Interview: The Creators of ‘Flashpoint’


Going along the new character for a moment, one of the things from the first season that a lot of people likes was the underling story line about Jules being the only female team member and by bringing on this new character you take away that dynamic now, is that something you were thinking about, that you were ending the “Jules is the only female” story line of the show?

Mark: Well I think we kind of did that by bringing in Donna in the second season who didn’t work concurrently with Jules but she was there, by replacing her for six episodes we showed that Jules is not unique, that there are woman that work out there and thought it might be interesting to explore what the dynamic might be between two female members on a team and I also feel we’ve explored the idea of a female member on a SWAT team so in a way it was nice to pull away from that a little bit. Although it’s funny, I find now that we’re breaking some of our ideas for our fourth season where, we’re starting to go back a little bit, to what the effects of bring a female SWAT member can be on a women whose mind may be turning to family as well. So as much as Jules career starts to build and she start to become really successful at her job, she also looks at what it costs her at the same time. Which I think is a universal problem that people face.

Stephanie: Yeah.

One of the great things about the show is that its got something for everyone. It keeps a lot of action fans happy, it keeps a lot of drama fans happy, its got a hint of comedy, how do you keep it from going too far into one direction?

Mark: You want to have that mix as a writer you want to feel that it’s mixed up as well. It’s interesting writing action sequences for this show because it’s a tactical show, you become very dependent on what your location is going to be. In your mind you’ll design an episode that is going to be set in a warehouse and you can’t get a warehouse but you can get a glass factory and so you’re prepping an episode seven day before shooting and you have this chance to work with the director and actually on the fly start to write more exciting action sequences. So, we know that every episode has to have action in it because we’re a show about a SWAT team but we also start breaking every episode knowing that there has to be at the heart of it, emotional character driven story so, we know that we’re always going to have those two elements, and you know what fun is drama without a ripple of humor running underneath it, and in a way the reality of a cops job is that humor is there all the time and we probably don’t dip into the well enough because the reality is to uncomfortable for some people. And their humor can be very dark, but that’s how you cope with the job. But I just think that a runner that tickles your funny bone isn’t that much fun.

What’s your process for writing the one off characters of the individual episodes?

Stephanie: It’s funny, there’s a different starting point for every episode. Sometimes we start with the location like Maple Leaf Gardens, and because that was such a potent space to work from, and we started from there, what would bring a person to want to protect sort of a sacred shrine like that and eventually we wanted to give him the tools to be a tactical challenge to the team, so the idea he was ex-military became a part of it so it just snowballed from there.

Mark: It’s sort of ripped from the headlines, you know you want to set something in that arena, and then we had been reading about people that were serving in the military and coming back who were perhaps a bit destabilized, and were venting their negative experience into criminal areas. So that was a bit of a starting point for us and it’s funny, that “Behind The Blue Line” episode, when Stephanie mentions what a rich area that was, you kind of have to be from Toronto to get that because the Toronto Maple Leafs played there for many, many, many years and Toronto I think is the most hockey avid city going, games sell out and its been 50 years since we won a Stanley Cup. *laughs* So we knew that someone attaching an emotional attachment to that arena was going to resonate with our viewers [In Canada where the show is produced]. And that episode was a bit of a love letter for Toronto.

That is actually something I do want to bring up, a lot of show shoot in Toronto and will have the characters in Chicago or NYPD uniforms, this show clearly acknowledges it’s in Toronto and it is a Canadian show that happens to air in the US and do you feel you have pioneered a new setting to set cop shows and other drama in? Because we are starting to see a lot more Canadian imports on US television like Rookie Blue and The Bridge.

Mark: Well I think Toronto is a big city and we often label ourselves here as being a “world class city” and I don’t think New York or Chicago or LA go around labeling themselves as a “world class city” but it’s something we Canadians feel like we need to do. But I think Toronto is a great looking, big, diverse city and its, you know why not film it there. It’s interesting because, Bill Mustos and Anne Marie La Traverse, the executive producers of Flashpoint, when they went down to pitch the show at CBS with the pilot in hand; CBS asked the question “does it have to be set in Toronto?” And I think it was Bill who went “yeah it does” and they bought into it right away. There’s no reason not to film there. Creatively I think, out inspiration for the show came from the Toronto Emergency Task Force (ETF), we don’t base our show on them but we found the way that SWAT team operates is different from the way a lot of other SWAT teams operate. And we wanted to be true to the roots of where the inspiration for the show came from.

Do you do a lot of research with the ETF? Do you have them on set? Do you consult with them to make sure you’re getting it right?

Mark: Well, anytime you bring a gun on set that has moving parts you have to have the ETF on set.

Stephanie: So they’re with us a lot. *laughs*

Mark: They hang out, but that being said, they don’t officially consult for us but we have worked with them in the past, in one case in particular, there’s a wonderful officer named Jim Bremner who went through some very difficult times as a police officer and went through post traumatic stress disorder, and managed to come out the other side of it and really share his experience with us in a way that was amazingly honest. And he’s actually writing a book which is meant to kind of educate people about what is was like to be an officer, which we are whole heartily supporting right now, but he has been really instrumental to us and discovering some of his stories like “Haunting The Barn” which is about Ed’s mentor, who returns one day to stage his own suicide because he can’t stand the ghosts in his head any longer.

And can I tell you that “Haunting The Barn” is my favorite episode followed closely by “Behind The Blue Line.”

Mark: O, thanks *laughs*

Stephanie: Thanks *laughs*

Mark: That episode to us is kind of the passion play for the whole series. It’s what the whole series is about. In “Haunting The Barn” when Ed takes off his uniform and says “I see things too, I see a kid run under my scope” you know we hope, of course not everyone has seen every episode, that speech that Ed says there lives in his character throughout the whole series and will keep resurfacing as we keep moving forward.

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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