Hélène Joy reveals secrets to ‘Murdoch Mysteries’ success

Rick's Reviews

The new season of “Murdoch Mysteries” starts Feb. 20. (Photo courtesy of Ovation TV)

(KGET) — It took a lot of planning and dealing with safety issues, but the 14th season of the Ovation TV series “Murdoch Mysteries” has been completed and will begin airing at 4 p.m. Feb. 20. The episodes of the crime drama set at the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th Century in Toronto were filmed under strict safety protocols during the coronavirus pandemic.

Reaching 14 episodes under any conditions is a badge of honor for any television show. Hélène Joy – who plays the feisty Dr. Julia Ogden – has a theory as to why the crime drama has remained one of the most popular shows on the cable channel devoted to the arts.

“I put it down to the fact that so many people can watch it,” Joy says. “We have 10 year olds who love the show. We have 85 year olds who love the show. And, everyone in between. If ever there was a demographic in their 20s that we didn’t have, we have them now because we got them when they were 10.

“So now we have everybody across the boards.”

The product that has drawn such a wide audience surround Dr. Ogden, Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), Inspector Thomas Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), Constables George Crabtree (Jonny Harris), Henry Higgins-Newsome (Lachlan Murdoch) Violet Hart (Shanice Banton) and Detective Llewelyn Watts (Daniel Maslany) as they tackle Toronto’s toughest mysteries, from the serious and historic to the comical and unusual.

The 14th season unfolds in 1908 where Detective Murdoch is involved in a case that brings him in contact with a young Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton. Joy points to the history element of the show as a big reason the show has been a success.

“What happens is that people get drawn to it out of a curiosity for the costuming and the time frame. But then they get attached to the characters,” Joy says. “They have managed to write a really unique core of lead characters in the show that people get addicted to.”

Joy laughs and then adds that of course the fans she is talking to tell her Dr. Julia Ogden is their favorite character.

Whether that’s true or just Joy having some fun, the fact she’s playing the character is a bit of a surprise. The Australian-Canadian television played a different character when she appeared in ‘Under the Dragon’s Tail,” the third made-for-television movie about the detective.

 Maureen Jennings, the author of the book on which the series is based, was so impressed with Joy’s acting ability that she convinced the TV show’s producers to select her for the role of Dr. Julia Ogden. Joy has been playing the character since 2008.

Joy came to the role with a long list of acting credits but this is the longest she has ever played the same character. She calls it a blessing to have the opportunity to have the time to play the character in so many different ways while still having half the year to take on other acting projects.

“We never thought it would go this long. There have been times over the years – maybe when we got to season five or six – that we thought this has got to be it,” Joy says. “And there were times when I thought about moving on but continued on.

“But, I feel blessed especially this year when there are so many fine actors who aren’t working.”

What has made the job so much fun is the way the character has been written. Joy describes the changes that have been made over the years as feeling like she has had “five careers” with the character.

What has made consistent is that despite the series in a time before women had the right to vote in America, Dr. Ogden is a strong woman who works as a surgeon who has a deep interest in forensic science. Joy believes this is the kind of character people want to see.

“There are certain elements of the character that are a little bit of a stretch but if you dig harder into history you will see that there are many women who were empowered. They just didn’t have their stories told,” Joy says.

At least Joy gets to keep telling the story of Dr. Ogden for another season.

“Murdock Mysteries” is part of the network’s Mystery Alley programming block on Saturday nights. Episodes will be available to cable subscribers on demand and the Ovation NOW app the following day.

If you need to catch up on past seasons, Ovation TV has made seasons 11, 12 and 13 available and free to watch under the Mystery Alley banner on the Ovation NOW app and at ovationtv.com/watch. These seasons are available now and will be available throughout season fourteen’s run.

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