When it comes to successful television shows, sometimes you just have to go for the WTF effect.
Breaking Bad: A high-school chemistry teacher learns he has cancer, and decides to make meth to pay for his treatments. WTF?
Game of Thrones: Families fight for control of mythical lands, with dragons and beheadings and incest galore. WTF?
And The Walking Dead: two words — zombie apocalypse. WTF?
All those shows are unmistakably distinct, and all widely successful. The new CBC series Pure is banking on that formula of uniqueness. Set in southern Ontario, it follows a pastor who tries to bring down the Mennonite mob by working for them while feeding the cops intel on their drug-trafficking operations.
“The show revels in its specificity, in terms of community and where it’s set. If one looks beyond our shores to see which shows have been successful — internationally, at least on the cable front — every one of them has that in common,” says director Ken Girotti.
“Pure is a show that doesn’t try to water itself down to appeal to a broad audience. It just is what it is.”
Creator and writer Michael Amo, who also co-created homegrown drama The Listener, didn’t have to look far to find his concept.
“The inspiration was my grandparents. They were Mennonites from Russia who came to Canada, and I was always interested in that aspect of my family,” he says. “Then I came across stories about the Mennonite mob, I thought it was a fabulous way into that community.”
Though Amo had done plenty of research on Mennonites in Canada, and employed consultants to help with the language and performances on the show, he acknowledges that there’s a risk of Pure offending its subjects.
“I want to emphasize that the people who are involved with (drug trafficking) are a very small minority in the Mennonite population,” he says. “Our main characters are trying to get rid of this problem as opposed to embracing it, so I hope there’s no backlash.”
With just six episodes in its first season, Pure already has had enough challenges — including making Nova Scotia stand in for southern Ontario, and portraying two high-contrast worlds for viewers.
“The Mennonite world is very spare and sparse and austere, and if you put that up against what the Mennonites call the Ausländer world, the outside world where we live, the Ausländer world is full of eye candy and confusing and messy and dirty and thick with information. So I used that kind of palette to inform how we shot the show” says Girotti, who also directs History’s action-packed period drama Vikings.
“Part of the story also takes place in Texas and Mexico, and those were challenging things to achieve, but I think we did pretty well.”
The solid cast helped — Girotti had worked with many of the stars on previous projects. Ryan Robbins plays pastor Noah Funk, with Alex Paxton-Beesley as his wife Anna, and A.J. Buckley, Peter Outerbridge and Rosie Perez round out the cast.
And, says Amo, there’s a sense of universality in Pure that he thinks will resonate with viewers. Shows dealing in spiritual and ethical matters have recently manifested onto TV screens.
On Fox, Lucifer focuses on the Devil, who leaves hell to run a nightclub in Los Angeles and help police catch criminals. NBC has The Good Place, about a woman of questionable morality who’s accidentally placed in a blissful afterlife. Comedy airs Impastor, about a fugitive who steals the identity of a deceased gay Lutheran pastor.
Plus there’s Preacher on AMC, following a spiritual leader who enlists the a vampire to help him find God, and Jane Lynch’s one season wonder Angel from Hell, which centred on an unconventional angel who connects with the human she’s charged with.
“I think there’s always an appetite for shows that approach our spiritual struggles in an honest and entertaining way,” says Amo.
“You might not see as many of them as other types of shows, but I think it’s part of the human condition to have these spiritual questions and longings. I think if they’re done in the right way, I think there’s always an audience for them.”
"Alberta actor making name as a bad guy": Today I found this article by Eric Volmers in the Edmonton Journal:
Chad Rook goes through the same routine every time he receives a new script for the television series Timeless.
He races to the end to make sure he isn’t dead.
Such is life when you play a time-travelling villainous henchman.
“Do I live? Do I still breathe by the end of this episode?” says Rook with a laugh, in a phone interview from Vancouver. “The longevity of the show, we’re pretty confident about that. But being a bad guy and one of the main henchman, it’s always just a throw of the dice every episode.”
The Lethbridge native plays Karl, the muscle behind chief antagonist Garcia Flynn (Goran Višnjić) in NBC’s high-concept sci-fi series.
Rook once described his character as “the guy who does all the killing and the shooting.” And, in the first few episodes, he didn’t do much else. But as the show developed, so has Karl.
“The more and more in-depth that Goran’s character got, the more Karl was included and the network started developing that character a lot,” says Rook. “When I first came on as Karl, it was just a smaller henchman role and it’s just gotten bigger and bigger and Karl has become more focused in regards to (plot.)”
When Timeless returns on Monday after a month-long hiatus, the mysterious motives behind Flynn’s campaign will begin to crystallize, which will further deepen Rook’s character. The storyline is set to “come to a climax ” and might change viewers’ opinions on notions of good and bad in the Timeless universe, Rook says.
Not that Rook minds being bad. For an actor who boasts such leading-man good looks, the 34-year-old has played plenty of heavies in his career. He left for Vancouver after graduating from Picture Butte high school, where he performed in school musicals.
Initially, Rook found success as the face of international modelling campaigns. But he soon began landing roles in TV series in Vancouver, including a recurring spot on the CW’s short-lived horror-thriller Cult. He got a major break as a super villain in The Flash, playing Clyde Mardon, a.k.a. The Weather Wizard, for a couple of episodes in 2014. In fact, throughout his career he has played a rogues gallery of arrogant vampires, con men, demons, kidnappers and killers.
“The villains always get to shoot the coolest guns and drive the coolest cars,” he says.
Whether his upcoming role in the mega-budgeted War For the Planet of the Apes is officially a villain is not clear at this point, but Rook does play a human soldier who serves under the film’s primary antagonist, The Colonel (played by Woody Harrelson.) Rook plays Boyle and Gabriel Chavarria plays Preacher, the Colonel’s two right-hand men.
“There’s a big difference between the two characters in regards to Preacher and Boyle,” Rook says. “There’s an antagonist, protagonist side to things, even though we’re both on the same side. ”
At the same time, Rook continues to make his own films. Frustrated at the sort of roles he was, or wasn’t, landing earlier in his career, he founded the independent production company back in 2009. He makes his feature debut as a writer-director-star in The Perfect Pickup, an upcoming romantic comedy about a group of four friends who set out to determine the perfect way to pick up women.
He plans to follow that directing and starring in a holiday movie called Christmisfits and with a post-apocalyptic sci-fi web series called A.R.I.D., in which he will play an convict who realizes most of the world population has been decimated.
As for Timeless, NBC has not announced whether it will renew the series. But Rook is confident and looks forward to more history-related adventures. That is if Karl survives the first season. So far, viewers have watched Flynn and Karl attempt to disrupt major moments in U.S. history, whether it be Watergate, the Hindenburg disaster, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the Apollo 11 mission and even The French and Indian War in 1754.
“It’s not only a period piece, it’s every period piece,” Rook says. “Every episode is something different that I don’t usually get to do. I play a lot of villains, but usually it’s always modern day. I was completely excited because I had never done a period piece and now I get to do every single one.
Not only that, when I first started watching the show it hit me that this is different because you are learning things. I didn’t know the full details of Lincoln’s assassination. I didn’t know the full details of Watergate. It’s based on reality. To be on set and see characters that look like Lincoln and Houdini and Bonnie and Clyde. That adds to the cool factor.”
My opinion: I like the TV show Timeless. I watched the pilot and thought it was good, and decided to watch the 2nd episode to determine if I should record every episode. The 2nd episode was good too and I recorded the whole series.
It's a fun action show and you do learn history.