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Interview: Yannick Bisson chats about 'Murdoch Mysteries'

The period crime drama Murdoch Mysteries is instantly Canadian, looking to fit among a slew of established shows on CBC for the coming New Year, and it’s strange to think the show was almost lost to history.

For five years, the hour-long drama about a handsome, charming, and clever detective at the turn of the century—the 20th century, that is—was aired on CityTV, but they were dumped in the fall of 2011, just over a year ago. CBC swooped in to pick up the show, set in Toronto and filmed in Canada, with the sixth season set to air on January 7 in a new home, but with the same style.

“It’s been such a positive change for us,” explained Montreal native Yannick Bisson, the man who for five years now has assumed the role of the well-mannered and brilliant detective. “When we were told we were not going to be renewed, we had to switch gears a bit, keep some things basic while stalling some long-term arcs a bit.”

“Now we’re a lot more a priority to existing and new audiences,” he added.

While Murdoch is the captivating central figure, there is another star of equal note: the city of Toronto.  “It’s very much a character in the story, and we don’t shy away from it,” added Mr. Bisson, who currently resides in Toronto. “We’re one of the first shows that ever did that: this is where we are, no apologies.”

Setting the show in such a place during the 1980’s and beyond (the fifth season ended at the dawn of the new century), allows for endless plotlines and the welcoming of many a famous figure. Annie Oakley, Nikola Tesla, Jack London, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are just some of the historic notables who cross paths with Murdoch, as he investigates events cultural, political, and personal.

“I had a feeling it had potential longevity with its cast and structure,” added Mr. Bisson, who has dabbled in directing a few episodes in the series. Joining Murdoch is a pair of doctors (Helene Joy and Georgina Reilly), his boss the Inspector (Thomas Craig), and the often bumbling but earnest Constable Crabtree (Jonny Harris). Curiously, the show has done incredibly well all around the world, seen throughout Europe, all the way to Singapore, Thailand, and Australia. The over 100 countries that the show has been sold to also includes the United States.

“What is the most surprising is that the audience is skewing young,” continued Mr. Bisson. “The format of the show lends to its success, as somebody new can jump in and enjoy it. It has a bit of something for everyone.”

The serial show seems right at home at CBC, as it proudly showcases Canadian history, as well as talent. “There seems to be a lot more effort, thought, and energy now, that is the biggest difference,” Mr. Bisson said of the change. “We’ve got some stories; we could go on for ages.”

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.