Malcolm MacRury Interview, Part ThreeComplications Ensue
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Friday, January 16, 2009

CRAFTY: Let's talk business. At what point did this become a pay cable show? Did you have other versions in mind for other networks?
MACRURY: It actually began at the CBC [the Canadian public broadcaster]. There's a credit in the title scroll -- "Developed with the assistance of the CBC." The first 3 scripts were developed at the CBC -- the same exact show you saw. They were trying to figure out what they were going to be -- it was the middle of the transition to the new regime -- and there was a space for experimentation. They were interested in Paul Gross -- so we developed the script for the CBC that you saw.
CRAFTY: And I'm thinking they read the scripts and came back at you with, "have you ever actually watched our network?"
MACRURY: We kept saying "this is a ten o'clock show, at least, maybe eleven o'clock or twelve" -- and they don't even have a ten o'clock spot. And they kept saying "we love the arena and the people." But to their credit, and maybe partly because of Paul's credentials, they let us have the show back once they realized, this is just not a CBC show. We took it to The Movie Network and they snapped it up within, I think, 3 weeks. We were never being disingenuous -- we told them, this is the show, do you like it or not? But it was originally developed for a public conventional broadcaster.
CRAFTY: I'm thinking, with Colm Meaney and all the others, this must be some sort of international co-production?
MACRURY: It's not a co-pro, it's completely Canadian. Of course there was a gap in financing after the distribution advance, tax credits, etc. We still needed a couple million bucks, and that gap was filled by a German company called Alive Entertainment. And for that investment they got the world outside Canada.

That's the funny thing, in terms of the actors and the sales, it wasn't Europe pudding. We started with the four UN observers, and they have to be from four countries. It's one of the rules we inherited from the reality.

Colm Meaney, yes, was sparked by the international distributor. Of course Lolita [Davidovich] helps. But when we got Colm that was exciting for them. He's been on TV for fourteen years playing the chief engineer on STAR TREK. But the part was already written as an expat Brit, we didn't rejig it for Colm.
CRAFTY: And Lolita Davidovich is Serbian.
MACRURY: Lolita was really interested in the Serbian connection. She grew up in London, Ontario, but her dad is Serbian. She had the language, she was really interested in the terrain. She was scared to go to Bosnia, she thought, they're going to hate me. But she really liked the people. To get the part of someone who's the figurehead for this warlord, getting caught up in this strange affair, her dead son -- obviously she was attracted to the character, But she was also thinking, "this will be my homage to my people."
CRAFTY: I notice you didn't try to make all the characters good in some way. This is a part of the world where there are real villains, and without being cartoonish about it, you were willing to let some of the characters be really bad people without redeeming them.
MACRURY: Titac (Colm Meaney's character) is an opportunist. But we give him his arguments against the imam. 'Sure, the guy's well-meaning, but he's going to get us all killed.' He does have a philosophy. But he's like a Mafia guy that's lost his way. It's become more about guns and money and girls than anything else. Pretty common in reality. We read about Serbia and Bosnia, but also Northern Ireland. 'We believe in the Provos but we're also kneecapping drug dealers who aren't giving us our cut.' It starts with the public ambition but soon the personal ambition takes over.

It's tricky when you're writing about other cultures. In Hollywood you can just make them the villain. Or, our [Canadian] tendency is to make them saints. You're afraid of any backlash. Any character who's Native has to be a saint, any black has to be a saint. I think that's dehumanizing. When I write characters that are not my ethnicity or religion, I try to give them the same dimensions that I give the nice Canadian girl that's going to be a peacekeeper. They have to be as flawed as I am.
CRAFTY: And in Titac's case, much more flawed than you.
MACRURY: Titac is never non-interesting -- and non-interesting is the worst thing you can say about a character. You do want to understand him. He's a real presence the way Colm plays him.

I think in some regards we may have failed in this: it's always harder to write about good than evil. One of the most positive characters is [character redacted to avoid spoilers]. We gave him moments of flaw, but maybe should have given him more. If anything we erred to make him more positive because Titac isn't.

I think I would have liked to have spent more time with some of the good characters. Like the woman doctor. The cop, Kulkin, who's just trying to be a good cop.
CRAFTY: Yeah, I kept thinking, why didn't they get 13 episodes?
MACRURY: The fun stuff are the evil guys -- we're drawn to that. But the little girl, Anna, was important to me, because people who are in these situations, working, like Sean, often it comes down to, I can't save the world, but let me have one victory, let me save this one person. And as we heard from our military observer, you end up focusing on the little things you can do.

ZOS premieres Monday, January 19th at 9 pm PST on Movie Central, and at 10 pm EST on The Movie Network.

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