|This new series had its genesis when I began photographing Vancouver area location shoots last summer to get over a long post-Olympics funk. Film and TV productions like This Means War, Mission Impossible 4, Fringe and the new AMC series The Killing showcase our city in similar fashion and sometimes put a celebrity actor or two in the frame.|
I have been mildly chastised for my lack of Canadian content in this feature. Fortunately I found the about-to-launch Canadian drama series Endgame filming its season finale last week outside the Westin Bayshore Hotel and caught a rare glimpse of Newfoundland native Shawn Doyle as the brilliant chess-master-turned-detective Arkady Balagan.
How rare? Well, Balagan is a bare-footed, Howard-Hughes-esque wreck who spends virtually the entire season holed up in his luxury Vancouver hotel wearing his bathrobe after the traumatic murder of his fiancé. He uses a rag tag group of hotel staffers and chess fans to help him solve crimes. One surely memorable who-done-it? episode features a rock star and his pet polar bear (Endgame cast an actual polar bear for the scenes, one-upping Lost’s fake one).
I can’t say anything about how or why Balagan ends up outside the hotel in the season finale except to say I noticed Shawn Doyle’s lack of footwear in this exterior scene (brrrr) and his shock of rusty blonde hair. Two days before arriving in Vancouver late last summer, the brown-haired actor reportedly decided to dye his hair for the role, rendering him unrecognizable to me as the same actor from the Canadian newsmagazine drama The Eleventh Hour and from extended parts on American shows like 24, Desperate Housewives and Big Love. Doyle also adopted a Russian accent of sorts for the brainiac sleuth.
Endgame began filming its 13-episode season late last summer and although some spotted EG production signs around town it didn’t have a big profile except among Bayshore hotel guests, who sometimes caught sight of the strangely-garbed Doyle with a film crew following. It’s not the first time an eccentric, unkempt genius has made the Bayshore his home. American millionaire Howard Hughes’s extended stay in 1972 is part of Vancouver lore, but producers didn’t make the connection when they chose the Bayshore as Balagan’s fictional Huxley Hotel.
I arrived in time last week to see Endgame filming a near-miss hit-and-run of Pippa Ventura, sister of Balagan’s dead fiancé, played by Melanie Papalia (Intelligence). Lookyloos on the seawall mistook it for Mission Impossible 4 because of the extended stunt sequence: a black car sped around the corner in several takes almost hitting the Pippa stunt double. Production assistants (primed in advance) took advantage of the captive audience to pitch the Canadian series.
In between scenes, Melanie Papalia retreated into the Admiral Café-Bistro to chat with guest star Paul McGillion (Stargate Atlantis), stressing the need to promote the show vigorously through social media and word of mouth before the March premiere. Every bit of promotion helps.
Vancouver’s domestic productions dropped precipitously after the CBC cancelled Intelligence (Chris Haddock’s addictive followup to his DaVinci series) and failed to develop another prime time drama set in our city. Filling the gap, Global (through Showcase) did commission the worthy Callum Keith-Rennie multiple-personality detective series Shattered which aired last fall and now the Shawn Doyle brilliant-recluse detective series Endgame which premieres this spring.