CBC’s Pure Offers a Contemporary Look into the Mennonite World

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The CBC’s trend towards darker, edgier dramas continues with the debut of its latest one hour drama Pure. Premiering on Monday, January 9 at 9 p.m. ET on CBC, Pure tells the story of Noah Funk (Ryan Robbins), a newly-elected Mennonite pastor who betrays a fellow Mennonite to the police in an effort to rid his community of drug traffickers. Noah’s actions aren’t met kindly by mob leader Eli Voss (Peter Outerbridge) and in order to protect his family, Noah must accept Voss’ ultimatum. Noah soon decides that he’ll secretly work with local law enforcement like Bronco Novak (AJ Buckley) to dismantle Voss’ operation from the inside.

The show’s first season will consist of six one-hour episodes and also features Oscar® and Golden Globe® nominee Rosie Perez as DEA Agent Phoebe O’Reilly who is on a mission of her own to take down Voss. In order to get a closer look at what to expect from Pure, The TV Junkies recently spoke with several cast members, creator Michael Amo and Ken Girotti, who directed the entire first season. They discuss the show’s appeal and why Noah Funk is not the Mennonite version of Walter White.


The TV Junkies: Where did the idea for this story came from?

Michael Amo (creator): My grandparents were Mennonites in the old country in Russia and came over to Canada after the Russian Revolution. They didn’t really pass the culture onto my mom so I was always interested in it. I came across stories about the Mennonite Mob and thought what a great contemporary way into this culture and world.

TTVJ: The show has been referred to as the Mennonite Breaking Bad. Do you see that as an accurate comparison?

MA: I can see how people would compare because that’s what we do. When you really get into the show it’s a lot different. It’s much deeper and the stakes are higher for more people. It takes significantly different turns. The main character always tries to maintain his moral code as much as he can under the circumstances. Unlike Walter White, Noah Funk is always trying to do the right thing, even as hard as that might seem. He doesn’t go to the dark side intentionally.


TTVJ: Pure uses just one director over all six episodes. What is that like and what advantage does it bring the show?

Ken Girotti (director): Obviously I feel like I had a far deeper creative stake in the material. Once you cement your relationship with the major players–the cast, cinematographer, production designers–you come to a shorthand and it was really wonderful to open the doors to creative exploration. Michael writes in an evocative way that is conducive to that and really trying to find the truth in everything. For me it was a joy. I come from theater so being able to play in the same sandbox, with the same group of people, and deal with similar existential themes and universal questions was an absolute dream come true.

TTVJ: How do you see Pure fitting into the Canadian TV landscape?

Ryan Robbins (Noah Funk): I have to give kudos to the CBC for allowing us to do this show. The CBC realizes that in order to penetrate the market that is saturated with so much good television, you really got to swing for the fences. Specifically, you have to sell very culturally specific stories about real worlds in order to set it apart from every other show on the air. That’s the direction they seem to be going and we’re the beneficiaries of that new, bold attitude.

TTVJ: What really drew you to these roles or excited you about the show?

Alex Paxton-Beesley (Anna Funk): I was drawn to this character and world originally just because I really love doing research. This world is so fascinating and there’s so much to learn that you can barely scrape the surface. Beyond that, when I first read the script I was struck by how well the story was being told. I really appreciate a well-plotted story and this one really drew me into it. It’s interesting playing someone with a very set list of values. That was a really interesting way to approach the world with that as a guideline.

Peter Outerbridge (Eli Voss): When I read the script Eli Voss was he was a great villain in the traditional mean, very nasty, evil guy sense. The challenge was how do you play it so that you maintain that, but that he also becomes a real person and isn’t a comic book. To play somebody that’s not just a smiling villain like we’ve seen lately in a lot of movies was really intriguing.


TTVJ: What is the marriage like between Noah and Anna?

RR: I will say she’s the best TV wife ever. [laughs] Their relationship is firmly rooted and very real. It’s full of love and truth, and like most relationships in our show, everything gets rocked to the core. That’s the truest test of a relationship, when you’re challenged and trying to overcome obstacles. Often times it’s not just one big obstacle, but several small obstacles that will get to a relationship, and that’s what we’re faced with here. It’s a very real and watchable relationship because it’s very relatable in a lot of ways. It has been wonderful to play that relationship.

TTVJ: With only six episodes in the first season, what kind of challenges and advantages did that offer?

MA: It was challenging because we have a lot of characters and a lot of story so I won’t lie to you. What it does afford the audience though is this kind of rocket ride from beginning to end. I’ve always pitched it as a spiritual thriller and I think the compact, six-episode order gives us the economy and speed to fulfill the promise of that kind of premise.


Are you intrigued by Pure and planning on checking it out? Sound off in the comments!

Pure airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on CBC.

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