TORONTO – “Murdoch Mysteries” star Yannick Bisson relishes directing episodes of the hit CBC detective drama, but says the toughest part is getting into character at the same time.
On one of his first days back on set for the upcoming eighth season, he found himself flubbing his lines while directing.
“To the whole team, 35 or 40 people, I’m like, ‘OK, so Murdoch will walk here,’ and I’m trying to say the line. I’m reading and I can’t. I’m stumbling. I’m like, ‘This is not going to go well this week,'” he said with a laugh.
Set in Toronto at the turn of the 20th century, “Murdoch Mysteries” features genteel Victorian speech. Bisson’s co-stars Helene Joy and Georgina Reilly said it can be a bit of a shock coming back.
“It’s really difficult language,” said Reilly during a summer interview. “We suddenly get into the flow and it’s easy, but really, I was shocked. You come back and go, ‘What?'”
The popular series returning Monday follows Bisson as William Murdoch, a meticulous detective who pioneers forensic techniques to solve the city’s crimes. Reilly plays fiery pathologist Dr. Emily Grace, while Joy plays psychiatrist (and Murdoch’s beloved) Dr. Julia Ogden.
In the season premiere, “On The Waterfront: Part 1,” Murdoch investigates the grisly murder of a waterfront merchant, which he believes may be connected to the assault on Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig).
The early days of crime on the waterfront in Toronto will be a theme of the season. Fans can also expect the show to explore the rise of the automobile, vaudeville, corsets, the silver boom in Cobalt, Ont., and — to the excitement of Joy and Reilly — the women’s suffrage movement.
“For years, I’ve been saying we need to do suffragette episodes. So we have a big double-episode of suffragettes,” said Joy. “I just think that they’re cool. I was in a play years ago about the suffragettes in England. It’s just really central. It was a huge thing happening all over the world at this very time.”
Bisson, a 45-year-old actor from Montreal, reflected on how his character has grown over the years.
“I think Murdoch is all of us. He’s our conscience, he’s our ideal self, he’s our eyes onto a little bit of history,” he said. “I think William is becoming more and more of that. He started out very closed and just sort of good at his job, but now I think he’s opening himself up to more of the world each year.”
Joy — who kept tight-lipped about the future of Ogden and Murdoch’s relationship — praised Bisson as a director.
“It’s a lot of fun. It doesn’t feel like a normal day in a way. It’s more fun, like you just happen to be there telling us what to do,” she said.
“Well, I’m glad you have fun during the process, because it’s real stressful,” replied Bisson with a smile. “Everything is a race against the clock. It’s bound to happen. We’re always battling resources, whether it’s time or money or shortage of people.”
By now, the stars have come up with a few tricks to survive the gruelling shooting schedule — including wearing sneakers with their Victorian costumes when their feet aren’t showing in a scene.
“I bought Nikes for this year. Yannick always has loads of sneakers in all cool colours for comfort,” said Reilly. “Then you see (a crew member) run in with his proper shoes when you’re going to see his feet walking.”
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