Interview: The Creators of ‘Flashpoint’

FlashpointWhether you watch it or not (or have even heard of it), Flashpoint is one of the best dramas (cop or otherwise) on television right now. Action, drama, a hint of comedy, great writing, it’s got it all, and it shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. The show features an amazing cast of TV hard hitters including Amy Jo Johnson, Enrico Colantoni and Hugh Dillon. Now in its third season on CBS (or second if you go by the CTV numbers), this Canadian import has proven to be a huge hit for both networks. Now having been picked up for two more seasons, one of which that has already completed production, it looks like a bright future is ahead for the program. I had the chance to sit down with the shows creators Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern to discuss what’s in store for the future.

FSR: So first up, for any of our readers who haven’t seen the show, can you quickly describe, what exactly is Flashpoint?

Stephanie Morgenstern: Flashpoint is a very new way of approaching a SWAT show. It’s sort of them emotionally sensitive SWAT team that goes on a different case every week and shows a complex human portrait of what happens on both sides of the uniform. So we try and dig deep into that emotional stories, high risk stories and stuff that kind of shows what it’s like to be a member of a team of this kind and also if you were to come across them if you happen to be on the wrong side of the law.

Mark Ellis: Yeah, we’re a procedural with heart [laughs]

Stephanie: [laughs]

FSR: The show is now, depending on which numbers you go by, on CBS it’s on its third season, you’re in your third year yes?

Mark: That’s right; yeah we just finished our third year of filming.

OK, so one thing I have noticed is that the show really hasn’t slowed down at all, it’s really managed to keep its pace up so, how did you avoid the third year slump? How do you keep it fresh?

Mark: Well I think you got to keep looking at what you do and reinventing yourself along the way. In the first season our show, they usually started out with a guest star, we saw all their back story, we saw a bad day start to unfold so that by the team came onto the scene to help them out, you kind of knew who that guest person was, why they were doing something, and then it was up to the team to try and get them to stop doing it. After about eighteen episodes we kind of decided that, that was a difficult format to sustain so we thought “OK why don’t we keep the same heart but we make it a little bit more procedural. We start with the team, hit the ground running with them and they go on a hot call, they don’t know who it is they’re trying to save or what it is they’re trying to do, or why they’re trying to do it and we go on that ride from the point of view of our hero cast.” And I think that really opened up a lot of story possibilities for us. And it also let us explore our main cast of characters a little bit more as well.

Stephanie: I think we throw the team into the deep end and the audience is there with them. And they have to learn on the fly with a ticking clock over their shoulder what exactly is going on, rather than earlier in the season we sort of told a little bit too much up front. So I think this way it’s driven by the same kind of adrenaline and momentum but there’s a little more mystery integrated.

Mark: And we have this a lot with all of our stories where, you know every story has to have a visceral quality to it. We don’t want the audience to have to stop and ever think too much. So we had this saying when we first started up the show and pitching it and all that stuff is “we want people to settle down to watching an evening of Flashpoint and know they are going to be sitting on the edge of their seat with a box of Kleenex handy.”

So in the start of the second half of season 2, you start off by killing one of the team members, you kill Lou. One, why did you decide to do that and two, how did you decide Lou was going to be the one to go?

Mark: [laughs] Um, well it wasn’t an easy decision; it was a really difficult decision. We spent a lot of time in the show talking about, how every call is high risk, how the team faces life and death everyday and that their own lives can hang in the balance, and it was so important that we actually show that we’re not just talking and that stuff can happen. To be honest, killing one of your own team members is like cutting of your own arm. It’s a very difficult thing to write and what we found interesting in particular about it, Lou as his character and the relationship that ripples underneath the surface between Spike and Lou and we felt that Lou was always a great straight man to Spike’s funny man and that their obviously buddies, they hang around together. They’re two younger guys, they’re single, they don’t have the same family issues that our other team members have. And we wanted to explore what that death felt like to a character that was in out show. We’ve never gone to the homes of our characters too often, so we really couldn’t explore what it was like for Lou’s mom or his dad, but we could explore what it was like for his best friend. So I guess that’s one of the reasons Lou drew the short straw and Mark Taylor accepted that episode with great grace and I just though he brought in a tremendous performance. Just a beautiful performance, both he and Sergio Di Zio who plays Spike were outstanding I thought.

And what were you looking for in his replacement?

Mark: We’re always looking for sources of tension between the team as much as we want them to work together when they’re on a case. We like when there’s division of opinion and sometimes it’s good to have that new voice that comes from a different background, a different perspective and unsettled but adds something to the team. When we introduced Leah, you know we had a team that was reeling from the death of Lou, but she came and she showed that she belonged by unpacking that little box with the wrist bands and with every new actor you bring to a series you need to grow with them and discover who they are and then those characters grow and the series grows.

Stephanie: I think one of the things we were able to show by bring the new comer in, Leah is that it’s actually a lot harder than you might think to find exactly the right fit for a team that, the team members choose each other, they are not assigned a new team member. It’s very much like a family and finding a perfect fit is very, very difficult and any kind of natural friction between people because of the way they see the world or their different work habits, it’s all going to be brought out as soon as you bring in a newcomer so we used her character in a way to explore these tensions.

From a young age, TV guru Merrill Barr has been obsessed with the small screen. And one day he decided to put that obsession to good use.

Read More from Merrill Barr
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