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Dec9FriThe Salvation Army plays central role in Murdoch Mysteries Christmas special. December 9, 2016 Interview by Kristin Ostensen
The Salvation Army gets mixed up in a Christmas conundrum this Monday, in a special holiday episode of Murdoch Mysteries, airing on CBC at 8 p.m. EST. In the standalone two-hour episode, Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and Brackenreid (Thomas Craig) are investigating a series of robberies targeting Toronto's wealthiest businessmen, when a Salvation Army kettle worker gets drawn into the case.
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Murdoch Mysteries executive producer Peter Mitchell and producer Julie Lacey spoke with Kristin Ostensen, Salvationist.ca associate editor, and shared why the show wanted to partner with the Army, how Murdoch's Christian faith impacts his character and what fans can expect in the year ahead.
Why did Murdoch Mysteries want to partner with The Salvation Army on a Christmas episode?
Peter Mitchell: It's part of the Christmas spirit that we have on Murdoch. This is our second Christmas special. Last year we featured the Hospital for Sick Children [SickKids], and this year we decided to feature The Salvation Army, both charitable enterprises. The Salvation Army has a continued presence year-round, but especially at Christmastime. It's certainly been a feature of Christmas for me and my family every year.
How is the Army incorporated into the episode?
PM: Murdoch is a light-hearted show, especially at Christmas, so it tries to hit universal themes and ideas. Since Christmas is about giving, the bad guy in the story is stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.
Julie Lacey: But the actual message of the show is, no matter whether you're rich or poor, it's better to give than receive. And in the episode, the richest of Toronto's citizens ultimately discover that.
The episode features a Salvation Army kettle worker. What role does he play in the story?
PM: He unwittingly receives a stolen good, and tries to redeem it for gifts for the poor, and gets caught up in the plot. But he is ultimately innocent.
How did you go about ensuring that the Salvation Army character and the plot were as authentic as possible?
JL: As Pete mentioned, a valuable item is put in a Salvation Army kettle, and that's been done many times. During the holidays, people often put valuable items in the kettles.
PM: We also did research with folks at The Salvation Army to ensure accuracy on various levels—kettles, uniforms, signage, all that sort of stuff.
JL: The kettle used in the episode actually came from The Salvation Army's archives; the slogans used in the episode were provided by the Army, from their archives as well.
On the show, Detective Murdoch is a devout Catholic. How does his faith impact his character?
PM: We're not a proselytizing show, but certainly the basic tenets of Christianity and Catholicism play strongly into Murdoch's world. He's a decent, moral man who lives by a code—his religion is the backbone of his character.
JL: From the beginning, because of Murdoch's Catholicism, he was somewhat of an outsider in Toronto, which is historically accurate. But as the show has progressed over the past 10 seasons, Toronto's changing. It's becoming a more modern and open world, and we're reflecting that in our stories and our characters.
In its 10th season, Murdoch Mysteries remains very popular. What do you think it is about the show and the lead character that has connected so well with audiences?
PM: There's been a run of TV where the anti-hero is the star, and in Murdoch Mysteries, the hero is the star. I think people find that very appealing—that it's a show where the good guy usually wins. The character of Murdoch and the actor himself, Yannick, has always been an appealing character, and when we add our cast of characters—Jonny Harris, Hélène Joy, Thomas Craig—they're people that our viewers are happy to welcome into their house.
Looking beyond the Christmas episode, can you give us any hints about what's ahead for Murdoch Mysteries in the new year?
JL: We're still in the aftermath of the great fire of Toronto, so we'll continue to see some of the effects of that.
PM: We're doing a big dog show, a big roller derby race and some surprising romances.
JL: And Brackenreid continues to surprise us with his travels.
PM: All the stuff that makes up the fabric of this show—more mysteries, more adventures.
“Once Upon a Murdoch Christmas” airs on CBC on Monday, December 12, at 8 p.m. EST.