Yannick Bisson Talks Reaching His 200th Episode of Murdoch Mysteries [Exclusive]
200th episodes of drama series are increasingly rare in the current climate of quick-hitter streaming seasons. This Saturday night, my fellow Canadian TV fans in the US will get to enjoy that benchmark when the 200th episode of Murdoch Mysteries, the Canadian import about the titular Toronto detective at the turn of the last century, airs at 7 pm/6c on Ovation. I recently chatted with series star and executive producer Yannick Bisson about reaching that lofty milestone 13 seasons into the show’s run.
Bisson understands firsthand how significant it is to get to this point because he’s been there since day one, and he can mark his time on the show by the passage of more than a decade of real-time. “I’ve spent my 30s, 40s, and now my 50s on this show. It’s a big part of my life. And it’s a show with a lot of cultural significance here in Canada and other places. [Even] in different languages or through subtitles, people just can’t get enough of it. And I find that a strange concept,” he shares.
“The fact that it’s gone beyond just being my job to being part of the Canadian culture that we represent [to the world] is certainly not lost on me. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and I think that’s the magic ingredient.”
“We have something that seems to resonate with everybody differently. Because we do have the procedural stuff, you can jump in anytime. We have some comedy, we have some romance, some factual characters, some educational bits there, as well as fantastical stuff. There’s something different that appeals to everyone.”
“I think people appreciate that we can always take a step in any one direction and not mess up too badly. We can [have] a lighthearted episode or even one with an episode where we have a bunch of women being chased on an island and killed with an ax, and at the same time we have something goofy going on on the other end with somebody inventing Band Aids. It’s just a show that sits in the pocket nicely.”
On top of being the brand identity of the show, Bisson has expanded his repertoire during the run by carrying an executive producer title and directing a handful of episodes. “[Producing] is really an extension of what I’ve done from day one, as far as in my heart, anyway. I’ve always taken my job very seriously,” he says.
“[It’s] only going to be as good as what you put in. I’m the title character. I have to work at a certain intensity. I have to have expectations that other people [will follow suit]. I put in more than I should at all times [as] the quarterback. Jumping to directing was actually a small jump.”
“As far as my wanting to contribute to the show, it’s my favorite part, by far, because I feel that much more intimate with each episode insofar as what design ideas [we have] or what directions we’ll go in.”
“The collaborative effort of making this one piece of the show…who we choose to cast and sort of that journey, that’s not always easy. All of those things present more challenges and ways for me to stretch myself artistically, but also to get in there and pull my sleeves up and do that much more to help the show be successful. But I think at the same time, I feel the responsibility of the franchise on my shoulders a little bit at all times.”
“I loved all of [the episodes I directed. I’ve had] very visual things to work with. I did Murdoch at the opera, a Western episode that featured Butch Cassidy and Sundance being pursued by Bat Masterson, one [with] zombies that had a brain extraction in the middle of it. Working with such a strong cast, we have an absolute blast.”
“I forget them all now, but I’ve managed to weave in some stuff and have creative freedom and my whole team put their arms around me, and I was able to pull it off. I feel like I’ve been very, very fortunate because it’s been the icing on the cake to have the whole team I’ve been working with for over a decade [support me].”
As an actor, he’s most fond of an episode he did with Nigel Bennett, who recurred on the show. “[He] is so fantastic, [He played] a kind of antagonistic role. It was pretty incredible for me as an actor to be able to dig in and work with someone so incredible,” he explains.
“We had a Monday morning that I think we did 15 pages. And some of that created some of my favorite material. I felt that episode should have been recognized. Not for any particular reason, but just what went into it and what came out of it. And I thought that was very, very high-level television [so I was disappointed].”
Before I let him go, I had to ask about departing the Aurora Teagarden franchise two years ago, which so many of y’all have asked about. “I really enjoyed doing those. Candace [Cameron Bure] is one of my favorite people. The subject matter is a lot of fun. It’s nothing too serious and I loved going to BC to shoot it,” he says.
“It really became a scheduling thing. And when you start getting into not being able to have a vacation of any sort for three years running, something’s got to go. [Were that not the case], I would have happily kept going, but I think they wanted somebody that had more flexibility.”
Murdoch Mysteries airs back-to-back Saturday nights on Ovation beginning at 7 pm/6c. The 200th episode, “Staring Blindly Into the Future,” features the Murdochs caught up in a case when they attend an innovators and inventors gathering with a curiously shrinking guest list. Look for a handful of wink-nods to actual historical people and a few returning guest stars.
Here’s a sneak peek.
Photos and Video Courtesy of Shaftesbury.
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