BY JELANI GRANT
The award-winning husband/wife executive producers Sudz Sutherland and Jennifer Holness have once again added an innovative cinematic piece to Canadian TV history. Shoot The Messenger premieres on CBC’s fall line, offering a thrilling drama of sex and corruption.
The Toronto based drama follows a recent J-school graduate turned crime reporter Daisy Channing, played by Elyse Levesque, who witnesses a murder just as she was meant to meet an anonymous source for a big story. The one moment spins her already challenging life into a chaotic series of events surrounded by street crime and murky politics. “We always have this desire to expose the underside of what our society contains and what we think is the reality”, said Holness.
Regarding the incorporation of the Somali community and Islamic religion, Sudz said they were trying to get everything as accurate as possible. They conferred with a number of community leaders and even Somali actors from the show to advise them of proper tradition and culture. They even consulted an Imam to direct us in the way of Islam. This will also be the first time Islamic funeral procedures will be broadcast on a mainstream network. Referring to a funeral scene, Sudz said they got sheets from Egypt to cover the casket and were also taught appropriate procedure for washing the deceased body.
Along with Levesque, the show stars Jamaican born Lyriq Bent as lead detective, Kevin Lutz. “Lyriq is very beautiful. I call him Mr. Handsome”, said Holness. Bent is best known for playing Lt. Daniel Rigg in the Saw series as well as Officer Frank Best in Rookie Blue and Chekura Tiano in the TV mini-series The Book of Negroes. “Lyriq is a very good actor, we all knew that he is on the way up. He puts a lot into his character and getting to know his character, its always been a positive experience, we’ve had an association since Blue Murder”, said Sudz.
The pair are known for such works as the award winning Love, Sex and Eating the Bones. They co-wrote the drama mini-series Guns which won five Gemini Awards, including Best Directing for Sudz and a shared Best Writing award for Holness. Holness and Sutherland also won the PAFF (Pan African Film Festival), BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) and Festival Choice Award for their 2012 film Home Again. “I think Sudz is really talented, he really inspires me. Every time I feel tired or think it’s too much, Sudz gets me back by saying we can do this together…It’s great working with someone who believes in you”, said Holness. We both have strengths that we can lean on each other with. If we didn’t work together we would never see each other…we’re very lucky to have each other, it’s a real blessing”, said Sudz.
Shoot The Messenger is one of the many new TV series that display a diverse cast of talented actors. Before legendary TV producer and writer Shonda Rhimes, there was not a long list of multicultural shows where white wasn’t the dominant race. Sudz explained that sometimes, people in the African and Caribbean community are left with few options and are not always prepared by the education system. Holness said, “Most of the time we deal with people of Caribbean descent. It’s great to take a bunch of actors from East-Africa”. They wanted to illustrate young black men, normally portrayed as thugs with guns or uneducated stereotypes, as human beings.
The couple said they want to show the diversity of Toronto and illustrate that there are a lot of different possibilities for black people and already a number of black people in positions of power. “The more we get to make these shows, the more people of color can be apart of it”, said Holness.