Coroner: Sean Reycraft Talks “Unburied”

CBC
CBC

*** Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Coroner Season 2 episode “Unburied” ***

Denial can be a truly powerful behavior. The case in this week’s episode of Coroner was proof of that fact. In “Unburied,” written by Sean Reycraft and directed by Winnifred Jong, Jenny (Serinda Swan) and her team investigated a man (guest star Walter Borden) that lived so much in denial, that his wife lay dead in the upstairs of his home for six years. Jenny is also contending with large amounts of denial as her life slowly spins out of control, despite new found help, thanks to Kelly (Nicola Correia-Damude), in caring for her father’s declining mental health.

As with most of the Coroner writing room, Reycraft returned to the series for Season 2. He once again helped to break the season and write episodes, but then return to his base in L.A. once the show went into production. As he gets set to write on Season 2 of the Netflix series Another Life, Reycraft spoke to The TV Junkies as part of our weekly Coroner chats. He gave us further insight into this week’s episode, as well as how, much like that final shot, things may quickly spin out of control for Jenny.

 

The TV Junkies: You returned to Coroner for Season 2, and I was just curious what you find so interesting about the show?

Sean Reycraft: There’s something weirdly life-affirming about writing about death. I think what Morwyn [Brebner, showrunner] has done so well is making Jenny’s journey through the show, coming to terms with the death she’s had in her past — her husband, her sister — and have her figure out how she can live in death. That is what’s really interesting to me. A lot of that goes to this episode, which is so much about denial and going, ‘Everything is fine. Nothing is happening. It’s all good,’ to the extent that you have a body rotting upstairs for six years. 

What’s also so exciting about Coroner is that it’s run by women. And even though it’s in the crime/thriller genre, Morwyn made it clear from Day 1 that she wanted to avoid the trope of ‘dead-girl-of-the-week’. And focus the stories on crimes that are more personal, specific and, more importantly, allow us to have something to say.  

TTVJ: Given you have now written these characters over two seasons, which one is your favorite to write?

SR: I love writing for Jenny because she’s struggling. I appreciate that struggle. Ross is also really fun because of how he is dealing with his own grief on the cusp of becoming a man. To have someone die right when you’re getting ready to leave home, finishing high school, struggling with coming out, and figuring out what your life is going to be and then, have that happen — it really fucked him up. I love how messed up he is in Season 2. 

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CBC

TTVJ: You alluded a bit to the case in this week’s episode, where a man’s dead wife was upstairs for years. Where did the idea for that case come from?

SR: I did not expect that actor [Walter Borden] when I wrote it, but he did beautiful work in this episode. The case all started with John Fernandes, our consultant. When we were trying to think of cases for the season, we got John on the phone and asked him for weird deaths. He told us a story similar to what was in this episode, where someone had been living with their aunt or grandparent who had died. The woman had continued to live with the body for years and cash checks. 

The whole idea that you just think the person is resting, and at any moment they will wake up, is so fascinating to me. That’s the kind of themes I want to explore and I really jumped on that idea, initially. We struggled a bit with how to make it dramatic because it is a great image, but how do you stretch that into an hour long case? But it’s a different case than Jenny’s had before where there’s not multiple bodies or clues. The body is giving her nothing. It’s almost a forensic analysis of this man’s mind that she has to go through in the episode.

TTVJ: Jenny’s sleepwalking has gotten progressively worse each episode, and this week, not only did Ross find out, but she actually learns that she used to do it as a child. What does that information mean for her?

SR: A big red light is going off that not all is well. A lot of this is in the Kelly storyline, and there’s something subconscious that she’s not awake to see, and it’s eating at her until she starts to slowly put together what’s happening around her. I love that that’s how she internalizes death. When we write her as a character and think about her superpower, what makes her special, and why we follow her, it’s because she’s experienced and come through death. It gives her a unique perspective on crime and the death that’s around her every day. I love the idea that there’s something subconscious gnawing at her that is very much going to explode in the coming episodes.

TTVJ: That last shot of the episode with Liam and Jenny spinning around really seemed to depict that things are getting out of control.

SR: This is our midseason break, and we kept wanting to find a moment like in Season 1 when they had sex on the fire escape. We wanted something comparable, and for an episode that’s all about denial, everything starts encroaching and getting uncomfortably close for Jenny. Her dad is going to be moving in, she’s shacked up with Liam maybe a bit too soon, and suddenly Kelly is back in her life. So even though there’s an appearance, and dad got a new haircut, everything is not OK. We were struggling with how to end the episode, but their mutual “Oh shit!” looks were fantastic. 

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CBC

TTVJ: So speaking of Kelly, she is back and now going to help out with Gordon. Despite not knowing her that long, why is she someone that Jenny felt she could so easily trust? 

SR: Initially, at the end of the episode, I had written that Kelly leaves and dad shouts from the other room, ‘Bye Katie!’ Morwyn actually took that moment and gave it to Jenny instead. Then, I was watching it and thought ‘yes!’ You expect that the dad is the one that will do that because he has dementia and would be the one to call her by Jenny’s dead sister’s name. But when Jenny, someone who hasn’t been sleeping well and is a little bit messed up, calls her Katie, you realize that her sister’s death is not behind her. There is still stuff that she has to deal with and confront. Welcoming Kelly so easily is like phantom limb syndrome where she’s missed having that person in her life. Kelly is that for her, and we wanted to give it to her so we could rip it apart in a few episodes. [laughs] That’s why I think she’s so susceptible to who Kelly is. 

TTVJ: It was fun to see Alison suited up and out in the field with Jenny. Why was this a great opportunity to make that happen? 

SR: This episode is about death and denial and Jenny is struggling to even stay awake. Having Alison come in is just the perfect bomb in any scene. She’s such a force of energy and so fun to write. In a show like this, you try to get moments of comedy where you can and she’s just a riot.

TTVJ: So there’s that little moment between Jenny and Mac where he tells her about Noor (Olunike Adeliyi). It felt like a big step for their partnership. What does him being willing to share that kind of information with Jenny mean?

SR: It’s such a weird moment, and Morwyn and I got notes saying that it was weird to come at that moment. Yes, totally, but when you’re dating someone new and you’re excited, I just love McAvoy’s energy there. He has this secret he’s been sitting on and he wants to tell people. Having seen this amazing love story of this man who has been in denial that his wife has been dead for six years, there’s something weirdly romantic, but extremely fucked up about it. To find that inspiring is so hilarious and weird that there’s a part of you saying, ‘Awww. #RelationshipGoals.’ You want to find that kind of person where you won’t mind that rotting body. [laughing] 

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CBC

TTVJ: Despite those notes you got, I really liked it and thought Roger and Serinda were so good.

SR: It’s what makes the show so fun to write for. It’s not a normal procedural, and you always approach the character as opposed to plot. That’s a strength of the show — having those tiny character moments like that one. 

TTVJ: Is there anything I missed that you wanted to touch on in regards to this episode?

SR: The whole process is a bit surreal for me because I’m not around for the shooting and editing. It’s so great to be on the outside and kind of enjoy it all just as a viewer. It’s a bit of a luxury, but it’s so fun to watch as part of the audience and see it all come together. I thought Winnie did a fantastic job and the actors were so great.

 

What did you think of this week’s Coroner episode? Share your thoughts below.

Coroner airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on CBC and CBC Gem.