When the COVID-19 global pandemic hit, film and television productions all over the world were shut down. Thankfully, due to strict safety guidelines and vigilant cast and crews, many productions were able to resume filming in the latter half of 2020. However, the world that these productions returned to had greatly changed. “It really was like a brave new world,” said Coroner showrunner Morwyn Brebner. The CBC drama returned to production on Season 3 in September and was able to wrap just a couple of weeks prior to its premiere on Wednesday, February 3 at 8 p.m.
Brebner said that the COVID pandemic “took us by surprise, and then weirdly, it galvanized the season.” She and the Coroner team were four months into their writing room when lockdown happened in March, already having broken the first four episodes of Season 3. They quickly regrouped on Zoom and “realized we had to totally rebreak the first two episodes. We knew we had to deal with the pandemic, but we didn’t even know what the pandemic was looking like in Toronto at that point. There was just a level of profound uncertainty.”
That Zoom writing room quickly “became such a lifeline” to Brebner and her team. She said, “there was a pseudo-normalcy and connection to being able to talk to people every day and feel like you had a purpose.” Like all good writers, the Coroner group quickly realized that they needed to incorporate what they were feeling into the Season 3 story. “There’s a feeling this season around the need for other people, the humanity of other people, and the connection between people that really took over the season. It made things stronger, in a way, because it infused the show with a sense of purpose,” Brebner explained.
While the entire season of Coroner will not be based on the pandemic, Brebner previewed that “the first two episodes have a COVID storyline.” In the premiere episode, “Bobby,” written by Brebner and directed by Adrienne Mitchell, Jenny (Serinda Swan) investigates the mysterious death of a vibrant health care worker in the wake of COVID-19. Brebner said that “COVID gave the show a purposefulness and need to reinforce the humanity in the show.”
Where Brebner and her writing staff were in charge of figuring out how to incorporate COVID-19 into the season’s storyline, it was up to Mitchell to establish the visuals and what effects from COVID would really be seen on screen. “Everything was so surreal at that time and felt like we were living in between worlds. We kept calling it a COVID haze,” she recalled. Mitchell gives Brebner’s script a ton of credit for helping her figure things out.
“Everything was so transitional and we didn’t know where we’d come out. It sort of felt like we were in a dream world. ‘What is the world going to be after going through this?’ I think Morwyn was able to write a script that captures all of that and inspired me to come up with a visual approach.” Brebner quickly added that “the visuals this season do have that COVID haze of floating, fluid, and beautiful quality.”As always with Coroner, the show immediately puts the viewer in lockstep with Jenny from the start of the premiere episode. Mitchell previewed that Jenny “has to move through the pandemic,” and that as the body count continues to go higher and higher, viewers will see how that impacts her. She said that “it’s surreal and life is changing in a big, huge way,” which means star Swan and her co-stars had plenty of material to play with. “The performances are so wonderful and delicate in the first episode,” Brebner said. “Everyone really bought into the weirdness of things and watching their performance was so beautiful. It’s pretty amazing and I’m very grateful we managed to do it.”
Coroner Season 3 premieres on Wednesday, February 3 at 8 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.