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Danishka Esterhazy Talks SurrealEstate: “The Butler Didn’t” 

Danishka Esterhazy Talks SurrealEstate: “The Butler Didn’t”

[Warning: General spoilers for the episode].

Tonight’s new SurrealEstate, “The Butler Didn’t,” follows the team as they investigate the years-earlier mysterious death of a woman whose ghost now reenacts her hanging by dropping over the banister from the second floor to terrify anyone on the landing or at the bottom of the stairs.

The episode, while full of the series’ signature scares and snark, is also a tragic love story. Eric Peterson (Corner Gas) plays the homeowner, a retired businessman who’s now decided to part with the house but needs it cleared first. As the crew gathers to crowdsource theories and solve what was likely a murder and not a suicide, they interview the victim’s now-adult son, played ever so zanily by the always delightful Patrick Garrow (Killjoys).

During my conversation with producing director Danishka Esterhazy, we chatted about landing the guest stars for this week’s episode and balancing two timelines. She was excited to have both actors come play. “I was so thrilled that [Patrick] was available because I knew it was a really juicy cameo role. And we really wanted a great actor for it all along,” she says.

“We [knew] the right actor can make this scene so amazing. Somebody who’s got great comic timing and a real personality and range. If you give this scene to just an average Joe, it won’t sing. We needed somebody who’s really, really special. So when we were casting, we found out Patrick was available.”

“I’m just a massive fan of his work. And the fact that he was willing to come out to Newfoundland for one day of shooting … He was the absolute best. He’s such a pro. He was just full of ideas. He had all these opinions about everything that was in his [character’s] briefcase. He was fantastic. I just felt really lucky to have him in the episode and just watching him was a total thrill.”


The episode, written by returning Season 1 writer Duana Taha, features a lot of wonderful elements, including a series of flashback reenactments as the team spitballs ideas about how their ghost died, but at its heart it’s also about a terrible moment that changed everything for two lovers. Esterhazy loved filming it, and working with her director of photography, AA Scott MacLellan (who also DP’d the recent season of Slasher: Ripper), to capture the distinct timelines. 

“It was a complicated and ambitious script with the different timelines and the different characters. And to get Eric, again, this season the guest stars are so amazing. He’s such a brilliant actor. I cried during the dream sequence. His performance was so beautiful and it was everything we hoped for,” says Esterhazy.

“There’s a real gentleness and a real love story in that episode. Even though it’s a story about betrayal and murder and all these other things, at the heart of it is this really strong love story. And I know [showrunner] George [R. Olson] was always saying that we could do anything we want, we could change around the kills and change around the hauntings, but we couldn’t touch the love story. The love story had to stay. And it did. I was really thrilled with that.”


“[It also involved] coming together with our amazing DP, Scott, with a visual plan for how to distinguish the different times, but not make it jarring or cheesy. There’s a softness in this episode. Even though there’s some dark subject matter, I wanted the flashbacks to have a certain warmth to them, to have a certain dreaminess to them.”

SurrealEstate airs Wednsdays at 10 pm/9c on Syfy in the US and CTV Sci-Fi and Crave in Canada, where you can also catch the episodes online after they premiere. ICYMI, our all our Season 1 and Season 2 coverage is here.

Photos courtesy of Duncan de Young/Blue Ice Pictures/Syfy.

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