junos and the “Screenies” likely won't come close to the glitz and worldwide attention of Hollywood's biggest night of the year, that doesn't matter. Canadian viewers can expect both award shows to pack a unique punch of their own. 

The 2014 Canadian Screen Awards – CBC – March 9
The 2014 Juno Awards – CTV – March 30

(First published in Channel Guide Magazine - March 2014.)